Escape the Ordinary – Earthships

Outer space – the expanse that exists beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Though it may seem like an empty void, space is the abode within which all things exist. One thing it has taught us is that life has no limits when it comes to creativity. The International Space Station sends space shuttles into space for exploration purposes for long periods of time. These vessels house astronauts from around the globe and consistently demonstrate sustainable initiatives during voyages, due to limited resources over a long period of time. Ever wonder what it would be like to live like an astronaut down here on Earth? Introducing – Earthships!

US architect and founder of Earthship Biotecture, Michael Reynolds, demonstrated his outward thinking in the 1980’s by creating a building concept that is 100% sustainable and environmentally friendly. The Earthship has a unique U-shaped design that has the ability to utilize local resources. These off the grid, passive-solar houses are self-sustaining and require no outside resources such as water, electricity, or gas (Day Creek, 2014). Earthships are built out of natural and recyclable materials. The core of the home is made out of earth packed tires, glass bottles, and tin cans. The home design is coined the “stack-effect” and uses natural ventilation to keep internal temperatures regulated while temperatures fluctuate outdoors. While the Earthship is in use, leftover gray water is used to operate the plumbing within the home. The sewage is used for indoor food production and outdoor in treatment cells for landscaping (CNN, 2015).

Earthships allow homeowners to reduce their carbon footprints and close consumerism loops by simply using a unique approach compared to other structures around the world.  Being in the waste diversion sector, Loraas prides individuals on “thinking out of this world”. Here are four reasons why we think Earthships are an interesting choice for the future:

  1. They are energy efficient. Earthships create thermal mass naturally due to their design. They have the ability to cool and heat the home during all seasons.
  2. Earthships are self-sustainable. These homes are designed to take advantage of local natural resources. Passive solar radiation is collected via the  Earthship’s U-shaped design and orientation and used to heat water and grow food. Rainwater is collected in underground cisterns.
  3. They have simplistic architecture. The unique design of the Earthships makes them simple and easy to build. They are labour intensive, however, only the basic carpentry, plumbing, and electric skills are required.
  4. They use simple building materials. Earthships use a large variety of natural and recyclable materials. For the most part, these homes use building materials most other companies see as waste products that would otherwise end up in the landfill. For example not only are tires easy to get, some places will pay you to take them away!

Want to learn more about Earthships? Curious if there are any in Canada? Visit Michael’s company website Earthship Global at Earthship Biotecture for the latest news about Earthships around the world, view more amazing photographs from the website, and more!

 

 

 

Sources

CNN. 2015. Earthships, New Mexico: The sustainable, cozy homes made with old junk. Accessed on: 23 April 2018. 

Day Creek. 2014. Earth Ships. Accessed on: 23 April 2018. 


Happy Earth Day!

Celebrate this wonderful green, life-giving planet we have by doing something nice for her. Mars isn’t ready to colonize yet, so let’s keep Earth clean!

