14 Nov 2017
Soakaways and rain gardens have many similarities; however, it is important to know the differences when deciding on which rain smart addition to add to your yard.
Adding a soakaway will provide a low maintenance, and low profile feature that will allow rain to percolate down into the groundwater. Here is some information you need to make decisions for your property.
What is a soakaway?
A soakaway, also known as an infiltration gallery, is a way to infiltrate water underground. Whether that water comes from rain barrels or downspouts it allows for some space for it to sit and gradually go into the ground, instead of running off into storm sewers or flooding in unwanted areas. Soakaways are installed by digging down into the ground to provide a hole at least one meter deep.
Once you have a hole, you have a couple options to consider on how to fill it.
1) You can install storm water crates. These can hold more water in less space but are more expensive. They can be found in the pond section of your nursery or can sometimes be purchased through a landscaper such as those on our list.
2) Line the hole with landscape fabric and fill it with clean gravel (avoid gravel that has sand mixed in). Gravel can be purchased in bulk from a landscape supply company that sells to the public. It requires more space to hold the same amount of water as the crates but is the cheaper option.
Rain is directed to the soakaway from a downspout. It is a good option to create a rock lined channel before the inlet which slows the water down and can prevent any debris that runs off the roof from clogging up the soakaway. You can top if off with more rocks if you like that look or there is the option to cover up the soakaway with grass, plants, or if you are using storm crates, a permeable pathway or patio. If you choose to cover your soakaway be sure to add another layer of landscape fabric to prevent soil from entering and causing clogging. Also ensure you have access to be able to inspect and clean out the inlet and outlet. .
Groundwater recharge is a primary benefit of installing a soakaway in your yard.
Watch our video on how to install a soakaway
Why a soakaway over a rain garden, or why not both?
The main difference between soakaways and rain gardens is that rain gardens are filled with a sand and compost mix and soakaways use storm water crates or are filled with gravel or stones.
Unlike rain gardens which require a larger surface area in the yard, soakaways only require one meter squared of space, allowing even small yards to accommodate a soakaway. This size difference allows you to use a soakaway in tight spaces or spots that aren’t suitable for plants.
Soakaways come in many shapes as well! For these reasons, a soakaway can be built in addition to a rain garden, since the rain collected in the soakaway can provide additional water for the garden.
How and where should a soakaway be built?
A soakaway must be carefully designed and maintained to properly work and achieve the desired results. How, you might ask, should it be designed? Using the following considerations:
Soil type: Porous soils surrounding the soakaway work better than clays
Location: Ensure a proper distance from foundations and consider the slope of the land (less than a 5% grade is needed)
Utilities: Call or click before you dig.
Overflow: Always have a place for the soakaway to overflow if it fills up. Use gravity as your guide to direct any overflow to an area downhill away from the foundation of the home.
Space: Although limited space is needed, establish there is enough space for the soakaway
Soakaways allow water to be diverted away from the home, which reduces the likelihood of your yard or basement flooding.
Soakaways can be a cost-effective option for most homeowners to live sustainably and do their part in being rain smart.
To learn more about soakaways, or to compare information about different rain smart solutions, attend demonstration or workshops that Reep Green Solutions offers.
by Tiffany Li, Communications Volunteer
When purchasing an older home, it’s important to go into the purchase knowing where your home may need some help. That’s why Ryan Jenner, a London resident purchased a 1957 bungalow with the intentions of making his home as energy efficient as possible and sought the right people to help him on his journey
While thinking about home renovations or upgrades, making the most out of your dollar is important and having expert advice is key.
Ryan had ideas of what he wanted to upgrade and renovate his home but he reached out to the Reep Green Solutions team to set up an EnerGuide Home Energy Evaluation with one of our Certified Energy Advisors (CEA) to have a second opinion. He chose us to evaluate his home because he was impressed by the knowledgeable staff who answered his call and questions. Ryan didn’t anticipate upgrading his windows but the advisor was able to explain the benefits of making good window choices.
For the initial audit, the advisor rated Ryan’s home 52 on the EnerGuide rating. After the renovations, he came back for the second audit and found that Ryan’s original score had increased to 78–a major improvement!
