Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region

Visions of integrative-sustainable housing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been dreaming of building my own earthship on a large acreage (enough for a woodlot, orchard and gardens)  for many years now. I think about this all the time and hopefully someday in the no-so-distant future it will become a reality. I love growing vegetables/gardening, and definitely love the idea of living in a home that can provide me with self-sustaining renewable supplies of food, energy and water.

Integrative Sustainable city

I also have dreams of a more integrative city in the future. A city where green spaces collide with living spaces and buildings can “live” on their own. Buildings that can collect and store energy, collect and clean water, and even grow food for their occupants, not to mention help clean the air.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe climate change is “hype”– these types of building and designs make sense in many other ways. In a world where security is an issue and people are told to create “emergency preparedness kits” for their homes, it makes good sense to not have to rely on a grid that could be possibly unreliable. It also saves money, create oxygen and creates a more natural looking setting.

It makes good sense to have a way to feed cities within the cities. This ensures that in case of emergency there are still food sources available to the population. It’s also much, much cheaper to grow your own produce from seeds than buying it and it tastes so much better because it hasn’t ripened on a truck or sat in storage at some facility before being shipped. There are even services out there now in some cities that you can hire to come and tend your vegetable garden for you if you don’t want to grow them yourself. They can be grown on roofs, sidewalks, and any space big enough to hold a pot. The spaces on roofs and boulevards can also be rented out to others for them to grow produce or flowers.

city gardening

It makes good sense to have energy available on a renewable individual basis without having to be attached to some massive grid. Again it’s cheaper– much, much, much cheaper. Installation costs can be returned on utility savings in short periods of time and if you are collecting enough energy, you never pay for utility costs again. You only have to worry about maintenance and replacing the systems every 15-25 years. Again– in the case of emergency– you still have power. Makes sense.

reed bed waste treatment

It makes good sense to have a way to clean and collect water. We all need water to live, and we use a LOT of it. There are many creative ways to reduce, collect, treat and clean water that have been converted to home use and could be done on a much larger scale. Reed bed waste water systems,  for example, have very low operational costs compared to other types of waste treatment options because they use gravity for the main pumping instead of coal-burning fuel. They also look better from the outside, because instead of a massive treatment facility spewing out sludge there is only a space full of plants (creating more green space).

green roof

The city I imagine uses space wisely– more efficiently and thoughtfully. It integrates and maximizes spaces like the roofs and walls of buildings in innovative ways. It diversifies the usages of the land– combining retail space with business space, with residential space, with farm space, with industrial space, with recreational space, and making them all work together, reducing the need to travel for daily activities.

green wall

These types of initiatives are starting to happen all around us. The more we invest and use these types of systems– the better they will become. Ontario has started to implement Smart Growth policies in an attempt to redevelop the land to help prevent urban sprawl.

sustainable city growth

So let’s start creating energy, creating useful space and creating clean air instead of using energy, destroying useful space and polluting the air. It just makes sense!


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.

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

Ways to save water around your home.
March 9, 2009, 8:39 pm
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent, Sustainability | Tags: , , ,

Canadians waste a lot of water. Each person here uses on average 329 litres of water per day, more than twice as much as the average person living in France and significantly more than those in less developed nations. Canada has an abundance of freshwater, with 7% of the world’s supply of total renewable water flow and 25% of the world’s supply of wetlands. It has the largest per capita supply of freshwater amongst industrialized nations. Despite this supply, many Canadian municipalities have reported water shortages because of socio-demographic pressures. 85% of the population lives within 300km of the American border, yet 60% of the water flows towards the less populated north. Our current water usage is not sustainable, and is taking incredible amounts of taxpayer money to clean and purify at over $4.5 billion per year. We need to find ways to cut our water wastes.

Canadians spend approximately 35% of their water usage showering and bathing and about 30% flushing toilets. A typical low flow shower head uses about 10 litres of water per minute (10 minute shower=100 litres).  A typical basic bathrub will hold around 150 litres of water, soaker or larger tubs much more (up to 500 litres or more). Building codes have required 6 litre/flush toilets since 1996, but older toilets can use as much as 20 litres per flush and the average person flushes 7 times a day.

These amounts can be reduced with simple measures, like switching to low-flow toilets and shower heads and fixing leaks as soon as they happen. One drop per second from a leaky tap wastes about 10,000 litres of water per year. Shortening shower time can also drastically reduce water usage.

