MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Wetlands: Our natural flood protection partner

    Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authorities E.C. Brown Wetland Restoration site in South Pelham with Katleya Young-Chin, Ecosystem Restoration Specialist.


    Wetlands are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, supporting well over 100,000 species globally. Humans rely on this diversity for a wide range of goods and services (known as ecosystem services), and wetlands are important for the social, economic and ecological health of our country.

    Despite their obvious contributions, however, more than 87 per cent of our global wetlands have been lost, primarily due to land conversion, invasive species and climate change. Southern Ontario, the most biologically diverse life zone in Canada (home to over 2,500 species of plants and animals), has lost over 90 per cent of its original wetlands due to urbanization and agriculture. As one quarter of all the wetlands in Canada are found in Ontario, their disappearance in the province has had a significant impact and been associated with increased flooding as well as the deterioration of wildlife biodiversity and water quality.

    Wetlands play a significant role in climate change mitigation and adaptation, by helping to reduce and prevent flooding. Acting as natural “sponges,” wetlands capture and slowly release water back into the environment after rain events. Since our human-made infrastructures (buildings, roads, parking lots) are not permeable, water will quickly “runoff” to the nearest low point. In urban settings, that runoff usually flows to storm drains, and most of those drains then directly discharge in creeks, rivers or lakes. This fast transfer of water (stormwater runoff) can quickly overwhelm creeks, rivers, and stormwater systems and when excess water has no place to go, flooding happens. Contrary to the common belief, quickly moving water off the landscape will not reduce flooding, it actually increases it. Too much water in such systems leads to blockage and back-up (including in houses).

    To illustrate how flooding can happen in urban areas, consider an average sized house which typically generates approximately 2,000 litres of runoff during a typical rain event. This is about the equivalent of 150 bathtubs full of water. In Niagara, with close to a quarter of a million dwellings, this is the equivalent to filling 1.7 million bathtubs, or 100 Olympic swimming pools, with stormwater.

    Niagara and its surrounding areas have seen significant wetland losses, currently approaching 90 per cent. That losss, coupled with the increased storm frequency and intensity caused by climate change, is causing large volumes of stormwater to be generated which is overwhelming infrastructure and causing flooding that is reaching disastrous proportions.

    An example of this was seen in Walkers Creek, St. Cathraines, on September 3, 2018, when a high instensity storm dumped one metre of rain water on the North end of the City within a two- hour period, causing widespread road and basement flooding.

    A 2019 study by the Canadian government looked at ecosystem services provided by wetlands. The study found that each hectare (ha) of wetland located in the upstream portions of urban watersheds (drainage area) could provide upto $3,500/ha in flood damage reduction by intercepting and absorbing rainwater before it reaches urban centres. All remaining Canadian wetlands, if used wisely, can sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services for future generations. Where wetland functions have been degraded, conservation and restoration partnerships should be explored. This process should start with the owners of the land, which may include private, public, government and Indigenous communities. Wetlands, as part of planned green networks, provide multiple economic benefits, including relief from storm flooding.

    Locally, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has a partnerhip with Ducks Unlimited Canada for wetland restoration and conservation initiatives and is a great place to find out more information www.npca.ca

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock-Caspell, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • MEOPAR Research Highlight: If Coastlines Could Talk

    Coastal communities, such as those along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, have seen changes to their shorelines over a number of decades.

    These changes are the result of several physical (heavy rainfall events, water levels, ice cover) and human-induced (land use change, shoreline protection measures) factors. Although coastlines are dynamic, meaning they are meant and expected to move and change, stretches of the Lincoln coastline are showing high levels of erosion even though they are located in areas not naturally susceptible to erosion. This is a concern that is all too familiar to those who live along the lake and have seen these changes first-hand. Land use changes, such as the addition of a road or a new house along the shore, are partly to blame for these changes. Climate change is also a contributing factor with greater frequency and/or intensity in extreme events, such as heavy rainfall, high winds, and earlier snowmelt.

