by Corey Pembleton, communications volunteer
Since 1974, the residents of the Region of Waterloo have been dedicated to conserving water and increasing water efficiency; making water conservation truly ingrained in our way of life. Every drop saved is one to be celebrated, and over the past 40 years we’ve saved a lot of drops! We’d like to congratulate everyone in the region for the strong effort that’s been put in over the years making us a leader in water conservation in the country.
Year upon year we continue to surpass conservation goals, and the Water Efficiency Master Plan (WEMP) has been highly successful: during its’ first phase (1998 – 2005) the plan exceeded its’ goal and resulted in saving 8, 508m3 of water daily, or more than three Olympic – sized swimming pools of water. More impressively, this daily water saving achieved in 2011 exceeded the 2015 target of 8,146m3– showing how the continued support of Waterloo Region residents’ is truly the driving factor behind the water conservation programs’ success.
Why is water conservation so important in Waterloo Region?
Unlike other municipalities in the province, water used by residents and businesses in the region comes from underground aquifers and the Grand River, replenished by rainwater, and underground / aboveground waterways, such as the Grand River. As the region continues to thrive with increasing numbers of people and businesses being started, it puts increasing stress on these limited water resources – making water conservation crucial to maintaining our water supplies.
Water saving-success after water-saving success
Although it can be hard to directly attribute exactly where the huge successes in water saving are coming from, one thing is clear – it is all thanks to the concerted effort of residents, businesses and institutions in the region. We have had several landmarks reached thanks to these efforts.
In the early 2000’s it was suggested to cope with increasing demand, a pipeline would need to be built to one of the great lakes to bring water into the region. Thanks to our remarkable water-conserving efforts this has been deemed unnecessary (at least until the next review in 2025); an impressive feat considering how quickly the region has grown in the meantime.
Not only does water-saving come from home-use, such as people taking shorter showers, limiting outdoor water use and installing more efficient faucets and appliances, but it comes from programs led by the Region which have been whole-heartedly embraced by residents. Between 1994 and 2005 the city had replaced over 40,000 toilets with more efficient models, rain barrel distribution programs every year, education for children and adults alike and many other research, by-law and developmental updates. Amongst these, the Water Efficiency Technology program has been highly successful in helping businesses and institutions reduce their water usage in a big way, paving the path to more sustainable future.
Although water have made it a difficult year for conserving water, citizens in the region continue to pull through strong and steady with our water efficiency goals, and we all should take the time to congratulate ourselves – why not with a canoe trip down the Grand?
Take the WET Challenge!
Determine how much water people living in your home use. Take the Region of Waterloo’s WET Challenge!
If you use more than 200 litres per day for each person, you qualify for a free home visit by one of our staff.
02 Aug 2017
by Ericha Moores, volunteer communications assistant
Rain is just as much a part of the natural cycle of life as sunshine. So, why does an environmental charity like Reep Green Solutions have a RAIN program and what exactly is it?
RAIN is a program that was developed by Green Communities Canada with the objective to address the problems associated with stormwater runoff. Specifically focusing on ways in which individuals and communities can be active agents of positive change while encouraging green infrastructure in their communities.
While rain may be part of a natural life cycle, what happens to it once it reaches the ground is often not natural. In fact, there are problems that are associated with our current stormwater management that ultimately affects the quality of the water that we drink and the water that is found in our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.
The negative environmental impact of storm water
So, what exactly are the negative environmental impacts of storm water runoff?
Well, in order to understand the environmental impacts, we must first understand the current stormwater management that our communities have. The way in which our cities were built has resulted in a disruption in the natural water cycle. There are several different stages involved with the water cycle, however, when our urbans areas were built, they sealed surfaces and covered land with impermeable surfaces (such as roads, roofs, driveways, and parking lots) – meaning water could no longer be absorbed into the ground. The main objective of our current stormwater system is to get the water off of our roads and properties in a timely fashion. It directs water to our storm sewer systems and, ultimately, our rivers and our lakes.
Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that due to current stormwater management, our water systems have become increasingly polluted. As water runs through our urban environment, it picks up toxic chemicals, such as oil and pesticides. Because storm water is not treated before it enters rivers and lakes, these chemicals subsequently end up in our waterways. This affects the quality of water, as well as the surrounding ecosystems (beach closures?)
