This project was made possible with the support of Ontario Trillium Foundation, City of Kitchener, and Partners for Action.
There are many voices out there that claim to help you reduce your carbon footprint. Project Neutral is one of the only practical tools that tells you your personal carbon footprint based on local data AND offers you actions you can take to reduce it. Our personal carbon footprint comes primarily from transportation, homes, and food. Decarbonizing our lifestyle is actually quite simple!
For transportation, shrinking your carbon footprint is a two step process. The first stage involves reconsidering your travel needs. Some trips may be possible by active transportation such as biking. Public transit may work for trips within your city. Have you tried carpooling or car-sharing for some journeys?
You’re out of office meetings can be offset by using teleconferencing tools. If a personal vehicle is still necessary, choosing the smallest electric vehicle that meets your requirements can help you achieve zero emissions for transportation. Here in Ontario, our electricity comes largely from a clean electricity grid which does not produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. As a consequence, emissions associated with driving an electric vehicle are negligible, especially if it is recharged during off-peak hours.
The major source of carbon emissions for homes is from heating the home and water. Start by improving the energy efficiency of the home through draft-proofing; adding insulation; upgrading lighting and appliances. Heat pumps with electric resistance heating backup can provide all our heating and cooling needs, even in our colder climate.
Not all food is created equal. A plant-based diet has a smaller carbon footprint than an omnivore diet. One also can’t generally go wrong by choosing seasonal, local produce. Choose to eat less meat and choose plant-based proteins more often. Reducing food waste and using green bins or compost can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions set off when food is placed in landfills. We are lucky here in Southern Ontario to have access to tasty local food all year-round!
It may be surprising but your financial investments may in fact contribute significantly to your carbon footprint. Divesting from fossil fuels can provide a double whammy by reducing your personal climate impact while simultaneously defunding the fossil fuel industry. Money re-invested in renewable energy projects can provide competitive returns while leading to further decarbonisation.
Simple, isn’t it? Reduce your demand for energy in transportation and home heating, and switch as much as you can to electric. Eat a plant-based diet with local, seasonal produce. Divest from fossil fuels. That is all it takes to lead a near zero carbon lifestyle. Achievable? Absolutely. Easy? Maybe not without some government policy changes and incentives. So here is the last ingredient: let your political leaders know that climate change is a concern and that you would like to see more climate action. We CAN do it!
By: Heather McDiarmid
Photo Credit: Evie Shaffer, Unsplash
We were greeted by cheerful faces as we arrived in the cold, wet weather for the first depave event at Sheppard Public School. It was a great opportunity for community building while better managing rainwater and creating a beautiful space. News crews came out to document this historic event, the first ever in Waterloo Region. In an effort to to remove under-utilized pavement from urban spaces and replace it with green spaces, Depave Paradise Canada partnered with the environmental charity, Reep Green Solutions to bring the Depave program to Waterloo Region. Sheppard public school was the first stop!
The day started with unpacking gear and setting up tables for volunteer registration, first aid and refreshments. The kids ensured that the timbits were distributed fairly and no one was excluded from the sugary treats. A quick team meeting got tasks assigned and positive energy flowing just in time for community members to start arriving. Evergreen provided some nature play activities to occupy the kids while their parents were busy depaving.. As the morning progressed and tasks began, the hot beverages would become essential for motivating community members.
Four work areas were set up for volunteers and their families. Team 1 was the depavers. In their steel-toed boots and heavy-duty gloves, they chewed through the pavement in a mere hour and a half filling a whole waste bin with slabs of asphalt.
Team 2 were the diggers. Like industrious dwarves, they sifted through gravel pulling out the nuggets of tar-coated stones and pavement crumbles. Digging into the sodden ground, buckets and wheelbarrows full of gravelly clay soil was removed to improve drainage in the site. It was amazing to see these superheroes clear out so much fill, shifting and heaving buckets into the bins.
Beside them Team 3 took up the sod with manual sod cutters to add more space for plants and an area for the students to relax during recess. Like a plow with a horizontal knife, the sod cutters sliced grass right below the roots allowing strips of grass to be peeled off the soil. It looked so easy, and then I tried it. Not so easy!
