Consider participating in the Zero Waste Challenge! Check out Reep Green Solutions Zero Waste 101 for more blog posts and videos on how you can reduce your waste and live more sustainably! 

by Laura Stern, Waste Reduction Coordinator

Event notice: Having your period without creating waste October 25 at 7 p.m.

Based on the feedback we received from the 2016 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:

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.

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

 

Consider participating in the Zero Waste Challenge! Check out the Reep Green Solutions’ Zero Waste 101 for more blog posts and videos on how you can reduce your waste and live more sustainably! 

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.

types of cereal bags for upcyc

Upcycle your cereal bags for charity

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.

It’s a win win if you find you have cereal bags and don’t know what to do. Reep Green Solutions is trying to make it even easier for you, check out these drop off locations around town:

Now it is time to spread the word about how to solve those cereal bag woes.

 

 

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.

ClimateAction WRHow can you help?

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

Here’s a look at how the Hunsberger’s transformed their front yard to be both rain smart and beautiful. They live in Kitchener’s Lakeside neighbourhood that is part of our RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods project.

 

Consider participating in the Zero Waste Challenge! Check out Reep Green Solutions Zero Waste 101 for more blog posts and videos on how you can reduce your waste and live more sustainably! 

By: Laura Stern, Waste Reduction Coordinator 

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

  1. Zero Waste Challenge green bin drop off stations

Throughout the duration of the Zero Waste challenge, Reep Green Solutions will be offering public green bin drop off stations. These stations will include a green bin that anyone is welcome to empty their organic waste into. Volunteers will maintain these stations and assure they are emptied at least once a week. Green bin stations can be conveniently found uptown Waterloo and downtown Kitchener at;

And University of Waterloo students and faculties have access to several Campus Compost locations.

  1. Vermicomposting

vermicompostingVermicomposting 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.

On Jan. 13, 2018, we have a crash course presentation on vermicomposting.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

We will soon have a survey about the proposed service, let us know if you are interested in participating.

 

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.

 

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.

By: Katia Huszka, Communications Assistant

Installing a rain garden outside of your home is not only rain smart for its environmental benefits, but it will make your yard the talk of the town! Installing a rain garden can increase the amount of wildlife found in your yard, and will enhance its natural beauty. If you have ever considered installing a rain garden, here are some advantages and considerations for doing so that should help you with your decision.

What is a rain garden?

When it rains, storm water runs off of roofs and paved surfaces into storm drains and, ultimately, into streams and lakes. This contributes pollution to these areas, and causes flooding from the excessive amount of runoff. Rain gardens offer a relatively inexpensive solution to homeowners to help reduce these environmental impacts. The solution is simple!

First, a location must be chosen. Rain gardens should be located at least 10 feet away from your home’s foundation. Choose a spot that slopes away from your house so that water that isn’t captured by your rain garden will flow away from your home. More considerations on areas to avoid are discussed below.

After this, a source of water is required. Water can be conveyed into a rain garden by an extension of a downspout, through an infiltration trench or through an overflow hose from your rain barrel. Next, the garden must be installed by digging a shallow depression and adding a mixture of compost, sand and soil that creates an environment that naturally filters the runoff. Finally, native plants allow the water to be taken up by their deep roots and have the added benefit of attracting wildlife, such as butterflies, into the garden.

Versatility of Rain Gardens

One of the biggest advantages to creating a rain garden is that they can come in a variety of styles and sizes. If you enjoy the look of your current style of flower bed, not a problem. It may be able to be incorporated into a rain garden! So long as it is at a lower point, not too close to buildings and there is a source of water to feed the garden, any casual or formal landscape can be converted into a rain garden.

Numerous ecological benefits

Rain gardens filter out many pollutants that would otherwise make their way into local water bodies. Local groundwater can be recharged through the water that will infiltrate slowly into the water table, versus where it would have gone – the stormwater drains.

Flood risk downstream is reduced from the decreased amount of water that is running off the property, since the water is instead seeping into the ground and recharging the local groundwater.

Rain gardens provide other environmental benefits such as an increase in habitat for wildlife, such as pollinators, like bees. Birds and butterflies also enjoy the native flowers that can be planted in rain gardens, which increase biodiversity, an important factor, especially for urban areas, where habitat for wildlife is limited.