There are also issues related to flooding and erosion – both of which represent threats to our environment, our properties and, again, the quality of water. Due to the reduction in permeable surfaces and less vegetated areas to absorb water, when it rains or when snow melts, the volume and the speed at which stormwater runs off is substantially increased. This can result in flooding which can have very costly impacts on our private properties and infrastructure. Additionally, this large amount of runoff can lead to erosion along stream banks which further exacerbates the issue of flooding as sediment clogs channels and pipes, while also negatively affecting the ecosystems for the aquatic life.
Solutions that benefit the environment
However, there are solutions to these aforementioned issues! You and your community can improve the current stormwater management system through the implementation of RAIN.
There are three main ideas that RAIN encourages:
- Capturing and storing rain water with rain cisterns, releasing it gradually and using that to water your garden.
- Planting native trees and bushes in order to make our gardens soak up more water.
- Building a rain garden.
- Increasing the permeability of hard surfaces, such as your driveway so that water can be soaked through.
- Trying to minimize the chemicals that you use in your household, for example, using natural fertilizers in your garden.
In using these simple principles and applying them to your own property, you are actively participating in improving your community’s water quality and decreasing the negative environmental impacts!
Check out the recent reports of The Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation to learn more about the importance of managing storm water.
28 Jul 2017
Recently moved into a “new to you” home? Here’s the fifth in a week long series on things you can do to improve your home’s sustainability.
by Peter Speckner, Communications Coordinator
- Walk or ride a bike to get around
Driving your car causes pollution, needs money for gas and maintenance, plus the costs of parking. Walking or riding a bike is also good exercise and far better for the environment.
- Buy in bulk or from your local farmers’ market
Products from stores come with more packaging, and have usually traveled quite the distance to get there. Local products have used less energy to reach the market, and will help strengthen the local economy.
- Use reusable items instead of single-use or recyclable
Plastic water bottles, plastic bags, and take-out containers are some of the easiest things to avoid using. By using glass bottles, reusable bags, and bringing your own container to stores and restaurants, you can greatly reduce the amount of waste you create.
- Grow some of your own food
It used to be that families grew the majority of food that they ate. Mass food production and grocery stores have taken that need away. Growing your own food can have its own benefits: lower cost, environmental awareness, educating children on food production, and the knowledge of what goes into your food (ie. pesticides).
- Use all-natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies
It might be surprising to find out that the majority of the cleaning products we use are actually bad for the environment. Most don’t think of what happens to that dish soap or floor cleaner that went down the drain, but the sad fact is it will most likely find its way into Mother Nature, where it will cause problems. There are plenty of cleaners out there that are environmentally friendly, do just as good a job, but won’t harm the environment when they find their way there. Or better yet make your own cleaning products!
27 Jul 2017
Recently moved into a “new to you” home? Here’s the fourth in a week long series on things you can do to improve your home’s sustainability.
by Peter Speckner, Communications Coordinator
- Grab an umbrella and go outside during a heavy rain to see how and where the water flows from the eaves, downspouts and paved surfaces.
- The slope of the ground around your home should be away from your foundation
Make sure the ground around the foundation slopes away. Re-grade all areas (paved or landscaped) to ensure water flows away from your home.
- Keep your eavestroughs clean
Clean eavestroughs in the fall after the leaves have fallen and again in June after the seeds and flowers have dropped.
- Don’t finish a high-risk basement
If you are at high risk of infiltration, do not finish your basement for living. Remove absorbent items (furniture, carpet, boxes) to a dry location upstairs. High risk factors for your home or building include:
- Paved areas that slope towards the foundation that can not immediately be fixed
- The lowest building on the street
- Built on a floodplain or an area with a high water table
- A masonry or fieldstone foundation
- Choose non-absorbent flooring and wall finishes when renovating your basement
When renovating basement areas, choose flooring and wall finish options that are not absorbent, like ceramic tiles (avoid carpet, drywall and paperboard), and use area rugs that can be removed for drying and cleaning.
Learn more about having a RAIN Smart Home.
26 Jul 2017
Recently moved into a “new to you” home? Here’s the third in a week long series on things you can do to improve your home’s sustainability.
by Peter Speckner, Communications Coordinator
- Use a programmable thermostat
By tailoring your air conditioning (or heating) to your schedule, programmable thermostats can save both energy and money. Install your thermostat away from heating or cooling vents or registers, heat-generating appliances or electronics, open doorways and direct sunlight.