    Communities must therefore adapt in order to become more resilient to future impacts. It is also important to keep in mind that shorelines will continuously adjust to any changes that take place, whether those are natural processes or human activities. With increasing dynamic patterns of the shores, local residents and governments must have an understanding of the history of the coastline. Knowing what areas of the coastline are more susceptible to erosion and what may have caused these changes can help inform coastline management strategies to maintain shorelines and better protect against these changes.

    MEOPAR Researcher and Brock University Master of Sustainability student Meredith (DeCock) Caspell recently completed a thesis project with the aim of analyzing coastline changes in the Town of Lincoln from 1934 to 2018 using historical air photographs. Physical and human-induced factors were then investigated as possible drivers of these coastline changes. The results of the research highlight the changes over time to several areas of the Lincoln coast that may be more vulnerable to erosion. It also posits patterns to help explain why these changes might have occurred. For example, higher erosion rates occurred between 2015-2018 compared to the other time frames. This could possibly be attributed to recent storm events impacting the coastline in certain areas, including the section of the coasts located near creek outlets such as 30 Mile Creek.

    Caspell combined these photographs with historical maps and commentary to create the interactive ArcGIS StoryMap known as “If Coastlines Could Talk: A Story of Lincoln, ON.”  A StoryMap is a webpage that tells a story through pictures, maps, and words. In this case, it tells the story of the changing Lake Ontario coastline in the Town of Lincoln. To discover these historical changes, see time lapse videos of the coastline changing over time and other interesting visuals, and explore ideas for how we can move forward using a collaborative approach, you can visit the StoryMap on MEOPAR’s website.

    The research team would love for you to share the StoryMap with interested friends and neighbours and to then provide your feedback and reactions directly to the team. You can submit your feedback anytime via email, at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca, or you can drop in to one of our virtual sessions to talk directly with one of the research members. These virtual events will take place on Wednesday Oct. 14 and Thursday Oct. 15, from noon to 1 p.m., and on Saturday Oct. 17, from 3 to 4 p.m.

    These events are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please email meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca to register and for event connections details.

    For more information, please visit MEOPAR’s Community Outreach Events webpage.

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • The importance of living shorelines in the Greater Niagara Region

    In our previous posts, we have discussed the changing water levels of the Great Lakes and how these fluctuations could cause damage to the shorelines, specifically in the Niagara Region. To minimize the damage to these areas, we can utilize adaptation strategies, such as living shorelines, that work with natural processes to protect and sustain our waterfront.

    Living shorelines, also known as natural shorelines, are an adaptation strategy that involves the creation of a natural shoreline rich in vegetation that can develop strong root systems. The naturalization of shorelines often requires minimal maintenance and, although it requires a large up-front cost, is often cost-effective over the long-term.

    The vegetation acts as a buffer between the water and land and has many long-term benefits. By adding vegetation to shorelines, the roots of these plants will help hold the soil and prevent erosion while also filtering the runoff that flows from the land into the lake. Filtration of runoff reduces the amount of pollution reaching the lakes and can contribute to fewer algae blooms while also maintaining higher water quality. The buffer that is created from this vegetation also prevents flooding. The plants help to slow the velocity of water, allowing it to absorb into the soil instead of coming on to the shore, preventing further damage.

    The natural beauty of living shorelines can also increase the property value of residential areas and create wildlife habitat. This is beneficial for conservation, as more than 70 per cent of land-based wildlife and 90 per cent of aquatic life depend on shorelines at some point in their lives. The shade that is created from shoreline vegetation can also be helpful in moderating temperatures. This is beneficial for plants as a lower temperatures equates to lower levels of water evaporation and healthier plants overall.

    While there are many benefits that can be provided by a living shoreline, it is important to ensure proper planning is undertaken before creating this naturalization. It is essential to both determine the conditions of your land as well as create a layout of your proposed changes to ensure that the area is being used to its full potential. Determining the condition of your land can be done by first looking at any existing vegetation (or lack-there-of) on the property. By determining what existing vegetation is already growing along the shoreline, you can determine things such as the levels of water or moisture in the area, the sun-to-shade ratio, as well as the soil type. This will allow you to plan which new vegetation would be successful for planting in your natural shoreline. You don’t need to be an expert in plant identification to do this, either, as there are many resources available to assist you, such as the Ontario Native Shoreline Plants website. You can also refer to a native plant supplier, who will be able to tell you which plants are most suitable for your property. They will also be able to tell you how, and when, to properly plant each species.

