Celebrating Tomlinson’s New Waste-Recovery Centre in Carp

June 20, 2016 12:48 pm
Tomlinson CEO Ron Tomlinson, third from left, is presented with a certificate on behalf of the city recognizing the company for its innovative new waste recovery centre. He is joined, from left to right, by Councillor Allan Hubley, Tomlinson President Kevin Cinq-Mars, Councillor Eli El-Chantiry, Mayor Jim Watson, and Councillors Marianne Wilkinson and Scott Moffatt.

Tomlinson celebrated the opening of their new waste-recovery centre last Saturday on June 11. What may have seemed like just another rainy weekend to many, actually marks the opening of an important addition to Ontario’s waste system.

The Canadian infrastructure and environmental services organization officially opened their Carp centre in May, but gathered last week to mark it with a celebration. It comes as little surprise that a little rain didn’t dampen the party or its turn-out.

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Tomlinson’s new waste recovery centre stands tall in the background as the red ribbon is set up for the unveiling ceremony at the community opening event in Carp on June 11.

The ribbon-cutting celebration was just as well-attended as it was well-deserved. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Eli El-Chantiry were among the many who joined Tomlinson CEO Ron Tomlinson and President Kevin Cinq-Mars for the ceremony and barbecue. The event was also attended by families, Ottawa councillors and MPPs, including Lisa MacLeod, Allan Hubley, Scott Moffatt and Marianne Wilkinson.

The weather may have been dreary, but the event certainly was not. Along with speeches, and certificate-giving, attendees were treated to a free barbecue hosted by the Centurion Conference & Event Centre, with giveaways and facility tours managed by Tomlinson staff. The event even came complete with a bouncy castle.

Mayor Watson and Councillor El-Chantiry presented Tomlinson with a certificate on behalf of the city which recognizes the organization’s innovative new centre. Mayor Watson then spoke on behalf of the city of Ottawa.

“Tomlinson is the epitome of a great local community-minded company that has been a national and international success. I just want to say thank you for doing this because we can’t keep burying our garbage.”

A chef from the Centurion Conference & Event Centre prepares a barbeque lunch for guests at the community opening of Tomlinson’s new waste recovery centre on June 11 in Carp.

A chef from the Centurion Conference & Event Centre prepares a barbeque lunch for guests at the community opening of Tomlinson’s new waste recovery centre on June 11 in Carp.

Our Mayor’s words were not empty — the centre is one of North America’s most technologically advanced of its kind, able to process more than 50 tonnes of construction debris per hour, which averages up to 500 tonnes every day. Not only that, but the organization recovers or recycles most of the construction materials that get delivered for processing — a minimum of 80% — a number which they anticipate will increase with demand.

Mayor Watson was not alone in giving a heartfelt speech. Kevin Cinq-Mars, president of Tomlinson spoke on behalf of the company.

“One of our core values at Tomlinson is to be environmentally conscious and find innovative solutions where others see barriers. Through this centre, we are proud to take another step towards furthering our mission to provide world-class environmentally-friendly services to the Ottawa community and beyond.”
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, centre, takes a tour of Tomlinson’s new waste recovery centre in Carp at the community opening event on June 11. He is joined by Councillors Eli El-Chantiry and Marianne Wilkinson.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, centre, takes a tour of Tomlinson’s new waste recovery centre in Carp at the community opening event on June 11. He is joined by Councillors Eli El-Chantiry and Marianne Wilkinson.

The Tomlinson Waste Recovery Centre is located in Ottawa’s far West, just outside of Kanata. It provides excellent service for its customers, offering competitive rates, easy access for trucks, and not requiring any pre-sorting of materials. Available to all members of the public, the centre is open Monday to Friday from 7am to 5pm, and Saturday from 7am to 1pm. Tomlinson’s new Waste Recovery Centre is certainly a commendable addition to the Ottawa community, and a positive step in our waste management and environmental consciousness.
For more information, please visit www.wasterecoverycentre.com

Positive Environmental Forecast from an Unlikely Place

April 27, 2016 12:03 pm
Sylvain Bouchard, Polyform’s representative, holds plastic crystals made of recycled waste. The company recycles 5 million kg of plastic waste annually.

Sylvain Bouchard, Polyform’s representative, holds plastic crystals made of recycled waste. The company recycles 5 million kg of plastic waste annually. All photos by Damira Davletyarova.

I don’t own a cottage, or a house, so it was the free tickets and mere curiosity that brought me to Ottawa’s Cottage and Backyard Show at the EY Centre in March. Not knowing what to expect and with nothing to buy, I was surprised to see many companies that offered products, services and technologies focusing on the environment.  For nature lovers, there are great possibilities to bring yourself even closer to the outdoors.

Walking through lanes of booths, I met companies that are making new decks, outdoor furniture, boats and kayaks from recycled materials. There are solar panels to provide your cottage with electricity. Further along are charities that will help you to take care of your shoreline property to improve watershed health.

My attention, however, was caught by various beads and capsules placed in small plastic bottles that resembled pills. These are the EPS and EPP crystals. Decoded: It’s expanded polystyrene and polypropylene that is used for packaging and insulating floating docks and automotive parts. The company markets the material as “eco-conscious” Styrofoam.

The company’s name is Polyform. Their sign reads: “Sustainable Company.” What do they mean?

4 Public

Close to 12,000 people came to the Cottage and Backyard Show at the EY centre, where 250 exhibitors presented their products and services.

Polyform’s representative Sylvain Bouchard explained: the EPS and EPP crystals consist of 98 per cent air and 2 per cent plastic. The company’s special recycling plant at Granby, QC uses plastic waste that is collected from residents and industrial plants for raw materials. He told me the plant recycles over 5 million kg of plastics annually.

Environmental awareness has encompassed our indoor and outdoor living, including the use of renewable energy. Our new federal government and their work in the Paris Agreement rekindled public interest in greenhouse gas emissions. What will this year bring to renewables? I approached the booth with mounted solar panels to hear what they had to say.

“2016 should be a positive year for renewable energy.” This sunny forecast comes from the president of Ecosolaris, Martin Lambert. His company is one of many that help enterprises and residents integrate solar heating, solar electricity and biomass to reduce their use of conventional energy. He says “the demand is only going up.”

The president of Ecosolaris Martin Lambert says people are more concerned about climate change and are more willing to use renewable energy.

The president of Ecosolaris Martin Lambert says people are more concerned about climate change and are more willing to use renewable energy.

“People are willing to make a move regardless of their return on investment, which is what needs to be done,” Lambert says.

Before leaving the fair, I noticed beautiful silhouettes of animals, plants and other objects framed into wood. The exhibitor’s name was Stephen Washer, and I quickly joined the crowd that gathered around him.

