Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region

Some criticism of sustainable technologies.

Sustainable technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal heating are just really starting to take off. The more these type of technologies are used and become popular, the more efficient they can become, allowing  different and new types of technology to emerge onto the marketplace.

There are criticisms of many of the systems and those who use them will surely tell you they are not without their flaws. Some of the first earthships created, for example, were designed in such a way that they produced excessive, unlivable amounts of heat. They had to be tweaked and perfected in such a way that would address the problems so that they could be livable. As a result, newer earthships are better designed and more comfortable to live in. They needed to be used, tested and tried to even discover what the real problems were to be able to even begin to address them.

Tree hugger

Renewable energy and sustainable technology is really only at its infancy. We are just beginning to realize the true potentials and possibilities that are out there. The best is yet to come.

One of the biggest problems I see with many of the renewable energy technologies (such as solar, geothermal and wind turbines) being truly sustainable is the resources that they require in batteries or heavily mined materials to manufacture them. All batteries require mined metals and minerals that are non-renewable and incredibly waste intensive. Many of the technologies are also incredibly waste intensive during their manufacture, distribution or at the end of their lifecycle, as they wind up in landfills leaching toxins into the garbage soup that may eventually find its way into our groundwater.

Sustainable means thinking about the entire lifecycle of a product, not just how much energy it will save during its usage. How much energy went into its manufacture? How much waste was created? How far did it travel? Where will it go when its done being useful? Will it wind up in a landfill, or can it be recycled? I always like to add to this, was it created/distributed/disposed in a manner respectful of all human rights, because to me, this is also part of being truly sustainable. If a product was manufactured using slave labour or disposed of in a way that will toxify other human beings– it is definitely not sustainable.

So what’s best to use? Which technologies are best? How should we live our lives in the most sustainable way?

There’s no magic answer. Mostly, because the way the world is set up right now, it’s next to impossible to really find out the full details of every product you are using, even if you wanted to. The average product makes at least 10 stops along the way before it ever reaches our stores and we throw it away when its finished its use with little regard for where it will truly end up. This is not being sustainable. There are many great technologies out there waiting to come out and many companies trying to be as fully sustainable as possible, but unfortunately they are being shrouded by all the greenwashing that’s out there.

It’s time to stop greenwashing, and instead really focus on being truly sustainable. This won’t happen overnight, and will take some trial and error. It will take companies looking into the entire lifecycle of their products and finding ways to reduce their impact overall, people wanting to be more conscious and governments strong enough to make responsible legislation.

If you find faulty “green” claims out there or cases of greenwashing- you can report them under the Competition Act.

Do you live in Kansas City, Missouri? Here’s a sustainable technology workshop for you!
August 13, 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I just received a request from a reader asking me to tell you about an upcoming workshop they are running, so here it is. Looks like a good one!

Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Vault Home – Immersion Workshop

When: End of September, 2009 – 5 or 10 day workshop options

Where: Factor e Farm, Kansas City Area, Missouri, USA

More information:

In this immersion workshop, you will be building a beautiful vault-roof structure with a living roof and solar design. We are using local soil and roof from this same soil, and aim to complete one structure. Learn the techniques for this building, and if you are curious, you have a rare chance to learn about building the brick press and tractor themselves. We are using equipment that we designed, built, and open-sourced. We are developing open source technology – because it’s good for the world. Do you want to live right but you are cash-poor? We are building the tools and techniques that can help you. Join us.

Marcin Jakubowski, Ph.D.
Open Source Ecology
opensourceecology at gmail dot com
Skype: marcin_ose

Community gardens in the Kitchener-Waterloo region

Community gardens have become much more popular over the past couple of years and are popping up throughout the city. Community gardens are a great way to encourage an urban community’s food security, allowing people to come together to grow their own food and plants. Those without access to their own land have a chance to be connected to land; to grow their own crops. Community gardens can be done on a cooperative basis, or a person can rent a plot within a garden to tend to themselves. Community gardens help diversify the city and provide green space to be enjoyed.

There are many different community gardens that one can be part of within the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Here is a list of some that have spaces available.

