Monday, July 28, 2014

My article in the Hamilton Spectator: Building a culture of conservation.

Jul 22, 2014 | Vote0   0

Building a culture of conservation

Community energy plan will save tax dollars, reduce greenhouse gas

Community Energy Plan.
There's the community. There's energy usage. And there's a plan. Wait. There is no plan.
At least not for Hamilton.
There is neither long-term vision nor strategy on managing our energy expenditure
and consumption.
As a corporation, the City of Hamilton is working hard to manage its own energy use;
 think cost avoidance, installing energy-efficient systems, green fleets, renewable energy
projects, the water biogas purification unit, and so on.
With the support of Horizon Utilities, the corporation aims to work on a Municipal Energy Plan (MEP)
to further comprehend its energy needs and conservation opportunities.
(Horizon is an award winner for being a sustainable, innovative electricity company.
It is currently conducting an energy mapping project in Hamilton and St. Catharines to
better target energy conservation programs.)
Hamilton is the envy of other communities, with an existing district energy closed-loop piping
system, producing hot water at a central plant that is then piped underground to individual
buildings for heating and cooling to be then recirculated. (Jackson Square and the Central 
branch of Hamilton Public Library use this system.)
We've got all this and more, but at the community level there still is no holistic, comprehensive
plan to make our neighbourhoods more energy efficient and resilient through the rational use of energy.
There ought to be.
Given that 80 per cent of Canada's energy is used in urban centres and that energy waste
and poor management of building infrastructure are major contributors to climate change,
the sensible path to take as a community in curbing green house gas emissions would be to strike
at the core of these energy-guzzlers.
The community energy plan (CEP) is a proven framework to engage citizens and local organizations
in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Generally created through a collaboration between municipal governments and broader
community stakeholders, CEPs are crucial for leveraging existing programs and initiatives
and setting concrete, feasible targets and ways to meet those targets, through grassroots community engagement.
As well, an important part of such a plan is encouraging the development of green infrastructure
through plans and policies, and other innovative initiatives (sustainable jobs, local investments).
Cities across Europe, such as Copenhagen and Mannheim, have long-established plans and
are reaping the rewards. More recently, closer to home, Guelph, London and our immediate
neighbour, Burlington, have modest plans in place and are slashing their energy consumption
and saving money while they are at it.
That's right. A CEP will save money for the city. Big time.
"The amount of money I'm leaving on the table (when I don't have a plan) is huge. Because if I am
 running at two to three times the energy intensity of a Scandinavian city, they have more money
 to do other things than I have. That's a big deal," says Peter Garforth, whose company 
Garforth International LLC helped establish plans for the cities mentioned above.
"Take any North American city and if they are spending $200 million a year in electricity costs,
a comparable city in Central Europe is spending $70 million to $100 million."
Think of what all that extra money could be doing in a city.
A CEP is about identifying opportunities and constraints, setting goals, utilizing technologies
 (such as smart grids) and delivering action. It also involves changing behaviours and our
relationships with energy. It has to do with promoting a culture of conservation that extends to
how we get around (transportation), the way we generate energy, the way we use the land,
particularly in the face of future growth, how far our food has to travel in order to get to our tables.
A Climate Change Action Plan steering committee at the city has recently been established
with task forces assigned to some of these areas.
As well, encouraged by some city departments, groups like Environment Hamilton and
the Hamilton Association for Renewable Energy (HARE) are promoting the idea of a local
improvement charges (LIC) program for home energy improvements since the residential sector
 is responsible for 30 per cent of our energy use. LICs are long-term, low-interest loans provided
 by the municipality and placed on the property tax bill.
Both these examples can be elements of a future CEP for Hamilton.
Hamilton is said to be in the throes of a cultural transformation, a renaissance of sorts,
as innovators, artists, entrepreneurs choose our city as the "happening place" they call home.
Let's give it that cutting edge by working to get a community energy plan in action.
After all, a reliable, sustainable energy supply is a key component to the long-term health
and prosperity of cities.
Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a Hamilton freelance writer and blogger. She works at Environment Hamilton,
managing and co-ordinating various projects. Read more of her writing at

Friday, July 25, 2014

Depave Paradise

Faith groups!
You are all invited to consider the extent of your pavement: Do you really need that much?
Tearing up asphalt in favour of planting native species, restoring marshes and wetlands etc benefits urban communities where we have far too much impermeable surfaces covering the soil; a problem because with increasing storm events (due to climate change), sewer overloads lead to flooded buildings and streets.