  1. Pick a simple earth-friendly energy efficient change for your home
    • Shut off the lights for as long as you can (hurray free sunlight!).
    • Unplug devices when not in use.
    • Swap your old light bulbs for LED bulbs (and recycle them properly using this website!).
    • Seal up holes/cracks around your house. Install low-flow plumbing fixtures.
    These are things you can do all-year-long to make a difference. I always unplug power bars and anything else that can be unplugged when I go away for the weekend or for holidays. When something is plugged in it is still using electricity, even if it is off/not in use.
  2. Pare back your collections
    Declutter, declutter, declutter! Get on your spring cleaning now. Read those books and won’t read them again? Have some clothes that are too small or just not your style anymore? Don’t ever use that decorative basket anymore and just don’t know where to put it? Can’t stand that painting that was gifted by your great aunt? Donate all your unwanted treasures to a thrift shop, sell them online, or swap with your friends. Please remember, don’t throw those items in the recycle cart or your waste bin.
  3. Find a good home for hard-to-donate items
    Got a stash of leftover yarn? Chop them up into 2-inch pieces and leave them outside for the birds to start building their nests with, or, find a seniors center that will gladly take donations for their residents. Have some unneeded building materials and furniture? Your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore will take those! Have some unused or hotel-sized bottles of personal care products? Homeless and women’s shelters will accept unopened items.
  4. Start planning your spring home changes
    We’re ALL getting itchy for spring…well…summer, around here. But there’s lots of planning you can start on already! Planning on painting? Look for ozone-friendly low VOC paints, and start picking your colours. Planning a bigger reno? If you’re not doing it yourself, start looking for pros now before they’re all booked up. Start planning your garden by sketching out your garden plans, making sure the plants you’re thinking of growing are able to grow in this climate (Saskatoon is zone 3b). Start your seedlings inside if you have space! Plan out your composting system for your home; Compost bin? Vermicomposting? Trenching? Find out more about composting from our friends at the SWRC!
  5. Help clean up a natural area
    Meewasin means “it is good, it is nice, it is pretty, it is beautiful; it is valuable” in Cree. Let’s help keep it that way. Grab a garbage bag, or some plastic grocery bags if you have some laying around, and go pick up trash. There’s lots of ground to cover, and many hands make light work! Not just the Meewasin needs cleaning. You’re welcome to go to any park or playground near you and pick up trash, helping Mother Nature out and beautifying our city. Please remember, don’t throw trash bags into the blue recycling carts.

We hope these tips will be useful this Earth Day, and every other day of the year! Happy Earth Day from your friends at Loraas!

 

Source: Houzz.com


“Plastic Free” 2018 Earth Day Poster Contest Winners

Every year, Loraas Recycle holds an Earth Day poster contest for students in Saskatoon schools, grades 3-8. This year’s theme was “Plastic Free is the Way to Be”. Single-use plastics are becoming a problem in our environment, and we wanted to make that known to the students. Their mission was to help us educate everyone else and perhaps help tell why single-use plastics and plastic pollution is bad for the environment. The students who entered did amazing, and it was really hard to pick the top winners! Our staff agreed, and these were the top posters from each level.

Great Saskatoon Catholic Schools
Grade 3-4: Mira, grade 3, St Philip School
Grade 5-6: Annalys, grade 5, George Vanier School
Grade 7-8: Nonja, grade 8, St Philip School

Saskatoon Public Schools
Grade 3-4: Annika, grade 4, Lakeridge School
Grade 5-6: Emma, grade 6, Chief Whitecap School
Grade 7-8: Ireland, grade 7, SPS home-based education program

Thank you to everyone who entered in our contest! We hope that through your posters, and some obvious research that you did, that you will help us clean the planet with eco-friendly alternatives to plastic waste! The winners each received a pair of Beats by Dre Headphones and were presented their prizes in front of their classmates. Congrats winners! Watch for next year’s contest in April 2019 on Social Media!

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Talking Dirt – A World Without Soil

An essential mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life – soil. You’ve likely heard about the environmental importance of soils, but just how important are they? Let’s take a look at the importance of soil and what would happen if it disappeared from our planet.

First, let’s peel back the layers of our soil profile to understand the importance of each layer. The uppermost layer of soil on the earth’s surface is called the topsoil. Topsoil is made up of nutrient-rich organic matter which is essential for the growth of healthy plants. This organic matter is derived from decomposing plant matter and organisms. Within this layer lives beneficial microbes, fungi, and earthworms which feed on the organic matter. The lower level is called the parent material and is primarily made up of decomposing rock; providing the raw material for future topsoil as well as a substrate for deeply rooted plants to anchor into.

So the question becomes – Could our planet ever run out of soil? The answer is yes. Most articles state that our topsoil could be depleted within a short 40 to 60 years. It takes approximately 100 years to create 1inch (2.54cm) of topsoil. What could cause our topsoil to deplete so quickly? There are multiple contributors to the degradation of topsoil include equipment compaction during forestry operations, removing shelter belts for increased farmable land, removing topsoil for construction purposes, etc. All of these practices could result in wind and water erosion such as plow winds or flooding, leaving our soils bare of topsoil.

