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Friday, August 6, 2010

Green Ideas for 2010 Calendar Contest

I'm going to be working on a project over the next little while to produce an artistic calendar for 2010. I'm currently soliciting suggestions for shot ideas to include in the calendar.

Later on, I'll be looking for recommendations for printers that are as environmentally friendly as possible.

To enter the contest, you should send me a concept for a photo and a brief note explaining the concept. What would the photo look like? What idea is it promoting? You should include a brief paragraph that might get overlayed on the photo.

Winners will receive a veritable plethora of recognition. If your concept is used, your name will be included in the calendar as the submitter of the concept and/or text. You'll be mentioned on the blog as well! And I'll send you a copy of the completed calendar!

The only restriction is that the ideas promote the same values and concepts as the blog and that the photo concept can be shot by me in the Nova Scotia area. It need not even be outdoors - studio ideas are just fine!

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Monday, July 12, 2010

This bit of text came to me via the Green Peace mailing list. I'm not a member, but whatever your politics, I think this is a good reminder of things that we can all do to reduce our dependence on oil.

In the wake of the ongoing catastrophe of the Gulf oil spill, lots of people have been asking us how they can reduce their oil consumption in their daily lives. Here's our top ten:
1. Carpool, cycle or use public transport to go to work.
2. Choose when possible products packaged without plastic and recycle or re-use containers.

3. Buy organic fruits and vegetables (fertilisers and pesticides are based on oil more often than not).
4. Buy beauty products (shampoo, soap, make-up) based on natural ingredients, not oil.
5. Choose when possible locally produced products (less transport involved).
6. Buy clothes made out of organic cotton or hemp - not from oil derivatives.
7. Use non-disposable items in picnics and summer festivals.
8. Quit bottled water.
9. Fly less.
10. Demand that your government encourage renewable energy instead of oil.
(11. Register at our new website and add to this list, then forward it to a friend.)

p.s. Did someone forward this mail to you? Sign up for action alerts and ways you can help here.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

President Obama's Oval Office Address on BP Oil Spill & Energy

I'm not one for hyperbole, but last night's speech from the Oval Office may represent an actual turning point for the environmental movement. Have a watch for yourself.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Halifax Curbside Giveaway Weekend

This weekend is Halifax's first go at the Curbside Giveaway Weekend. Your good, well-used and recyclable items can be placed curbside from now until Sunday at dusk. They should be marked "free" and with any luck, a new home will find them. Just watch out for the rain that is coming!

Follow the link for the rules and remember that everything has to be brought back in by Sunday at dusk. Avoid putting out things that you won't want to bring back in after Sunday's rain...

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Energy Use Update

Just a really quick update. Another power bill arrived and the period for March 15th to May 14th was 25% lower than the same period last year. It takes a while to see a complete ROI (return on investment) for insulation and window purchases, but I think it's pretty reassuring to see some savings every month, even when the weather and outside temperature was improving!

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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Story of Bottled Water

Well worth a few minutes of your time! Please watch this before your next bottle!

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Halifax's Dump and Run 2010

Halifax's largest community garage sale is happening tomorrow, May 2nd from 8am to 4pm! Items of all shapes and sizes will be available and the proceeds fund all kinds of interesting charities both local and international!

Check out the website for any last minute details!

Halifax Dump and Run

This is a great event and an opportunity to repurpose and recycle some interesting things for your new apartment or your home!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

How are you celebrating Earth Day 2010?

I decided to end my illicit affair with Roll Up the Rim coffee cups and started the day with my new ReThink re-usable mug. I also made a point to get out for a walk at lunchtime, taking in the sweet spring air and did a little bit of geocaching as well.

Tonight, I will be out walking the dog and thinking about what is next in my plans to lower my own footprint in the coming weeks! Stay tuned!

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Building a Bat House

Have you got bats in your belfry? Do you want some?

It's hard to believe that mosquito season is nearly upon us. This year, I plan to combat the pesky varmints in a natural way: by attracting bats!

Everything you need to know is at the website for Bat Conservation International. I'll report on my progress when I get to building my first bat house, but here's what attracted me to the project:

  • Bat Houses work best when built from recycled wood... well weathered old barn wood is best
  • Bats are natural insect killers. This makes camping time more enjoyable with less reliance on bug spray and insecticide.
  • Habitat for bats is under pressure by human activity. Building them a bat house helps them too!
If you're not interested in building your own bat house, you can purchase one online or from a local craftsman. Kits and completed house are available in a lot of garden stores. Check yours!