“To make our art, we use left-over wood and scrap materials: old tables, baseboards. We add colour and texture to it,” Washer explains to visitors. “To create the background, we use material that comes from garbage: old hockey sticks or chains from bikes.”

3 Stephen Washer

Stephen Washer, co-founder of Behind the Woods, explains to visitors how he and his cousin Marco Facciola make art from wood leftovers and garbage items.

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Later, Washer told me that it has been only a year since he and his cousin Marco Facciola founded their company Behind The Woods. Washer works as a project manager with Windmill Development Group and Facciola is a mechanical engineering student at Concordia University. Behind The Woods is their hobby. The hobby was born when both men were children, while they worked with their fathers in workshops. Over their lives, this hobby evolved into passion and a quest to do something good for the environment.

“As a society, we discard so much, and our landfills continue to grow. This is not a sustainable path,” Washer tells me. “We are trying our best to show people that you do not have to throw your old furniture into the trash, and that we can reuse and transform it into beautiful art.”

Meanwhile, the sun was setting over the horizon. The exhibitors were covering up their displays. It was time to leave, yet I felt sorry for not having more time to explore the exhibition. At the same time, I was excited with the thought of what the future might hold for the environment.

At the end of the day, I can say that more companies are betting on sustainability, because they know the age of arrogance has passed. The time for being earnest has come. With an abundance of information and the clear implications of extreme weather on display around the world, there is little excuse for anyone not to take the sustainable approach.

Ottawa Roots for Life

December 7, 2015 12:15 pm
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Municipal initiatives and Ecology Ottawa are working together to plant their way to a greener city within three years. The local ‘community champion program’ plans to add a minimum of 150,000 trees to Ottawa’s green spaces annually, with a goal of planting 1 million new trees by 2017.

There are plenty of reasons you should be excited about the proposal. Trees that block the sunlight in warmer months can cool your house and keep air-conditioning costs down, and a few good looking, mature trees can increase your land value and help your house sell if you put it on the market. Trees absorb toxic carbon dioxide, they emit fresh oxygen, they can help you deal with stress and even improve blood pressure.

Local trees’ biggest threat is the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle, which has taken a destructive toll on Ottawa’s green space. The beetle first appeared in Ottawa in 2008, and these little bugs have led to the removal of more than 15,000 local trees since. To offset this destruction, plenty of municipally funded ‘tree-planting’ programs are available for Ottawa residents, here are a few initiatives for your consideration:

Trees in Trust: Trees in Trust is a local community initiative for planting and maintaining trees on streets near your home or business. The City of Ottawa provides trees on a ‘first come-first serve basis.’ Requests are reviewed bi-annually, in the Spring and Fall seasons.

Commemorative Tree Planting Program: The Commemorative Tree Planting Program was established in 1989 and involves planting trees in memory of loved ones who have passed away. Ottawa Forestry services work together with family members to choose a local park for the new trees. Forestry Services offers options for the installation of plaques next to the tree.

Parks and Streetscape Tree Planting: Parks and Streetscape Tree Planting aids the enrichment of city parks, facilities and streets. The City of Ottawa works with members of the community to identify opportunities for instatement of new trees throughout Ottawa and surrounding areas.

Schoolyard Tree Planting Grant: The Schoolyard Tree planting Grant focuses on development initiatives in Ottawa schoolyards. The Schoolyard Tree Planting Grant Program aligns to Strategic Initiative 19 – “Increase Forest Cover, under the 2015-2018 Sustainable Environmental Services Strategic Priority. These tree-planting projects will preserve and enhance forest cover and ensure the sustainability of the urban and rural forest.”

The City of Ottawa’s Forestry Services Branch offers annual grants for each aforementioned program. The maximum grant per application is ten thousand ($10,000). The City of Ottawa supplies funding in financial grants, as well as providing trees for planting.

Tree planting must be completed within 18 months of any grant approval, and it is the responsibility of the individual or group approved for any grant application, to water and care for the tree on an ongoing basis. The City of Ottawa also reserves the right to perform follow-up inspections.

Three key questions to consider before submitting your application:

  1. Is the space and location’s soil quality suitable for a new tree?
  2. Does the location’s taxpayer consent to the planting of new trees?
  3. What conflicts with existing city regulations and maintenance, if any, exist?

The City of Ottawa accepts applications January.1-June 1 each year. Approved Grants will then be awarded for the spring season of the following year. You can find out more at ottawa.ca/corporate-partnerships-community-champions-program.

Future Energy: It’s Time for Canada to Lead

December 4, 2015 12:26 pm
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Over the past decades, oil became everything for Canada. It was sign of economic stability, new jobs and progress. Today, oil’s low cost is dragging down the country’s economy. Environmental concerns are only rising. The new reality seems here to stay.

On the bright side, Canada is now on the threshold of an opportunity to make positive changes. The low Canadian dollar is creating great conditions for exports, and investors are looking to move their money away from the fossil fuel industry. Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau’s government has shown its support for cleantech.

It’s time to meet Canada’s clean technology sector – the industry of the 21st century. The sector is vibrant, growing and ready to be showcased to the world. The upcoming World Future Energy Summit is a great opportunity for the country to take the lead in the clean technology industry.

Canadian cleantech is vibrant and buzzing with new start-ups

According to the 2015 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report by Analytica Advisors, there are now 50,000 people employed directly in more than 800 cleantech firms. These companies are working on innovative technologies that help to protect the environment and grow the economy.

Canada’s cleantech sector is vibrant and buzzing with unique companies, says Jon Dogterom, MaRS Cleantech lead. His company assists cleantech start-ups with mentorship and advice on how to build competitive companies.

“At MaRS, we focus on working with energy, water and advanced materials companies to help them with access to customers, capital and talent – to help them grow. So they could become the world leaders in what’s becoming a race for clean technology,” Dogterom says.

Among their clients are Morgan Solar – a company working on lowering the cost of producing solar panel electricity, HydroStor, which provides compressed energy storage systems and Nanoleaf, which has created the world’s most efficient LED light bulb. Just to name a few.

Dogterom argues that energy storage and energy information technologies are becoming the new natural resources, and Canada can really have a leadership role in both of those areas.

Matured industry

d630459c-3189-4cb5-9fc6-fb056f6fe0bfOttawa-based Energate is one of the companies serving Canada’s matured clean energy industry market with interactive energy technologies. The company’s products allow consumers to track how much renewable energy they are using in real time, and help them understand how they can reduce electricity use.

“We have the ability with our technology to do things like make sure that when the sun is shining the hot water tank is connected and electrical vehicles are charged,” says Louis Szablya, Energate’s EVP of Sales and Marketing.

In near future, Szablya says, energy generation will become more localized as households turn into managers of their own powerhouses.