How does this affect the environment? Soil is essential and the foundation for plant life. Healthy topsoil helps to protect our planet against flooding, but it can also preserve water during drought periods. To be able to grow healthy plants we require water and nutrients retained in our soil. Plants are essential to our planet and naturally convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis. This is the primary way carbon is removed from our atmosphere. If plant populations collapsed worldwide, carbon emissions would drastically increase while oxygen levels decrease.

How can you help? There are several simple tips Loraas recommends that can protect and preserve our precious soil. First, support Saskatchewan farmers and buy local products. Small-scale agricultural operations are often better for the health of the soil. This is because most farmers take the health of their land into consideration and institute sustainable practices during operations. Second, learn more about soils and their importance to the planet; especially around your home. To help you can add more outdoor plants, make a rain garden, or minimize hard surfaces around your property like concrete pads. Lastly, you can, “Turn your Spoil into Soil.” By this, we mean turning your organic waste into quality soil by composting. Why out more on the importance of composting here. Composting is an art and requires time and space. If this is not feasible for you, no worries. Loraas is in the process of developing an organics program. Stay in touch as our website will have more details in the future to out more. Together we can make help conserve the soil!

 

Sources

The Humboldt Foundation. 2015. Business Line. When There Is No Soil Left In This World. Accessed: 2 March 2018. 


Trash Planet – A World Without Recycling

At Loraas, we specialize in waste and recycling. If it isn’t obvious by now, we love talking about your trash and diversion techniques. Together, we’ve had multiple discussions on the benefits of recycling and have illustrated the positive impacts citizens make by reducing their waste outputs; all while striving for sustainability of our natural resources. Recycling programs have been implemented in our communities for quite some time now and is a daily contribution everyone can make. But, what would happen if everyone in Saskatchewan stopped recycling, yet continued producing the same amount of waste? Let’s take a step back and look at the unsightly side of the spectrum and how this decision would affect our world in just one day.

When you wake up in the morning to the time you go to bed, the results would not be obvious to the average citizen. However, life at the landfill would become very hectic. Why? The average person in Saskatchewan generates 6.14lbs of waste per day; including household garbage, recycling, and organics while excluding commercial or industrial operations. Saskatchewan has a population of 1.2 million people. This would mean that in a single day of discarding all of the waste and removing recycling from our daily lives, our province would accumulate and discard 7.4 million pounds of waste! If we take a closer look at our waste bins, we will notice that not everything in those bins is “waste”. If we break down the contents of those household waste bins, we will notice they contain 40% recyclable material. Therefore, of the 7.4 million pounds we discarded in a single day we could have diverted 2.9 million pounds by simply recycling certain items.

Shocking, isn’t it? A single day without recycling doesn’t cause immediate concern for our province, however, compounded over a longer period of time these results would become disastrous to the environment. Why? Most of our recyclables are made from natural resources, such as cutting down trees to make our paper products or drilling for petroleum used to make plastics. Without recycling, the demand for virgin materials to make these products would be exponential. The rate at which we would have to cut down trees would outweigh the length of time it takes to plant new trees and wait for them grow to maturity. This means that if we stop recycling, our planet will deplete our natural resources in no time.

How can you help? Simple — continue to recycle. Loraas recommends building healthy recycling habits within your home. By having the proper bins in the right rooms of your home, you can increase proper recycling in your household all while decreasing items getting placed in the wrong bins. Always remember to reduce and reuse before you recycle. It all starts with using less.

 

Sources

Mark Industries. 2015. Mark Recycling. What If Everyone Stopped Recycling? Accessed: 2 March 2018.

 

 


Bare Beaches – A World Without Sand

Canada has miles and miles of pristine sandy beaches. Nothing fills our hearts more after a long, cold Saskatchewan winter than the thoughts of warm, summer rays and sand between our toes. Now imagine if all the beaches became bare. What would happen if we ran out of beach sand?

It’s true. To date, scientists have estimated that approximately two-thirds of the world’s coastal beaches are vanishing. Beach sand is important to our environment because it protects marine habitat and waterfront residential communities. It also aids our aquatic creatures in digestion and protection from predators. Why is this happening? Over-exploitation. Sand is an inexpensive, alternative material that is sought after by construction companies, pharmaceutical corporations, and glass manufacturers. It is used as a building block to create roads, medical pills, and bottles or jars (Villioth, 2014).