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Recycling Your Stuff

Stuff is all around us and it's often this time of year - spring cleaning and the end of the school year - that we begin to notice just how quickly it accumulates. I thought I'd share three ideas for getting rid of your excess in a simple and environmentally-friendly way.

  • Books just taking up space? Try Book Crossing to find them a new home or send them on an adventure! Simple print a label and find a good place to stash the book.
  • Everything else? If it is something you no longer need but is still in good working order, help it find a new home through Freecycle. Find a local group and be sure to follow the rules. (Warning! Freecycle can generate a lot of incoming e-mail - you've been warned!)
  • Are you in Halifax? Check out the Dump and Run at the beginning of May. It's Halifax's largest community yard sale!
 Do you have a unique or novel way of recycling your precious but unwanted items? Drop us a comment below!

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Energy Savings Tips by Dal Students

I wanted to post a link to this article in the Dal News, not because it contains any really new information for Lower Footprint readers, but because this class was one of my first opportunities to learn and act in a green way.

Unlike these students who are able to spread their message through the vast internet, my project was presented in class to Dr. Martin Willison circa 1995. Our project, titled, "So You Wanna Compost?", highlighted the benefits of a backyard composter for a city that wouldn't see green bins for another few years. We distributed our little brown brochures at the local grocery store.

I'm glad to see that students are still getting to do this kind of project in their Nature Conservation course!

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Canadian Feds End Home Energy Retrofit Program

Unfortunately, this wasn't PM Harper's idea of an April Fool's day joke: On Thursday it was announced that the Federal Home Energy Retrofit program has been suspended. Over the last three years, home owners who submitted to an energy audit and completed the necessary changes could earn up to $5000 in rebates and credits. Reports suggest that this is a money saving move as the program was three times more popular than initially expected. This suspension means the program ended about a year earlier than scheduled.

I could be the first to cry sour grapes as I did the initial audit but failed to complete the work in my 18-month window nor did I know I could have applied for an extension, but I still think the program was valuable enough to motivate a lot of people to move to a greener position. I fear though that people who would have counted on this rebate or could only afford to do upgrades when the rebates were available, will now be forced to wait or simply not do the upgrades. This results in wasted energy, higher costs, higher GHG emissions and more waste.

Bottomline: Bone head move. This program was an economic stimulus targeted specifically at smart, green renovations.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pants Harmful to the Environment

Those Scots had it right all along! In a report published today in the Journal of Climate Change, scientists found that climate change is dramatically slowed in the remote areas of Scotland where the kilt is still worn regularly instead of trousers.

"Accounting for all of the differences in terrain, prevailing weather patterns, and historic fossil fuel usage," reported lead climatologist, Dr. Clarence McLeod, "the only causal factor that remained was the lack of pants worn in the region." The scientists compared 42 different regions that shared many similar characteristics like latitude, altitude, and population density and found that the kilt-wearing areas (of which there were 2 in the study) had the lowest change in historic temperature in the last 200 years and the lowest production of GHG (green house gases).

Clearly, it was more than the wearer's loins that were being cooled in these areas. Further modelling will be done with this study's massive data set. Scientists hope to be able to determine whether kilt-wearing is powerful enough to reverse the effects of climate change. The potential for the mass adoption of the pleated garment in areas most at risk is being considered.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly

I just finished reading James E. McWilliams' new book, "Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly." I have to say I'm still having a hard time deciding how much he's convinced me... On the surface, reading chapter headings and such, I was immediately struck by just how contrary McWilliams seemed to be to most of what I accept as green ideas. But a simple scan of the book would leave you with a very worrying impression: that he's anti-locavore (or 100-Mile Diet), that he's pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms or Frankenfood), and that he is anti-organic.

McWilliams' argument needs to be understood at the outset and he gives an excellent and rewarding summary near the end of the book. If we are accepting of the prediction that our planet's population will reach 9 or 10 billion people by 2050, then we are going to have to rethink our cherished "green" ideals in order to feed everyone - and he proposes a way to do that that is also green and sustainable.

First, while eating local is a grand idea, McWilliams points out the obvious: not everyone can eat local and the 100-mile diet necessarily means a lot of compromise depending where you live, whether for climate or for sheer population numbers. Imagine a large city like Phoenix, Arizona having to live off the Arizona desert. Applied on a large scale, locavores appear to be isolationists that fail to account for the need to feed the world's poorest and over-estimate the actual costs of transportation compared to the ecological damage done to grow locally at any cost (high pesticide or fertilizer use).