Feed-in-Tariff

Meanwhile, the clean energy industry is constantly expanding. The government is embracing the change, looking for opportunities to make facilities more sustainable, says Alexandra Mallett, an energy-policy expert at Carleton University. In 2009, the Ontario government introduced the microFIT program (Feed-in-Tariff) that allows home owners and communities to generate renewable energy on a smaller scale.

“MicroFIT is a policy tool. It gives a contract. If you produce electricity – you can sell it to the grid. It’s very attractive to farmers and people who can put up some photovoltaic panels. Because they get those profits – they are willing to work out the money to pay for the system,” Mallett says.

Over the past years, Canadian energy market has been going through a transformation. Mallett says divestment from fossil fuels became a stable trend. Canadian subsidiaries and companies have begun to export their technologies and services abroad. They are now looking for more prospective markets.

Chance to introduce Canadian cleantech to the world

Once in a while, the stars align for a giant leap ahead. The upcoming World’s Fair (Expo) dedicated to Future Energy gives Canada a unique opportunity to seize a leadership position on the world’s clean energy stage.

The expo will take place in Astana,
Kazakhstan’s newly-built capital. Over three months, from June to September 2017, hundreds of countries, international organizations and companies will have a chance to demonstrate their achievements in clean energy. Three million people are expected to visit the expo. Together, participants will explore and offer their solutions to fight climate change.

Expo-2017 Architects promise sleek designs and energy efficient buildings. Most of the buildings will be their own power plants, harnessing energy from the sun, wind and water. The expo’s four thematic pavilions will show how energy has evolved in human civilization, the role it plays now and the negative consequences of climate change. Visitors will also see previous sustainable energy milestones.

So far, 54 countries and 11 international organizations have confirmed their participation in the expo.

In order to take part in the expo, Canada must be a member of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) – the body that governs the world expos. Although, Canada left the BIE in 2012, the time could not be more right to return. It’s a time for Canadians to lead the cleantech wave, showcasing our achievements in a clean energy industry that is vibrant, mature and expanding.

PowerCost Monitor: A Win for Your Pocket and the Planet

June 1, 2015 10:07 am
PCM Dad Son energy bill HR US

Do you leave the light on when you’re not in the room? Do you forget to turn the TV off or leave your laptop charger plugged in? We all do it now and again, but the fact is, it’s hurting the environment and it’s costing you money.

“Climate change is upon us and the planet needs action,” warns Peter Porteous, chief executive officer of the Ottawa-based company Blue Line Innovations.

“Waste is estimated to be upwards of 10 per cent of our electricity usage. The data that Blue Line provides can identify this energy waste and empower people to take charge of their electricity consumption,” he explains. “It’s a win on the monthly electricity bill and equally important, it’s a win for the planet.”

blue line innovationsBlue Line Innovations’ PowerCost Monitor provides homeowners and small businesses with real time information on their electricity usage and issues warnings when more expensive pricing is in effect. There is also a cloud-based version for your smart phone or web dashboard.

Maurice and Danny Tuff, two brothers from Witless Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, came up with the idea to develop a ‘speedometer for electricity’ in 2004 and from there, Blue Line Innovations was born.

The company set up shop in Ottawa in 2013. Gerry O’Brien, chief technology officer, says it was the logical move.

powercost monitor“The community in Ottawa is always extremely open to the sharing of ideas and promoting high tech growth in general,” he says.

“The decision to relocate to Ottawa was a simple one for us,” Porteous agrees. “We wanted to be closer to our Ontario utility customers.  We also liked Ottawa’s focus on becoming a greentech hub…”

Research proves this Capital clean-tech company is making a difference: “Homes using a real time energy monitor such as the PowerCost Monitor reduce their electricity usage on average nine per cent,” Porteous says.

In the long term, O’Brien explains, there is more you can do.

“It’s more than just turning things off when you don’t need them…you can now start taking advantage of other technologies for your home that you can install and see additional savings.” For example, you can start by looking into home energy auditing, buying ‘green’ appliances or replacing your lighting with LEDs.

It might seem like only a small change, but it can make a big impact overall.blue line innovations - PCM Dad will energy bill HR

“At the end of the day, the actions of individual homeowners aren’t necessarily going to make a huge change, but the combined effort of individual homeowners can make a huge change,” O’Brien says.

Click here to learn more about Blue Line Innovations and the PowerCost Monitor.

Ottawa Living on the Wild Side

March 3, 2015 12:01 pm
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In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly announced March 3 as World Wildlife Day. This year, the City Of Ottawa is joining Canada in a multi-national celebration, with over 170 countries agreeing to invest in wildlife conservation and raise awareness of global issues surrounding the longevity of plants and animals.

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Ottawa’s wildlife campaign will exhibit an exposition of displays by local environmental organizations. It is a celebration of natural habitats and promoting the benefits conserving our green space provides to people.

Regulating interactions between people and wildlife is no easy feat. The reality is that flora and fauna exist co-dependently with mankind, and inevitably one cannot survive without the other. According to the United Nations Assembly, “Wildlife contributes to economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of sustainable development.”

Ottawa construction anwildlife in handsd development projects, including the current light rail prospect, must consider the impacts on the environment in the planning phases and must weigh the costs deterioration of green space will have on municipal budgets. Wildlife conservation is of great importance—a central issue underlying all phases of development and growth in Ottawa. Council aims to promote public awareness through understanding and respect, as well as through the implementation of new environmental initiatives and programs as part of a municipal wildlife strategy campaign.

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world,” said Activist Howard Zinn

Have a voice in preserving the coexisting relationship between Ottawans and the natural habitat. Visit Ottawa.ca  for more information.

Using Wine for a Good Cause

July 21, 2014 11:43 am
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Sommeliers rejoice! In this unique way of giving back, each bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio bought in April went to a good cause.

Last Thursday, Tree Canada was presented with $30,000 by Lifford Wines & Spirits, on behalf of Santa Margherita Wineries during an event at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

For each bottle sold and all campaign hashtags tweeted, 50 cents were donated to Tree Canada’s National Greening initiative. This program aims to help areas with a particular need for reforestation or afforestation by organizing mass seedling plantings.

Tree Canada is the nation’s largest not-for-profit tree advocacy group. To date they have worked with over 550 schools to improve their school yards, have planted over 80 million trees and helped to organize ten national urban forest conferences.

Lifford Wines & Spirits is a Certified Carbon Neutral Company that shares their passion for the environment and of course is very enthusiastic about their partnership with Tree Canada as well as presenting this donation.

Similarly, Tree Canada stated their immense respect and appreciation.

“We would like to thank our friends at Lifford Wine & Spirits and Santa Margherita Wineries for their tremendous contribution,” said Michael Rosen, Tree Canada President. “Their innovative campaign helps Tree Canada to continue to plant, grow and nurture our rural and urban Canadian environment. This type of partnership allows organizations to see the impact of their donations on Canada’s landscape.”