Team 4 were the queens of the castle. They presided over the three waste bins helping to dump buckets and steer wheelbarrows. They also ensured that no pavement contaminated the clean fill and no clean fill dirtied the pavement bins. While the parent volunteers did the hard labour, the kids were also hard at work! Setting up natural shelters using sticks and rope they were challenged to be creative and logistical. Volunteers were around to support and discuss the set up while the kids determined the function of their creation. A group of girls set up an entire campground, only missing the marshmallows!
Pizza arrived and everyone was excited to take a break. The energy at the break was high as volunteers chatted and marveled at the progress of the Depave. A hot chocolate refill arrived just in time to warm up the volunteers before getting back to work. Once the pizza was gone, the energy surged as we switched from clearing out the depave site to filling it in with dirt and mulch.
A mountain of soil and mulch remained, waiting to breathe life back into the newly depaved areas. Parents, children (with their little shovels) and community volunteers got hard to work filling wheelbarrows to complete the job. Some children were more preoccupied with climbing the dirt piles and made for a playful environment amidst the laborious task at hand. Who would be able to fill their wheelbarrows the fastest? A little friendly competition between depavers made the experience all the more cheerful and productive.
Some hours later and after much hard work and determination, the never-ending pile of soil seemed to be finally clearing. A couple more hours passed and after countless mulch-filled wheelbarrow trips, the depaved areas began to resemble the precursor of a lively green space more and more.
By 5pm, the tasks were complete, and volunteers were finally able to marvel at the fruits of their labour, making the entire experience well-worth the end results. Overall, the depave as a community building event was a success! Volunteers, young and young at heart, all engaged with one another to complete the project which would beautify the school yard, keep the area cool in summer, add shade, manage stormwater runoff and countless other benefits. Knowing all this, even with the gloomy weather there was a ray of sunshine at Sheppard Public school!
By: Heather McDiarmid, Pamela Kisun, Jamylynn McDonald
Photography: Christine Tan
It all started when my husband borrowed a portable induction cooker to try out in our kitchen. I admit, the explanation of how it works seemed more like voodoo magic to me than science, and I was skeptical about its ability to make much of a dent in our energy usage. But only a few months later, we had replaced our coil cooktop with an induction cooktop and I am never going back. Which leads me to my list of the reasons why induction is better than anything else out there:
Induction cookers use an electromagnet to induce a small current and magnetic flux in the pot causing it to heat up1,2. The pot then transfers the heat to the food. With coil cooktops, the coil acts a resistor, heating up as electricity passes through it. The coil then heats the pot, which heats the food. With ceramic cooktops, the coil sits below a ceramic surface. The coil radiates heat through the ceramic and into the pot, which heats the food. Induction is more direct and therefore less energy is wasted. My son, as part of a science fair experiment, made some energy measurements that suggest that induction is 20-30% more energy efficient than coil or ceramic cooktops.
Much faster. In his experiment, my son also tested the time it took to boil IL of water at the highest power settings on several cooktops. The ceramic cooktop came in at 9 minutes, the coil cooktop at 6.5 minutes and the induction cooktop at an astonishing 3 minutes. I am all for faster cooking times!
It is very similar to the effect of turning up or down the gas on a gas stove. However, induction does not produce the carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other indoor air pollutants that are produced from gas stoves. Nor are there open flames to worry about.
You can melt your chocolate directly in a pot without worrying about it scorching or going grainy. The ultra-low settings are also useful for keeping food warm.
Furthermore, they never get as hot as the ceramic cooktops so you can wipe the surface right after your pasta has boiled over. And your pasta will probably boil over because induction heats things faster than you expect (see #2 above)!
By now you are probably wondering: Why everyone isn’t using induction cooktops? The big drawback is the price. Induction cooktops are more expensive than other options, although the price is coming down. Also not all cookware works with induction. Only pots and pans with iron or stainless steel bases will work – if your fridge magnet sticks to the base of your pot, it is good to go. But with homes and restaurants in Asia and Europe jumping on the bandwagon, isn’t it time we thought about it too?
By: Heather McDiarmid
Reep Green Solutions is proud to announce the much anticipated RAIN Smart Framework for Municipalities! We worked together with Partners for Action to develop a guide for engaging communities on progressive stormwater management. This framework includes ready-to-use templates and resources on how to build a program to engage a residential neighbourhood on lot-level stormwater management.