To keep up with demand, sand is being extracted at an exponential rate under unconstrained mining practices; creating shortages around the world. This is a major problem because sand is not an infinite natural resource. On average it takes hundreds to millions of years for rocks, shells, coral, and organic materials to weather down to form our sand. There are approximately 7 quintillion grains of sand on our planet, however, a majority of this sand is found in deserts. Desert sand differs from beach sand as it is a homogenous material of symmetrical sized grains and is usually rounded from blowing winds. Whereas beach sand is a heterogeneous mixture of irregularly sized grains and usually has rough edges (NIWA, 2016).

How can you help our keep sand on our beaches? It may be as simple as going to the fridge and cracking open an ice-cold beverage from a glass bottle. Once you are done with that bottle, you can recycle it, however maybe not in the conventional way most facilities currently do. As recycling technologies advance around the world, options now exist to turn the recycled food-grade glass into sand through glass implosion. Glass implosion uses high-frequency sound waves to explode the bottles and jars. Then using air and screens, the labels and caps are removed; creating an end product of clean recycled glass sand. By using recycled glass sand instead of beach sand we can stop destroying our beaches while continuing to supply the demand. Glass sand can be made into roads, pool filtration systems, adhesive and more. So quench your thirst, while saving our valuable beaches!

 

Sources

Villioth, J. 2014. EJolt. Building an Economy on Quicksand. Accessed on: 3 April 2018.

NIWA. 2016. Tiahoro Nukurongi. Summer Series 8: The Science of Sand. Accessed on: 4 April 2018.

 

 


Hidden Household Hazards

Hidden beneath our bathroom sinks, in the dark corner of your shed, or in the dusty attic is something ready and willing to contaminate your home, body, and the environment. These impostors are welcomed into our homes often disguised in floral print bottles with shiny labels stating CAUTION, WARNING, CORROSIVE, EXPLOSIVE, FLAMMABLE, POISONOUS or TOXIC. What are they? Household Hazardous Waste.

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) is described as, “Any discarded or unused portion of a product containing chemicals that could pose a hazard to human health or the surrounding environment.” HHW require one or multiple symbols to identify their risk to the user. Common HHW found around your home include aerosol hairspray, adhesives, rechargeable batteries, shoe polish, all-purpose cleaners, and light bulbs just to name a few.

Why should you dispose of household hazardous wastes correctly? These and many other hazardous materials require proper disposal to prevent the spread of chemicals into our soils, air, and water sources. Never place chemicals with these symbols into your garbage or recycling carts, pour them onto the ground, or empty them down the drain. When HHW are discarded at a landfill, if a failure were to occur, there is a potential risk for it to leach into the surrounding soil and groundwater if a failure were to occur. Pouring substances down the drain could cause septic system failures, eventually allowing chemicals to make their way into nearby waterways. In addition, proper disposal ensures those working with waste and recycling are not exposed to the risk of inhaling toxic substances and reduces fires or explosions.

Help put waste in the right place! If you are using these chemicals daily, Loraas recommends that you learn how to safely and responsibly discard unused portions of your HHW. To help you dispose of your HHW locally, the City of Saskatoon coordinates monthly Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Days between the months of April and November. Armed with a team of highly trained individuals, a free temporary drop-off site is made available for all Saskatoon residents. Before making an effort to drop off your HHW, ensure that the products are clearly labeled and in their original containers, tightly capped, and are never mixed with other chemicals. To find out more information about household hazardous waste recycling, monthly drop-off dates, acceptable and non-acceptable please click here!


Turning the Tides: Microplastic Water Contamination

Water. A compound made up of atoms; two hydrogen and one oxygen. It’s a transparent liquid that is an essential requirement for all living organisms on our planet. Every day billions of humans around the world causally turn on the faucet expecting a simple glass of water. However, hidden within in this simple liquid may be something rather alarming: microplastic fibers.

