Wednesday, 2 August 2023

Reducing Waste in Kagawong

As seen in the previous post, Canadians create more garbage per capita than any other country in the world. We are blessed with lots of open and natural space and have very little problem finding a new spot for a landfill to bury our waste. Well Manitoulin is not quite like that. On our small island there are fewer and fewer landfills allowed to operate, and in the end, we don't really want large piles of garbage here anyway.  So how can break this habit and start producing less garbage here in Billings Township?

Breaking Habits

There are many habits that we in North America, and specially in Canada, need to break to produce less waste. Here's a quick list:

  • Not Composting: using compostable containers to mix with your food waste is a no-brainer, add some leaves and you eventually get rich soil that you can use to grow more food, or just make your gardens more lush.
  • Disposable containers: containers that just go into the garbage are a huge problem. We consume food everyday and if we are throwing out the containers everyday that's a big pile of plastic, foil and treated cardboard that we then have to deal with.
  • Disposable products: Buying products that can only be used one or two times is a terrible waste. Pater towels have their place, but often you could use a cloth and toss it in the laundry. Disinfecting wipes are the same. Disposable batteries are much more expensive than rechargeable ones in the end.
  • Not Fixing Things: companies have gotten used to us buying cheaper products that don't last much past their warranty date. So we have gotten used to buying appliances and such more often,  creating more large waste. Better to spend a bit more, buy quality products that will last 2-3 times as long, and that can be fixed when something goes wrong. Learn who the local repair people are!

Solutions for Less Waste in Our Landfill

There are a whole variety of ways that we can reduce what's going into our landfill.  Here's a review of the basics for processing our local waste.
  • Recycle all plastic and metal that you can. Every piece that gets recycled is less in our landfill.
  • Don't throw bad plastics (non-recyclable ones like styrofoam, or plastic bags), or glass, into the co-mingle recycling. This becomes 'contaminated' recycling and is likely just sent to the landfill. Sorting recycling too much becomes too costly and companies don't bother. Recycle Plastics 1-6 only, so "If in doubt, keep it out."
  • Remember to put all cardboard and paper together and recycle it separately.
  • Use clear plastic bags so that the landfill attendant can see that you are recycling as much as possible. They have the power to refuse your waste if it's not in a clear bag.
However, make a big change is also needed to make sure we are managing our waste, and our landfill, properly. Here is a sample list of big impact actions  - maybe try one or two for now, or jump in and try for all of them!
  1. Compost: Fill out the Billings Compost Survey here! About 25-30% of our waste is compostable. On an island without much depth of soil, this is gold going to waste. Find out more about how to compost and start! Speak to your neighbours that are already doing it, or just give them your compost because they are likely happy to take it! This is by far, the easiest and most impact we can have to reduce dangerous waste in our landfill. The compost isn't the dangerous part, but the water in compost will spread other dangerous chemicals from leaching away.
  2. Buy products with better packaging: Avoid plastic containers whenever possible, but if you have to try and buy plastics 1 &2 as they are the most recyclable. Some modern 'plastics' are also biodegradable and can be composted. Sometimes simple choices are quite different though such as margarine vs butter. Margarine comes in plastic, but butter can come in different types of foil - choosing well can reduce waste! Also, try bringing reuse-able bags for groceries and your produce. Buying in bulk can help too with reuse-able containers.  Image Source
  3. Force yourself to go the landfill less: See what you can do to reduce creating your own garbage. Everyone's lives are a bit different and ways to cut down on waste can be as well. So see if you can only go every 2nd or 3rd week, and find ways to create less waste overall so you only need one bag each time you go.
  4. Talk to others: We all share in the burden of creating waste, and the benefit of still having a working landfill. So we all need to think about waste more, and ways to minimize it. Talk to your friends and neighbours about the issue and discuss ways you're producing less waste. Spread the word and raise awareness. Also, speak to local businesses and compliment them on ways that they are already making a difference. Spread the impact and change will come faster.

As Canadians, we should think about the waste we produce. It isn't a fun topic, but since we are the worst waste producers in the world on a per capita basis, then we need to get serious about it. All the details can be confusing, but remember, it still comes down to the big 'Rs' (in order): Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. So let's 'Rethink' about some of how our habits so we don't keep making huge amounts of garbage for our landfill.

