Larraine Roulston

Waste Free October      October 2022 Edition

By Larraine Roulston

Since the mid-1980s, the annual autumn event known as Waste Reduction Week in Canada (WRW) has inspired Canadians to practice the 3Rs. It was originally known as ‘Recycling Week’ when several recycling councils and environmental grassroots groups began hosting local events to offer not only recycling information, but also to encourage citizens to buy items that contain recycled content. In 2001, WRW in Canada became national with a focus on additional Rs that included repair, revamp, repurpose, litterless lunches, and rethink. This year, the Circular Innovative Council (CIC), formerly the Recycling Council of Ontario, declared the entire month that encompasses WRW to focus on the rising circular economy.

‘Circular Economy Month/WRW in Canada’ introduces weekly themes to encourage individuals, community groups, industry and politicians to look for opportunities and innovative ideas that utilize resources by reusing, recycling, and composting. Individual changes in behaviour are critical; however, the circular economy requires bigger and bolder decisions.

During the first week the circular economy is introduced. The second week, 10-16, is used to outline the environmental benefits that provide cleaner water, biodiversity protection, climate change mitigation, and the reduction of carbon emissions. The following week, 17-23 continues with its familiar 3Rs and composting themes. During the final week, emphasis is placed on social benefits by creating skills, economic savings, driving the local economy and community engagement.

With this issue reporting political interest in local issues, I contacted each candidate regarding the circular economy.

Jennifer McKelvie, running for the position for the Scarborough-Rouge Park Councillor, replied:

“Over the last two years, I’ve had the privilege to serve as Chair of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee. Last December, Toronto Council committed to an ambitious target of net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2040. To reach this target, we must reduce waste which accounts for 10% of our GHG emissions. Toronto also has a goal of becoming the first city in Ontario with a circular economy. This will require both reducing and transforming waste. To reduce waste, we must move forward with our program to reduce single-use and takeaway items. I am also committed to further investigating programs to divert textile waste and reduce waste going to landfill (grey bin). We also must continue to transform how we manage waste in our recycling (blue bin) and organics (green bin) programs. In the next term, our recycling program will be transformed as we implement Extended Producer Responsibility, as required by the Province of Ontario. Last year, we started to harness the energy contained in wastes that are part of our green bin program. For example, the Dufferin Organics facility reduces GHG emissions by 9,000 tonnes of carbon annually, with associated cost savings. I look forward to the continued expansion of these programs during the next term of council.”

With all the infrastructure concerns, for a candidate to become a zero-waste leader isn’t an easy task and certainly can’t be solved overnight. However, utilizing our resources wisely and securing healthy soil through composting are becoming increasingly important challenges that we all face.

Related Link:

https://wrwcanada.com/en/about

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

Building Good Soil Tackles Climate Change      September 2022 Edition

By Larraine Roulston

A recent report entitled, ‘Recruiting Soil to Tackle Climate Change: A Roadmap for Canada’ by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada and the Compost Council of Canada (CCC) includes detailed science-based soil-health information and recommendations. It identifies that our soils have the potential to offset completely agriculture’s greenhouse gas emission’s footprint. Glenn Munroe, co-author of the ‘Roadmap’, stated: “Soils can effectively store carbon. At the same time, they provide increased fertility, cleaner water, and enhanced biodiversity. For our farmers, they also create greater resiliency and profitability.”

Susan Antler, the CCC’s Executive Director explains, “The carbon sequestration alone, of what we have accomplished so far, is offsetting the greenhouse gas impact of about one billion kilometres of gas-powered cars driving annually. It is important to note that this is mostly voluntary work by citizens, done through municipal and private sector composting initiatives. By participating in compost programs, and by using compost to store carbon in gardens, lawns and on agricultural soil, we are helping to put the brakes on climate change.”

The following tips from the CCC provide the following opportunities for carbon sequestration:

Stop digging! Leave the soil as undisturbed as possible. Soils are living ecosystems teaming with beneficial organisms that support plant growth and health. The organisms that constitute your underground workforce expend a great deal of energy building a soil structure that helps both them and you. This sponge-like structure allows water to enter, then holds it in pore spaces for your plants’ easy access.

Use minimum disturbance to plant seeds. In most cases you can spread seeds on the surface then cover with compost to the desired depth. With seedlings, make a hole big enough for the roots, then fill with compost.

Don’t pull your garden weeds or wilting annual flowers. Rather, cut them off at ground level, leaving their roots to enrich the soil. This keeps the soil well rooted as the main source of food for your microbial workforce, secreting sugars and other nutrients to feed them.