Dedicated to providing better places to live by planting life-giving trees in communities that can flourish, Tree Canada continues to take the necessary steps in maintaining and preserving our country for the next generation.

For more information or to find out how you can make a difference, visit: www.treecanada.ca

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Over the Hedge: Community Gardens are Sprouting in Ottawa

June 16, 2014 11:02 am
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“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”

— Abraham Lincoln

The sun is shining, the weather is sweet, and Julia Lipinska can’t wait to get her hands dirty. She is ready to dig, to weed and to take the garbage out.

On Saturday morning, Lipinska has joined a small group of people at the Glebe Memorial Park, who came to volunteer their time at the Bytown Urban Gardens (BUGs). Lipinska says she has a very small garden at home. She hopes to get a plot at BUGs, so she can grow more of her own fruits and vegetables. She wants to grow some tomatoes, kohlrabi and herbs.

Julia Lipinska hopes squirrels won't be taking advantage of the community garden. She says they love to nibble on tomatoes and squash.

Julia Lipinska hopes squirrels won’t be taking advantage of the community garden. She says they love to nibble on tomatoes and squash.

Lipinska says she enjoys the process of growing her own food.  She says Ottawa has plenty of space to grow local food to feed hungry and needy, while reducing the environmental impact of shipping food from other places.

It Takes a Garden: “I give produce away because I can’t eat it all.”

Placed in open public space, BUGs has many curious visitors.

Kids love to sneak into the garden, says another BUGs’ gardener Robin Silver. Several times, she caught them eating berries in the garden.

“We have kids who come in here, and take raspberries off the bush. That’s okay. Couple kids from the park eating raspberries – that’s not stealing,” Silver says.

Kids went home full and happy.

“But, last year, we had a whole eggplant taken. C’est la vie – let’s hope that someone who eats it, is really hungry. If that’s case – that’s where it should go.”

Silver says there is no greater reward than doing something with community for the community. Community gardening connects people, teaches people how to share and contribute to their neighbourhoods.

The gardeners try to serve as role models, Silver says. They invite families from park’s play area to the garden to show how the food is grown. And most importantly, to show each family: they can grow their own food within the city. Food that is clean, fresh and healthy.

“We can just have a small spot, and we can produce so much food. I give produce away because I can’t eat it all. I don’t think it takes a lot of space in the city to have this ability to grow our own food,” Silver says.

Robin Silver says her plot produces enough food for herself and to share with other people.

Robin Silver says her plot produces enough food for herself and to share with other people.

Community gardening in Ottawa is “picking up steam”

Community gardening in Ottawa is just “picking up steam”, says Jordan Bouchard, the interim coordinator of Community Gardening Network.

Bouchard says the Community Gardening Network nests 43 gardens – the number has almost doubled in the past five years. The city of Ottawa sponsors one allotment – Kilborn Allotment Gardens, which has over 350 plots that are around 1000 square feet each. There are also 28 school gardens registered with Canadian Organic Growers.  Six new community gardens will be established this year, says Bouchard.

Ottawa’s community gardening movement started 15 years ago, when concerned residents were starting to raise questions about sustainability of local food system. Talks were launched. Discussions were held. Numerous reports on benefits of public gardens in communities circulated at the City Hall.

In 2003, the City has established the Ottawa Food Security Council, which later has changed its name to Just Food.  Newly created organization launched the Community Garden Network program to support gardens within the nation’s capital. In 2011, Just Food became a non-profit organization.

Fruits and Weeds of Gardening

Gardens are blooming across the province too.  Sustain Ontario, a provincial alliance that promotes healthy food and farming, estimates there are 600 community gardens across the province.

Welcome to BUGs. Please do what the sign says.

Welcome to BUGs. Please do what the sign says.

“There has been a tremendous increase in food gardens over the past decade in Ontario, and there are a number of documented benefits including physical activity, social inclusion, access to fresh vegetables among many,” says Carolyn Young, a program manager of Sustain Ontario.

Gardens vary across the province, depending on size, type and governance. Young says most gardens are organic and located in urban environments. Some gardens are designed for personal consumption, others – run as social enterprises.

There are also challenges, says Young.  From organization to operation, funding is one of the biggest ones.

“Many gardens rely on volunteer labour, and this can be a huge challenge when maintaining a public space.  Others require funding for some staff support – and sustainable funding sources are a challenge,” Young says.

“What’s really exciting is that more and more municipalities are supporting community garden networks and urban agriculture with enabling policies and funding support. They see the public health benefits.”

BUGs are Buzzing in Ottawa

Myka Riopel, BUGs coordinator, gives a tour of the garden as she walks through the plots divided by wooden planks.

“We have a lot of communal plots for people to share our tea garden, herb garden, flower garden, and we always do either tomatoes or garlic. We used to have berry bushes that were all shared,” Riopel explains.

BUGs was formed in 1996 by Ottawa residents who wanted to grow local, organic food. Originally, the garden was located on Metcalfe and Catherine Streets. But due to the Beaver Barracks new housing construction, the garden had to be relocated to the Glebe Memorial Park.

The new garden accommodates twelve plots – four reserved for handicapped – shared by a four-person-team. To secure a plot, new gardeners have to contribute four hours of volunteering and a suggested donation of $10. Riopel says it’s becoming more popular to garden locally – many are on waiting list.

“This year, we are pretty busy. We have a lot of interest. Whoever came to the earlier events this season, are more likely to get a plot. It’s just to show commitment and that you are interested in gardening,” Riopel says.

BUGs Gardeners discussing the day's agenda.

BUGs Gardeners discussing the day’s agenda.

BUGs is an organic garden. It means the gardeners have to cultivate food in a sustainable manner, staying away from using pesticides and herbicides. Protecting the environment and the health of community come first, says another BUGs coordinator Scott Jarosiewicz.

“It’s an organic garden, or at least as organic as it can be. We don’t want to be dumping chemicals – the property has a school playground around here. We don’t want some foreign substances spoiling the playground,” Jarosiewicz says.

The garden is reaching community minds too. Jarosiewicz says the garden partners with schools, inviting students to visit the garden to help them learn how food gets on their table.

“Community gardens help expose the link between us and our food, how our food is grown, and where it comes from. It also helps build community involvement and engagement,” Jarosiewicz says.

Outdoor Haven

For Pamela Scaiff, community garden is her sanctuary where she retreats from her busy city life.

“I like to come with a cup of tea, and just do a walk about first – enjoying and looking at what other people are growing. Asking: What’s that? How do you grow that? Or, just sit quietly sometimes,” Scaiff says.

Pamela Scaiff enjoys growing tea and herbs. By the end of the summer, all gardeners will have little sacks of home grown tea and herbs.