Community Gardens in Kitchener

Backyard Plots to Share Sponsored by: Opportunities Waterloo Region Garden location: Highland Rd. & Mill St. area Garden size: No. of plots: 1 Plot size: ~ 5′ x 15′ Cost per person: Services provided: Open to: For information contact: Maxine Tel. 519-747-7404

Chandler-Mowat Community Garden Sponsored by: Chandler Mowat Community Centre Garden location: Chandler Park Garden size: 300 sq/ft No. of plots: 15 Plot size: Not Available Cost per person: Call for information Services provided: Land, water, use of garden shed, participation in gardening events for families, and educational activities Open to: Residents of surrounding neighbourhood This garden is located in a high density residential neighbourhood and serves many new Canadians. The garden grew to its present size in May, 1999, with support from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, the City of Kitchener, and a partnership with the Chandler Mowat Community Centre. The City of Kitchener provided land in Chandler Park, the Home Depot donated a garden shed (2000), and Chandler Mowat Community Centre provides a free source of water. Garden activities include: garden opening and blessing, activities for children, picnics and meetings with gardeners. Upcoming events include: canning workshops, children’s programs, and a harvest celebration. For information contact: Tim and Kathy Elliott Chandler Mowat Community Centre 222 Chandler Drive Kitchener, ON N2E 3L7 Tel: 519-570-3610

City of Kitchener Allotment Garden Plots Sponsored by: The City of Kitchener Garden location: 1541 Fisher Hallman Road behind the Williamsburg Cemetery No. of Plots: 147 Plot size: 20′ x 20′; maximum 2 plots per family. Cost per season: $23.00 (including GST) Services provided: Land, tilling, fertilizing with compost, and water access Open to: Residents of the City of Kitchener This garden is located on land owned by the City of Kitchener. Plots are rented to gardeners each season. Gardeners may have the same plots every year. Gardeners are expected to plant by the end of May and keep plots free of weeds. For information contact: City of Kitchener 82 Chandler Drive, Kitchener ON N2E 1G6 Tel. 519-741-2557

Courtland-Shelley Community Garden Sponsored by: Courtland-Shelley Community Centre Garden location: Vanier Park Garden size: Not Available No. of plots: 20 Plot Size: 10′ x 10′ Cost per season: $ 10.00 Services provided: Land, garden tools, and water Open to: Residents of surrounding neighbourhood, primarily Courtland-Shelley townhouse residents This garden has real diversity with people from many different cultures. Learn about gardening and different cultural practices! For information contact: Doreen West-Gemmell Courtland-Shelley Community Centre 1064 Unit G Courtland E Kitchener, ON Tel. 519-571-7953 Fax 519-571-7591

Doon – Pioneer Park Community Garden Sponsored by: Doon-Pioneer Park Community Centre Garden location: 150 Pioneer Drive, Kitchener Garden size: Not Available No. of plots: 16 Plot size: Narrow pie shaped plot 22′ long Cost per season: $10.00 Services provided: City of Kitchener land, water tank, use of shed and tools Open to: Neighbourhood residents Doon Pioneer Park Community Garden offers 16 individual plots for organic food production. The garden was designed in the form of a wagon wheel with a medicine (herb) wheel in the centre to pay tribute to the native and pioneer heritage of the area. Flower gardens and some raspberry canes surround the fenced-in individual plots. A reclaimed barn-board shed holds tools and resource material for gardneres. Plots are planted individually, but the flower gardens and pathways are cared for communally. For information contact: Sandra Lachance Doon Neighbourhood Community Garden Tel. 519-748-4665

Eden’s Gate Community Garden Sponsored by: Seventhday Adventurist Church Garden location: 235 Williamsburg Rd., Kitchener Garden size: 90′ x 70′ No. of plots: 36 Cost per season: Call for information Services provided: Land, water, use of garden shed Open to: Residents of surrounding neighbourhood and church members This garden is located in the middle of a residential neighbourhood and it is its first year to open. The City of Kitchener has helped with working up the garden area and giving some compost and top soil. There will also be a plot to supply St. John’s Kitchener with food, herbs and flowers. The sponsors are looking forward to meeting new people and gaining more knowledge. Garden activities include: opening of the garden and blessing it, meeting with gardeners, and Harvest Festival. For information contact: Natasha Gould Tel. 519-568-9153