    Shoreline change and water level fluctuations are inevitable; however, there are many ways we can help to prevent the damage in these areas. Make sure to check out our next blog, where we will be highlighting a research project that reveals key areas of concern along the Lincoln coastline using maps and photographs.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock-Caspell, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Water Levels in the Great Lakes: an interaction of time scales

    The Jordan Harbour Rowing Club located south of the QEW flooded in May 2019 due to the high water levels in Lake Ontario.


    Living along two of the Great Lakes (connected by the Niagara River), the Niagara Region is significantly influenced by the lakes’ water levels. The lakes influence our climate which is favourable for agriculture and tourism. However, they also create some challenges, especially when water levels change rapidly due to high rainfall, strong winds, or other extreme weather events. Extreme events may bring daily and even hourly changes in water levels due to strong wave action. The direction of the winds will greatly influence the intensity of these waves and the rapid change in water level.

    Water levels in lakes are therefore complex and many factors can contribute to their variation. The water levels in Great Lakes are influenced by when, and how much, precipitation they receive, as well as how much the surrounding lands (its basin) receive. These are the famous seasonal changes. In general, water levels in the Great Lakes typically peak in the spring and early summer months. The main reason is due to the melting of snow and ice, which brings more water into the lakes. The lowest levels are usually in the fall and winter, as little water is added (unless we have a thaw cycle). This pattern is normal for all lakes, but we can observe it more in the Great Lakes due to their size.

    Other phenomena also affect water levels, such as the Polar Vortex bringing cold air from the Arctic to the Great Lakes region. Under these conditions, it is cold enough that water freezes, and no evaporation can happen. Other phenomena, such as El Niño and La Niña years, can bring more or less rainfall which also leads to greater fluctuations in water level.

    Climate change also contributes to water level changes. While many of us notice these changes in relation to an increase of extreme weather events — and the resulting rising water levels and flooding — other impacts are more difficult to observe. Some changes are very slow. The timing of the annual highest and lowest water levels in Lakes Erie and Ontario have changed over the past 130 years, now reaching their highest and lowest levels almost a full month sooner than they once did. Other subtle changes include an increase of 0.9oC (1.6oF) in air temperature in the Great Lakes region between the 1901 and 2016. This led to greater water evaporation and greater precipitation, with a 10 per cent increase in rainfall between 1901 and 2015. It is predicted that levels can continue going up in the spring with wetter winters and springs, but levels may be 5 to 15 per cent lower in the fall than the current levels, due to predicted decrease in rainfall in summertime.

    The management of water level in the Great Lakes is complicated and complex. The complexity of these fluctuations in water levels also demonstrates that we all must adapt to new “normals,” which are different from one year to the next. Being prepared and proactive is everyone’s responsibility, even if only to ensure that we can safely enjoy walks and time along our beautiful shorelines.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock-Caspell, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Fall Food for Pollinators

    Early goldenrod is an important food source for many native pollinators, and is often blamed for allergies. But, goldenrod pollen is not airborne; the culprit is most likely ragweed (a similar looking plant with airborne pollen that is a known allergen).


    The Niagara Region supports a greater number of species than any other ecosystem in Canada.With approximately 2,200 species of of plants (flora) and animals (fauna), Niagara is also one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems (life zones) in all of North America. The climate in the Niagara Region is moderated by Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the Niagara Escarpment. All three geologic features work together to create a localized micro-climate characterized by warm spring and fall seasons with milder winters (as compared to other parts of southern Ontario). They combine to create rich mineral soils where rare and unique ecological communities thrive, especially the ones so many of our pollinators depend upon.