Pamela Scaiff enjoys growing tea and herbs. By the end of the summer, all gardeners will have little sacks of home grown tea and herbs.

Three years ago, she wasn’t a good gardener, she confesses. Gardening for her was almost mysterious and overwhelming. Now, Scaiff drinks her own grown tea, blended with herbs that came from her plot. Discovering the secrets of various blends, she can’t get tired of.

“There is anise hyssop, which is amazing. It tastes like liquorish, but if you blend it with lemon verbena, mint, and chamomile – it’s a really soothing drink,” Scaiff says.

When Scaiff has just moved to the area, somebody asked her if she could help a local garden. The community garden was having political issues trying to get started. Scaiff went to the meeting, and found the idea of communal gardening as an “amazing initiative.” She helped and joined the garden.

“And I love it. I do it partly because I want to get to know other people in the community; partly because it gets me out in the sunshine,” Scaiff says.

Thanks to sharing a plot with other people, Scaiff says she quickly picked up gardening skills. She now has a second garden on the roof of the Beaver Barracks’ apartments.

By the end of the summer, all gardeners will have little sacks of home grown tea and herbs.

“Tea and coffee that you buy from the store can be quite expensive. The idea here is to show – you can grow anything,” Scaiff says.

***

Before Julia Lipinska goes on with the garden work, she cautions: we must remember – there are much needier habitants in the neighbourhood.  Squirrels have been sneaking over the hedge of her garden, nibbling on tomatoes and squash. Chicken wire is no help.

“In my little garden at home, they have taken some of the best produce unfortunately. But that’s the part of gardening, they need to eat too,” Lipinska says.

After all, it’s all about sharing a community, isn’t it?

Vegetables, fruits, flowers, tea and herbs are grown on the community garden plots.

Vegetables, fruits, flowers, tea and herbs are grown on the community garden plots.

What Ottawans Want from the Federal Budget: Report Calls for a Breakthrough Year for Ottawa River

February 24, 2014 11:02 am
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By Ecology Ottawa

A recent report released by Ecology Ottawa argues that the budget is an opportunity for the federal government to help Ottawa residents clean up the Ottawa River. The report, entitled Cut the Crap and Fund the Plan: 2014 Should be a Breakthrough Year for Ottawa’s Rivers, argues that the federal government is out of excuses when it comes to the $65 million in federal infrastructure funding that the City of Ottawa needs to stop dumping untreated sewage into the river.2088786376_9cb32661fb_o

“It’s time for the feds to cut the crap and fund the plan,” said Graham Saul, Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa.  “We know they used $660 million of the new infrastructure funding to support Mayor Ford’s priorities in Toronto, so we think it’s time they follow through on their promise to help the City of Ottawa stop dumping sewage into the river?”

In a letter to Ecology Ottawa in 2012, Minister John Baird stated that he would “ensure that the clean-up of the Ottawa River is the number one project [in the City of Ottawa] for the Federal Government” during the next round of infrastructure funding.  In March 2013, the federal government announced a new nationwide 10-year, $53-billion infrastructure program, but funding for the next phase of the Ottawa River Action Plan has still not been announced.

By comparison, in September 2013 the federal government announced that they would contribute $660 million of the new infrastructure funding to support a subway extension in Toronto. When Minister Flaherty made the announcement alongside Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, he was asked why the announcement was being made at that time (before the criteria for the infrastructure funding had been clearly established).  Minister Flaherty replied: “Because the mayor wrote to us and asked.”

BritanniaPhotoOp_03“Enough is enough. This issue has been dragging on for too long,” said Saul. “We need to put the funding question behind us so that we can focus on new challenges such as improving stormwater management and public transit.”

Every time it rains 2.5 millimetres per hour or more ― which is a fairly moderate rate that occurs often in Ottawa ― the City of Ottawa’s sewage system gets overwhelmed and it starts dumping a mixture of raw sewage and polluted stormwater from one of 18 sewer overflow sites on the Ottawa and Rideau rivers.

In 2013, Ottawa dumped about 225 million litres of untreated sewage into the Ottawa River, down from over 670 million litres in 2010. The City needs $195 million, or about $65 million from each level of government, to build underground tunnels to hold the excess water and prevent the sewage discharge. As outlined in the report, the federal and provincial governments have both indicated that they are supportive of the plan, but funds have not yet been forthcoming.

For a copy of the report, click here
http://ecologyottawa.ca/2014/02/10/what-ottawans-want-from-the-federal-budget-report-calls-for-a-breakthrough-year-for-ottawa-river/

New Research Contributes to Uncovering Franklin Expedition Mystery

January 16, 2014 12:37 pm
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For nearly 170 years the mystery behind the Franklin Expedition’s ill-fated crew has gripped three nations—Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States—launching the biggest search and rescue missions in history. In fact, Parks Canada continues to conduct an annual summer search of the missing ships. New research conducted by the University of Glasgow is shedding light on what contributed to the death of Sir John Franklin and his crew of 128.

“Anyone that becomes interested in the story realizes that it involves so much more than just Franklin and the expedition because of the huge effort put into finding them,” explained Professor Keith Millar of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow. “It was a very stirring time of amazing adventures and terrible suffering. The Arctic is filled with such extraordinary opportunities into that sort of research and further investigating 19th Century history.”franklin-parks-invu-082312_lead_media_image_1

Franklin was a British Royal Navy Officer and Arctic explorer. He set off in 1845 to chart and navigate the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic with two ships: The HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. Both were equipped with the modern inventions of the day including steam engines and three years’ worth of preserved food supplies in tins. The inexpert soldering of these tin provisions were originally thought to have played a significant part in the death of crew, as ice-preserved remains studied in the 20th Century showed high levels of lead, causing lead poisoning and debility throughout. Earlier theories from an Inuit testimony say the ship became icebound and the crew, cannibalistic. In the 1980’s, a University of Alberta professor named Owen Beattie conducted a 10-year study of the expedition, showing that the Beechy Island crew likely succumbed to pneumonia and even tuberculosis. Beattie also named lead poisoning as a possibility.

Keith MillarToday Prof. Millar (pictured left), along with Professor Adrian Bowman of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Glasgow (pictured right), and their colleague, the archaeologist and author William Battersby (pictured below), built upon past research and theories to explain the crew’s fate with surprisingly new evidence.

“We were intrigued with what is well-known today about lead poisoning,” said Millar. “Basically, one group of workers exposed to lead are badly affected while another group exposed at the same rate aren’t as badly affected. We wanted to see if that was true of the Franklin Expedition. From what we concluded, there would have been a variability of lead in their bodies, meaning that a fair portion of the crew wouldn’t have suffered as significantly as a result of the lead.”

