21 Mar 2018
By Sarah Lukaszczyk
On a late spring Saturday morning, I made the walk from my home in Waterloo to the Mount Hope Neighborhood; I was planning to volunteer at a rain barrel fundraiser for a local charity. As I walked I began to notice subtle changes in the landscape. From diverse, grass-free lawns blooming with wildflowers to pollinator-friendly plants, it was easy to see the different ways residents in this neighborhood were safeguarding the environment and bettering the overall community aesthetic. Peoples’ desire to improve their yards was not limited to their lawns – standard grass boulevards were commonly replaced with an eye-catching arrangement of colourful flowers and other succulents.
I noticed these neighbourhood improvements following my opportunity earlier that week to interview Mount Hope resident Stephen Barath, who recently installed a rain garden. In our interview, Stephen made me acutely aware of the neighborhood’s heightened conservation ethic. However, it was not until I saw the gradual transition from grass lawns to little forests during my walk that I felt like I was entering a little utopia.
As part of Reep’s RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods project, and under the watchful eye of his wife and two young daughters, Stephen installed a rain garden on one of his rental properties. Digging holes and choosing native plants was rewarding, Stephen explained, a sense that was increasingly evident to me over the course of our interview. As a daughter of a professional landscaper myself, it was invigorating to see the enjoyment and pride Stephen had towards his garden. It warmed my heart further to hear that his two-year-old daughter even got her hands dirty to help her Dad dig holes. That evoked memories of time spent with my own Dad as a child. Stephen’s understanding of the importance (and fun, as he reminded me repeatedly) of these projects to safeguarding our water and beautifying the community left a lasting impression, as he has already decided to build another rain garden on a different property.
Not entirely convinced it was all fun and games, I challenged Stephen to tell me something unexpected he had experienced while building the rain garden. He explained that in jest neighbours would stop and say things like ‘Did the water main break?’ while only one neighbour was able to correctly identify what Stephen was actually up to. A little girl who was walking home with her grandmother after school even exclaimed, “Look Grandma that man is still digging holes.” After describing them, Stephen went on to say that these exchanges with his neighbours were always welcome so he had a reason to take a break from digging and chat about the wider benefits of rain gardens for the community.
For his tenants the rain garden removes almost all the grass on the property. There is no longer a need to mow and Stephen imagines this could be seen as an added benefit for the renter and the landlord. Although, based on my brief time in the community, initiatives such as these are not merely done for the sake of convenience but also for their environmental benefit.
Being that Father’s Day had recently past, Stephen’s father came for a visit and while in town the two made time to see the new rain garden. Stephen admitted to me that while the garden didn’t look like much at present, his father observed that, “Like the acorns they used to plant together when Stephen was young, the garden will begin to bloom in due time.” And just as Stephen’s father continued to point out the different trees the two had planted in his youth, I imagine Stephen would likewise do the same with his own daughters in the years to come. Thanks to the help of Reep’s RAIN Coach, the family had resources that helped them to identify which native species were best suited for the area and whether they should be placed in the shade or sun.
Overall, my greatest take away from meeting Stephen and his family is that while fun, you don’t start these projects – especially the do-it-yourself ones – simply for yourself. These spaces are created to be shared, whether that be with the little girl and her grandma who live in the neighborhood, the Environmental studies student casually strolling by one Saturday morning or the busy bees and butterflies attracted by your hard work. It’s all worth it for the joy your rain garden brings to all who see it.
Visit Reep Green Solutions’ RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods web page to learn mo re information build your own rain garden and incentives available residents of Mount Hope on a first come, first served basis.
By: Andrew Jackson, Communications Volunteer
There are many options out there when it comes to heating and cooling your home. One viable, easy to install, and low energy consumption option is an air source heat pump (ASHP).
How ASHPs work and operate is pretty simple. They extract the heat from outside. They can do this down to -15 C, and distribute it inside the home. They are also able to do this in reverse allowing them to cool your home by extracting the warm air from inside the house and distributing it outside. Depending on the system being installed an ASHP can also provide water heating capabilities. You can also get a dedicated ASHP water heater like the one at the Reep House for Sustainable Living.
ASHP systems vary greatly in size and ability, and it is important to consider your home’s needs to ensure that you select one that operates properly and efficiently.
If you’re transitioning from an electric furnace to an ASHP, you can expect savings of up to 50%, depending on your local climate, what system you had previously, the fuel used in that system, and your local costs for fuel or electricity. Your habits also play a big role in the efficiency of your ASHP. Until December 31, 2017, a generous rebate is available to help you make this transition.
An ASHP works slower than a conventional furnace, often taking a few hours to heat a home when a conventional furnace may take half an hour. Remembering to close windows and doors, and having good insulation can greatly affect the efficiency of your ASHP system.
Traditionally, ASHPs have been considered inefficient in colder climates, like Waterloo Region. However, the technology has advanced considerably in the past few years, so many of the better models work great for most of the year. They experience setbacks only during a few of the coldest days in winter when temperatures drop below their operational level. As temperatures decrease an ASHP can become damaged due to a buildup of frost in the filters. For this reason it is important to have some form of alternative backup heating system.
Depending on the model, an ASHP will automatically shut down between -8 C and -22 C to reduce wear and tear. It is important to understand how often in your region the temperature will drop below your ASHP’s operational level to understand how often you will require an alternative heat source. Understanding your regional temperature range also greatly influences the type of ASHP you should purchase.
Incentives and rebates are available to help reduce cost of installation can be found through the Home Reno Rebate offered through a partnership of Union Gas, the government of Ontario, and Save On Energy. Depending on the ASHP system being installed rebates of up to $4000 are available to homeowners that heat with electricity.
Learn more about the rebates available through the Home Reno Rebate program.
Adopting a storm drain makes our streets safer and prevents flooding
Kitchener – As the last of fall’s leaves are collected and before winter settles in, Reep Green Solutions is calling upon residents of Waterloo Region to show the lowly storm drain some love. Specifically, they are asking people to adopt a storm drain near where they live, work or go to school. When someone adopts a storm drain, they are making a commitment to keeping it clear of snow and ice in the winter, leaves in the fall and litter and debris year round. Making and keeping that commitment is important as it helps ensure rain and melting snow can enter the storm sewer system. People can claim the storm drain they are adopting at reepgreen.ca.
“Storm drains are easy to take for granted but they play a critical role in protecting people, homes and our water system,” said Patrick Gilbride, RAIN Program Manager at Reep Green Solutions. “They are underappreciated and deserve some care and attention from the people who benefit from them. Show a storm drain some love. Adopt one today!”
Adopting storm drains is important because when water cannot get into the sewers, it can cause flooding that can make it difficult to use the road and may affect nearby homes. Even a little bit of water can cause problems as it freezes into ice or makes leaves slippery. Both situations cause accidents that make our streets unsafe for people. A clear storm drain is also important in preventing pollution and salt from entering the storm water system that makes its way to local rivers and lakes.
“Anyone who lives or works in Waterloo Region can adopt a storm drain,” said Gilbride. “It shows that you care about having safe, dry streets, preventing flooding and preventing pollution from reaching our water system. Use our interactive map and commit to showing some love to a storm drain near where you live or work. Or perhaps adopt one as a part of a group?”
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.
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For more information, please contact
James Howe, Communications Manager, Reep Green Solutions
519-744-6583 ext. 222
20 Nov 2017
Here’s one of the stories that we share in our 2017 Report to the Community about how we help you live sustainably. On November 28, Reep Green Solutions is participating in Giving Tuesday.
When we asked the community if they thought of Reep Green Solutions as a charity, 58% said no. That is probably because a number of our services, such as home energy evaluations, operate as social enterprises. Like many charities, Reep Green Solutions looks for ways to fulfill our mission that also help cover costs. Charging a fee for some services helps us offer others at no cost, such as workshops at the Reep House for Sustainable Living.
Simply put, Reep Green Solutions is a registered environmental charity that helps people live sustainably.
We have a great appreciation for our supporters who recognize how their financial gifts enhance our capacity to fulfill that mission.
Mary Louise and Evange Kattides of Waterloo donate to Reep Green Solutions because they believe we all need to minimize our environmental footprint. They recognize that Reep Green Solutions offers the community many valuable hands-on services that help people to become more environmentally responsible and it does so effectively and in a way that’s easy for people to access and understand.
“When you donate money, even a modest amount, you want to make sure that it’ll make the greatest impact possible,” said Mary Louise. “And much like its messages on energy and water efficiency, Reep Green Solutions itself is a highly efficient organization. They manage to make a dollar go a long way.”
She continued, “While Reep Green Solutions is a local organization and is particularly relevant to our homes and this region, its impact reaches far beyond by addressing issues relating to climate change. It is exactly this kind of effort at the community level that collectively will make the greatest difference globally.”
Caring about the environment means caring about each other and the world we live in. That is why Reep Green Solutions helps you to live sustainably and why your gifts of time and money are so important. For example, with your help we are making the Reep House for Sustainable Living available as a showcase of ideas for your home, and bringing people together to learn at informative workshops and tours.
Together, we can make a difference. Give online today!
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.
by Laura Stern, Waste Reduction Coordinator
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:
- Fiddleheads Health and Nutrition
- Eating Well Organically – King St S, Waterloo
- 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.
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.
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