- Lower the temperature on your hot water heater down to 120°F (55° C)
This is the optimum temperature for your hot water heater. Most people don’t use water hotter than 120° — indeed, water hotter than that can scald you or a child — and thus the energy needed to keep the water above 120° isn’t used effectively. Lower the temperature, save money on your energy bill, and you’ll never skip a beat.
- Use a water heater blanket on your water heater
While most modern hot water heaters are well-insulated, some are insulated better than others, and many older heaters aren’t insulated well at all. A small investment in a blanket will slowly and gradually save you money on your heating bill over time by keeping the heat in the water instead of letting it disperse slowly into your basement or utility closet. Also, be “careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment.” And of course, on-demand (or “tankless”) water heaters don’t require this treatment.
- Use a clothes line
They may seem old-fashioned, but a clothes line uses far less energy than a dryer, and will also help to get you outside into the fresh air.
- Change your light bulbs from incandescent and CFL to LED
Although LED (light emitting diode) light bulbs do cost more than incandescent and CFL (compact fluorescent lights), they use a fraction of the power and most have a life span of over 20 years.
- Limit the sources of phantom electrical power in your home
Even when you turn most modern devices off (cable box, stereo system), they are still partially on – you can tell by the clock. Standby power can account for 10% of your annual hydro usage. Plug these devices into a power bar, and turn the power bar off, thus totally killing the power to all connected devices.
25 Jul 2017
Recently moved into a “new to you” home? Here’s the second in a week long series on things you can do to improve your home’s sustainability.
by Peter Speckner, Communications Coordinator
- Check all toilets and under-sink plumbing for leaks or constant running
The toilet tank flapper is the first and most common item on a toilet to fail. A slow leak can waste up to 100L per day, while a loud, large leak can waste almost 300L per day. Leaking plumbing will also waste money, but can also cause water damage to everything around it.
- Change the schedule of your water softener’s regenerating to only when it is needed
Most water softeners are set to a default schedule of once/day when they’re installed, and people don’t change that. At 300-600L per regeneration, it is wise to reschedule it to when it is actually needed (usually every 3-4 days), depending on usage.
- Install water-saving fixtures
You might be surprised at the number of water-saving bathroom accessories that are available now. A toilet that’s labeled as a high-efficiency can save a family of four as much as 64,000 litres of water per year. Even small, inexpensive changes, such as the switching out the faucet aerators in your sinks, can have a significant impact.
- Don’t wash your car at home – use a car wash
Washing your car at home uses a lot of water, and the cleaner used is most likely not good for the environment (it will eventually end up in the storm sewer). Most car washes filter and reuse their water, and prevent chemicals from going down the drain.
- Plant drought-resistant native plants and mulch flower beds
Outdoors in the summer months can be a huge strain on water usage, but it doesn’t have to be. Plan your landscaping accordingly by planting shrubs, flowers and trees that don’t require as much water. In addition, place mulch around them. The mulch won’t only make your landscaping look nice, but it will also help the plants retain more moisture.
WET Home Visits
Recently moved into a “new to you” home? Here’s the first in a week long series on things you can do to improve your home’s sustainability.
by Peter Speckner, Communications Coordinator
- Complete a home energy evaluation
Knowing where the weak points are in your home’s energy efficiency is required place to start. Prioritizing these points into a plan of action will enable you to maximize your results. Be sure to see how you can get up to $5000 to help from the Home Reno Rebate program!
- Upgrade your home’s insulation
Insulation lasts forever – most other upgrades do not. Options include upgrading what you have now (walls, attic), or adding where there might not be any at all (basement, crawl space).
- Draftproof the openings in your home
Your evaluation will have identified the locations where drafts exist. Sealing them will decrease the number of air exchanges in your home and help to maintain an even temperature in the house.
- Check the age and efficiency of your heating source
If you have a low to mid-efficiency furnace, or a 15+ year-old high efficiency furnace (90-92%), then it might be worthwhile to upgrade to a modern high efficiency furnace (97%+). It will save money and be better for the environment. Natural Resources Canada has information about choosing a high-efficiency furnace available online here.