The team drew these conclusions by going back to the originally published research and re-analyzed it using statistical estimation and the limited dataAdrian Bowman available from the time. They also accounted for the fact that lead levels in the crew were high compared to today’s, but still not that exceptional, given that lead poisoning was not uncommon in 19th Century Britain. Even if a large portion of the men suffered from lead poisoning, the physical and mental state of the others would have been unaffected, at least while they remained in good general health. This analysis was recently published in the journal Polar Record (Cambridge University Press).

“We have huge admiration for the early work done by the Canadian scientists in discovering the presence of lead,” added Millar. “We are not trying to question the reliability of the original research—it’s quite remarkable what they endured to obtain that data including exhuming the bodies under the most arduous conditions possible. We wouldn’t claim for a moment that our analysis has provided definitive answers, we are just suggesting that the idea of lead poisoning causing the expedition’s complete failure may not be totally true. There could be many other causes as well.”

William photoThe enigma of the Franklin Expedition has completely captivated Prof. Millar as he says he is now investigating the surgeons’ journals to find out more of the medical difficulties on board the ships. There were four surgeons aware of lead poisoning and its affects and could have found the source as well as attempted to reduce its harms. He also says that the annual Parks Canada search is gradually narrowing down the area where the ships are:

“When they do find them, it’s going to be the archeological find of the millennium.”

Ottawa – A Deadly Place for Wildlife

January 10, 2014 12:26 pm
Beaver lodge Canada Day

Given that the City’s Official Plan lists Ottawa as “A Green and Environmentally-Sensitive City,” you would be forgiven for wondering why City Council has such a terrible track record in how it treats wildlife.

Certainly this record is at odds with how people in Ottawa view the protection of green space and wildlife.  The public’s frustration in demanding more progressive outcomes has been demonstrated in hundreds of letters to Mayor Watson and councillors over a variety of wildlife issues.

Most recently the tragic death of an Ottawa motorist killed in a freak accident when a deer that had been hurled into the air by a second vehicle hit his car might have been avoided had the City’s award-winning ‘Speeding Costs You Deerly’ education campaign still been in place. Sadly, it appears to have been discontinued.

Then there was the elk that was shot by police this fall when it wandered into town via the transitway or the Ottawa river corridor. There is no question that large species such as elk or moose that turn up in a city pose a challenge. However, there should not have been such a predictable outcome in the death of this elk. Predictable because of the negative history of how the City of Ottawa has dealt with large wild mammals in the past and the fact that it still hasn’t developed a better plan.

A better plan would have involved monitoring the situation until nightfall to give this nocturnal animal the opportunity to escape via the route it had come or was following. These animals don’t arrive by helicopter. They regularly use the many natural linkages such as hydro right-of-ways, transitways, Greenbelt and river corridors. Many are not seen because they travel by night. The elk was contained and docile. It was not posing any immediate threat. By allowing people to gather and having police press in closer with guns ready, not only did it understandably agitate the animal but it created the expectation and time pressure for an action to be taken. And, as other incidents have proven in Ottawa, too often that action is lethal for the animal.

Community organizations were told that the City has a Large Wild Mammal Emergency Response protocol that includes a Wildlife Service Provider on contract who is trained and equipped and on call 24/7. Yet, requests have not produced any information about who the Wildlife Service Provider is, their qualifications or even the terms of their contract.  Why all the secrecy for something that is funded out of the public purse?

Ottawa, with its abundance of green space should be able to do at least as well as Banff which regularly manages incidents with elk in a way that doesn’t involve shooting them.  Or, in Edmonton where, in three separate incidents of moose appearing in the City on the same day this past summer, not one resulted in a dead animal.

Ottawa has become known as the most wildlife unfriendly city in Canada. Even the iconic Canadian beaver is not safe here. In spite of the growing awareness that beavers are a critical keystone species in our environment and fact that an increasing number of jurisdictions are adopting cost-effective technologies that allow us to coexist with this species, the City continues to trap and kill more than 150 beavers every year.

The City’s Wildlife Strategy was supposed to change all this. But, after three years of frustration, community groups like ours walked away because it was clear that the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources were united in preferring to maintain the status quo in how wildlife like beavers, coyotes and large mammals are managed in this region, most often by bullets and traps.

Ottawa residents as well as people outside of this City expect better of a major city and the nation’s capital.  In fact, Ottawa should be a leader in progressive environmental measures rather than responding to wildlife concerns like a 19th century backwater.

This being the start of a new year and an election one at that in Ottawa, it’s a good time to be requesting candidates running for office what they intend to do to ensure that “A Green and Environmentally-Sensitive City” is not just empty rhetoric.

Donna DuBreuil, Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre

Donna DuBreuil is the co-founder and president of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre. The Centre, founded in 1987, was established to support a better understanding and #2 Donnarespect for wildlife in the face of rapid development and habitat loss.  It operates a wide range of community education programs and works closely with other environmental and animal protection organizations across North America to promote and protect biodiversity – www.wildlifeinfo.ca.

Greenhouse Producers Seek Light During Darkest Days

January 9, 2014 11:15 am
Photo LED light_Philips

 Now that Canada is in the midst of the shortest and coldest days of the year, light and heat management are top of mind for many producers who operate greenhouses. Managing supplemental lighting to promote growth is not as simple as flipping a switch – it’s an art form.

From December to February, greenhouse producers require supplemental lighting every day for about 18 hours. The 24-hour average temperature is the most important thing to monitor in winter production. If it’s too warm for the plant in relation to the light received, the plant burns more sugar than it produces.

“There is no advantage in providing more hours of light per day, as an excess of light might result in a loss of yields,” said Audrey Boulianne, Production Coordinator at Savoura, a Quebec company specializing in greenhouse tomatoes.

Increasing energy costs, changing weather patterns and greater consumer demand for local, fresh and organic produce mean more sophisticated and efficient growing solutions are needed to compete with countries with plentiful sunshine and lower farm labour costs. As agriculture and food preferences evolve, greenhouse operators must also adapt. The future of supplemental lighting is centred on finding an alternative to high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps, which is the traditional artificial light in commercial greenhouses.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have the potential to replace high-energy consuming systems, such as HPS lamps, and are already used in commercial greenhouses in some European countries, as well as experimentally in the United States and in Canada. This new technology may result in earlier flowering, faster root growth, more economical use of space and increased yields.

GE Lighting, in collaboration with the Government of Canada, McGill University and Savoura, conducted research involving the use of LED lighting technology in commercial greenhouses. The research results validated LED technology’s significance on improved growing efficiencies and reduced operational costs. According to GE Lighting, LED as a lighting application in commercial greenhouses is an exciting and emerging market for the technology, but one that requires additional incubation for full economic development. It will prove to be of great value to the agricultural community in the future.

Boulianne mentions that the combination of the two light sources showed the best results in terms of crops. Opposite to HPS light, LED light doesn’t emit heat and can be installed vertically, along the plant.