Wednesday, 26 July 2023

Managing our Local Waste - Manitoulin Garbage

One thing we humans are consistent with is producing garbage. For many years we've been increasing the amount of waste we generate on this planet. Canada ranks as #1 when compared to other countries with the amount of waste we produce per capita - not a nice category in which to lead the world.

"Estimated waste per capita of the leading waste producing countries worldwide as of 2019 (metric tons) Source: Statistica

Clearly we can do better.

Overall, the situation improves if we produce less waste. We need to through out less and rely on our landfills less.

Here are a few tips on how to reduce your waste (source):
  1. Buy what you need, eat what you buy, compost the rest: Studies show Canadians waste about $1100/person in food every year.
  2. Extend the life of clothing: gift to thrift stores, and shop there too!
  3. Repair and Refurbish: fix older items rather than replacing with something new.
  4. Access over ownership, and the sharing economy: lend things to friends and neighbours and use what's available in your community, like with libraries.
  5. Reuse coffee mugs and water bottles: every year Canadians 5 billion disposable ones
  6. Purchase for the environment: consider the environment when making every purchase - look for repairable items, greener packaging, and environmentally sourced products.

Waste on Manitoulin

Of the municipalities on the island, three currently use landfills to dump their waste, while the others pay Green For Life (GFL) to ship their waste to the Dodge Landfill in Espanola.
  • Hauling Garbage & Recycling: When you are paying another company to haul away your waste, it creates a constant annual expense. Some island communities are paying as much as $300,000/year for this service, with as much as $2 million being paid collectively. The shipping contains recycling and garbage, and therefore control of the waste and its processing/recycling is out of our control. Hauling garbage produces a lot of GHGs as well with every litre of fuel creating about 2.4 kg of CO2. Hauling garbage along our roads and across bridges also is dangerous if there is an accident and this waste gets into something like our water system.
  • Landfill: Putting garbage into and landfill is more economically viable, but there are definite limits to what is possible. The Billings landfill has about 10 years left in its current space allotment, depending on usage, but there are other concerns such as leachate (pollution/liquids seeping from the landfill down into our local water system.) The island is primarily on limestone which is riddled with cracks and become tributaries for leachate. NOTE: it may be possible to extend the area of our local landfill, depending on provincial regulations and how effectively we manage the site. Methane gas that is given off from organic waste is a particular challenge with landfills and needs to be considered, as it's a powerful GHG.
There is no perfect option on how to deal with the waste we create. Some people offer a third option, which is to burn much of our waste and create energy from it, possibly powering local buildings or adding it back to the general electrical grid.

In general, the best option is to REDUCE how much waste we create.

Review the tips above and consider what options might work for you:
  • Can you stop using disposable coffee cups, or plastic water bottles?
  • Can you start composting your organics, or pass them to someone else who can compost?
  • Can you work with your friends and neighbours and share things like tools? or maybe even vehicles?
  • Can you buy less clothing, or buy used more frequently?

The Island-wide Waste Management Plan

In June Billings hosted the first in a series of meetings to discuss what is possible to deal with waste moving forward. It was proposed that a sub-committee be created to discuss options and explore how cooperation might benefit all the local municipalities. It is thought that everyone has roughly the same issues and thus working together will open up new opportunities and ideas. There was a group analysis done about 10 years ago, which concluded that the best option was to ship our waste off-island, but life has changed and it was felt that we needed to consider these issues again.

Some of the topics discussed already are that there is value in some of the waste as materials, like pop cans, or fuel, like form wood waste. Overall, we could likely work together with each community becoming a specialist in one type of waste and helping process this waste in a more effective manner. An example discussed was glass, which is a neutral substance, but also has the potential for re-use either for further containers, or other options. 

The next meeting of this group will be on September 14th at 7pm, and community members are welcome to attend and contribute to the discussion of how we can be better stewards on our island. Stay tuned for more details.

Tuesday, 13 June 2023

Articles in the first half of 2023

Here are a collection of articles relating to Climate Change that Billings residents might find interesting. It's a start though as I'm sure you can find articles everyday in the news that relate.