This renovation was a huge undertaking because the entire home was dated and in it’s original form. It had zero insulation, an old furnace, a mercury thermostat and the water tank was well over 30 years old. After the audit, the renovations began and a new furnace, air conditioner, water tank were installed, and nine of the windows were replaced. Ryan also insulated all his exterior walls and the attic, and fixed his chimney so there wasn’t a draft coming through his home.
Lastly, a programmable Wi-Fi thermostat has been the biggest help in regards to comfort and convenience. Ryan is able to program the temperatures in his home to suit his needs whether it’s to keep temperatures a bit “cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer to help save money”.
The total renovations cost approximately $12,000 but with the Home Reno Rebate program, Ryan was able to take advantage of the maximum rebates of $5,000. The work on his new home has made a huge difference. Prior to the renovations, the main floor and the basement were the same temperature but now Ryan says there is a notable change in temperature when moving between floors.
One piece of advice Ryan has for homeowners would be to do research on all the available rebates and resources that are available to maximize your energy savings. The benefits found as a result of this project include the value of his home increasing and the long term savings and comfort he now experiences.
To learn more about what rebates and programs that are available in your area, check out the Home Renovation Rebates page to find out how you can start your energy saving journey today!
18 Oct 2017
By Laura Stern, Waste Reduction Coordinator
Walking through a grocery store can be very overwhelming when you’re in the zero waste mindset. In this day in age, it seems as if every product is packaged in layers and layers of non-compostable materials.
Here are a five tips to ease this process!
Before heading to the store think ahead about what steps you can take to decrease the amount of waste you accumulate. Bringing reusable bags is a simple step with a big impact. This can include reusable produce bags and larger shopping bags. Also consider having some reusable containers on hand for bulk, deli, nut butters etc.
Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk and using your own containers is one of the easiest ways to decrease your grocery shopping waste. Not all stores will allow you to use your own container, however The Bulk Barn and Goodness Me Natural Food Market strongly encourage it. Make sure you bring your containers to the cash register and have them weighed prior to filling them!
Consider milk in glass bottles
In the Waterloo Region both the inner and outer bags of milk and cardboard milk cartons can be recycled in the blue bin if they are rinsed. However if you are committed to decreasing your waste even more, try choosing milk products in glass botels. Companies such as Hope-Eco Farms, Harmony Organic and Hewitt’s Dairy have a variety of milk products available in glass bottles. You will pay a $1- $2 deposit for the bottle at the cash register, but can bring the bottle back to reclaim your deposit and the bottle will be reused. These products can be found at almost any health food store for people to want to maintain their fitness state with diet and a program from an Online Fitness Trainer.
Take your own container to the butcher
Zero waste grocery shopping does not necessarily mean giving up meat–lthough that is worth considering when living sustainably. Unfortunately butcher paper is not accepted as compost or recycling, however many local butchers will allow you to bring your own containers for your meat products. I also recommend getting all your medical supplies from compounding pharmacies, which are much more affordable.
The butchers I spoke with did not advertise this service, but were more than happy to accommodate! Some local butchers that welcome this are:
- The Bauer Butcher: 150 Caroline Street South, Waterloo
- Brady’s Meat and Delhi: 456 Phillip Street, Waterloo
Choose recyclable packaging
While shopping for packaged products, look for items that come in either a recyclable or compostable packaging. If you are ever unsure about a product’s packaging, ask the Region of Waterloo’s Waste Whiz. This tool is available as an app on your phone or on their website. Simply type in any product and the whiz will tell you whether it is compostable, recyclable or waste.
Bonus: Beauty Products
Beauty products are not technically a grocery item…but they are challenging to find zero waste!
Most health food and natural beauty stores offer a variety of soaps with compostable packaging or no packaging at all! When purchasing shampoo and conditioner look for items in recyclable containers. By purchasing items in glass containers, you can wash the container and use it again for bulk shopping! If you want to decrease your waste even more, try using shampoo bars or a bottle refill program. Full Circle Foods in Kitchener now offer bulk shampoo and conditioner!
by Laura Stern, Waste Reduction Coordinator
Based on the feedback we received from the Zero Waste Challenge, Reep Green Solutions has decided to omit feminine hygiene products from counting as waste in the 2017 challenge. However, if you’re interested in taking the Zero Waste Challenge one step further, keep reading and learn how you can further decrease your impact on the earth.