In vegetable gardens, a dead crop of bush beans, for example, can be snipped off at ground level and a cover crop like annual ryegrass can then be planted. Over the winter, these cover crops will feed the workforce both as living roots and then as dead organic matter.

Nurture the soil by adding compost as well to protect plants.

Keep all soil covered. Your underground workforce needs to be protected, so that their environment is not too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. By using mulches of straw, cardboard or wood chips, you will prevent weed growth that will break down gradually and feed the soil organisms.

Welcome diversity with different plants to attract and nurture different soil microbes.

Rotate your plantings of annuals to break up the disease cycle and also bring new types of organisms to the area each year, keeping diversity levels high.

Include perennials and native plants in your garden to feed microbes all year long which help to maintain diversity and overall soil health.

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

 

Natural Burial Grounds - A Gentle Goodbye      June 2022 Edition

By Larraine Roulston

Imagine being laid to rest in a natural burial ground surrounded by shading trees. Choosing your final resting place in a ‘hybrid’ or ‘stand-alone’ natural burial ground means that you lend yourself to the earth’s renewal. These sites are also gaining momentum as people appreciate that the connection and responsibility to nature need not stop at death.

Several existing cemeteries have created hybrids. Rather than individual headstones or concrete vaults, a garden or a simple natural barrier is created for all. Often indigenous plants, small stones, or communal dedications are placed at individual gravesites. This natural green area is either adjacent or within their traditional manicured grounds and rows of headstones. The elements permitted in the green burial area must be made entirely from biodegradable materials.

Stand-alones are found in more expansive areas independent of conventional cemeteries and nestled in the natural landscape. As the law requires, the location of every grave is recorded. While there are hundreds of stand-alones in the US and UK, Canada’s sole public stand-alone natural burial ground is on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.

Most people today reject embalming; however, when a body requires preservation over the winter until the ground has thawed, one should inquire at the chosen funeral home about refrigeration and Enigma Ecobalming.

The adoption of being laid to rest naturally has made us aware of the environmental costs of cremation (incineration using fossil fuels and emitting carbon dioxide), grave liners, and polished caskets with metal hardware. Bodies are dressed in attire that often include buckles, buttons and zippers. Jewelry, keepsakes, and makeup are also frequently included.

Susan Greer, Executive Director of the Natural Burial Association, stated, “As natural burial sites are relatively new, we undertook a citizen’s poll in January in order to discover the general public’s awareness and response.”

The completed study among 1006 Ontario members of the Angus Reid Forum reported that:

53% of those surveyed had never heard of natural (or green) burials.

68% of respondents were unaware of the environmental harm caused by cremation.

Of the 71% of respondents who indicated that their first choice was cremation, when they learned about natural burial, over half (52%) said they would consider natural burial.

The interviews revealed that knowledge and acceptance involving a natural burial have given all those polled insight into a wiser option. Enthusiasts can even apply to be on local cemetery boards, contact environmental groups and area biologists as well as approaching local councillors who would be equally enthused about the concept. As one supporter stated, “I am a gardener. I love the cycle of life.”

Greer added, “We are a volunteer, non-profit organization (independent of the funeral industry) motivated to leave behind a better world through natural burial. We support local advocacy groups wanting this gentler end of life option in their community. As well, we advocate for legislative change to make Ontario a more welcoming place for natural burial grounds.”

By adopting the principle of natural burials, you will be leaving a legacy of conserving trees for future generations.

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

Magical Compost Tea      May 2022

By Larraine Roulston

The first week in May celebrates International Compost Awareness Week. This annual event helps to showcase the importance of returning organic matter back into the soil. The Compost Council of Canada’s Executive Director Susan Antler, stated, “The carbon sequestration alone, of what we have accomplished so far, is offsetting the greenhouse gas impact of about one billion kilometres of gas-powered cars driving annually. It is important to note that this is mostly voluntary work by citizens, done through municipal and private sector composting initiatives. By participating in compost programs, and by using compost to store carbon in gardens, lawns and on agricultural soil, we are helping to put the brakes on climate change.”

For those who backyard composted last autumn, your composter was probably full by early March. During cold weather, the process continues to work even though it becomes dormant. With the advent of spring, slivers of ice help break up the organics and the entire cycle speeds up again. The nutrients from the organic foods, once broken down, are held in the bodies of bacteria and other microorganisms that constitute worm and compost bug poo.

If you composted the previous year, you can utilize some of your mature heap to make compost tea. Compost will stretch further if you make a liquid that is loaded with soluble nutrients packed into living bacteria. To create a batch, place some mature compost into a cloth bag and suspend it in a barrel of water. Let it steep for 2 days. Stir frequently or give it a blast from the hose to provide air bubbles. Dampen the area where you wish to use the tea and dilute it if the colour is darker than amber.

Mindy Jaffe, Hawaii’s Resource Recovery Specialist, stated, “The real credit, however, belongs to the microscopic bacteria and microbes. We can’t see the heat-loving bacteria that make our compost pile heat up, but we certainly can feel that they are there, hard at work! Tea is loaded with soluble nutrients packed into living bacteria. When compost tea enters a plant’s roots, or is absorbed by a leaf’s surface, the bacteria arrive, live, reproduce and die, releasing the nutrients to provide a plant that flourishes.” Jaffe further explained that the plant actually tells the population of microbes exactly what it wants chemically through its exudate–a secretion similar to sweat–so there is communication between the plant and the bacterial population. These two very different living things establish a relationship which is the mystery and magic of compost tea. The results we see are robust, healthy plants and grass.

This liquid can be brewed to spray on public parks and sports fields. When kelp, molasses and oatmeal are included, they feed the microbes so they reproduce. Sadly, most golf course superintendents rely on pesticides. These are substances meant to control pests and weeds. The suffix ‘cide’ on words indicates ‘a killer of’. When pesticides are sprayed, only a few molecules are absorbed while the remainder is washed away and pollutes the soil and water.

Related Link:

http://www.compost.org/compost_week/

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

Protecting Our Precious Rivers      April 2022

The Ottawa River’s polluted condition caught the attention of Melanie Abdelnour, a grade 1 teacher for the Ottawa-Carleton School Board. In 2020 she helped introduce ‘Seabin’–a small bucket-like innovation equipped with a mesh filter catch bag that gathers surrounding water along with litter, then pumps the water back into the river. Originally designed in Australia, Seabins exist in waterways of yacht clubs and marinas in more than 50 countries. Presently, one floats at the Nepean Sailing Club’s dock from May to November where it filters out diesel oil and traps an estimated 5,600 to 9,200 pieces of debris, including seaweed, that contains microplastics.

Local engineering firm Geniglace Inc. and Deep Blue Cleanup partnered to acquire Seabin for use in the river. Research on this summer’s debris is being analyzed by Carleton University student Vanessa Fioré. Information is also being shared with the University of Toronto’s trash team, a science-based community outreach group.

Abdelnour also sees the amazing little bucket as an educational tool. “This is the first trash-trapping device in Ottawa and it gives us an opportunity to see what’s happening in our water,” she said. “If kids come and see for themselves, they’ll be more likely to take care of their waterways. Next spring we hope to have field trips three times a week and get students to analyze the pollution. If kids are not involved, we’ll keep putting garbage in our water.” Abdelnour is aiming to encourage more Ottawa fellow educators to get on board with the project. Teachers in all cities with harbours need to push for community partnership to maintain their life-saving waters.

Floating debris in Toronto’s Humber River was tackled by A Greener Future that partnered with Thurso Surf and Lake Surfistas when they hosted a paddleboard litter clean-up last summer. With twenty-five volunteers diverting 186 lb (84 kg) of litter, this event helped raise awareness of what is floating in this city’s river.

A Greener Future’s founder, Rochelle Byrne, who first began a paddleboarding cleanup journey in July of 2020, stated, “It was amazing to see so many passionate volunteers come out to take part in this event. Many of them hadn’t tried paddleboarding before attending, so it was cool to introduce them to the sport in a way that also had a positive impact on the environment. I hope the next time they go paddleboarding on their own, it becomes second nature for them to pick up litter they may see.”

For testing water quality, the organization Water Rangers, is introducing its ‘testkits’ to children of all ages. In order to prepare for conducting spring water experiments, teachers can check out Water Rangers, a Canadian non-profit group that visits schools to provide educators with easy-to-use water testing and data sharing tools in order to help their students protect local rivers, lakes and city harbours.

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

Greening The Kitchen      March 2022

To green your kitchen area, purchase energy saving appliances as well as stainless steel and cast-iron cookware. Cover pots. Toaster ovens, small convection ovens and slow cookers use less energy than regular stoves. Horizontal style freezers are more energy efficient than the upright ones and should be placed in a cool location.