“In Canada, we have to heat our installations during winter and ventilate in summer,” said Boulianne. “Greenhouse producers are high-energy consumers all year. A mix of the HPS and LED lights could benefit us over the long-term. Our choice will depend on the cost of installing this new lighting system in our operation. We’ll look at the option for sure when planning for our new sites. It will represent a major change in our production technique.”

If LED light is one day commercialized for greenhouses in Canada, we may see it used as a complement to HPS light and growth in this hybrid lighting system.

“Greenhouse growers are looking towards lighting and co-generation as the next steps to efficiency,” noted Amit Varma, Senior Relationship Manager at Farm Credit Canada (FCC) in Surrey, B.C.

Varma said growers are willing to invest in technology that can take them to year-round production. For lenders, the risk analysis sometimes includes in-house research on whether new technology is proven to work in the field.

“The greenhouse owners, managers and operators are quite innovative and entrepreneurial,” said Dave Orosz, an FCC Senior Relationship Manager, based in Essex, Ontario. “Lending to this sector is driven by the biggest issues of the day, whether that’s energy or lighting.”

When it comes to financing capital-intensive projects, Orosz said it comes down to basic principles, like in any other form of production.

“Are the right people in charge with the right history and equity to try something new? How much is the grower relying on that experimental technology to work? It’s all about risk management,” he said.

Meanwhile, LED technology is widely used to light up homes, streets and holiday lights, but Canadians will have to wait a bit longer to consume delicious produce grown using the same technology.

EarthTalk: Why Are Wetlands So Important to Preserve?

June 3, 2013 6:33 pm
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By Doug Moss

Wetlands serve a variety of important ecological functions including feeding downstream waters, trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat.

EarthTalkAllOneOcean

Credit: Bo Eide

Contrary to popular myth that most ocean pollution is oil spilled from ships, most of it is land-based litter.

 

 

 

 

Ottawa Life Earth Talk

May 27, 2013 11:06 am
EarthTalkGulf3yearsAfterBP

A recent report by the National Wildlife Federation found that the three-year-old BP spill is still having a serious negative effect on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico and its wildlife populations. Smoke billows over a controlled oil fire off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, on May 5, 2010.

Photo Credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin E. Stumberg, United States Department of Defense

 

Two Canadian Fashion Designers with a Green Vision

April 16, 2012 4:03 pm
Screen shot 2012-04-16 at 3.13.21 PM

The fashion industry is a lot of things – glamorous, ever-changing, and certainly big business. However, in terms of being environmentally conscious, many argue the industry needs to clean up its act. From the fast trend cycle, which promotes disposable clothing, to the wasteful and harmful practices during production, we evidently have a long way to go.

Fortunately, some forward-thinking Canadian designers are paving the way for a more sustainable future. Adhesif Clothing Company’s designer Melissa Ferreira uses sustainable materials in her collection, and produces everything locally in Vancouver. Even better, she looks forward to designing all of her future collections from recycled materials! We totally fell in love with Adhesif’s candy-inspired 2012 spring/summer collection.

Adhesif Clothing Company's Spring/Summer 2012 collection is colourful, feminine, and best of all, eco-friendly!

Sonja den Elzen’s eco-collection, Thieves, uses organic and sustainable fabrics. The Toronto-based designer combines her love of high-end fashion with her passion to seek materials and construction methods which are more respectful of the environment. The result – total haute eco-ture!

Ottawa Life Magazine was excited to chat with both Melissa Ferreira and Sonja den Elzen, to find out exactly how they’re making the fashion industry more sustainable.

Ottawa Life Magazine: So many things are labelled “sustainable” or “eco-friendly.” How exactly do you put those labels into practice?

Melissa: All of the garments produced under the Adhesif Clothing label are not only locally handmade in Vancouver, but also made with up to 98% reclaimed materials. It really doesn’t get more sustainable than that!

Sonja: With Thieves, I source sustainable textiles – ones that are considered less harmful to the environment than what is often readily available. Fabrics like hemp that don’t require pesticides; Tencel, which is produced in a closed-loop cycle with less toxic chemicals then most rayon type jerseys; organic cotton, which is grown and processed without pesticides and toxins; fabrics with low-impact dyes or natural dyes, and organic wools which are processed in ways that are animal and earth kind. I also like to use local manufacturers. This helps keep our own community diverse and strong, and keeps jobs and money within our own community. I am also able have regular contact with them and know that they are working in pleasant environments and treated fairly. I like to work with people directly so that there is a sense of connection and community.

Ottawa Life Magazine: A common perception is that environmentalists are fashion-challenged, granola-crunching, wearers of hemp skirts and Birkenstocks. Is it possible to be eco-friendly and fashion-forward at the same time?

Melissa: When I started Adhesif Clothing 9 years ago, there really wasn’t all that much available in terms of sustainable fashion. Today, there are dozens of brands that have some kind of “eco-edge” to them. Some of my personal favourite eco-designers include Cokluch from Montreal, Vancouver’s Nicole Bridger and Elroy Apparel. Larger companies like H&M are even trying to follow suit with what they offer in terms of sustainable materials. It’s all quite relative I suppose. It just depends on what an individual is into. If environmentalists are being viewed as fashion-challenged, then I guess they just need to pay a visit to our shop for some free fashion styling advice!

Designer Melissa Ferreira produces one-of-a-kind garments from reclaimed materials.

Sonja: I think at this point our world is so dynamic that environmentalists come from many different style groups, and are more linked by their deeper sense of connection to the planet that sustains us than to a specific outside clothing style. It is definitely possible to be eco-friendly and fashion-forward, as it is a matter of how one applies their design aesthetic to the textiles they choose to use. All designers can be eco-friendly if they choose to be, and still maintain the aesthetic they choose to convey to the world – sometimes it just takes a little more creativity and intention.

Ottawa Life Magazine: What practices frustrated you in the fashion industry, before inspiring you to create more sustainable garments?

Melissa: On a grand scale, the fashion industry is still one of the most wasteful industries. Although cutting and creating a garment line from giant rolls of fabric is more time and cost effective, it is also a very wasteful process. I would like more light to be shed on the designers such as myself, who are not only creatively resourceful but also strive to literally reduce waste in the environment. I would like larger companies to take responsibility for their actions by figuring out a strategy for reducing the waste they create from mass production.

Sonja: I am definitely frustrated by the unnecessary waste and toxins used in textile and manufacturing processes, as well as the abuse of human labour and un-holistic treatment of people and the environment.

Ottawa Life Magazine: What are some of the challenges in producing garments that are more sustainable?

