by Daniel Jordan, RAIN Program Volunteer

This post is the first in a series about how Alexis worked towards a RAIN Smart Home.

Last summer a group of intrepid workers and volunteers visited each home in the Mount Hope and Lakeside neighbourhoods. What message were they spreading? A message about building neighbourhood resiliency and, to everyone’s delight, a message about contests and savings.

The RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods project, in partnership with the City of Kitchener, Partners for Action and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, offered one homeowner the exciting opportunity to walk away with a $10,000 front-yard makeover.

Other prizes included $1,500 towards a RAIN Smart improvement project and free home consultations by a “RAIN Coach

Why RAIN Smart?

In nature, when it rains, the rain falls on trees and plants and slowly makes its way to the ground, soaking into the soil and replenishing the groundwater. Unfortunately, in our world of concrete and asphalt, when it storms, the water hits these hard surfaces and runs off into the storm pipes, picking up dirt, oil and debris as it goes.

Often this water goes untreated and makes its way into our rivers and lakes, polluting, eroding and warming the surface temperature of these water bodies, which can lead to algae outbreaks and other nastiness. Health problems related to water pollution are estimated to cost Canadians $300 million dollars per year.

The RAIN Smart Neighbourhoods project encourages people to make a small but meaningful contribution to the solution by using three simple principles: 1) Slow it down; 2) Soak it up; and 3) Keep it clean.

The winner of the RAIN Smart Front Yard Makeover has the opportunity to put these three principles into practice with the help of Reep Green Solutions. So let’s see who won!

Alexis and the RAIN Smart Home

Chapter 1 – Alexis wins a front yard makeover

Alexis MotuzAlexis Motuz

Occupation: Recruitment Consultant and mother of two

Neighbourhood: Mount Hope

Enjoys: gardening, teaching, and collaborating on artistic and community development projects

Alexis’ story in her own words:

Last July, a kind young man with a slight German accent knocked on my door. He was wearing a shirt that said Reep Green Solutions. I had heard about them through their involvement in the home energy evaluation program, but the RAIN program was new to me. He began to tell me about the RAIN Smart Neighbourhood initiative and the contest that they were holding for our area.  

I knew a little about the pollution caused by stormwater run off and I already had a rain barrel that I used to divert some of this water and use it for gardening. I was eager to learn more, specifically about the more creative solutions that have been devised to divert (and use) this water.

When I learned I had been selected in a random draw to move to the next stage of the contest, I was very excited – as I told my son, with whom I was reading Charlie and The Chocolate Factory at this time, that this was like my own “golden ticket!”

In August, I was contacted and told that I was one of the finalists. On August 2 at the Guelph Street Community Garden, they announced the winners and, though I could hardly believe it, I had been chosen to be grand prize recipient for my neighbourhood.

I feel very grateful to be a part in this program. I look forward to having my outdoor space transformed and serve as an inspiration for others in the neighbourhood who will be able to take advantage of incentives. I‘m eagerly anticipating the work parties in our neighbourhood, to getting my kids involved and educating them on gardening and rain water solutions, and to seeing the overall transformation of front yards in what is already a creative, vibrant, and eco-friendly community.

I’m excited to see the final product for my yard and to having it be a showcase for what others can do. I also look forward to sharing my experience, and promoting the local workers/artists involved in the project, as I go through it.

In future posts, we’ll share the process used and progress that Alexis is making towards a RAIN Smart Home.

The REEP House for Sustainable Living is participating in Doors Open Waterloo Region. We hope to see you there!

Why visit?

In 2014, this model home was among the first residential retrofit projects certified Platinum under the LEED Canada for Homes (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. After a gut job, renovation, the century old home saw its energy consumption reduced by 86%.

Environmental charity REEP Green Solutions renovated and maintains the house to inspire action at your home by showcasing sustainable home technology such as a grey water system, solar power, geothermal heating, stormwater management techniques and insulation options.

Staff, volunteers and displays are available to help you learn about the house and how you might benefit from your own energy upgrades.

The environment and Doors Open Waterloo Region

Other sites with an environmental theme include:

 

Nearby Doors Open Waterloo Region sites

You can easily get to all these two sites before or after you visit REEP House. All three are on or near Queen between Courtland and Mill.

We held an event this week to celebrate people living in two Kitchener neighbourhoods who are interested in having homes that are ready for rain.

What follows are the remarks of Patrick Gilbride, RAIN Program Manager, on the importance of collective action and the project’s next steps.

Thank you for a successful start

Thank you everyone for coming, especially to those of you from Lakeside who have braved crossing the LRT divide to make it here tonight. Thanks in particular to the Guelph Street Community Gardeners who are our hosts this evening and to Juanita, Trent, Trevor, Emily and others who have helped guide our activities in Mount Hope. Thanks also to Ted Parkinson, who after the prize draw, is going to say a few words about community action in Mount Hope.

Before we draw the grand prize winners I wanted to provide some context on the contest. The Front Yard Makeover contest was the first stage in our Rain Ready Neighbourhoods project. REEP Green Solutions is an environmental charity and social enterprise that is committed to helping people live sustainably. This is the reason we have sought out projects that are not only good for the environment, but good for the community. We have a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to provide supports and incentives to two Kitchener neighbourhoods to take action to reduce stormwater run-off and improve the neighbourhood’s capacity to handle large storms and other effects of climate change.