    A great time to observe what the local flora and fauna Niagara have to offer is late summer and early fall, while plants and animals heighten their preparations for migration or overwintering. Goldenrod and aster are two important plants that provide essential food for a host of animals, including birds, butterflies and other insects such as bees (both native and honey bees). Early goldenrod starts flowering in Niagara in early to mid-August and can be recognized by its deep golden yellow pollen-laden stems. Other varieties of goldenrod soon follow, with asters flowering in late August. They can be recognized by their purple and deep pink daisy-like flowers, although some are also white. In Ontario, there are over 30 species of goldenrod and 34 species of asters. Most flower well into late October, thus surpassing almost all other flowering plants which have gone dormant for winter by then. As late fall bloomers, goldenrods and asters are critically important food sources for many species of animals incuding insects, birds and butterflies.

    Animals — including our important pollinators like insects, bees, butterflies — are just like humans in that they require a healthy diet to thrive and survive. The honey bee, for example, requires the nectar (carbohydrates) found in flowers to provide the liquid necessary to create honey. They also require pollen (protein) from flowers to create “beebread”: a mixture of pollen and nectar that is an important food source for newly emerging young bees. In fact, honey bees require 11 different types of protein to complete all of their life-cycle functions. This calls for a diversity of plants with varied flowering times (from April to early November) to provide a rich source of pollen and nectar for optimum health. Similar to the honey bee, many other animals also have complicated nutritional requirements. Considering that habitat loss and degradation are recognized as the single greatest threat to plants and animals (and therefore biodiversity) in Canada, consider what this means for Niagara.

    Sadly, we are losing our natural areas that are critically important to a large range of wildlife species. The good news is, many restoration efforts continue to take place by local conservation groups and private landowners. If every landowner in Niagara created or protected a small natural area on their property, these small changes would significantly add up to make a big difference in protecting the environment by reducing pollution, mitigating climate change by promoting carbon storage, and providing food to our much-needed pollinators.

    There are many groups and resources available to help get you started, from providing advice on how to mow your grass less so the area can naturally regenerate and provide important nectar for pollinators, to more complex projects such as wetland creation. A great first step is to contact your local Conservation Authority https://npca.ca/restoration or Restoration Council http://niagararestoration.org/.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock-Caspell, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • A few thoughts on permaculture

    An example of permaculture application at the household scale.


    Have you ever heard the term permaculture? If you do any gardening or have investigated methods of living more efficiently and sustainably, you might have heard about it (even if you aren’t entirely sure what it is).

    Permaculture is the combination of two words: perma (short for permanent) and culture (short for agriculture). It was coined by Australian researchers Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 during the rise of the sustainable agriculture movement. While most commonly used in reference to food growing systems, permaculture has now evolved to apply to all aspects of our lives. Simply put, permaculture is a set of principles developed to help us meet our basic human needs by utilizing and imitating systems found in nature.

    As expressed in Holmgren’s 2002 book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, there are 12 design principles most commonly associated with permaculture. They are as follows: Observe and Interact; Catch and Store Energy; Obtain a Yield; Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback; Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services; Produce No Waste; Design From Patterns to Details; Integrate rather than Segregate; Use Small and Slow Solutions; Use and Value Diversity; Use Edges and Value the Marginal; Creatively Use and Respond to Change. Mark D. Hathaway also explores these concepts in his 2015 research article titled Agroecology and permaculture: addressing key ecological problems by rethinking and redesigning agricultural systems. 

    Permaculture gardening, specifically, takes a holistic approach to how plants, animals, and humans interact together to make each garden plot more sustainable. These gardens use natural forces to provide everything the garden needs to flourish while seeking to reduce the need for any external inputs, such as fertilizers or pesticides. It can be quite flexible to implement and can be done in rural or urban places, started on a balcony, in a backyard, or on a small farm.

    Permaculture is often promoted as an ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change or a strategy or action that employs the use of nature-based solution (looking to nature for tackling socio-environmental challenges). Just as an ecosystem is healthier when filled with multiple species, a diverse garden also tends to be more resilient to climatic variability. Companion planting (planting numerous mutually beneficial species of plants together) can also support greater yields, as well as having the capacity to reduce erosion and water runoff during storms.