Our work developing the RAIN Smart Neighbourhood Project in the City of Kitchener in Lakeside and Mount Hope neighbourhoods provided us with the real world experience to create this framework. The project ground tested several methods of engagement with homeowners to increase resiliency of stormwater infrastructure on a neighbourhood scale.
Municipalities can use this framework as an aid to develop their own strategies for enlisting community members help to manage rain close to where it falls. The framework offers practical suggestions to increase public awareness of stormwater management issues and green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), promoting residential update of GSI, and fostering collaboration between residential homeowners, citizen grounds and municipal staff.
**the comment period is over, thanks to all who raised their voices!
You can still read about the impacts of cancelling the cap and trade program here**
Sheppard Public School staff, students, and Parent Council are working together with Reep Green Solutions to DEPAVE an underutilized area of tarmac and transform it into a dynamic naturalized play space! On Sunday, October 28 at 10am volunteers from the school and surrounding community will work together to liberate the ground from tarmac and gravel subsurface and install healthier soil and mulch in its place to kick-off the tarmac makeover.
Afterwards, we will be working with students and Parent Council to install:
The plans for this area were developed after consultation with students and staff and design workshops with Grade 5 and 6 classes in the spring that illuminated some of the problems with the status quo. Our proposed solution will help absorb rain (reducing mud problems) and provide shade in an otherwise hot play area.
We’ve partnered with Waterloo Public Health to look at the need for shade in the schoolyard, and sampled temperatures on various surfaces, such as the tarmac, the “kindy area” and the “natural area”. On a hot day, typical for the beginning and end of the school year, there was sometimes a 15C° difference between the black tarmac and a softer surface material like wood chips! We want to create more shady and cool play surfaces for our kids as extreme temperatures and high UV warnings are becoming more prevalent.
Interested in being part of this makeover?
Written by Christine Tan
After purchasing a raised bungalow home, Daniel Holmes assessed his home and realized a few changes needed to be made in order to improve the home’s energy efficiency. The bungalow has a walkabout basement that goes down to the garage that was very old and outdated and the cold cellar door wasn’t insulated. Knowing that the home required a new furnace to be installed, Daniel did some further research and found out that at least one other improvement needed to be made in the home in order to qualify for the furnace rebate from the Union Gas Home Reno Rebate program.
A Reep EnerGuide Home Energy Evaluation was conducted and it was decided that the attic and basement walls needed insulating on order to improve the home’s energy rating, along with Daniel’s idea of changing the furnace and door to improve energy efficiency.
“I then spend 6 months tearing apart the entire basement and reframing it with 2×4 walls, 1 inch away from the foundation to allow the maximum 4 inches of spray foam on 95% of the basement walls,” said Daniel, “I also removed the ceiling in the garage to have the ceiling spray foam at 6” and completely sealed the garage and the basement rim joists that allowed a lot of cold air into the basement.”
This can include identifying areas in which the most heat lost occurs through lack of insulation or air leaks, such as from window or doors. In this case, the evaluation identified that the attic and basement walls needed insulation to increase the house’s energy rating. By implementing further insulation in these critical areas, there will be less energy being used for heating/cooling in the home.
After conducting a follow up Energy Evaluation after these improvements were made, the EnerGuide Rating had very good improvements. In applying for the Union Gas rebate, Daniel received about $1,000 for the furnace.
Apart from the energy savings for such improvements, benefits in home comfort were also evident. “Our kitchen and living room floors over the garage were barely usable until the spray foam was complete. Heating was reduced but because we just moved into the house, we didn’t have a baseline to compare previous years,” says Daniel. Daniel also plans to replace 3 windows and sliding glass door in the near future to further improve the home’s energy rating.
Daniel emphasizes the importance of researching your vendors and their various prices, as well as the benefits of involving someone who has been in the business for a long time. He explains, “the most rewarding part if improving my house that I was planning to anyways, but getting a decent amount of money back to support those improvements.” Apart from energy savings through home improvements, homeowners also have the opportunity to receive rebates in light of these changes, which can be done with a little bit of research and assistance from Reep Green Solutions.
When considering energy solutions for your home, solar power is a popular option that is practical and requires very little space to operate in comparison to other forms of energy production. Solar panels emit no greenhouse gases, making them a great option when considering the influence that your actions, and energy use at home, have on your local and global environment.