Second, McWilliams argues that organic farming is also a luxury afforded to those who live in appropriate areas. If organic farming were applied on a scale needed to feed the masses (instead of just the wealthy), then we might be sacrificing actual wilderness in order to have sufficient land to grow organic food which (McWilliams argues) has much lower output than traditionally grown food.

Third, Just Food takes an optimistic view of GMOs, with no apologies for the way they have been used in their early days. Whether we like it or not, most of the corn and soy we consume in North America has been GM for some time. McWilliams suggests that with proper testing, appropriate controls, the benefits of GMOs far outweigh the potential risks. For example, Bt infused corn already uses far less pesticide than its traditional counterpart. McWilliams believes that irrational fear is holding us back from embracing and steering GMOs in a sustainable, eco-friendly direction. Worse yet, we're allowing multi-national corporations make these decisions without us.

These are some of the green community's sacred cows and McWilliams is tearing them down with some strongly compelling arguments. Tomorrow, I'll tell you what he proposes as a remedy to our growing need for food and how it can be done in a safe and sustainable way.

Have you read Just Food yet? Let me know what you think! Is McWilliams a Green Good Guy or a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? Weigh in!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Earth Hour NS Redux

Did Nova Scotia actually do well during Earth Hour 2010? At first glance, the reported numbers sounded pretty good, but my neighbourhood didn't seem to be paying all that much attention to it. Time for a reality check.

I always understand energy savings best when I convert it into dollars and cents. So let's do the math.

18-megaWatts saved over one hour = 18,000kWh

1 kWh costs roughly 11 cents so 18,000kWH x $0.11/kWh = $1980

This is, unfortunately, trivial. And not in the good, this will be a question later, way.

This amount of savings is roughly half of one household's electric use for the year (if they have electric heat) and akin to removing 19 or 20 dryers from the province for a year. Or removing 35-40 stoves from daily operation for one year.

NS Power's 1.4 million lightbulb figure is also a bit misleading. While it would take 1.4 million 13-watt bulbs to be turned off to account for the savings, it shrinks dramatically if it were measured in 100 Watt incandescent bulbs (only 180,000), or in 42" televisions (only 36,000). Think of the environmental impact we would have if every Nova Scotian gave up watching one 3-hour hockey broadcast per year.

Similarly, 1.4 million bulbs over one hour is the same as turning off a measly 384 13-watt bulbs for only ten hours a day for a year... That one light store featured yesterday could probably tackle that kind of savings by installing a few timers. As would any single grocery store that leaves its lights on all night.

While I still firmly support the message behind Earth Hour, I think my initial applause should be muted. The real success of the event will be to see others change their habits on a regular basis through the year. Is it necessary for our bridges to be lit every night from midnight to 6:00am? (The road lights were still on, so it's not a safety issue.) Is there more that we should be doing on an ongoing basis? Definitely.

Earth Hour is done for 2010, and it appeared to raise a lot of awareness but evidentally, not much actual energy savings. Let's use this information to make some real changes on a daily basis. I for one will be installing a new clothes line in the next few days. What will you do?

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Earth Hour Corporate Winners and Losers

While on our brief tour of the scenes of Earth Hour 2010, we thought we'd check out a few local establishments in our neighbourhood. I'd seen a fair amount of advertising this year and wasn't surprised to see a lot of big, national chains participating.

Very close to our home, the main grocery store, Sobeys, had shut down all of its exterior lighting, as did the Canadian Tire. The local port even shut down roughly half of its pole-mounted spotlights, which dramatically reduced the amount of light pollution in the area. The clear winner though, was the big burger chain we love to hate. The local McDonald's killed all of the exterior lighting and was still managing to have a full drive-thru line.

Disappointingly, despite a whole lot of advertising at other locations, the local Tim Hortons nearest my home was not participating. All of the exterior lights were on and it did not look like any particular effort was taken. Unfortunately, this oversight was not the worst that I witnessed. While en route to get my photo of the bridge, we came across the travesty pictured at the right. This lighting store on Lady Hammond Road was effectively surrounded in darkness, but was glowing from within with a electric meter-spinning intensity. While the logistics for dealing with such a situation must be substantial, the fact that this many lights are on all night, every night is most concerning.