Using a grey-water system in the home, a more expensive solution, can reduce home water usage by 35-40% annually. This system recycles water that has been used in your shower or kitchens and uses it for toilet flushing and irrigation purposes. Basically, it allows you to reuse the water from your shower in your toilet, drastically saving your water usage. Check out, a Cambridge company for more details or to have your home assessed for waste reduction.

Canadians water their lawns on average 1.5 times a week in the summer months, often using hose water coming from their municipality. This water could come from the sky, by using rain barrels or rain water tanks to collect and store rainwater. Many designs are available and can suit most outdoor household needs.

Dishwashers use approximately 57 litres of water per load, EnergyStar appliances typically use much less water and energy. Only run the dishwasher when full to save water. Clothes washers use on average 150 litres of water per load, with EnergyStar or front loading appliances using significantly less water and energy.

When renovating your home or upgrading appliances, consider switching to EnergyStar or low flow options. How much do you spend on your water bill? How much can changing your daily living affect this? Small changes can make drastic differences. If you need advice on where to start, just ask me!

What is geothermal heating and cooling?

Heating and cooling of indoor space is one of the biggest energy wasters in our homes and businesses. What if we could let the earth do this naturally for us, reducing our heating and cooling costs by as much as 50-70%?

A geothermal heat pump moves heat into or away from the earth through a ground loop system (a system of pipes that run deep into the ground). It quietly and comfortably controls the temperature in the home, providing more consistent heat that stays on longer and changes the temperature more gradually. It also has the capability to heat water in your home in place of a traditional water heater. In the summer, the system works as a cooling system with no need for a separate air conditioning system.

The geothermal heating system is made up of 3 main components:  the ground loop system, the heat pump furnace unit, and the distribution system. The ground loop is a system of polyethylene pipes which extract heat from soil beneath the frost line deep into the earth. In the cooling mode, the pipes return heat to the earth. The heat pump furnace unit moves heat from one place to another, and the distribution system channels it around your home through duct work and vents.

A geothermal system starts at about $20,000. With federal and provincial incentives and rebates, you can receive about $7,000 back on your system ($3,500 under federal rebate, matched in Ontario), provincial sales tax can also be waived, resulting in a further savings. Ontario also has programs for those who qualify for between $8,000 and $9,000 in possible rebates. See below for links to rebate programs.

Geothermal heating and cooling is best for new home construction or in rural areas since these present the fewest construction barriers when installing the system. Low levels of electricity are required to move the heat about, but electricity is not required to create the energy. There is no combustion taking place, therefore there is no need for a chimney or flue and there are no combustion hazards or concern for carbon monoxide gases.

Since the entire system is either indoors or below ground there is little potential for vandalism or destruction from weathering that can occur with other cooling systems. Other than at installation, noise from the system is minimal.

The initial costs are about two times as high as normal heating systems, but when you consider that the system is also responsible for cooling, the costs don’t seem nearly as high. Payback for the system can occur from savings in only 2-7 years, depending on which fuel/or system you are trading from. Most systems come with 10 year warranties, but can last much longer (20-30 years). The pumps have an average life span of about 20 years. The earth energy pipes are typically warranted for 25 years, but have a useful life of 50 years if maintained and installed properly and depending on local conditions. The best time to think about geothermal heating or cooling is when it is time to replace your old furnace. With rebates and incentives, the cost is not significantly higher than traditional systems and can result in great overall savings.

There are some concerns over the use of geothermal energies. These systems are different than the air to air heat pumps that were installed in the 1950s and 60s. They have become much more efficient and environmentally sound, and the more they are installed and used, the more options will start to come out and the cheaper they will become.

There are environmental impacts to consider when heat mining (which is what geothermal essentially is doing) and an environmental impact assessment (EIA)should be done in advance of any development to make sure the ground is suitable for this type of extraction. You are getting heat from deep aquifers in the ground, and in this process certain minor emissions of gases from the earth are possible. Geothermal heating is said to produce approximately 79 g/kWh of CO2 when the electricity is generated.  Compared to the 955 g/kWh of CO2 emitted from coal generated electricity, this is significantly less.

There is also the possibility of waste water pollution if the waste water is not treated properly. Solid wastes of calcite and silica are also possible to deposit in the pipes as travertine and siliceous sinter build up. These can cause blocking of pipes and boreholes and reduce the permeability of aquifers being developed. The environmental impact assessment should detail ways to help reduce these negative impacts. If done properly, the system should be significantly less wasteful and environmentally impacting than traditional systems.