George Lippert Community Garden Sponsored by: Mount Hope/Breithaupt Park Neighbourhood Association Garden location: This garden is located in George Lippert Park on Weber Street in Kitchener, between Louisa Street, Ahrens Street and Wilhelm Street. Garden size: 1,000 sq. ft. No. of plots: 10 Plot size: 10′ x 10′ Cost per season: $10.00 Service/equipment provided: Land and water Open to: Anyone interested in organic gardening, but especially residents in surrounding neighbourhoods. This garden is an initiative of the Mount Hope/Breithaupt Park Neighbourhood Association. It started in May 2002 with the support of the City of Kitchener, and a grant from the Waterloo Region Community Garden Network to cover the start-up costs. It is open to anyone interested in growing their own vegetables, herbs, and flowers. For information contact: Ann Voisin Tel. 519-578-8638; available evenings

Green Rural Opportunities for Waterloo Region (GROW Herbal Gardens) Sponsored by: The Working Centre Garden location: This garden is located on Kraft Drive and is the second driveway off Bloomingdale Road in Kitchener Garden size: 1.5 acres No. of plots: Single collective plot Cost: None Services provided: Land, water, seeds, tools, compost, shed, greenhouse, and training in gardening skills development GROW Herbal Gardens is a non-profit project that provides mental health consumer survivors with a garden of therapy and enterprise, and with the training and skills necessary to maintain it. Volunteers of the GROW garden produce organically grown herbs and quality herbal products to sell to the larger community. For more information contact: The Working Centre Misha Gingerich Tel. 519-749-9177 ext. 238

KW Urban Harvester

Sponsored by: Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group
Garden location: Throughout KW
Garden size: Varies from plot to plot
No. of plots: 10 and growing
Plot size: Varies
Cost per season: Free, though donations are welcome
Services provided: Land, garden tools, and water
Open to: All residents of KW, or visitors who just want to help out for a short time

Urban Harvester was started in the spring of 2006 by WLU Grad Kyla Cotton. It is a project dedicated to turning our urban landscape into something that is beautiful, sustainable, and of course edible. It was restarted in Spring 2008 with a plan to begin growing organic crops in any piece of urban soil we can legally use. We want to turn useless lawns and forgotten gardens in the Waterloo Region into bountiful sources of life and nutrition.

For information contact:

Community Gardens in Waterloo

Beaver Creek Housing Co-op Community Garden Sponsored by: Beaver Creek Housing Co-op Garden location: Beaver Creek Housing Co-op Garden size: not available No. of plots: 20 plots for Beaver Creek Members Plot size: 5′ x 20′ (varies) Cost per season: none Services provided: land and water Open to: residents of the Housing Co-op This garden is a totally green, natural, and pesticide-free garden. Since 1983, this garden has been maintained in the co-operative spirit. The participants ensure their gardening practices have minimal impact on the environment. Gardeners grow perennials and vegetables using water efficient gardening methods and no pesticides. For information contact: Kathy Middleton Beaver Creek Housing Co-op 590 Bearinger Road, Unit #7B, Waterloo, ON N2L 6C4 Tel. 519-886-1081

Brighton Yards Co-operative Housing Community Garden Sponsored by: Brighton Yards Housing Co-op Garden location: Brighton Yards Housing Co-op Garden size: Not Available No.of plots: 10 Plot size: 10′ x 10′ Cost per season: None Services provided Land and water Open to Plots are only available to residents of the Housing Co-op. This garden was started in May 1997 with the purpose of giving co-op members the opportunity to grow food, create a beautiful and social space, and contribute to the co-operative spirit of the housing co-op. For information contact: Brighton Yards Housing Co-operative Tel. 519-886-9242

Christ Lutheran Community Garden Sponsored by: Christ Lutheran Church Garden location: Next to the church, 445 Anndale, Waterloo Garden size: Not Available No. of plots: 35 – some raised bed plots Plot size: Not Available Cost per person: $10.00 Services provided: Land and water Open to: Surrounding neighbours A great garden with lots of sunshine! Location is very accessible with great diversity in gardeners – friendly people with a wealth of garden information. This garden was established in May 1999 with support from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, a Waterloo Region 25th Anniversary Community Grant, and the City of Waterloo (land preparation and water hook-up). Gardeners include members of the Church, Food Bank garden referrals, and neighbours. For information contact: Christ Lutheran Church Jeanette Nelson or Shirley Freeman 445 Anndale, Waterloo Tel. 519-885-4050