Earth Hour is done for 2010, but there is obviously work to be done. Perhaps an e-mail to this business owner is in order.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Earth Hour Results for Nova Scotia

This was posted today on the NS Power website. For a relatively small province with a population of roughly a million people, this is pretty good. How did other areas fair?

Again this year, Nova Scotians demonstrated their support for Earth Hour 2010 by turning off their lights. System operators at Nova Scotia Power’s energy control centre reported an 18-megawatt reduction in power consumption between 8:30pm and 9:30pm on Saturday evening. This represents an equivalent savings of more than 1.4 million 13-watt compact florescent light bulbs.

Stay tuned for Lower Footprint's corporate winners and losers...

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Earth Hour 2010 Is Done!

MacKay Bridge
Earth Hour 2010 went by a lot faster than previous years. I was disappointed to see only one of my immediate neighbours participating, but I guess that means my example might have been noticed.

As usual, we turned off the power for the entire house by flipping off the main breaker. We then lit a fire and settled in to play a board game by solar lights. It actually felt a bit like cheating as there are quite a number of solar lights in the house now and it was quite bright!

MacKay Bridge without lights
Unlike previous years, I wanted to capture a few photographs from around the city during Earth Hour. I'll post a little later about the corporate "winners" and "losers" from the local vicinity, but for now, have a look at the MacKay Bridge without lights. The second photo is much more indicative of the effect, but the first is just a nicer photo. Realize that both are time delay photos, otherwise they would simply be black.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour 2010 Almost Here

In a little over 3 hours, we'll be powering down the entire house for our extended version of Earth Hour. This is the third year that I've been a participant and that means taking the power for the whole house right down to zero.

In the meantime, we have a few things to do to get ready. Dig out a few candles and wind-up flashlights, fire up the wood stove (because it is very cold today!), and get some snacks ready for some fun. Like the good folks over at Things To Do For Two, we'll probably settle down with a few rounds of board games like Blockus and Ticket To Ride.

What are you going to do?

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Earth Hour 2010 Under Way Internationally

Earth Hour 2010 takes place at 8:30pm local time tonight, but it is already well underway around the world!

Check out these great shots from the various events that have already happened earlier today:

Earth Hour Flickr Photostream

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Making Low Earth Orbit More Sustainable

A quick report for a Friday night:

We've all heard about the massive amounts of space debris floating around in low earth orbit and how it causes problems for space shuttles and future satellites. A new report on the BBC talks about a new satellite-based system that will "clean" low earth orbit and make space "more sustainable."

Now if only they could do something about the fuel used to get satellites up there in the first place... who else is waiting for the space elevator?

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Earth Hour is This Saturday!

Today I thought I would highlight some of the local events connected with Saturday's Earth Hour celebrations!

Nova Scotia Power has a page dedicated to Earth Hour, including a countdown and links to some activity ideas for while the lights are out! Also included on the page are links to year-round energy saving tips, plus details about NS Powers plans to turn off the office lights for the event as well. Check back to this page to see the results. NS Power will be posting them after the event!

There is also word of a concert happening at the Parade Square in downtown Halifax. Here are the details:

Come and celebrate Earth Hour this year at Grand Parade Square in front of City Hall in Halifax and join us for a FREE CONCERT by ECMA winning artists: Sons of Maxwell and Dave Gunning!

WWF-Canada, Atlantic Region will be joined by Mayor Peter Kelly, Conserve Nova Scotia, and CarShareHFX for this family-oriented event.

Astronomy Nova Scotia will be also on site with their telescopes for stargazing.

Date: Saturday, March 27, 2010
Time: 7:30pm – 10:00 pm (Earth Hour is 8:30pm - 9:30pm lights out)
Location: Grand Parade in front of City Hall, Halifax, NS
Lots to do! How are you going to observe Earth Hour this year?

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Walkable is Your Neighbourhood?

As the spring weather improves, everyone will be looking for opportunities to get outside and possibly running some errands on foot... at least one would hope that would be the case! Have you wondered how walkable your neighbourhood really is? Perhaps you're considering a move to a new neighbourhood with which you're less familiar.

Well, the answer is available on Walk Score. Simply type in your address (or proposed address) and it will generate a score for your area based on distance to major necessities like grocery stores and coffee shops. All this information is presented on a Google Map interface which will allow you to zoom in and out as usual.

This is a neat tool that you can use when visiting another city as well. Need to grab something quick or find a hardware store? Just type in the address of where you're staying and presto... it'll point you there.