The average woman menstruates for about forty years and uses about 20 tampons per cycle. This means that using about 9, 600 tampons in her lifetime (Eco- Divas- Community, 2017). Tampons and pads are made from unnatural plastics and additives that are detrimental to the environment. Switching to reusable hygiene products is both more environmentally and cost friendly. These products are also more natural than the leading brands, thus better for your health!
Option 1: Menstrual Cup
One of the most popular zero waste options is the menstrual cup. Menstrual cups function very similarly to a tampon and can be used for 8-12 hours at a time! There are many different kinds available and preferences really do vary per woman. Some of the popular brands are the Diva Cup, Moon Cup and the Lunette Cup.
These products can be purchased locally at stores such as:
- Fiddleheads Health and Nutrition
- Full Circle Natural Foods – Charles St W, Kitchener
- Goodness Me – Erb St W, Waterloo
- Rexall Pharma Plus
- Shoppers Drug Mart
A second popular product is re-usable liners. These liners work the same as all other brands of liners, however they can be re-used rather than thrown away. Most brands can be rinsed, put through the washing machine, then they’re as good as new! These liners are made from natural cotton materials as opposed to the synthetics and plastics used to make disposable liners. Again there are many different brands available!
Option 2: Re-usable Liners
The products are primarily available through online shops, however I did find some selection locally at;
More options to consider
In addition to these two recommendations, there are other options on the market, such as sea sponges and period panties. I decided to limit my recommendations to the two described above because enough information is available that I felt very confident making these suggestions!
Share your story
If you have had your own experiences with sustainable living options for menstrual health, we would love to hear your story! Please leave a comment down below and share your thoughts. After all the best way for us to learn is from one another.
By Laurella Woodcock, Zero Waste Team
If your house is anything like mine, we love our cereal. Fruity, fibre, chocolate, or granola it doesn’t really matter the kind we love it, except for the bags.
Here in Waterloo Region we are very lucky to have such a wide range of materials accepted in the blue box. Sadly cereal bags fall into the category of not being accepted.
Most of the time we don’t even think about what goes in our trash cans, but during the Zero Waste Challenge everything is up for evaluation including those cereal bags. Don’t worry we have you covered with some ideas and a last ditch effort to address those bag woes.
Buy cereal in bulk
First, consider buying your cereal in bulk. Some bulk food stores or sections at the groceries have cereal in the bins. This is great because you can avoid the bag all together.
Buy large boxes of cereal
Second, if buying in bulk isn’t available to you the next suggestion is to buy the largest size you can. This way the amount of plastic and bags is less.
Third and the last ditch effort I referred to earlier is a little known secret, rare Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge has teamed up with TerraCycle in a cereal bag fundraiser. Yes, this means rare wants your cereal bags so they can be up-cycled into new products and in return our fellow local environmental charity receives some funds that support their community garden.
Now it is time to spread the word about how to solve those cereal bag woes.
05 Oct 2017
Here’s one of the stories that we share in our 2017 Report to the Community about how we help you live sustainably.
When the federal government consulted Canadians about climate change in 2016, Waterloo Region responded with more than 300 people participating on an August evening—one of the largest events held across Canada. Both Reep Green Solutions and ClimateActionWR staff participated in the collaborative effort of local environmental and social justice groups behind the event.
The huge response gives a clear message: many residents care about climate change, and know that taking action means not only as individuals, but also collectively as a community. Their presence sent a strong signal to governments to get serious about fighting climate change and preparing to handle its consequences.
“Tackling climate change is important to me because I really care about future inhabitants of earth. Even though the impact of climate change is small now, it doesn’t mean it won’t grow. My long term goal is to increase the production of renewable energy.”
Kari Richards, Grade 3 Student
Mary Johnston Public School
In Waterloo Region, we have been working towards reducing local greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for over eight years. A Climate Action Plan for Waterloo Region has guided our efforts to reduce GHG by 6% below 2010 levels by 2020.