    Permaculture attempts to ensure that humans and the natural environment can adapt to climate change. An example of this is utilizing permaculture gardening as a cost-effective way to promote food subsistence and security for individuals and communities. The permaculture and circular economy movements are also closely linked, as both strive to avoid the generation of waste by promoting recycling and the reusing of materials.

    Applying permaculture principles to gardening can help the garden itself to be more productive while also reducing the work needed to maintain it.  The micro-climate and fertile soil found in the Niagara Region also makes for an ideal location for utilizing permaculture principles to provide healthy and nutrient-rich food. Incorporating permaculture into your next garden project can help you enjoy a diverse range of foods, while also allowing you to do your part to combat climate change in the process.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock-Caspell, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca


     *Holmgren, D. (2002). Principles & pathways beyond sustainability. Holmgren Design Services, Hepburn.

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • Creative Kitchens: Alternatives to plastic for kitchen use

    Glass containers, beeswax wrap and food storage bags are a few of the many sustainable alternatives to plastic for kitchen use.


    From daunting news reports to the removal of straws from restaurants and the five cent bag tax, awareness around the impacts of plastic pollution is increasing. More than one billion tons of plastic have been produced over the past fifty years, and less than nine per cent of that has been recycled. As it takes centuries for plastic to decompose, most of that plastic ends up in the natural environment — including our oceans and lakes. This type of pollution is now present all over the world, contributing to overflowing landfills and the death and contamination of many aquatic species.

    The amount of plastic products in your kitchen alone (often used for eating, drinking and transporting and storing food) is staggering. One trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe. In 2016, there were more than 480 billion plastic bottles sold worldwide—that’s nearly two million every minute. There are also several other plastic waste producers in your kitchen that you might not think about, such as plastic containers, food wrap, and storage bags.

    There are some simple and cost-effective switches you can make to create a more sustainable kitchen, however. Reusable fabric grocery bags and water bottles made of metal or glass can help you cut back on your plastic consumption. While the bottles may take more energy to produce initially, they are generally reused more times than a single-use water bottle and are more sustainable in the long-run. If you choose bottled water over tap water because you’re concerned about the water quality, you can always purchase a water filtration or reverse osmosis system to treat your water. Tap water, however, is generally of excellent quality and is required to meet strict provincial safety standards.

    Saving leftovers in the fridge is another great way to reduce food waste and save money, but it’s also important to look at the sustainability of your food preservation system. Consider shifting from plastic to glass containers, for example, and replacing plastic food wrap with a natural and compostable product, such as beeswax wraps or bags. Another perk to using beeswax is that it allows for produce and fresh food to breathe, which will prevent it from spoiling as quickly. All you have to do to reuse your beeswax wraps and bags is to wash them with cold water and mild soap, and then dry them thoroughly. These products are becoming more readily available and affordable, and can be purchased on the internet, at your local farmers’ market or in certain grocery stores.

    If possible, buying in bulk can also help reduce the amount of disposable containers and plastic waste that you are purchasing. In some cases, doing so can also save you money.

    These are just a few great examples of how you can reduce our footprint and reduce waste. Small actions play a big role in climate action, and it is crucial to find sustainable alternatives for everyday use in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our contribution to climate change. The suggestions listed above are affordable and easy ways to begin reducing plastic use at home, move toward a circular economy, and practice the 5 R’s: rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, and lastly, recycle.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • Community Gardens

    Depending on its size, a community garden can produce enough food to fulfill a portion, if not all, of the gardeners’ fresh produce and herb needs during the growing season. The Brock University community garden, pictured here, is a great example of what companion planting may look like.


    Community gardens are a great way for families and individuals to grow fresh and healthy produce and connect with other passionate greenthumbs in their area. They contain individual and / or shared plots for growing a variety of fruits, vegetables and other desireable plants (including flowers). They are gardened by a group or a community of people which are usually volunteers. Community gardens can be located in a variety of locations such as schools, parks, churches, community housing properties and even private properties. The Niagara Region has more than 70 community gardens, including one at Brock University.

    The success and sustainability of community gardens relies on community support and a variety of people getting involved. If you don’t have a greenthumb, there are many other opportunities to volunteer or get involved with your local community garden. Taking on some of the maintenance of the garden, donating materials or leading workshops are a few of the many ways to contribute. Every member of the community brings their own strengths, knowledge, and experience to the garden, which serves to increase its overall productivity.