Additional benefits

If the environmental advantages to rain gardens do not fully convince you to consider one, here are several other benefits that you will receive from the garden. Rain gardens require less regular garden maintenance than a typical lawn landscape. One reason for this is that the soil brought in will not require fertilizer since the soil purchased for the native plants will contain compost, which is full of nutrients for plants. Weeding is required once or twice a year, but since rain gardens generally contain good soil structure, weeds are easily pulled out. Finally, after two or three years, the native plants’ roots will be established and the rainwater that feeds the garden will be enough to support their growth and development, eliminating the need to irrigate.

By bringing, the water captured from around the home into the rain garden there will be a reduced risk for home flooding. This is a great benefit for those who have problems with water standing around the foundation of their home.

Reducing the standing water in your yard will leave less breeding grounds for mosquitoes, making your backyard a more comfortable and safe area to relax and enjoy. The native flowers that are planted also attract beneficial insects to the garden, which eliminate pest insects, allowing you to further enjoy the outdoors!

Considerations for a successful rain garden

  • A rain garden is best to locate in an area with a gentle slope (away from any buildings). If you have a steep hill, you may want to consider creating a stepped rain garden.
  • Rain gardens need to maintain loose soil in order to absorb rain water. Avoid putting a rain garden in a high traffic area where people or pets will walk on it and compact the soil.
  • If you have mature trees in your yard, you might want to avoid putting a rain garden too close to them as the root systems can be damaged when you dig it out.
  • If you have an area in your yard where you typically have standing water, it may indicate low permeability. The whole point of a rain garden is to let the water infiltrate into the ground, so you want an area with good drainage.

Make it fun!

Building a rain garden can be an opportunity for you and your family to showcase your creativity to the entire neighbourhood. From selecting native flowers to plant, to maintaining the garden, this is a fun project with an end result that increases curb appeal and garden enjoyment. Rain gardens can be a conversation starter with neighbours, and it will give you something to take pride in.

To find out more information about rain gardens, or to compare information about different rain smart solutions, attend one of our workshops, presentations or demonstrations.

By Fiona Wirz-Endrys, Communications Assistant

Climate change can be an overwhelming topic to discuss, and can be an even harder topic to find how you can make a difference. One great place to start with is your home because as shared in ClimateActionWR’s progress report, 18% of our local green house gases are being emitted from our homes.

Here are some steps you can take that will not only decrease your carbon footprint, but can cut a significant amount off from your monthly energy bill.

  • Get a coupon – Something you may not know is that your electricity providers are encouraging you to get these. You can call, or look online for coupons with good deals on anything ranging from new LED lights to programmable thermostats. When you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about where to start with energy saving, this is a great first step! 
  • Neighbourhood talk – We all have those neighbours who love to chat as soon as you open the door to take out the trash. Why not take the opportunity to ask them about their input on the topic of affordable, energy-saving appliances. Who knows what new trend you could find out about, and how much your neighbour could save you on your next energy bill. Or share with your neighbours what you are doing and why!
  • Not too hot, not too cold – “Turn off the air conditioning, we’re all cold in here!” How often have you thought this in a shopping mall, coffee shop, or even in someone else’s home on a summer afternoon? Don’t be that person who overdoes their AC just because they want to fight the heat wave outside with everything they’ve got. Try keeping the cooling limit of your home at 24o C in the summer, and your heating no higher than 21o C in the winter. Not only will this prevent your body from getting bigger shocks when you enter/ exit your home, causing higher risks of catching a cold—it will also decrease your carbon footprint, and your monthly expenses.
  • Get a home energy evaluation – This may seem like a lot of work, but in reality you just have to make a call and a Registered Energy Advisor will be sent to your home and perform an Energuide Home Energy Evaluation. There is a small cost, but you can get a full rebate if you complete renovation work in two of the eligible categories from the Home Reno Rebate Program. Not to mention ongoing savings in energy costs.
  • Find savings – Let’s talk about utilities. Did you know that if you still have an old deep freezer, it may be costing you more than it would to buy a new one? Programs such as Energy Star will be able to give more information on appliances that could increase the efficiency of your home. Try calling, or getting an evaluation done. You may be pleasantly surprised how much it could benefit your home.
  • Insulate – How much are your current energy efforts worth, if your walls are leaking a large portion of the heat or cold? The majority of homes lose most efficiency through poor foundation and wall insulation. Is your home one of them? If so, there are many options around—whether you want a conventional insulation option, something innovative such as straw insulation—the choices are endless! Insulation is one of the best ways to lower your home’s carbon footprint and so there are many rebates for it as part of the Home Reno Rebate program.
  • Downsizing – Finally, we come to the latest trend: downsizing. The housing market is booming for smaller homes lately, so if you have been considering getting yourself a new, smaller home, you i= will fit right in. While some people are investing in smaller homes because of the growing demand, and others do it for convenience, you will also find that it will shrink a large portion of your carbon footprint.