One issue I had is that the website is unable to get data from our local mass transit system, so scores in my area are artificially low since we get no points for living near bus stops.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Get Outside and Find Some Treasure

I can't believe it's been almost four years since I last did any geocaching! I started with this hobby in 2006 and then I guess I got out of the habit almost right away. I'm not entirely sure why, because it is ridiculously fun and a great excuse for getting outside and getting some exercise.

As far as green activities go, Geocaching is amongst the best. The idea is to use a GPS device and coordinates from the Geocaching website to hunt for small, hidden containers (called caches) in your area. Once you find the container, you simply sign the physical log and then later record your find on the website. In some cases, you may trade small items in the cache, such as small toys, pins, and the like. For me, it's more about the hunt and the find than the items involved.

The Geocaching community promotes a respect for the environment around caches. Searchers are encouraged to avoid disturbing the natural environment around the cache as much as possible. Cache hiders are forbidden from using National Parks in the US, and are encouraged to avoid areas where wildlife or the natural ecosystem might be harmed by the foot traffic that may result from the activity.

One of the benefits of Geocaching that I found immediately was getting to know some of your local area a bit better. You're forced to slow down and take in the nearby neighbourhood park or green space that you may only have driven by before. In fact, when I first started, I found a nice walking trail only a block from my office that I didn't know about, despite having been in the general neighbourhood for almost 20 years.

Even better, the current generation of cell phones have some fantastic GPS equipment already built in. This means you could probably start in this activity with no additional outlay of cash for new equipment. I currently use my Blackberry phone, but you could use your iPhone or HTC phone as well. I'm sure many others offer the same or similar features.

So that seems like a perfect match for Lower Footprint... a fun activity that involves feet power, gets you to know your local environment a lot better, and might not require any additional spending to get started.

You can follow my progress here (if you're already a member of geocaching.com)!

The Groundspeak Geocaching Logo is a registered trademark of Groundspeak, Inc. Used with permission.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

World Water Day

Just a quick note that today is World Water Day.

It is still a reality that an estimated 1.1 billion people rely on unsafe drinking-water sources. Therefore the theme of World Water Day 2010 is focusing on raising awareness of water quality under the theme "Clean Water for a Healthy World". IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre offers a wide selection of documents looking at the different aspects of water quality such as water treatment, health and technology. This information is for instance, available via the IRC digital library, the Source Newsletter and on the IRC web site.
Source: www.worldwaterday.org

What are you doing to reduce the amount of water you use needlessly? What are you doing to positively impact the water quality in your neighbourhood? Or in another part of the world?

Dalhousie residence students are currently having a competition to reduce the amount of water they use by having shorter showers, turning off the taps while brushing their teeth, and taking advantage of low flow shower heads and dual flow toilets where they are available. Additionally, a public forum was held this afternoon on campus as well.

Celebrate World Water Day and start a habit that you can carry forward from today onward.

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Earth Hour 2010 Countdown Video

Earth Hour 2010 is almost here... have a look at this cool video which includes footage of lights out events since 2008. Enjoy!

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Energy Savings Update - March Edition

As far as energy savings goes, this is a big milestone in Lowerfootprint's journey! I received my electricity bill for mid-January through mid-March, arguably the worst part of the heating season and historically my biggest bills of the year. At the last bill and subsequent update, the window and insulation upgrades to the house were just about complete, thus this is the first bill that reflects the entire project's impact on our heating costs.

Needless to say, I'm not at all disappointed. Energy usage for the period was down 28.1% over the same period last year, which over two months of heating is roughly $300. So, how did that happen?

First, the windows and insulation greatly improved the house's ability to hold heat once it was generated. This is clearly a more bang for you buck situation. The longer the heat lasts, the less often the electric radiators come on. Obvious enough.

Second, with all of the programmable thermostats installed, every room was only heating when necessary, instead of an all or nothing situation. The house was more comfortable, bathrooms were warm in the morning, and so on.

Third, we used up about half a cord of wood during January and February. This cleaner, efficient and sustainable heat source did a lot of our space heating and kept the house at a comfortable level while also drying the air and making the house feel warmer.

Fourth, the pop can solar furnace has been working hard over the last two weeks of the billing period. With cool temperatures but lots of sunshine, the solarium has been reaching into the 30C range (yesterday it hit 38C!) and that completely free heat drove the average temperature in the main areas of the house up by about 3C in the early evening when we get home from work.