Hard surfaces, such as driveways, parking lots, and buildings also interrupt the natural water cycle by preventing rain water from soaking into the ground and creating heat sinks, warming up our cities. By removing pavement and replacing it with native plants, trees and shrubs we are increasing the infiltration rate, recharging our groundwater supply, and cooling our neighbourhoods.

Faith groups, schools, and other institutions are joining in this fun, community engaging movement. In Hamilton, a couple Catholic schools have depaved already.
Please see these links for more examples:

Green Venture is on the look out for faith groups interested in depaving some of their asphalt.
They are willing to come in and do a free presentation/workshop on depaving pieces of your property in order to create more permeable green space.
Taken from Green Venture's website.

Partnering with a local faith group to promote an energy conserving neighbourhood.

Here is a brief piece from summer intern, Joy Liu who worked with us at Environment Hamilton over the last few months. She describes the benefits and support she had working with a local faith group to promote the idea of a local improvement charges (LIC) for Hamilton home energy conservation improvements.

Working with Laidlaw
Summer 2014 Local Improvement Charges Campaign

Volunteers at Laidlaw United Church getting ready to promote LICs

Throughout the local improvement charge (LIC) campaign, Laidlaw Memorial United Church has provided support that was an incredibly important part of its implementation.
Laidlaw is located in the centre of where we planned to focus our campaigning efforts.
Rev. Doug Moore graciously allowed us to use the church space for campaign activities such as the volunteer training, volunteer base, and the information session. He even faciliated office space that we could use when we were working in the area.
The church provided refreshments for information session participants, and presentation equipment.
Rev. Doug actively promoted the campaign to the congregation by putting up posters, distributing information pamphlets during Sunday service, and allowing us to participate in the church’s annual Rummage Sale and talk to the participants.
He gave us insight and ideas, such as promoting the campaign at the It’s Your Festival in nearby Gage Park.  Members of the church made up half of our volunteer team.  During the door-to-door portion of the campaign, it was easy directing people to the information session since the church is in a convenient location and many residents knew about it.
Laidlaw saw this as an opportunity to reach out to the community, as it provides a way to invite more people into the church.  Rev. Doug was able to share the church’s stance and support for environmental stewardship based on their values.  He enthusiastically shared about the things the church has already done, such as installing solar panels, inspiring the broader community.
We are very grateful for the church’s help and would love to work with them again.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Easy Fermented Beverages at Home with EH member Michelle Doherty

Fermented beverages can seem intimidating and strange at first but I hope to find everyone a beverage that they can enjoy and reap the benefits of. In a time where our digestive systems are ravaged by the monotony of processed foods and fast food it is of utmost importance to take steps towards a healthy lifestyle. Fermented beverages have a multitude of purported health benefits with one of the most common being replenished gut flora and improved digestion.

In this workshop I will go over the benefits and steps to making Kefir, Kombucha and Ginger Bug Sodas with a special demonstration on making kefir.

When: Saturday, July 26th. 2014
Where: Grace Lutheran Church, 1107 Main Street West. Hamilton
Time: 2 pm to 3.30 pm

Suggested donation: $5
 Please register with Beatrice at or call 905 549 0900

Local Improvement Charges Information Session

Interested in energy conservation? Want to help make our city more energy efficient?   The residential sector is responsible for 30% of our energy use! Imagine the energy—and money—that could be saved if home energy upgrades were more accessible!

EH and Hamilton Association for Renewable Energy (HARE) are trying to bring an exciting new program called local improvement charges (LICs) to Hamilton.

LICs are long-term, low interest rate loans provided by the municipality and placed on your property tax bill.  A homeowner can make their home more energy efficient with no payment upfront!

We need public support to encourage the City to implement this program!  Have questions?  Want to learn more?  Come to our information session:

Wednesday July 16th, 7 pm

Laidlaw Memorial United Church, 155 Ottawa St. North

All are welcome!

You can also visit for more information about LICs and how they work,

We are also looking for volunteers to help with this initiative!

Volunteers will be going door-to-door with EH staff and talking to residents about how local improvement projects can benefit us.

Are you interested in Volunteering?  Please contact Joy at or at (905) 549-0900.