See our grants, credits and rebates page for a complete list of incentives to help you reduce your energy usage.

 

Alexis and the RAIN Smart House: Chapter 6

This post is the sixth in a series about how Alexis is working towards a RAIN Smart Home.

by Daniel Jordan, RAIN Program Volunteer

For Alexis Motuz, what began with a knock on the door on a sweltering summer afternoon, became a project to better her home, her neighbourhood, and the environment. Now, as it nears completion, she can feel the pride of owning a RAIN Smart home. She has turned rainwater, that used to run off her property, into an asset that can be used to beautify her own yard.

How does Alexis feel about the overall project? Was it worth it? What recommendations would she give to someone who is thinking about making their own home RAIN Smart?

Alexis Motuz at RAIN Smart Home

Alexis:

Overall, I am very happy with the project and with the way things turned out. I definitely had some apprehension at the beginning – both about the changes to the yard and about finding the right people to do the work. But as the project progressed, and I worked with the RAIN Coach and others from Reep Green Solutions to trouble-shoot, plan, and re-plan, I was happy with the final product.

What a difference already! The apple tree was in full bloom this year for the first time since it was planted, and people in the neighbourhood have been stopping by to see the work that has been done. I was able to give away hundreds of strawberry plants to different neighbours so they can start their own patches and I have heard from each of them that they have bloomed.

I was also nominated for a Kitchener in Bloom award, which was very exciting!

The project has allowed me to meet neighbours I did not already know, I’ve had lots of opportunities to tell them about the RAIN Smart Neighbourhood project and how they can implement the three principles of stormwater management – Slow it down, Soak it up, Keep it clean.

The project took eight months from start to finish. A lot of that time was spent planning and organizing. Once we broke ground, it only took about four weeks to get to this point. It wasn’t difficult, but it was definitely an investment of time to plan it out and to make sure it all went smoothly. In the end, the yard will be a lot less maintenance than it had been, and the kids love their new play spaces–both intentional spaces created for them and a mulch patch which they quickly claimed as their new sandbox!

I’m especially excited to spend less time watering the garden thanks to the large cistern and gravity fed drip irrigation system installed. They free up a couple hours on summer evenings that I spent watering my gardens. Finally, the yard is much more beautiful than it was and my driveway is grateful for not having to handle the run off from the downspouts. It is also nice to know that the rainwater is not carrying pollution into the storm sewer; it is either being used to water the garden or it is being filtered by the ground and going right back into the water table.

For my Mount Hope neighbours and people living in Kitchener’s Lakeside neighbourhood who are planning storm water reduction measures in their yard, I would recommend using Reep Green Solutions’ RAIN Coach and to take advantage of the financial incentives available.

And, when you’re in the middle of the project, to remember that it will be worth it in the end!

Gravity Fed Drip Irrigation

Rain barrels and cisterns can be used as sources for gravity fed drip irrigation of plants, trees, and gardens. Drip irrigation is not suitable for lawns, but is great for plants that don’t like to get their foliage wet.

Drip irrigation consists of a main water line, usually about a half-inch hose, with smaller quarter-inch drip lines running off perpendicular to the main line. The drip lines have small holes punctured in them which will slowly release the water onto the vegetation. Normal drip irrigation lines are designed to have a constant water pressure of between 15-30 psi. Unfortunately, with gravity-fed drip lines, the pressure is often much less.

There is a gain of .433 psi for every foot of elevation your water source is above the drip lines. This means that to achieve the recommended pressure you would need to have your water source approximately 35 feet above the vegetation you want to irrigate.

While this height is likely not achievable or reasonable, it is still possible to use a gravity fed irrigation system, as long as one is willing to accept a slower and less consistent rate of irrigation.

Regardless of the watering system you decide upon, elevating your rain barrel on a stand, such as the one Alexis built, will help provide additional water pressure. It also makes it easier to fit a watering can under the barrel’s outflow if you choose to use the water that way.


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