Melissa: Speaking as a designer who creates garments made primarily from reclaimed materials, it is definitely more time consuming and thus more costly to produce. All materials must be handpicked, cleaned, and in most cases deconstructed before used in the creation of the garments. The pieces can’t be mass produced or else they lose their charm in terms of having a “thought process” or a “soul”. Needless to say, educating the public/consumers on the cost differences between something mass produced overseas and something locally handmade is the way to overcome obstacles.

Thieves by Sonja den Elzen is classic, elegant, and uses sustainable textiles.

Sonja: Some of the challenges are finding textiles that are affordable and interesting, and overcoming people’s experiences of cheap clothing, towards understanding the “true value” of clothing made (where everyone is paid fairly and fabric is processed with environmental concern).

Ottawa Life Magazine: Is eco-fashion a niche market, and if so, do you think it will become more mainstream?

Melissa: When I hear “niche market” I think of anything that is a specialty item. I think it just depends on who your market is. With that said, I think style is subjective and that’s part of what makes fashion so interesting. Regardless, I see eco-fashion as becoming more and more prominent. I’m seeing more and more designers popping up who are using some form of sustainable or reclaimed materials for production of their garments. Many products are being offered with greener options, like post-consumer waste in paper goods and building supplies, as well as biodegradable plastics, as an example.

Sonja: It will become mainstream as we become more aware of our connection to the earth and learn to be respectful of our resources and learn to place a higher value on this then a piece of paper with a dollar sign on it.

Find out more about Adhesif Clothing Company (www.adhesifclothing.com), and Thieves (www.thieves.ca).

The Environment Loses in 2012 Federal Budget

April 2, 2012 9:02 am
Canada needs to be looking for long term energy solutions, not short-sighted ones.

While there are always winners and losers come federal budget time, there’s an issue when our own government is putting the interests of big oil corporations ahead of the interest of Canadians. Our right to a clean and healthy environment, as well as our right to democratic debate, is under attack.

Pegged as one of Canada’s most anti-environmental budgets ever, the federal government announced it is overhauling its environmental assessment timelines for natural resource projects. The new streamlined environmental assessment process would tout a ‘one project, one review’ principle, downloading some responsibilities on provinces, limiting the scope of reviews, and imposing shorter timelines.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

The budget report goes on to highlight several major economic projects that will benefit from the fast-tracked environmental assessment process – three oil and gas pipelines, a gold mine, and a uranium mine. Clearly, the government is interested in axing sufficient environmental review in the name of big business. Environmental assessments were put into place to prevent problems before they happen, and to ensure the health of both Canadians and our environment. Shouldn’t we be striving for an environmental assessment process that is more participatory and rigorous, not less? By cutting back on environmental protection, the government has shown us they are willing to give up stewardship of the environment in favour of economic projects.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty justified the ‘one project, one review’ principle by stating, “it has become clear that we must develop new export markets for Canada’s energy and natural resources, to reduce our dependence on markets in the United States. The booming economies of the Asia-Pacific region are a huge and increasing source of demand, but Canada is not the only country to which they can turn. If we fail to act now, this historic window of opportunity will close.” But instead of ensuring our resources are developed sustainably, critics are arguing our government is open to any foreign investor who wants our resources – and we will have to clean up the mess.

The assault on the environment doesn’t stop there. The budget also includes a 6% cut to Environment Canada and a proposed 40% cut to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for the new budget year. The EcoENERGY renewable energy program was not renewed, and the National Round Table of the Environment and the Economy was slashed altogether. Worse yet, the budget includes an $8 million dollar plan to “monitor” environmental charities and prevent them from becoming too political in nature. (Or as some would suggest, to silence the voice of critics). What wasn’t touched? The over $1 billion dollars taxpayers hand over to large oil, coal and gas corporations every year in subsidies.

Canada needs to be looking for long term energy solutions.

While Canada used to be a global environmental leader, now we are losing ground. While climate change was only mentioned in the budget twice in passing, other countries are addressing the problem head on. Germany is aiming to derive all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050. Currently, 80 percent of energy supply in Iceland is derived from renewable energy sources, and 20 percent in Denmark. Yet the Harper government has shown they are not serious about responding to the climate crisis or protecting Canadian energy security.

Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Our future and the future of our children depends on our ability to protect and sustain our environment. In light of the current climate change crisis, environmental protection should be at the top of Canada’s agenda, and not overlooked as it was in this budget.

March: In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lamb

March 27, 2012 8:43 am
springinottawa

The normally wildly unpredictable March has come in like a lamb, and is, well, going out like one too.

And while spring officially commenced on March 20th, many parts of Canada, Ottawa included, have already been experiencing spring-like (and even summer-like!) weather for weeks. In fact, Ottawa smashed nine daily temperature records this month, and a quick stroll through the capital’s streets last weekend revealed all the signs of July or August, not March: flip-flops, shorts, ice-cream cones, bustling patios, and blooming flowers, to name a few.

Ottawa

Many of us are quick to welcome this early onset of warm weather (after all, who doesn’t like being able to walk around in a t-shirt mid-March?), but some experts caution there are consequences, too – some of them unforeseen.

Ottawa Life asked some of our faithful readers what they thought about the recent mind-boggling weather. Is the early onset of spring cause for celebration, or worrisome? Could it be a sign of global warming, or simply part of the Earth’s natural cycle?

“I can’t complain,” admitted Kerri Aldridge, 49, “but it’s probably not good for the environment. Maybe the Mayans were onto something with their whole 2012 end of the world prediction.”

“Well I’m in a sun dress and it’s March,” laughed Jeanine Baxter, 35, “but I guess in the back of my head I’m a bit perplexed, to say the least. We are definitely experiencing global warming, but whether or not it’s natural or caused by man, I’m not sure.”

“Some unusual weather here and there isn’t anything that worries me. One year, or even ten years, is a small amount of time to make any conclusions about the climate,” stated John Wisenberg, 24.

Gardener Brandon Jones, 50, is worried about his plants, saying he hopes they do not “die in a cold snap. From a few barely chilly days to this heat-wave, I’m wondering if summer will be just as fickle!”

Experts warn we can expect a lot more pests this season.

While us humans can easily adjust to shifts in temperature, it can be much more difficult for certain plants and animals. Charles Davis, of Harvard University, explained that, “certain groups are hit harder than others, and those species that are not able to respond to climate change are being hit the hardest.” An early spring can create disconnect when some plants bud earlier than usual, and then are caught out by frosts. This is particularly a cause for concern for those of us who make a living harvesting plants, fruits and vegetables.

Early budding can bring other concerns, as well. Some insect specialists are worried that pest populations might soar in certain areas, because there wasn’t a hard winter to kill insects off. The combination of a mild winter and an early spring means we can undoubtedly expect a lot more bugs this season.

Thought sweet, this early taste of summer, which started before winter had even officially ended, is a bit jarring. The unseasonably warm weather has undoubtedly left many of us wondering – one way or another, will we pay for this?

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