ClimateActionWR recently released our progress report, which includes updated data on our community’s carbon footprint. The report shows that despite a growing population, we are on our way to reaching our target because of the provincial government’s phase-out of coal powered electricity generation, alongside the efforts of local businesses and residents to reduce their energy consumption.
Our challenge now is to go deeper, to set our own path to a low-carbon future with a target for the next 30 years, and to take action to meet that target. As residents,
business owners and community leaders we each have a critical role to play. The purchasing decisions we make, and the way we live, work and play in Waterloo Region will determine the future we make for ourselves.
Let’s make it a thriving, sustainable community with every step we take.
What is ClimateActionWR?
ClimateActionWR is a collaboration between local organizations focused on supporting actions and developing new opportunities that will lead to a reduction in local greenhouse gas emissions.
Led by Reep Green Solutions, Sustainable Waterloo Region, the Region of Waterloo, and the Cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, ClimateActionWR is leading implementation of the Climate Action Plan for Waterloo Region.
Learn more at climateactionwr.ca
By: Laura Stern
You may be hesitant to participate in the Zero Waste Challenge because you live in an apartment, townhouse or condo without composting services.
We have suggestions to help you! Several of them are also ideas that you could use regularly to minimize your impact on the environment and live sustainably.
Here are our top five suggestions
- Zero Waste Challenge Pick up Pilot
We are hosting a compost pick up pilot! Find out if you’re eligible or learn more by emailing us at [email protected]
And University of Waterloo students and faculties have access to several Campus Compost locations.
Vermicomposting is ideal for indoor composting because it creates very little mess and no odor, if done correctly. This method uses various types of earthworms to convert your organic waste into nutrient rich fertilizer. To get started with vermicomposting all you need is a large bin (such as a Rubbermaid bin) and some earthworms. Earthworms are different than other worms because they can process organic waste much faster. They are most productive when living at room temperature, thus they thrive in an indoor environment.
Setting up a vermicomposting station in your home is simple. First line your bin with a bedding of shredded paper. Then introduce the earthworms. Scraps from most fruits and vegetables can be added to feed the worms. Food scraps should be added to the bin regularly to keep up with the worm’s appetite. If too much food is added, the bin will begin to smell. If not enough food is added, the worms will die.
The worms require moisture in order to breath. It is important to maintain a moist, but not drenched environment. Regularly adding food scraps should be sufficient to maintain the moisture levels, otherwise a spray bottle can be used to dampen the worms bedding. It is recommended to poke small holes into the top and bottom of the bin. This will allow oxygen to enter the composter and excess liquids to drain out. Place a tray or second bin under the vermicomposter to collect these excess liquids.
Earthworms are herbivores. No meat or dairy products should be added to the vermicomposter. Most fruits and vegetables are okay to add to the composter. Citrus foods such as oranges, limes and lemons should not be added as the worms will not break them down. Onions and hot peppers should also remain out of the composter.
Vermicomposting requires very little effort or maintenance. It is an excellent solution to any apartment dweller’s composting needs.
- Ask a friend or family member
If worms aren’t your thing and you can’t make it to any of the drop off stations mentioned above, there are still options to compost your organic waste. Try speaking to a friend, family member or neighbour who does not live in a multi-residential building. Most residents would be happy to have you add your organic waste to the contents of their green bin since they are interested in reducing our community’s impact on the environment.
- Visit the waste transfer stations
The Region of Waterloo waste transfer stations will accept organic waste and compost it for a small fee. Dropping your waste off directly at the landfill costs $3.90 for 100g or a minimum rate of $5.00. In Cambridge, go to 201 Savage Drive and in Waterloo, go to 925 Erb Street West, Waterloo. Organic waste can be dropped off during business hours Monday- Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Talk to your building manager and start a composting program
If you have been searching for a way to compost within your building, it is likely your neighbours have been as well! We recommend speaking to your neighbours and establishing if your building has a demand for composting services. If your neighbours are also longing to compost their organic waste, bring it up to your building manager. It is possible your building manager has no idea that composting is a concern of its residents and may arrange it if they know demand exists.