Geothermal heating and cooling is not for everyone, but for new home construction or rural properties it can make a lot of sense. It is best when used in combination with other renewable energy systems so that the electricity needed to move the heat can be created renewably and so the environmental impact is less and the home is more self sustainable.

How geothermal works:

Check out to find an Ontario installer.

ecoEnergy rebates:

Ontario rebates:

Ontario power authority (rebate of up to $550):

Cambridge Hydro (rebate of up to $1,500), call them directly at (519) 744-9799 to find more details.

If you would like more details on rebates and incentives, please talk to me.


How sustainable is the K-W region?

How sustainable is the Kitchener-Waterloo region? Well, according to the 2007 Corporate Knights report on sustainable cities, Kitchener ranked the 4th overall most sustainable city in Canada and 1st on the water and waste index with the relatively low water consumption of 390 litres/person/day in 2007. While we topped the 2007 list, we dropped out of ranking in 2008 and 2009. So what happened? This report focuses on more than just ecological issues, and also looks to economic security, governance and empowerment, infrastructure and social well-being.

So where are we failing? Kitchener-Waterloo region is reported to have air pollution levels as high as or higher than large cities like Hamilton and Toronto who have much greater populations. Kitchener currently has the worst air quality scores for ground-level ozone. This is fueled partly by the lack of anti-idling by-laws, polluting corporations and individuals and heavily by the coal plants in the Ohio Valley which contribute over half of the pollutant load in the K-W region according to reports. We are being heavily affected by coal plants hundreds of miles away in the US. This is just one of many reasons why developing more alternative energy is so important and why we all have to work together. We are affected by, and affect more than just our immediate neighbours. Carbon dioxide from retail fuel in the region has jumped 0.2 tonnes per capita in the past year alone, only adding to the air pollution concerns.

We are taking steps to improve public transit with over 13% of the Kitchener fleet now using alternative fuels. With housing starts primarily happening in transit-unfriendly single family or duplex units (just less than 2/3 of the housing stock), and few incentives to use the transit lines, this switch is having only minimal affect. We received a D overall in the Green Apple SMART Transportation Ranking in the past two years.

The region is taking some steps. Residential building starts were 17% more dense in 2008 than in 2007. The Region of Waterloo has also started a growth management strategy to help ensure that density is encouraged, but these steps alone are not enough. We must make a more concerted effort to be sustainable.

The Kitchener-Waterloo region is not new to sustainable technology. We are home to Arise Tech, a major solar technology company ( and one of the best urban planning schools in the country (University of Waterloo). We also have energy auditing service grants available for low-income homes (, and several sustainable building housing projects to use as examples such as the KW YMCA (, the little city farm (, the REEP homes (, and several other initiatives.

Are we in position to be more efficient overall here in the K-W? Absolutely. So let’s take advantage of what’s available and make an effort to be more sustainable.

Remember though, of overarching importance to sustainability in the region (and the earth)  is the human lifestyle factor. Wasteful human lifestyle (being water usage, energy usage, waste, etc.) is something you can change. Make an effort to just use less. Conserve water and energy. Make baby steps  to be more sustainable. One thing at a time.

Renewable energy in housing

Most of our energy comes from non-renewable resources such as coal, oil, natural gas or radioactive elements. Once removed from the ground and used, these energy sources can take up to millions of years to reform. At the rate we are going, most of the resource deposits in the earth will be completely used up in less than 200 years (and maybe faster).

Renewable energy replaces itself quickly and can come from the natural flow of sunlight, wind or water. We need to spend more time and energy developing ways to harness these natural energies and to do so using sustainable resources. There are actually relatively cheap and easy ways to build yourself energy collecting devices You can check out for some ideas to get you started. They can also be installed or retrofitted into your home so that you can create as much energy as you use and be more sustainable. This can result in great energy and money savings!

Did you know that Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and National Research Council Canada have been working together to export innovations in energy efficient housing (

We do have the research abilities here in Canada. In fact, we even have a Canadian Centre for Housing Technology to help test it out for us ( Many of these energy-efficient houses look just like any other suburban or city area from the outside. They have been working on these projects for over a decade, why are they not yet reaching the market?

Consumer choice and lifestyle will have a huge impact on the housing market and it’s progression. Look into other energy options. You might find out that an intitial investment will actually save you in the long run. You might even be able to help fund it through governments grants and incentives.

If you want more details, please ask me.