National Geographic Society, 2017, estimates that over 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic are discarded each year; that’s 91% of the total plastics worldwide. Plastics begin to degrade in the presence of oxygen and UV rays which, on average, takes 400 years to disappear completely—or so we think. The majority of plastics we discard will only break down into smaller and smaller pieces without completely disappearing. These microscopic plastics begin to accumulate over time. Combined with incorrect disposal or strong weather events the tiny plastics will make their way into our water sources eventually flowing to the ocean; 8 million metric tonnes to be exact (Parker, 2017).

In an effort to determine the extent of microplastic contamination, a study revealed that 83% of the world’s tap water contains foreign microscopic plastic fibers. This lead to, The School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, USA and Orb Media setting out to discover the truth about microplastic contamination in sources of drinking water across the globe. Armed with scientists, researchers, and volunteers, 159 samples of tap water from multiple countries and one geographical region were collected and analyzed; excluding Canada. Microscopic plastic fibers of 100 micrometers (100 micrometers equals 1 millimeter) or greater in size were found in 70% of the total samples at each collection site. The results illustrated that the United States and Lebanon had the highest rate of pollution with 94% of their water samples testing positive, while Europe had the lowest density detected at 72% (Kosuth et al., 2017).

The hypothesis of where these particles originate from is vast and could potentially include contamination from microbeads in hygiene products, leeching off plastic food and beverage containers, or flaking off clothing during the washing and drying processes. In fact, fleece and synthetic fabrics shed plastics with each wash; approximately 2,000 pieces from a single fleece jacket alone. Due to their, size microplastics travel down our drains and begin to accumulate in our wastewater drainage systems at alarming rates. Unfortunately, dated wastewater treatment plants quite often do not have the capability in some areas to screen these tiny plastics from water meaning they end up in our main water sources (Kosuth et al., 2017).

The good news about microplastics is the tides are now turning! Multiple global government agencies are taking action to slow or stop microplastics from entering into our waterways at the source. Local, provincial, and federal governments are crafting laws and policies to address this issue; Canada being a proactive leader on this topic. In February 2017, the International Joint Commission (ICJ) released a document highlighting their concern for environmental and human health due to small plastic particles. Using 33 expert opinions from across Canada and the United States, 10 strategic recommendations were documented to help our country battle against microplastics, specifically within our Great Lakes. The Canadian Government has identified this pressing issue early and is set to ban plastic microbeads in toiletries by July 2018 (ICJ, 2017).

Looking to help delay this problem? Join the global combat against microplastics in our valuable water resources. Loraas has three simple solutions:

  1. Pass information about microplastics to your family and friends. Plastic pollution is a trending topic among a number of media streams allowing for more individuals to understand and become proactive. Social pressures are causing communities to change their current trash habits and cleaning up contaminated areas. You can help by simply by sharing our blog on your social media channels.
  2. Always remember to reduce and reuse before you recycle. Our society is beginning to understand that there is no “away” in our throwaway culture. Instead of using disposable grocery bags, make a reusable bag out of an old t-shirt! Check out our Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to find out how. If recycling is your choice, ensure that your local recycling program accepts the plastic before placing into the recycling cart. For example, to ensure your disposable #2 or #4 grocery bags get recycled, take them back to your local participating grocery store.
  3. Always be mindful of the plastic products you buy and take responsibility for where you dispose of these products. Do your research before buying a product as there may be an alternative, environmentally-friendly solution. At the store, read the labels on your favourite personal hygiene products to ensure they do not contain plastic microbeads or check the bottom of the bottles to find the #1 to #7 recycling symbol.

 

Source

International Joint Commission. 2017. Microplastics in the great lakes. International Joint Commission Recommendations on Microplastics in the Great Lakes. Accessed: 1 February 2018.

Kosuth et al. 2017. Synthetic polymer contamination in global drinking water. Orb Media. Accessed: 8 December 2017.

Parker, L. 2017. A whopping 91% of plastics isn’t recycled. National Geographic Society. Accessed: 26 January 2017.

 


Embrace a Green Happy New Year’s Resolution

Happy New Year!