Choose local and organic food whenever possible; select items from bulk bins by filling your own reusable containers to eliminate packaging and have a supply of reusable bags to take shopping.

Greenwashing is no surprise; however, it has become even more common to meet public demand for earth-friendly products and services. As many people love their K-Cup pods, they’ll be interested to know that Keurig Canada was recently fined $3 million for its misleading claims that its single-use K-Cup pods can be recycled. Even inventor John Sylvan regrets inventing this pod system. The best choice for your morning coffee is the craft or drip style coffee maker.

Use a bowl of water to rinse vegetables/fruits rather than rinse them under a tap. To remove pesticide residue from non-organic produce, let these foods sit in a bowl of water with a tablespoon of vinegar or baking soda for several minutes, then rinse.

Keep a jar of drinking water in the fridge to avoid running the tap for cold water. Know what you have on those back shelves and be creative with leftovers so that you won’t be opening containers to discover moldy surprises. To help your fridge from working harder, let warm leftovers cool before storing them, and return cold items quickly. Your fridge’s cooling system works more efficiently when the shelves are full; therefore, add extra jars of water if your shelves are sparse.

While baking a casserole, maximize oven use by roasting vegetables. You may even have space for a rack of cookies. By turning the oven off 5 minutes before the recommended time, there will be enough heat to finish cooking your meal.

Say no to straws, bottled water, paper towels, plastic bags and food packaged in single servings.

Utilize vegetable peelings to create vegetable stock. Compost.

Rinse out food jars and bottles and flatten tin cans as well as boxboard to save space.

Run your dishwasher with a full load when hydro rates are lower. If you do dishes by hand, rinse them first in warm water to remove the chill from plates and keep your washing basin clean to complete the job. When small appliances with glowing lights are not in use, pull their plugs.

Use vinegar and baking soda to clean sinks, drains, counter tops and tiles. When cleaning your oven, place the racks in the bathtub to soak.

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com

February 2022

Healthy Food Choices

By Larraine Roulston

Without a doubt, most people would agree that the North American diet is not as healthy as that of European or Asian countries. In general, many citizens consume a larger amount of refined grains, sugar, oils, meat, calories and processed foods while at the same time not eating enough vegetables. For the past several decades, theories have been debated as to what might be the attributing factors as to why we opt for less nutritious food. Is it cost, inadequate kitchen and pantry space, convenience, lack of cooking skills, being picky eaters or limited knowledge about nutrition? One theory suggests that a healthier based diet is more expensive while other theories underline living conditions and behaviour.

Many low-income families believe healthy food is unaffordable. Meat based meals with non-seasonal vegetables and fruits usually have a higher cost; however, in-season vegetable choices such as beets, carrots, onions, potatoes and cabbage can all be added to salads, cooked, as well as made into casseroles and soups. Also, beans, rice and grains constitute a nutritious source of food. Costs are kept relatively low by creating meals made from scratch. Poor diets are also a result of existing agriculture policy.

The constant marketing for sodas, chips and double patty burgers layered with bacon and cheese stimulates desire for more. Eating processed meats also increases the chances of getting cancer. When a population is regularly subjected to junk food images, whether it be in advertisements or in movie scenes, there is a tendency to believe that this is necessary in order to fit into society. Even fruit juices have proven to have a lower health score over soda pop beverages. People simply enjoy the flavour and, in general, are hooked on fast and sugary foods as well as its inherent convenience.

There are, however, individual solutions that we all can adopt in order to encourage healthier diets which will in turn lessen our obesity and diabetes rates. Plant a backyard, community or rooftop vegetable garden. Local grocery stores can set up a tray of washed fruit to offer a free choice for children. A cashier from one grocery store that set up this practice stated, “Displaying fruit has become a popular feature. As kids leave, they delight in showing me their apple cores or banana peels.”  When teachers, parents and grandparents promote fruits as a treat rather than sugary donuts, we will begin to make progress towards mobilizing a healthier generation of children.

This Valentine’s day, present your sweetie with a fresh fruit basket or sprouts and a bean sprouter rather than candy. For an added benefit, fruit peelings and cores can be composted rather than trashing non-recyclable plastics as found in boxed chocolates. Generally, candies are individually wrapped.  

Related Links:

https://www.crownsprouts.com/our-products/

Larraine writes children’s books that highlight the joy of composting and pollinating with the adventures of Pee Wee at Castle Compost. With illustrations, songs and poems, the stories unearth the miracles of nature’s cycle of life. Fun & factual for all ages. To order, visit www.castlecompost.com