Lutherwood Garden Club Father David Baur Drive 519-884-8485

McDougall Road Garden Sponsored by: Private Citizen Garden location: 52 McDougall Road, Waterloo Garden size: 70′ x 30′ No. of plots: 9 plots Plot size: 5′ x 28′ Cost per person: $20/yr (mainly to pay for water) Services provided: Compost, wood chips and delivery charges paid by owner Open to: 14 gardeners – some gardeners share plots For information contact: Andrew Copp Tel. 519-725-2993

The Good Earth Garden Call after April 4, 2008. Sponsored by: St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Garden location: Behind St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Garden size: Not Available No. of plots: 90 Plot size: 10′ x 12′ – some gardeners may have two plots Cost per season: $10.00 Services provided: This garden has its own garden tools and shed Open to: Neighbourhood residents A lovely organic garden with an old fashion water pump. The garden is nestled beside a grand shade tree an has both sun and shade. Gardeners can relax at the picnic table on the side. This peaceful garden was started in May 1999 by local residents, the church and the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. The City of Waterloo helped to prepare the land. For information contact: James Graham St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church 22 Willow Street Waterloo, ON N2J 1V5 Tel. 519-888-0561

The University of Waterloo Community Garden Sponsored by: Land donated for use by the University of Waterloo, Waterloo Environmental Studies Endowment Fund
Garden located: University of Waterloo; North of Westmount North past Columbia Lake
Garden size: Not Available
No. of plots: 10
Plot size:
10′ x 10′
Cost per season: None
Services provided: Land and water
Open to:
Members of the UW Community

Two garden styles exist. One garden is run with individual garden plots with shared tasks; while the other garden operates as one large communal garden where members garden together.

For information about individual garden plots contact:
Jason Rochon
University of Waterloo
Tel. 519-888-4567 ex.t

For information about the communal garden contact:
Candace Wormsbecker
Tel. 519-886-4185 Veghouse Community Garden 55 Euclid Aven

Community Gardens in Cambridge

Christopher Champlain Cultivating Community Garden (CCCG)Sponsored by: Christopher Champlain Community Centre Garden Location: Percy Hill (where McDonald meets Champlain behind 125 Champlain Blvd) No. of plots: 10 Plot Size: 5′ x 20′ (negotiable) Cost per family: $5.00 Services provided: Resources, water, and initial roto-tilling Open to: The Public These garden plots are new, tilled with fresh soil in the spring of 2008. Although CCCG is still in its birthing stage, native plants have been planted to keep it true to the area. It is planned to have benches available by the end of the season allowing for residents, young and old, to walk and enjoy the progress of this garden. Planting with CCCG allowed many residents to come out mingle with each other and produce some wonderful fresh vegetables for those summer meals. Look for future information on canning, preserving etc… For information contact: Lisa Koop Tel: 519-624-3855 ext 227 or Paula Johnstone 519-740-8565

The UW School of Architecture Community Gardens
Sponsored by: Land donated for use by the City of Cambridge
Garden location: Directly south of School of Architecture building, beside the Grand River
Garden size: Triangular plot of land, approximately 1250 sq ft
No. of plots: One – the garden is communal
Cost per season: None
Services provided: Land and water
Open to: Students of the School of Architecture, and any interested community membersThis garden was initially designed and implemented in 2007 through a graduate course at the School of Architecture. Open to both the school and the surrounding community, the garden has become a successful public space where members of the school and community alike come together to share and learn. The garden currently has several beds of perennial flowers, herbs and some fruit, while the majority of plots are left open for annual edible plantings every year. The garden is currently run communally, however if members of the school and/or outside community are interested, plots could also be gardened individually. The project is still in its early stages and any support is appreciated. All gardeners, donations and wisdom are welcome!