Finally, by all accounts it was a very mild and reasonable winter. An early thaw did a lot to offset the need for a lot of additional heat. I think it's time to re-program the thermostats for summer mode. Between the longer days and the warmer outdoors temperatures, I think it's safe to rely on the pop can solar furnaces for the rest of our heating needs... with some chopped wood in reserve in case it's cloudy for an extended period.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Welcome to the Shoulder Season

It's a beautiful 14C day in Halifax and we've been enjoying a steady stream of sunny days over the last two weeks. March has been unseasonably nice and today students are wandering campus in short sleeves and bare shoulders.

This is one of the two shoulder seasons for the heating year, a term I'm appropriating from the tourism business. Due to cloudy and deep cold, there isn't much opportunity for my pop can solar furnace to work during December to February. But in March and April, and again in October and November, there is the perfect combination of sunshine and mild temperatures. The last few evenings have been cold, sometimes dipping below zero. I haven't had to use electric heat or even start a fire because the solarium has been hot enough to warm the house to 22C or higher. The pic above is the temperature in the solarium (32C!) just after opening the door around 5pm. The heat drifts into the rest of the house, which, now insulated, holds the heat quite nicely for the entire evening. By bed time, I slide the door to the solarium closed to minimize any drafts and the process is ready for the next day. I expect to see some serious savings on my next power bill.

Of course, I will have to remove a few of the pop can solar furnace panels by the end of April. The room will simply too hot by then to be enjoyable and the heat won't be needed in the house at all. If only I could store it for the winter...

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! In the words of veteran Canadian rocker, Randy Bachman, today is a great day to "think and do something green!" Here are a few quick tips on making your love of all things Irish a little more environmentally friendly!

  • Try refilling your mug instead of starting a fresh one with each pint. Less washing means less water usage and less energy for heating the water.
  • Recycle your empties!
  • Buy a quality shamrock hat or similar accessory so that you can save it and use again next year! Cheap plastic dodads only end up in the landfill.
  • Avoid the need for a designated driver AND save on gas - take mass transit to wherever you gather for the party.
Obviously, since I work on a university campus, I see the plans for tonight's revelry include a lot of consumption and Halifax is a heavy drinking town at times. There are other things you can do that will kick start your green spring and today's a great day to do it!
  • start an herb garden... the days are finally long enough to get those seeds started in a nice South-facing window
  • take virtual tour of Ireland - how about this one at Class Brain.
  • Help make me some green for my future projects... visit our sponsors!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Earth Hour 2010 Countdown

As we approach Earth Hour 2010, I thought it would be fun to do a quick review of the last one. There are some great images of some major cities during last year's Earth Hour.

Source: Boston.com via Earth Hour Canada

Some are obviously more impressive than others, but even a modest change in lighting can result in both big savings and less energy production. One of the main lessons here for me is that we can routinely do with a little less. A few lights turned off, a few appliances not running and we're making a small but real difference - without a catastrophic change in lifestyle.

In other Earth Hour news, at least one Tim Hortons in my area is observing the power down to some extent. Signs are up already so customers are well prepared... more to come.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Water Usage and Gold Medal Hockey

This is a really interesting graph, put out by EPCOR showing Edmonton's water usage during the gold medal hockey game at the end of the Olympics in Vancouver. For comparison, the previous day is shown in a lighter colour.

What should be obvious from the graph, and is relatively amusing, is that people were generally "holding it" while the game was on, and made furious dashes to the washroom (with the corresponding flush) at the end of each hockey period. The intense the action on the ice, the less intense the action in the washroom.

One might suppose that the major spikes in the usage at these times were also the result of the copious consumption of libations and this may in fact be true. But what interests me... and what may be a bit of a surprise, is that it also appears that the water savings during the hockey game out-strips the sudden rush during the breaks. The area under the comparison line appears to be much greater than the area above the comparison line. Thus, it might be suggested that hockey is in fact good for the environment...

Obviously, washroom usage is more or less constant and at best, would just be deferred until a later time, but could other water-intensive activities be lessened as a result of mass hockey watching?

Source: The National Post

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Earth Hour 2010

It's almost time again for Earth Hour! Each year, just after Daylight Savings Time starts and the days get a little longer, Earth Hour challenges you to observe an hour of "lights out" energy conservation.

We'll be talking a bit more about this in the days to come, but for now, visit Earth Hour's website for lots of information.

Earth Hour takes place on March 27th, 2010 at 8:30pm local time!

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