Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reusing Old Hotel Façade is "A Labour of Love"

Somewhere at the bottom of our landfill rest the giant columns of the old Edmonton Court House façade. Meanwhile, downtown, another old façade is being prepared for reuse.

The Alberta Hotel came down in the 80's to make way for Canada Place, and Gene Dub is building a new hotel using pieces of the original. The site is just west of its original location on 98 St and Jasper Ave.

Read the Journal and Gazette for the full story.

Too bad we didn't have a Reuse Centre back in the 70's, so more of the old buildings could have been dropped off for reuse. I imagine Renée would direct them to Fort Edmonton Park (as long as weren't dropped off before opening, then Karen would have to load it in and weigh it, etc.). Still, you never know what you will find in the Odds 'N Ends section.

thanks to Craig S-A for passing this on.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Incineration and Gassification

With all the talk in the media about Waste To Energy, I think it is important we know the differences between Edmonton's system and what is being proposed elsewhere.

This is the best video I could find to highlight concerns around W2E - unfortunately the last minutes are lost. There is a lot more information out there if you want to explore.

So, I hope that while you were watching that video you picked up on the main difference between London and Edmonton - we have addressed Recycling (Blue Box, then Blue Bags and Depots, then MF Blue Bins), Reduce (MC/R Program and home Composting), and now Reuse (Garbage Fairs, Reuse Centre, etc.) FIRST!

Edmontonians have grown into a system where W2E is a logical end to material that gets past our 3R based waste system. Hopefully, in time we will stop producing materials that are not completely recyclable (but that is another issue).

Aside from that, I still have a few things to learn about our new facility. I believe that high temperatures without the addition of oxygen for combustion results in a cleaner process. Folks down wind can rest assured that we have a top-of-the-line facility planned, and it is NOT an incinerator.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Greener Horizons Seminar

Bullfrog Power and the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce invite you to an exciting conversation Wednesday November 24th on ‘Best Practices in Developing and Implementing Corporate Sustainability Plans’.

The panel discussion and networking will take place from 10:30AM – 1:00PM in Conference Rooms AB – 6th Floor at the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce and includes light lunch and refreshments.

Theresa Howland, VP Western Region, Bullfrog Power

Vivian Manasc – Principal, Manasc Isaac Architects
Ross McEwan – Managing Director, ION Print Solutions
Lorne Lopatka – Manager of Operations and Sustainability, NorQuest College
Laura Franceschini – Sustainability Consultant, Stantec

If you would like to join us, please note that you have until Monday, November 22 to RSVP.
Event is complimentary

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cool Compost Demonstration Garden.

Take a tour of Vancouver's Cityfarm. I got to visit this site last autumn and was in awe of all they do there, and has left me open to all kinds of projects that volunteer teams want to dream up. Got any ideas?

thanks to Anna V for passing this on.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Your Friday Smile

Check out the Riverbanks Zoo's ComPOOst webpage for a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign about their Zoo Poo.

Click the white daisy to learn about the animals, and the orange calendula for a video of how they doo it.

Fun for the whole family!


Does Garbage + Compost = Highway??
Are we ready for Solar Highways?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Want to ban SUDs (single use disposables)?

I was at MacArthur Elementry school Tuesday and saw this sign in the Grade 4 classroom:

of course, I was thrilled, but wondered if the parents were happy having their convenience curtailed in this way. When I left the school at recess to get some supplies from my car I spoke to a woman in her SUV outside about idling and she told me it was to keep her infant warm. Fair enough, except when I left the school more than a half hour later she was still sitting there.

MacArthur needs a few of these:

In today's Journal, Rob Renner is floating a trial balloon to see how people respond to action on disposable coffee cups. Read the article and share your thoughts.

I have already sent in my request for a deposit on large items, like couches, chairs, and especially mattresses.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Life for Old Threads

It’s the pair of jeans you’ve worn until holes started appearing, or the stained tablecloth that has seen too many Thanksgivings. The City of Edmonton is now collecting non-reusable textiles for recycling, but NOT IN THE BLUE BAG! Read on...
Edmontonians can now bring their clean, used clothing and fabric, such as tablecloths, linens and towels, to select Recycling Depots. From there, the material will go to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, where Greys Paper Recycling Industries will use it to make paper.
Greys will sort the material and keep the items made mostly from cotton for its paper manufacturing. Other items will be provided to local charities.
For a list of City Recycling Depots accepting used clothing and fabric, please visit the depot page or call 311.
For a list of charities who accept reusable textiles visit the reuse directory.