The two neighbourhoods chosen to participate in this project were selected from many of our City’s vibrant neighbourhoods. They were chosen because they have a demonstrated history of community action, engagement with stormwater issues, and for their opportunity to make a positive impact on our urban water system.

Over the past month we have been active in Lakeside and Mount Hope promoting the contest. We have an indefatigable team of summer staff and volunteers that have been reaching out to people at their homes, meeting them at the local CSA, and striking up conversations on the sidewalks. Our team have been promoting the contest, but most importantly learning as much as possible about people’s desires for their neighbourhoods.

The importance of collective action

One theme that we keep hearing over and over is that of collective action.

People in Lakeside and Mount Hope already do things collectively. You just need to look around you at the gardens and the rainwater harvesting system behind me to see the evidence. When we were interviewing one of the Mount Hope finalists, Wayne Miedema told us how, when we were experiencing drought conditions a few weeks back, he would fill up containers of water from his own rain barrels and pull them by wagon over to the gardens. And it wasn’t just him – that’s just one example of the collective work that quite literally bore fruit. He proudly showed us some of the fist-sized garlic harvested from the gardens.

What are the next steps?

The team was also frequently asked, what comes next?

First – coaching for homeowners in these two neighbourhoods. Our RAIN Coach will help navigate homeowners through their options and help you to decide how best to take action to manage rainfall and achieve their ideal landscapes. The 10 finalists in each neighbourhood will be the first to have consultations with our RAIN Coach, but this will open up to everyone in Mount Hope and Lakeside come 2017. Our RAIN Coach, Becca couldn’t be here tonight as she is in Seattle, but is excited to get started next week.

Second – financial incentives to help you implement the solutions you and the Coach come up with. We have been talking to many of you over the past few months, and your insights will help us design the incentives and plan next steps in your neighbourhoods. We plan to announce the amounts and eligibility criteria for incentives later this year. If you have not already, please let us know so you can be notified when these become available.

Third – a chance for you to dig in and get some experience through work parties in your neighbours’ yards. The first of these will be at the homes of the contest winners, but we are interested to support anyone who is interested to host a work party on their property. If you want to host a work party at your home, please let us know and we will be in touch.

 

More than forty residents of Kitchener’s Mount Hope and Lakeside neighbourhoods gathered Monday night at the Guelph Street Community Garden to celebrate the winners of the RAIN Smart Neighbourhood Contest. Twenty prizes worth a total of $30,000 were awarded including two first grand prizes of more than $10,000 towards a front yard makeover.

After receiving more than 300 entries, 10 finalists in each neighbourhood had been drawn in July and interviewed about their ideas for how they would use the grand prizes. A mulit-disciplinary expert panel then determined two finalists for the two grand prizes in each neighbourhood. A draw at the prize party determined who received which grand prize.

Here they are!

Rain Ready Neighbourhoods Prize Winners

LAKESIDE

Lindsey Battler – 1st Grand Prize of $10,000 towards a front yard makeover + more

Lindsey is new to the Lakeside neighbourhood. She is interested in a low maintenance landscape that will be a conversation starter with her neighbours. She favours shrubs and drought tolerant perennials. Many of her neighbours on Lakeside Drive are avid gardeners, so she fully expects to glean from their expertise. One of her downspouts discharges in an awkward location at the side of her house so she would like to redirect it away from the foundation to a permeable area where it can soak into the ground.

Madeline and Josh Hunsberger – $1500 towards a rain ready front yard project + more

Madeline used to work in a garden centre and has big plans for her front yard. Her vision includes a mix of perennials, an herb garden to use in her cooking, and meandering paths throughout. In addition, she wants to alleviate any problems that water flowing from her property causes for her neighbors.

Runners-Up – Rain Coach Consultation valued at $300

Mary Amzyz, Glen Booker, Dorothy Culliford, Louis Devlugt, Marje Kabin, Nick Perrella, Scott Piggott, Karen Priebe.

MOUNT HOPE

Alexis Motuz – 1st Grand Prize of $10,000 towards a front yard makeover + more

Alexis (above in grey) wants to develop a plan to address the water that flows from her downspouts onto hard surfaces and runs off. She is interested in a design that will also incorporate a creative play space her young children and their neighbourhood friends. She has a rain barrel on the far side of her home, but would like to capture rain and have it available for use at a more convenient location.

Steven Reesor Rempel – $1500 towards a rain ready front yard project + more

Steven and his partner Jessie recently bought their home in Mount Hope. They wanted to move into the neighbourhood because of the strong community spirit.  They are interested in transforming their yard from lawn to a landscape with edible plants. They are already avid vegetable gardeners, so are also interested in opportunities to capture rain to water their plants. They also have a desire to create a space in their front yard to entertain and interact with their neighbours.

Runners-Up – Rain Coach Consultation valued at $300

Kyle Chambers, Ramsey Hazineh, Ted and Tracy Martin, Gary McMullin, Wayne Miedema, Carmen McQuillin, Steve Rozon, Connie Thompson


Upcoming Events

  1. Dog Poop Compost? Living Zero Waste as a Dog Owner

    October 26 | 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm
  2. Throwing Away our Throwaway Culture | Waste and Your Carbon Footprint

    November 4 | 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
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    November 23 | 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm