Tag Archives: green

What's In Your Toilet?

In most Canadian cities we could drink out of our toilets. Doesn’t sound too appealing, but we could if the toilet bowl had been thoroughly sanitized.  The same water that comes out of our taps is used to flush our toilets. In a world of increasingly scarce fresh water does this make even an ounce of sense?

I remember the first time I was told there is no new water. All the water on Earth is the same water that was here since the earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago. This seemed impossible to believe. Water is always shape shifting: ice bergs, snow, hail, rain, rivers, lakes, oceans, glaciers, fog, mist, frost, ground water, tap water. But it is always the same water!  The same water has been cycling for 4.6 billion years.  But it is not in the same condition it was even fifty years ago. In Canada at any given time, there are usually 1000 boil water advisories in effect. Safe drinking water is essential to life and we are using it to flush our toilets!

There is an alternative. It is called grey water recycling. Grey water is defined as wastewater generated from sinks, showers and baths, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as toilet flushing, landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands. Grey water often includes discharge from laundry, dishwashers and kitchen sinks.  In July 2012, Bruce Nagy wrote the following in Plumbing and HVAC, The Voice of Canada’s Mechanical Industry.

It is probably wise to be skeptical about the next big thing. But sometimes it is just common sense; like the coming move toward more grey water recycling, especially in cities……… Whichever systems are used, there should be plenty of commercial and residential grey water and rainwater business available to contractors in the coming years. One could even say it’s the next big thing!

The Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Regina uses a grey water recycling system that is part of the research work of Dr. Stephanie Young. With the guidance of Dr. Young, the  design for Prairie Spruce Commons includes plumbing infrastructure for grey water recycling.  We plan to work with the City of Regina to seek approval to be a multi-residence grey water research site.

Our Prairie Spruce Commons Community is excited and eager to be a leader in environmental innovation in Regina. Are you the type of person that is passionate about sustainability issues and wants to be part of the solution? If so, we’re looking for more early adopters to join us on the quest to Green Regina.

Brenda

Celebrating Environmental Innovation – on Vacation!

During a recent holiday, we had the opportunity to stay at Hotel M in St.-Hyacinthe, Québec.   The hotel claims to be the first LEED certified hotel in Canada, and there are many excellent features to support that claim.  First of all, every room has a wall plaque mounted near the door explaining the significance of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.  The guest rooms have hardwood floors.  The bathrooms have cork tiles and flooring.   The linens are all natural fibres.  At check-in, guests are advised that their room card must be inserted in a wall holder to operate the thermostat; the heating and cooling system does not run constantly. 

You might wonder if noise between floors would be an irritant.  We occasionally heard a footstep or shuffle on the floor above us, but the sounds were muffled and not intrusive.  Because the hotel is near a major highway, rooms are equipped with a white noise machine that offers ocean waves, song birds, gentle rainfall, and more.

We began to notice other features.  The building envelope has been designed with care.   The breakfast room not only offers ample recycling, but also leans towards reusable dishes and cutlery. Further travels showed us these standards are not the norm throughout North America! 

There was a touch of humour to our stay as well.  The hotel did not provide written instructions for use of the electronically-controlled thermostat.  It turned out that the control also had a timer to set the lights in the room.  In our enthusiasm, we set that timer and, one by one, every light on the headboard turned on in rotation throughout the night – at 12:30 a.m., 1:30 a.m., 2:30 a.m., and 3:30 a.m. 

Back from our trip, we were so excited to read through the Prairie Spruce Green Features Summary. We’re definitely proud to be part of the movement towards greener, more sustainable homes and lifestyles.

Ann

12+ Years of Profit from the Sun

When I was young I loved the sun. It gave me summers to ride my bike and an excuse for ice cream. These days I have a love/hate relationship to the sun. I love the sun for the warmth and light it brings, but hate it for the skin cancer it can cause. I slather on lotion to protect myself from the harmful UV that it bathes us in. I love it for the summer but am bitter with it for disappearing for the winter. I love it for the energy that it has given us, for the plants that grew and died and gave us oil and natural gas. I love it for the wind that it creates by heating some parts of the earth more then others. I love it when I look at a green pepper or a red tomato.

Lately, I have found a new reason to love the sun, the electricity it can create for us. I am talking about photovoltaic solar panels. These wonderful devices create electricity that I can use. They are simple to install, have long life spans and short payback periods. In looking for the panels that will adorn Prairie Spruce Commons soon, I have examined the cost and feasibility of installing 40 solar panels on the roof and getting them net metered. The panels have a life expectancy of 25 years. That is, the panels that begin making use of 97% of the suns power have steadily declined until at 25 years they are only producing 80% and are thus considered at the end of life. This does not mean that they fail after 25 years, just that they have lost efficiency. The current cost of panels and electricity lead me to calculate a payback period of 13 years! And this is a conservative estimate since I haven’t factored in any escalation in cost of electricity. In other words, the ~13000 KWH that those 40 panels produce will save enough from our power bill that in under 13 years they are totally paid for. After that they will continue to produce power and save me money into the future. At some point I might want to replace the old panels with newer ones with peak efficiency but if I don’t the old ones will continue to produce power into the foreseeable future. The best part, is the fact that once installed they will work with a minimum of maintenance. A quick rinse and squeegee to clear off dust and bird poop on a regular basis and you have free energy.

The solar panels produce electricity and the power gets sent out to the grid while your meter turns backwards. You use electricity as you normally would, though much more sparingly as you conserve power knowing what is involved in creating it. At the end of the year your meter is checked and if you have used more then you have produced you pay for the extra power you purchased. If you produce more then you use, good for you, but you won’t get a cheque for your extra power, this is not a power producing arrangement. That is possible but requires different equipment and agreements with the power company.

Saving money through the use of solar panels is nice.
The feeling of well-being knowing you are doing good for the environment, priceless!

Henning

Waking Up to the Possibilities

It is amazing how much I don’t notice in my surroundings. I have been to Nature’s Best Market hundreds of times but I never realized the smoothie bar utilizes solar power. At the west end of the smoothie bar there is a beautiful wall installation showing the solar input and what it is powering.

Laurie Gillies, co-owner of Nature’s Best and member of Prairie Spruce Commons, provided our community a tour of the installation. The silver-outlets are solely solar powered (the red arrow in the photo is pointing to a solar outlet). The blenders are used for hours each day so utilizing energy from the sun rather than from a coal fire generating plant provides the benefit of a delicious, nutritious smoothie, and leaves the oxygen in the air for us to breathe.

The solar radiation map for Canada makes it obvious that we have an abundance of sun in southern Saskatchewan. At Prairie Spruce we are committing to building and living in a green building that reduces energy consumption through high-efficiency fibreglass frame windows, increasing the insulation value in walls and ceilings, utilizing solar power, and using in-floor heating and cooling. Somehow, getting up close and personal with the solar installation at Nature’s Best has made what we are creating at Prairie Spruce more real to me and even more desirable.

If you want to know more about the energy consumption in your current home, you can click this link to find out the energy demands of many household appliances.

Brenda

 

Life Beyond Bigfoot

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Prairie Spruce Commons is committed to reducing our environmental footprint. Part of this commitment includes designing our building to use complementary power sources like solar power, but what does this really mean? Thanks to an information session with Ken Compton, local solar and wind energy expert, we are gaining more of an understanding of our options.

Life Beyond Bigfoot : Solar & Net-Metering

It is our intention to build so we are ready for future installation of solar voltaic panels. The panels have a 25 year life expectancy (production > 80%). We intend to produce power under Saskpower’s net-metering program.

Suncatcher Solar provides the following information about solar power output in Saskatchewan:

The amount of electricity you can produce depends on the size of the solar array and the amount of sunshine you receive in your area. For example, a solar power system with a 4.8 kW array (20 solar panels @ 240 Watts each) will produce an average of about 700 kWh per month in central Saskatchewan, Canada.  You can find out how much electricity you need by looking at your current power bills.

Why we will use complementary power sources:

  • Reducing our cost of living: S ask Power has applied for an annual rate increase of 5% for the next two years.
  • When possible, generating power for sale:  The Sask Power Net Metering Program makes this possible.
  • Reducing our CO2 production and elevating our province’s energy status: Saskatchewan generates almost 75% of our electricity from coal fired electric plants and is currently Canada’s worst polluter per capita.