  1. How moving away from green lawn is an easy way to fight climate change.
    • "Feel Hopeless About Our Planet?  Here's How You Can Solve a Problem Right In Your Own Backyard." CBC, April 2023
    • This article discusses how typical 'green lawns' are actually very bad for the environment and a tradition from the past that we should move away from. They provide very little for the environment, and require effort, water, and often chemical maintenance. A better choice is to reduce the size of your lawn and move to more natural local species, perhaps having a 'no-mow' zone to promote biodiversity and more carbon absorption from the atmosphere. Check out Homegrown National Park if you're interested in taking the next step!
  2. Try and buy only 5 new items of clothing each year?
    • "Why I'm Only Buying 5 New Things in 2023" The Financial Times, January 2023
    • This is an article from a fashion artist about how we need to buy less clothing. Buying new and discarding old means more greenhouse gas emissions from the production of all these clothing items. If everyone reduced their clothing purchases by half it would mean industry would actually produce less clothing and there would be less GHG emissions. Buy quality items that last, and you don't have to buy new all the time. Here's a follow-up article about doing laundry less to help make your clothes last longer.
  3. How discussion about climate change can get derailed and distracted away from the real issue.
    • "How Big Oil is Manipulating the Way You Think About Climate Change." The Salon, May 2023
    • In discussions about complicated issues such as climate change it be difficult to focus on the key issues. Short term setbacks and distract from long term goals. Different perspectives can draw away from core principles. This article is about avoiding 'red herrings' in discussions about climate change to make sure the discuss moves forward and doesn't get too distracted from side issues.
  4. How has the weather changed here?
    • "Is May Always This Cold in PEI? New climate dashboard has the answers." CBC, June 2023
    • When our seasons change it can be hard to compare one spring to the previous spring. Has this been the hottest spring yet? The CBC now has a climate dashboard where you can choose your rough location (e.g. Gore Bay) and then see historical weather date compared to this year's weather. Comparing weather to historical averages can help us examine the question of how our daily or monthly weather patterns reflect a changing climate or not. It also shows record high and low temperatures, historical daily trends, and overall projections for our temperature increase due to a few contrasting scenarios for the future. Remember there is also the IPCC Interactive Climate Atlas if you're interested in looking at more detailed future scenarios with temperatures, precipitation, and population density. You may also want to check this Canadian Version.

Sunday, 28 May 2023

Interested in a Heat Pump?

Absolute Zero is -273˚C. It's the coldest temperature possible.

But any temperature above that and there is some thermal energy present.

This is how heat pumps can extract heat from low temperatures, even something like -15˚C. There is still heat energy in the air. Getting that thermal energy out is the trick of the technology. Heat pumps are getting better and better though and now many people are making the switch to supply heat to their homes and businesses.

Brief Description of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps have been around for many years, and became most famous as air conditioners and GeoThermal systems, but they are really the same technology as a refrigerator as well. The secret is the compressor.

Basically a gas is circulated inside the heat pump, and that gas can be compressed, which raises the temperature of the gas. 

Basic Example: Outside temperature of 0˚C, can be compressed to be 50˚C. Then this 50˚C gas flows through a pipe and it will give off heat to the air around the pipe. The air in your home is circulated around the hot pipe, heated, and then sent back into your house, having been warmed up several degrees. The main pipe continues in the heat pump to an expansion valve where the 'compression' is released and the internal gas is back to a lower pressure, and maybe -4˚C instead of 0˚C (or colder, even liquid form), having lost some of its heat energy.

A Heat Pump needs electricity to run the compressor, to circulate the gas it is compressing, and to blow air around as it absorbs and releases the heated air. However, these systems will produce about 3 units of heat for every unit of electricity it consumes, referred to as a 3.0 COP (coefficient of performance). So compared to baseboard heating which runs close to 100% efficient, heat pumps run at what is referred to as 300% efficient. 

Another way to look at this is that if you heat with baseboard heaters, you could heat with a heat pump for 1/3 the electricity cost.

The efficiency of a heat pump gets worse as the outside temperature gets colder though. Here's a graph showing a particular model as an example (Source Article) There are also many different types of heat pump.

Note: 0˚F = -17.8˚C and  60˚F = 15.6˚C

It should also be noted that current models of heat pumps have a low temperature at which they loose their effectiveness. (eg: the author's heat pump is rated to work down to -27˚C)

Considerations for Switching to a Heat Pump

1) Installation Cost

Actual installation costs can vary tremendously based on your home and current heating situation. If you have a furnace with forced air through vents, there is a heat pump that can replace that. However, if your furnace is in good condition and will run well for years it is likely not cost effective to install a heat pump yet. 

Geothermal heat pumps are very expensive to install, and require either a large ground area or deep drilling, but generally give a COP over 4.0 so they are very efficient and give cost savings in the long run.

Keep in mind that there are grants available to help make the switch as well, from propane and even more from oil. Contact the CAC if you want help of advice on this, or read these old posts.

2) Cooling

Heat pumps also provide cooling in the summer so they will replace an air conditioner if you have one. They are essentially the same thing as an air conditioner, but with the added bonus of heat in the winter.

3) Coldest Part of Winter

On Manitoulin we usually have several days below -20˚C in the winter and current heat pumps become less effective at these temperatures. The colder it gets, the more electricity the heat pump will need to compress the air and get heat to your home. In northern climates it's advisable to keep a backup option available for the coldest days such as a wood stove, or electric baseboard heaters to help with the heating your home when it's really cold.

4) Comfort

Generally a heat pump is quieter than a furnace and provides better air filtration. The air filters in heat pumps will vary depending on the type, but they are generally better than a furnace air filter, and can be washed instead of being replaced as disposable.

5) Future Cost

It's hard to predict the future, but most experts think that the cost of propane will go up faster than the cost of electricity, and oil may be even worse for costs. This is one of the leading factors for why many people are switching to heat pumps recently. Moving away from fossil fuel burning is also a major improvement to help fight climate change, who's future cost could be much higher than just utility bills.

Sunday, 30 April 2023

Net Zero by 2050?

What does it mean to be Net Zero by 2050?

On the scale of the world that would mean that humans would reduce their carbon emissions enough that the carbon absorption would equal carbon emissions.

Carbon Emissions - Carbon Absorption  = ZERO carbon change in the atmosphere

Some of the math related to this is very simple. If we hope to reduce our emissions to net-zero by 2050 then a basic strategy would be to reduce by (100% of surplus emissions / 27 years) about 4% a year. That's a big goal though. Calculations show that during the year 2020, global emissions went down by 5%. So the change that happened that year would be close to the new reductions that need to happen every year from here to 2050. It's a challenge, especially since the trend has been to increase for decades (see graph below, source.)

Clearly, many aspects of our lives and current technology need to change if we are going to reduce our emissions to net-zero in the next 27 years. It may be useful to refer back to this previous post about common sources of our emissions here in Canada to consider what will need to change.

But what will life be like in 2050 if we are indeed living a 'Net-Zero' lifestyle?

Life in 2050 - The Net-Zero Lifestyle

If a baby is born in 2023, what could life look like in 2050 for Net-Zero. For one thing there are a lot more trees!
Here are a few articles on the topic that the following ideas are drawn from:
Our homes will have to be powered by renewable energy, such as hydro, wind and solar, but Nuclear power may be still a common base production tool, unless fusion can be made feasible. That will mean most houses likely have solar panels on them, and perhaps some wind turbines.  Heating will be done by heat pumps which run off electricity to take heat form the outside air and bring them inside. These devices also can cool in the summer so no other air conditioning is needed. A redesign of construction is also needed as the steel and concrete industries are currently large carbon emitters.  Passive green design will likely be commonplace as well with options such as i) south facing windows for winter sun, ii) tile floors to absorb winter sun, iii) deciduous trees on the south side to block summer sun, and iv) evergreen trees on the northwest side to block winter wind.

There may be more radical design alterations as well. However, our current homes will need to become more efficient as well.

On Manitoulin, personal vehicles will likely be all electric and also self-driving. A network of regular 'taxis' will likely take people from town to town for work like a combination of Uber and a mass transit rail system. Transport trucks and airplanes may be powered by hydrogen to provide quick fill up and long distance ranges. Cities will have large bicycle lanes for what will likely one of the main forms of urban transport.