- Check your windows for proper installation and good fit
Windows that haven’t been installed properly or have warped and no longer fit securely are not only dangerous, but also a place for drafts and other things to come in (ie. moisture, critters). If they can’t be properly sealed (see #3), or are only single pane, then they should be replaced.
- Replace the air filters on your furnace and AC unit
When you first move in, you almost always need to replace the air handling filter or the filter on your furnace or AC unit. An outdated filter not only doesn’t filter air as well, it also has a negative impact on air flow, meaning your air handling system or HVAC unit has to work harder — and use more energy — to pump out lower quality air.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 20, 2017
Reep Green Solutions receives three awards from Green Communities Canada
Kitchener – Mary Jane Patterson, executive director of Reep Green Solutions received the environmental lifetime achievement award on Monday from Green Communities Canada as part of its Annual General Meeting. Also recognized with awards were board chair Tania Del Matto as an outstanding board person and the innovation award went to the organization’s Home Energy and Rain Coaching services.
The following is how Green Communities Canada officially announced the recipient of the environmental lifetime achievement award.
Environmental Lifetime Achievement Award: Mary Jane Patterson, Reep Green Solutions
This award is for an individual who demonstrates through work and achievements a lifetime contribution to improving the environment.
Mary Jane is an effective environmental champion committed to creating environmental impact in Waterloo Region and beyond.
Mary Jane’s leadership in residential energy evaluations and low-income retrofits has resulted in annual reductions of over 30,000 tonnes of CO2 in the Waterloo region and she was one of the key architects of Region of Waterloo’s Climate Plan.
In 1999, Mary Jane Patterson was one of two founding staff members of the organization now called Reep Green Solutions and has served as its Executive Director since 2001. Mary Jane has led the organization in its delivery of over 15,000 residential energy evaluations and over 5,000 low-income retrofits in Waterloo Region. The result is documented annual reductions of over 30,000 tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. She was one of the key architects behind the sponsoring partnership and development of A Climate Action Plan for Waterloo Region. She has played a leading national role as Chair of the Board of Green Communities Canada.
According to Associate Director Dave Blake, Mary Jane is a model for sustainable living, “Her home is a model of what is possible for homeowners in Waterloo Region. Her rain barrel installation and her recent installation of an air source heat pump water heater are two examples of how she lives her life. She lives without owning her own car and regularly rides her bike around town, to the office and to meetings with our partner organizations. Even when we go out for a team lunch, she brings her own reusable containers in order to minimize the impact of leftovers.”
Paul Parker, co-founder of Reep Green Solutions, said, “Mary Jane is dedicated to enabling our local community and communities across the country to improve environmental performance.”
Reep Green Solutions is an environmental charity that helps people to live sustainably. Programs and services focus on residential energy efficiency, managing storm water, water conservation and waste reduction. It co-leads ClimateActionWR with Sustainable Waterloo Region. The Reep House for Sustainable Living is a model home with a variety of environmentally friendly features and often hosts workshops and presentations.
The following is how Green Communities Canada announced the other two awards
Innovation Award – Home Energy & RAIN Coaching Services
This award is for an organization that demonstrates innovation in programming, partnerships, marketing and events.
Reep Green Solution created the Home Energy Coach concept to help homeowners reduce their environmental impact and adopt sustainable practices. The coaches provide guidance, advice and support people interested in adopting more sustainable living practices. The Energy Coach works with homeowners on energy efficiency improvements. The RAIN Coach works with homeowners to find ways to beautify their landscape while managing rain on their properties.
Coaching services exemplify Reep Green Solutions core values of innovation and impact by finding ways to help people live sustainably by addressing barriers and enabling action.
Outstanding Board Person: Tania Del Matto
This award is for a board member who has demonstrated through his/her work and achievements the strongest commitment to a Green Community providing exceptional stewardship to the organization.
Tania has been a member of Reep Green Solutions’ Board of Directors for three years, and Chair of the Board for the past year. Her commitment to the health and good management of the organization and the sustainability of her community are evident in everything she does.
Tania brings a fresh perspective from her day job as the Director of St. Paul’s GreenHouse, a unique live-in campus-linked accelerator for social innovation and entrepreneurship. She helps Reep Green Solutions make connections with people and organizations that enhance its work and broaden its reach.