As we ring in 2018, many of us participate in the tradition of choosing a New Year’s resolution that will help positively guide us throughout the year. These resolutions usually involve promising ourselves to work on resolving an undesirable trait, saving money, or cleaning out those unruly closets. Regrettably, most of us know this “promise” is abandoned within the first few months. The solution? Go green! Jump into the New Year by making a commitment to a green resolution. Going green can help you set positive, realistic goals in combination with protecting and preserving our planet for the future generations. Try one of the following green resolutions today:

1. Save Money

Does it always seem like there is an endless hole in your pocket? Green Solution: To help you save your change, eliminate phantom power sources around your home when they are not in use to help cut down your power bills. Unplug your electronic devices and appliances when not in use. Did you know that some devises or appliances will use power even when they are not in use; slowly draining you of your treasured dollars. Have a tough time remembering? Try using energy efficient gadgets, power bar or timers that do the work for you. By making a small change in your life, you could decrease your energy bill by as much as 10 percent annually – without lifting a finger!

2. Tidy and Declutter

Are your closets untidy? Loraas Tip: Hang all the clothing in your closet with the hanger hook facing the same direction. As you wear each item of clothing turn the hanger the opposite direction. At the end of the year, you will be able to see which clothing items have not been worn and can remove them from your closet. Green solution: If clothing is heavily-used, do your research and donate your clothing to a textile recycler. Gently-used clothing items can be donated to one of the many local clothing depots.

Is your backyard shed cluttered and starting to look like a chemistry lab with bottles of empty aerosol cans and fertilizer, or junk-drawers hoarded with adhesives and mothballs? Loraas would like to remind you that these items are not permitted in the curbside Saskatoon recycling program as they are considered hazardous waste. Remember, all the items around your home have specific requirements for disposal. Green solution: Did you know the City of Saskatoon participates in a Household Hazardous Waste Day multiple times throughout the year? Drop-off days allow for residents to safely discard of these items; making our landfills and environment happy. Find out more details on acceptable items by searching our website.

It’s evident from the above that green New Year’s resolutions are simple. The tough task is keeping these “promises” year round. Research has shown it only takes 21 days to create a routine. To ensure you keep on the right path, start by being realistic and reasonable when choosing your green resolution. Work out the details before you commence into your new green goal to guarantee you will be able to complete it with full confidence. Keeping a journal is an excellent way to work out barriers that may arise and to track your success. Finally, going public with your commitment will give you that extra push and support system. Make 2018 your best year by going green!


Paying it Forward

After a day of classes on campus and working at his father’s company, Aaron Loraas (BA’01) would often lace up his skates and join friends for a game of hockey at Rutherford Rink. Now, more than a decade later, Aaron has traded in ice time to attend his daughters’ dance classes. “I’d love to still play, but it’s just too late in the evening!” Aaron says with a laugh.

His role as vice-president of Loraas keeps Aaron busy too, as the disposal service has evolved over the years. Established in 1965, the company started out as a small waste service in Saskatoon. It has since expanded to become one of the most advanced recycling and waste management services in Canada.

Aaron believes that the success of the company is due to the community. “Loraas is customer-driven. As customers require different services from us, we had to adapt and meet those needs,” says Aaron. “It’s as straightforward as sitting down with someone, listening to their needs, and coming up with a solution.”

So, when the opportunity was presented to get involved with his alma mater’s Home Ice Campaign, Aaron was listening. The project aligns with Loraas’ two giving principles: grassroots and children.

“We like to be able to see results in Saskatoon,” says Aaron. Loraas takes pride in knowing that the multi-sport facility will provide 1500 hours of ice time annually to the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association. Children will benefit from the opportunity to enjoy the sport and sportsmanship with their fellow teammates and fans right here in Saskatoon.

In addition, Loraas is excited for Huskies athletes to be able to showcase their talents in a facility that matches their performance level. The pairing of the two groups is a powerful combination, providing mentorship for youth from hard-working U of S student athletes.

“The combination of the two parties being there will motivate young children to go to university and play for Huskies one day,” Aaron says. “I like that tie-in.”

        Loraas disposal on site at Merlis Belsher Place. David Stobbe / stobbephoto.ca

 

[Article provided by the University of Saskatchewan with photograph by David Stobbe with stobbephoto.ca. Source: https://give.usask.ca/ ]