Waste 101

Following an election, new councillors are provided with overviews from each department - a way to make them familiar with complex issues.

What struck me about the Waste Branch Overview was this comment: "Over the past 20 years, an integrated and sustainable waste management system has been developed. This helped us to extend the life of our low cost Clover Bar Landfill by 10 years to 2009. "

Keeping cost low by devastating the envrionment is no longer an option. Citizen's are becoming waste saavy and are demanding more responsible waste handling; this is demonstrated by resident's high participation in recycling initiatives.

Here are two points from the Overview to keep in mind if asked about 2011 Budget issues:

Edmonton’s waste system is undergoing a major transformation. In 2009 the City-owned Clover Bar landfill closed. We’re now making a fundamental shift, completing facilities that will process more waste into marketable products and thereby reducing the amount of waste to be hauled to our long term landfill solution in Ryley.

Our need for a rate increase in 2011 is due to this major shift which will be completed in the next two years. We expect our rate increases will stabilize once this transition is completed and we are diverting 90% of residential waste from landfill.

Remember, we have to open our fist to pat ourselves on the back.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Tips for Winter Composting

Before the snow arrives, take a look at your yard and see if there is an opportunity to work less and get more from your winter composting.

First, see if there is a spot close to your kitchen door that gets a lot of sun. I don't like walking through knee-deep snow drifts to dump my kitchen scraps, so convenience at this time of year is very important.

Fortunately, there is a sunny spot just outside my back door were I relocate my bin for winter. Next summer, my herbs will love the nutrient boost that the compost will leave behind.

A few hours of sun means my black plastic bin will absorb enough solar energy to restart the composting process every day. I can add all my kitchen scraps and not fill the bin - it's MAGIC!

No flies means I don't have to worry about covering the food waste with soil or leaves. I do have a bag of leaves handy, so I can add a layer of browns every couple decimetres to balance the C:N and trap some air for the spring thaw.

During the cold, dark months it is one of my guilty pleasures to soak in a deep, hot bath. I assuage my guilt by taking a bucket of bathwater out to the compost bin (after the water has sat overnight and added its heat and humidity to my home). This keeps the mice away, too.

Shelter will keep the wind our and the moisture in, so when spring finally arrives next July there will be plenty of moisture to keep it working.

As early as you can in spring, move the bin back to its summer location, toss any unfinished material into your wheelbarrow, and let your winter compost cure until it can be dug into the bed.

You can laugh at how easy it was while you pick fresh herbs for the kitchen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Summer Leaf Thieves Beware!

I am a leaf thief.
(image from mastercomposter.com)
I steal leaves in both green and brown and, aside from the occasional handful of pet waste, I have enjoyed using my nieghbour's organic waste to create an abundant landscape.

I have learned over the years that compost is very
forgiving and can handle a certain amount of weed seed, diseased material, oils, acids, meat and dairy, and yes, even doo-doo. Stealing fresh grass clippings is one way to get a nice, hot pile going and keep the pile working well.

Today, an article came to me from
LetsRecycle.com warning about certain chemicals that will persist in compost and manure piles and do some damage to sensitive crops down the road.

The chemicals are
clopyralid and aminopyralid, found in some herbicides. Happily, they are not found in the latest trendy lawn treatement - CGM.

This might be a time to mention, if you have not heard, that
Good Growing Neighbours may be affected in this round of budget talks. In this post Weed 'N Feed world, I hope the messages are picked up by other programs (indeed, Office of Environment, EPCOR, and many garden centres are doing a great job of spreading the word about healthy lawn practices).

clippings on newspaper makes a great mulch to lead you up the garden paths.

Next summer, when stealing grass clippings for my garden, I will look for a few weeds in the bag, sniff around for a faint cereal smell, and watch a bit more closely for pet waste. A bumper crop of tomatoes means tasty salsa on Mojito night!

I have heard that the currency of the future will not be fresh water, but photosynthesis. In a way I am robbing today's riches and socking it away under my mattess of topsoil. The soil is my bank and I will continue my clandestine deposits for future family feasts!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bokashi Resources from Suzanne Lewis

Those of you who attended Suzanne Lewis' Anaerobic Composting presentation at Inspire were promised links to the videos referenced during the discussion. The links are below.