– 30 –
14 Jun 2017
by Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director
Drumroll please: We are just past the halfway mark in our Climate Action plan for Waterloo Region, and the results are in:
- Our emissions have gone down by 5.2% – great news! And getting closer to our target of 6% below 2010 levels by 2020, if we can keep it up.
- Most of the heavy lifting was done by the province, by closing down the coal generating stations. So what was the impact of our local actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Without the province’s changes, our local emissions would have gone up by 4.4%. Wrong direction!
- But taken in context, we have made progress locally. During that same time period, our economy grew by 14% and our population by 5.7 %. Our local actions meant that emissions did not grow at the same rate – we separated emissions growth from population and economic growth. This is an important step forward.
The most concerning information we see in the Progress Report is the growth in emissions from transportation. During the time period of 2010 to 2015, vehicle ownership in Waterloo Region grew at twice the rate of population growth. Transportation emissions now make up 49% of our carbon footprint, and they’re continuing to grow. That is our biggest challenge as a community going forward.
3 ways to reduce your carbon footprint
Here’s three ways each of us can do to reduce our own carbon footprint and help us reach our target as a community:
- Pick one thing related to our daily/weekly routine that could reduce emissions, and make it a new habit. It will cost little or nothing, and can make a big difference over time. The Progress Report has a list of actions we can all do for each focus area.
- Make each new purchase for your home, vehicle or workplace a transformational one. The kind of thing that means without thinking, your normal daily activities are now lower in carbon emissions. Appliances, lighting, vehicles – all of these purchases have long lasting impacts, and by choosing well at the time we buy, we can significantly reduce the emissions they create throughout their lifetime.
- Step out of our comfort zone and speak up on this issue. Let politicians and others know this matters to us, to support them in making decisions that look ahead for generations in our community.
In fact, there’s an opportunity to have our say and to hear what our community could look like in the future, coming up.
Community engagement kicks of June 22
Join us on June 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Our Progress, Our Path event as we kick off several months of community engagement on visioning our long-term path to reducing emissions. Join the conversation, and hear from 2 or 3 speakers about the big changes that we could adopt, or are adopting locally, and the impact they’ll have.
Let’s build on our success, together!
What excites me about the direction we’re going in with ClimateActionWR is that as a community we’re planning for the future we want, not the future that comes when you’re not paying attention. And that’s a future for sustainable living that builds prosperity and attracts talent to our community. The warm reception for our Progress Report at all three city councils and the Region demonstrated the political awareness and support we have in Waterloo Region for a low carbon economy, and the desire to do more. Let’s build on that together.
01 Jun 2017
by Ericha Moores
Here are some of the common alternatives to driving alone, and the health and environmental benefits associated with these options!
Walking and biking
There are many reasons why you should choose to walk or bike to your destination–whether that be work, school, or the grocery store.
In terms of health benefits, walking is a great form of exercise – according to David Suzuki, only 30 minutes of walking per day can reduce your risk of heart disease, as well as diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis. It also gives you much more energy and studies have shown that it has been proven to make you happier! By actively choosing to walk you are choosing a healthier lifestyle, and this encourages an improved quality of life.
Similar to walking, another great alternative (and, personally, my favourite!) is biking. Cycling to your destination would get you there faster than walking and, again, it is great for your health. Whenever I opt to bike to my destination, I always arrive feeling refreshed and in a much better mood!
If you do not have a bike, then do not fret – there is the Community Access Bikeshare program here in Kitchener! There are several stations throughout Kitchener and Waterloo, where you can pick up a bike. You can become a member for $60 and use it from April through to November.
Whether walking or biking, being outdoors is good for your mind, body, and spirit! Plus, you can feel good about contributing to a healthier planet and decreasing your carbon footprint!
Another alternative option is Grand River Transit – the public transportation system here in the Waterloo Region. There are many benefits to choosing public transit, such as environmental, economic, and health.
By foregoing your individual car for public transit, you are automatically benefiting the environment by reducing your carbon footprint and the amount of greenhouse gases that are being released into the environment. In not taking your car you are also decreasing the amount of air pollution, creating a healthier environment for you and your community.
Choosing to take public transportation over your own vehicle is much cheaper – the price per ride in Waterloo Region is $3.25, and you can get monthly passes. Both are cheaper than gas and monthly insurance rates!