Circular Economy
One of the ways to keep our GHG emissions low is to produce less new items, and reuse and repair older items as much as possible. So the repair industry will be more important in 2050, with less 'disposable' products. A recent push is to have companies that produce products, also deal with the waste their product creates, so hopefully we will see more durable and long lasting products overall. 

How we eat and what we buy will also experience a transition. Methane is a powerful GHG and it is released by cows and other animals. Currently North Americans eat more meat than recommended, and to meat Net Zero targets we will likely be eating less meat. However, it would affect other foods and consumables as well. We would eat more local and likely try and use less energy in food preparation and preservation. The clothes we buy and what we do as hobbies might also change.  For example, we may use more hemp and organic fibres for clothes, rather than polyester.

Carbon Budgets
In order to maintain a net zero lifestyle we will be much more conscious of the choices we make. The government may implement a limit on how much driving you can do, possibly flexibly with carpooling or other factors. Imagine though that every person is allowed 10 tonnes of GHG emissions. What would you spend it on? Some people might choose rounds of golf, while others water skiing; some might choose playing a season of hockey while others might choose a vacation far away. There will likely some flexibility of choice, but restrictions overall. This is already seen in some countries with driving restrictions on every other day, or water restrictions working in a similar way.

Temperature Increase of 1.5˚C?
These days we talk not about stopping climate change, but climate change mitigation. That is, it's too late to stop it, but we can limit how bad it is, and begin to plan for the challenges. We are already almost guaranteed a global average increase of 1.5˚C, with a more likely forecast of 2 to 2.5˚C. But locally it's predicted to be closer to at least 3.8˚C.

Locally we're also predicted to lose about 30 'Frost Days' by 2050, or about 1 month of the length of our winter:

It's hard to predict what effect his might have on life on Manitoulin, but check out this post if you're interested on exploring this more. It could mean changes in species on the island, and maybe it will also mean more people moving to the island as our weather becomes similar to that in southern Ontario.

Tuesday, 11 April 2023

Earth Day 2023 Activities - April 22nd

Earth Day is around the corner and Billings has some fun green activities planned.

Garbage Clean Up

Manitoulin Streams helps coordinate an Island-Wide Spring Clean Up and we can join in as well. Just take out some bags and comb your neighbourhood for garbage and recycling. Any time is fine, but if you're interested, you can bring by your collection to the Park Centre on Earth Day, April 22nd, from 9:30-12:30 and we will help you weigh and sort it for proper disposal. Let's see how much we can collect and clean up our township together! You may want to bring a bag for plastic/can recycling, and one for garbage. Cardboard & Paper can be recycled as well, but if you found it in a ditch it's likely too wet.

So swing by on Saturday with your waste collected and say "Hi"!

NOTE: you can pick up garbage/recycling bags at the town office if you need them.

Circular Economy Activities

Reusing items that still have good life in them really helps reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions. It helps with that spring cleaning urge too! To join in on these activities and keep older items in circulation you have two options: 

NOTE: contact Tina Beckerton at the Township Office for both

  1. Join us at the Park Centre (10am-12pm): email the township to reserve a table for your goodies at our mega community yard sale
  2. Host your own Yard Sale (Saturday morning): Email your location and times to the township and we'll add your name to our Earth Day Sale list for everyone to know where to go! 
It's all free so contact Tina to get involved ASAP.  

Compost Demonstration

Exploring more options for composting around the township is also part of the CAC's plan for 2023. There will be a dehydrating composter on display - so bring down some compost to the event and you can add it to be processed. We'll also be interested in hearing about your own compost adventures or desires for the future.

Sunday, 26 March 2023

The Goals of the Climate Action Committee

NOTE: Below is a summary of the CEEP document. Check the township website for the full document.

In general, the committee is working towards helping the township of Billings, the municipality and to a lesser extent the general public, adjust their activities to reduce their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and prepare for the changes that climate change will bring.

This approach is best seen through our Terms of Reference (updated version link) and the Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP) that is our overall plan for years leading to 2030. 

Summary: The Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP)

The CEEP is a lengthy document created jointly with the assistance of this committee, township staff, consultation with community members, and specialized Climate Change Coordinators.  It's general mission statement is found on page 3:

Reducing Waste in Kagawong

As seen in the previous post, Canadians create more garbage per capita than any other country in the world. We are blessed with lots of ope...