For those not familiar with Bokashi, here is an introductory video that just makes me want to go out and buy some stuff and start digging:

As this fellow said, Bokashi is a fermentation process, not a comosting process. "In home composting applications, kitchen waste is placed into a container which can be sealed with an air tight lid. These scraps are then inoculated with a Bokashi EM mix. This usually takes the form of a carrier, such as rice hulls, wheat bran or saw dust, that has been inoculated with composting micro-organisms. The EM are natural lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and phototrophic bacteria that act as a microbe community within the kitchen scraps, fermenting and accelerating breakdown of the organic matter." (from Wikipedia)

Here are the links to other aspects of Bokashi:

Burying 1

Burying 2

Do-it-yourself Bucket system - a great idea for the ReUse crowd!

Do-it-yourself EM

If you make your own EM, and would be willing to share a bit with other MC/Rs please leave a comment after this post.

Wheat Bran based EM

A longer video on making, like, totally rad Bokashi, dude.

Check out the many other videos on YouTube - obviously there are a lot of people who swear by this system.

For years, I have wondered what the benefits of this process would be... I would still use my collection pail since I have no room near my kitchen for the buckets and bag of Bokashi. I would only dig it into the soil when I am not growing things (spring and autumn) so would either store it or compost it (go figure).

I found a video titled Bokashi vs. Composting that raised some interesting issues. Since it was delivered by a guy who looks like he is here to pick up the laundry I think I will do some fact checking before abandoning my Earth Machine. By the way, composting is not stinking, back-breaking work like some of these videos suggest. Neither is Bokashi labour free, unless they are willing to come over, make the EM, then make the Bokashi, and then bury the stuff for me, and it is certainly not inexpensive. Sheesh!

So, what do you think???

Monday, November 8, 2010

On a personal note...

If you missed Inspire 2010, you missed a lovely venue, great food, funny and engaging speakers, a smooth registration process, enviro-swag, workshops, discussions, garbage chandeliers, energy, inspiration, memories, and good friends.

For me, a high point was hearing applause when Garry mentioned improvements to our processes and the new initiatives coming up. It is not often I hear people thrilled with waste handling, and it renewed my commitment to our programs. Thanks to all of you for that.

I want to send a special Thank You to Sonya, Marilyn, Kate, Richard, and Christine for all the work you did to make this event possible. I look forward to the next one!

Compostable disposables issue broadens

I have been trying to get my tiny brain around the Biodegradible products and packaging issue for some time.

SunChips, of course, comes to mind as a recent addition to the discussion. For those of you not following this, the packaging has been discontinued in the US, and celebrated in Canada.

I have had little luck with bio-d material in my home compost bin, and it seems others are having similar issues, like the University of Vermont.

Here is a new twist - packaging that can be just washed away. Although after reading this I wonder why we don't simply make all packaging out of chocolate in the first place. Yum!

On top of all that, the August edition of BioCycle magazine contains a bunch more information on the topic.

Leaves my tiny brain hurtin' for the good old days of wicker baskets and milk bottles.

Friday, November 5, 2010

World Town Planning Day

I get so happy to hear of global movements to make our lives more sustainable. Especially when it comes to cities. This event has been around a while, but it is new to me, and I will be there to learn more...

What is World Town Planning Day?
The 20th century transformed Canada from a rural to an urban industrial society. The impact of this change on our community spaces provided great challenges for Canadian planners. Planners integrate the goals of sustainable development, good governance and economic viability to ameliorate the human environment. Their contributions to Canadian society have helped make our country a highly enjoyable place in which to live.
World Town Planning Day focuses on the progress of community planning in Canada. It highlights the valuable contributions that sound planning has made to the quality of the human environment and provides recognition of the ideals of community planning among the profession and the general public worldwide.

World Town Planning Day was initiated in 1949 and is celebrated in many countries on all continents each year on November 8. This year’s theme is “Active Living – the Act of Living” and the Alberta Professional Planners Institute in Edmonton region is celebrating WTPD at Edmonton City Hall – City Room from 10am – 2pm.
image stolen from the Planning Academy

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hello, we're still here...

We haven't been blogging much recently. Much focus here has been preparing for Inspire!

I have to say, this conference has been a blast to prepare. Karen and Cecilia have been wading through 20 years of photos, projects, and stories. Many of us are preparing to present or facilitate sessions. Rena is amazingly organised and keeping things moving smoothly. We are all stoked to give this event to the volunteers, although it does not come close to what you have given us.

Of course, we are still relying on volunteer help to keep us on track of all the details and odd jobs. Our thanks to all our helpers.

Remember that The Way We Green is at City Hall this week!

See you Saturday!