For information contact:
Natalie Jackson
Tel. 519-312-8600

Melodie Coneybeare
Tel. 519-505-3074

Waterloo Regional Police Garden Allotment Program
176 Hespeler Road

Tel. 519-653-7700 ext. 2299

Community Gardens in Other Parts of the Region

Diversity Gardens Location: This garden in located on Notre Dame Drive, between Petersburg and St. Agatha along a Hydro Services Corridor. Garden Size: 2 acres Number of plots: Not applicable Open: Diversity Gardens is open for self guided tours and workshops from the middle of May to the middle of October Cost: Some workshops have a small cost. Other events are free. Upcoming events are posted at: Diversity Gardens is a project of the Canadian Organic Growers – a national charity promoting organic growing. The gardens provide hands on training in growing ornamentals, vegetables, fruits, and herbs using orgnic techniques. Located along one of the Region’s environmentally sensitive planning areas (the St. Agatha forest), the garden provides an ideal place to demonstrate the inter-relationships between food and the environment. The site has a series of demonstration gardens, greenhouse, native shrub border, and an outdoor workshop area. On workshop days and when volunteers are at the garden there is access to a demonstration kitchen, a wild crafting studio and washroom facilities. For information contact: Krista Long

For general information about Community Gardens, please contact: Carol Popovic Tel. 519-883-2004 ext. 5336

Do you want to view homes and businesses utilizing sustainable and renewable energy technologies and have all your questions answered?

Hello all!

I will be running a tour of homes and businesses in the K-W region that are currently utilizing sustainable or renewable energy technologies in collaboration with University of Waterloo’s Sustainable Technology Education Project (STEP) so that you can learn about these technologies from those who use them every single day!

The tour will be absolutely FREE and everyone is welcome!

Included in the tour will be solar technologies, geothermal technologies, wind turbines, green roofs, heat recovery systems, straw bale construction and grey water systems, as well as some local community gardens. See how the technologies work and ask all your questions directly to the home or business owners who use them.

You can take the tour with your own transportation, or join a group and tour with others who will be taking the bus, walking, riding bicycles, or using rollerblades and skateboards to get from site to site!

The tour will be running Sunday September 20th starting at 10am.

If you would like to join the upcoming tour or want more details please contact me at or directly at 519-591-4299.

If you own a home or business that is using sustainable or renewable energy technologies and would like to be part of the tour, please let me know about it!

Hope to see you there!

Please be sure to add yourself to the facebook events page!

July keeps the pace. The market is still going strong!

The market is going strong, with the unit sales and average sale price for homes sold in July 2009 being the second highest ever recorded for the Kitchener-Waterloo region. The 2008 housing peak, broken by recession fears, appears to be normalizing on an higher slope than the pre-2008 levels.

There were 522 unit sales last month in the K-W, with an average sale price of $274,895.  A total of 486 residential units sold in July; 314 of which were single family detached homes. The average sale price for single family detached homes was $316,436. Of the other residential properties sold, there were 38 semi-detached properties (average sale price $210,050), 33 freehold properties (average sale price $227,324), 97 condo units (average sale price $178,773), 1 co-operative unit (sale price $62,000), and 3 link homes (average sale price $202,500). 12 multi family units were sold,  1 non-residential land unit sold, and 23 commercial properties sold.

Of the 486 units sold, 452 were resale homes and 34 were new homes.

The majority of home sold in July were in the $200,000 to $299,999 range (233 out of the 486 sales). There were 96 sales in the $100,000 to $199,999 price range and 12 homes in the under $99,999 price range. 89 (of 486) homes sold in the $300,000 to $399,999 price range. 35 homes sold in the $400,000 to $499,999 price range. 17 homes sold in the $500,000 to $749,999 price range. 3 homes sold in the $750,000 to $999,999 price range, with one home over a $1 million sold.

Kitchener west of King Street once again had the highest number of sales with 203 units sold, followed by Waterloo west of King Street with 131 units sold. Waterloo east of King Street had 73 sales and Kitchener east of King Street had 79 sales.

The total volume of sales in Kitchener-Waterloo region in July was worth $143,495,025, the majority of that ($133,095,923) in residential sales.

There were 789 new listing processed in July, 667 of those in residential units and 91 commercial units. A total of 1,862 units remain active in the Kitchener-Waterloo region and are just awaiting the proper buyer. Now’s your chance to find the perfect property for you! Ask me if you’d like to start viewing some properties today ( or Direct at 519-591-4299!)