Help us help you
Reep Green Solutions is aware of the growing number of people living in apartments, townhouses and condos in Waterloo Region. We are concerned about the lack of composting service for them so we are currently in the planning stages of a pilot service. Contact us if you’re interested in participating.
02 Oct 2017
Here’s one of the stories that we share in our 2017 Report to the Community about how we help you live sustainably.
For five days, use one Mason jar to hold all of your home’s garbage destined to be buried in a landfill. In October 2016, 123 people across Waterloo Region accepted the Zero Waste Challenge.
For most of us, our day-to-day lives generate a lot of garbage as we live in a society where that is the norm. We generate so much waste that we need to manage it and have programs to divert it. All of that work is important and necessary, but is it really enough?
The zero waste movement says no and Reep Green Solutions agrees. It is time to go beyond managing waste and instead live sustainably by reducing waste and taking better care of our natural resources.
If participants in the Zero Waste Challenge wanted their jar to be as empty as possible, they needed to think about decisions they usually make automatically. They needed to think about what to buy when grocery shopping or where to shop. They also needed to think about how they could send less waste to the landfill by improving their recycling or composting.
Natalie Heldsinger and Jackson Smith of Waterloo took part in the challenge as a way to improve upon their commitment to reducing their environmental footprint. “We found using the Mason jar made us hyper-aware and conscious of the choices we made,” said Jackson.
The challenge motivated them to think more about their choices and participating in the challenge with other community members and sharing their progress increased their sense of commitment.
“One benefit of participating as part of a community challenge,” said Natalie, “was being able to share lessons with other participants. We were able to share our experiences and learn from others, which made a difference. We found that shopping at farmers markets significantly helped to reduce packaging.”
In the 2017 challenge, more people are expected to participate! And by supporting each other, we can rethink our society’s relationship with waste.
27 Sep 2017
Here’s one of the stories that we share in our 2017 Report to the Community about how we help you live sustainably.
When more than 100 people arrived to kick off the Front Yard Makeover contest in June 2016, we could see the benefits of working with neighbourhoods to manage rain. Word of the contest had spread and neighbours came together to learn about the $30,000 in prizes available.
The event also officially launched the RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods project in Kitchener’s Lakeside and Mount Hope neighbourhoods. “As our climate changes, we’re experiencing more intense rains that increase the threat of water invading our homes, flooding our neighbourhoods and carrying pollution into our lakes, rivers, and streams,” said Patrick Gilbride, RAIN program manager. “By concentrating our efforts at a neighbourhood level, not only will individual homes be rain ready but collectively the whole neighbourhood will enjoy the benefit of being protected from the cumulative effort.”
More than 300 people entered the contest that featured a first grand prize of a $10,000 front yard makeover in each neighbourhood and a $1,500 second grand prize. Steven and Jessica bought their first home and moved in a little over a year ago. The choice of neighbourhood they lived in was just as important as the home itself. They wanted to live in a community where people were friendly and socially active. With that in mind, they wanted to make their front yard into a place that could be a conversation starter and where they could interact with their neighbours.
Winning the second grand prize meant that Steven and Jessica Reesor-Rempel could turn their hopes into reality. After consulting RAIN Coach Becca Robinson, they decided the best way to accomplish their goals and have a rain smart home was to install a rain garden. In spring 2017, a work party consisting of family, friends, neighbours and volunteers helped them to transform their yard.
“We’ve already noticed a difference. We’ve had some heavy rains but more of it is staying on our property instead of finding its way onto our neighbours’ properties or picking up pollution on its way into the storm sewer”, said Jessica Reesor-Rempel. “And hanging out in our front yard and interacting with our neighbours more has helped us to create a greater sense of belonging in our neighbourhood.”
This video shows the creation of Steven and Jessica’s rain garden:
The three-year RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods project continues until the end of 2018, working with both Lakeside and Mount Hope residents. We help them manage the rain landing on their property so that it does not contribute to a neighbour’s wet basement or to any flooding down the street after heavy rain. Through the project, homeowners take advantage of incentives that encourage action on their own property for the benefit of the whole community.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation, which is an agency of the Government of Ontario, funds the project. Partners in the program are Partners For Action, Green Communities Canada and the City of Kitchener, which also provides funding.