A major concern that many homeowners have when it comes to Solar Power is the cost. Although initially expensive, the cost for solar panels have significantly reduces of the past few years. For example, in the last 10 years the average cost of a solar panel has fallen by 60%. This decrease in cost has made solar power a viable option and, over time, cheaper than retail electricity for most people.
Solar systems are also known for their ease of use, requiring little maintenance because they are stationary, making them easy to take care of. The most significant maintenance of solar panels are monthly inspections and cleaning them of any dust or debris.
Solar panels also have positive effects on the quality of your roof. Installing a solar panel system on your roof can increase the lifespan of your roof by decreasing the snow and hail that falls on the shingles, as well as reducing the impact that ultraviolet radiation has on your roof. Another beneficial aspect is that solar panels can cool your home during the summer, reducing the amount of energy used on cooling in the hotter months.
Keep in Mind
Current solar panel systems have lifespans of about 40 – 50 years, allowing for longtime use. When considering installing solar panels on your roof it is important to consult a roofing contractor on the current lifespan of the shingles on your roof. Replacement of roofing while a solar panel system is on your roof adds additional expenses.
Most residential roofs can handle the weight of solar panels, however roof strength is an important factor to consider when installing solar panels. Depending on your roof’s age, angle, and other factors, it may not be able to handle the extra constant weight that solar panels would impose. In this case, roofs are often reinforced to handle the extra weight.
Depending on the type of solar system chosen, space will also need to be used for the batteries, Inverter, Charge Regulator, and other components associated with your solar system. Depending on the set up of your home, the basement or garage are the most common places to house these components.
Solar Panels are a source of renewable energy that have been of growing popularity, especially for homeowners. There are many different options for having clean energy at the household level!
Find out more about the benefits of installing Solar Panels in your home and what system works best for your needs and budget. We have another post on Solar Panels that discusses installation and other factors in lesson 11 of our informal course ‘Home Energy 101’
To help you get started, we provide a list of businesses, organizations and services that work with renewable energy. Rather than recommending any of them, we suggest you research them and get written quotes.
Written By: Andrew Jackson
Edited By: Christine Tan
Did you know that in a typical home, approximately 30-50% of the surfaces are impenetrable to water? This means that water cannot pass through into the groundwater and instead runs off into storm sewers. As it runs off it can pick up some nasty stuff, like contaminants, and lead to flooding and erosion problems downstream. So, how can you, as a homeowner, do your part to address this serious issue?
One solution could be installing permeable pavement in place of concrete!
What is the difference between traditional and permeable pavement?
Traditionally, construction of driveways, walkways, patios and sidewalks is done with the use of impervious concrete or asphalt. When water fails to get soaked up by trees or natural surfaces, it runs off these surfaces and straight into the storm sewer system. This results in water that can become polluted with oil, grit and other contaminants that flow into our local streams, rivers and lakes.
What are the benefits for the environment?
The main environmental benefit is the reduction of water runoff, which can reduce risk of flooding and erosion. Permeable interlocking pavement attempts to solve this problem by allowing for ways for water to pass through the pavement and infiltrate into the ground. The key though is the stone reservoir installed underneath the pavers which retains the water and gives it a chance to percolate back into the ground.
So, now that you know all the various benefits, it is important to know what type of permeable surface is best for your property and your wallet!
Choosing the Right Permeable Hardscape
The first step to creating pavement that is permeable is to choose an option that matches the space given for the project and the budget that is being utilized. Some types of pavement include:
Considerations Prior to Installation
Before you begin implementing the installation of permeable pavement, it is important plan ahead and consider all possible options beforehand. Installation of permeable pavement requires professional installation to ensure it is done properly so that it can withstand the weight of people or vehicles that will be on it.
Can’t do Permeable? Try a Ribbon driveway!
Since permeable pavement options are expensive, require a contractor and have specific slope requirements, they are not viable for everyone. So what can you do if you are unable to install permeable pavement but still want to make a difference? There are other methods you can use to create a more permeable driveway or sidewalk without implementing a full project.
One way that this can be done is to remove some of the concrete, and leave only enough pavement for the tires on your driveway. These ribbon driveways were once quite common and are having a mini-renaissance.
As a homeowner, there are many ways to help the environment and reduce the stress on your local storm sewer system, such as with replacing concrete pavement with permeable surfaces. Contact local contractors to find out more about installing permeable pavement on your property for professional help and proper planning.
Edited by: Christine Tan, Communications Assistant