    Many community gardeners look to use healthy and sustainable techniques to increase the success and productivity of their plots. One of the most common techniques is known as companion planting, which involves placing a crop (e.g., kale) in combination with another crop (e.g. onion) for benefits, such as reducing pest infestation. Companion planting can also involve the use of flowers. This method, also called diversification, helps with pest control, pollination, maximizes the use of space and increases crop productivity.

    While there are thousands of successful plant combinations, here is a small list of common crops grown together and their benefits:

    • Planting onions in between lettuce and carrots will help to keep away rabbits.
    • Marigolds are often planted with lettuce, bean plants and tomatoes to prevent a variety of pests.
    • Lemon balm can be planted near flowering crops, such as apples, to help attract bees and encourage pollination.
    • Planting basil near asparagus will attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs. Ladybugs help to fight off unwanted pests such as aphids or leafhoppers.
    • Beans are generally a great companion to all crops as they help to increase healthy nutrients in the soil such as nitrogen.

    Gardens can be managed at a very low cost while also utilizing vacant green spaces.  As well as allowing members to get to know and interact with their neighbours, a garden can also help to partially address the food security of a community. They also promote local produce and help to reduce our energy footprint, which is a mitigation action to climate change. Finally, community gardens have the opportunity to address several of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and, through these goals, create a healthier and more sustainable environment for our communities.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR BLOG: Circular economy

    A circular economy is an alternative to our traditional linear economy where we use products, services and resources for as long as possible and then recover and regenerate them at the end of their service life. In a circular economy, everything from concept design through to disposal is assessed, including the energy consumed to produce the item, the materials used, and its impacts on the environment. The process involved in making an item may also be changed to reduce energy or material needs. For example, some items can be made from a more substantial proportion of recycled material. To optimize the use of resources, some components can also be used and reused for multiple purposes. The manure from livestock, for example, can be used as fertilizer for agriculture and then, during composting, the biogas generated can be retained and used as energy. In a circular economy, what may have initially been looked at as waste can instead be reused in a cyclical fashion, extending the life span of our resources and reducing pollution.

    There are three principles in a circular economy: The first looks at how to preserve our natural resources as much as possible and reduce waste and pollution; the second principle aims to optimize the usage of any item or product that we buy or use by regenerating, sharing or even looping the item back into the cycle for reuse; the last principle promotes the minimization of waste and leakage from the production system, which may relate to energy, water use, or the material itself.

    A circular economy is also sometimes labelled as Cradle to Cradle economy. It reinvents waste in such a way that it is eventually considered to be a new source of material, instead of something to be put in a landfill site. Cradle to cradle economy also re-examines the traditional “3 R’s”; so instead of reducing, reusing, recycling, it now includes refuse as the first option. Circular economies can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thus mitigating and adapting to climate change by rethinking our life and how we consume. Think about it: Do you really need a new pair of boots every winter or to replace your cell phone as soon as a newer model hits the market? Or, would you be willing to try and trade in the throwaway culture you’ve come accustomed to in exchange for a system that optimizes everything in our lives to ensure a waste-free, sustainable future?

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR BLOG: SUSTAINABILITY RATING SYSTEMS/CERTIFICATIONS FOR BUILDINGS 2.0

    The Grimsby Square Shopping Centre in the Niagara Region is BOMA BEST Silver certified.


    The buildings we live in have direct and indirect impacts on both our health and the health of our planet. There are numerous sustainability rating systems that have been developed to help us contruct and make our existing buildings more efficient and sustainable. We discussed a few of those in a past article (LEED and LBC), and we’ll examine a few more building sustainability certifications that are widely used in Canada below.

    1) BOMA BEST: Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Building Environmental Standards (BEST)

    BOMA BEST is a voluntary national certification program for buildings in Canada that started in 2005. This certification aims to assess the environmental performance and management of buildings in ten key areas: energy, water, air, comfort, health & wellness, custodial, purchasing, waste, site and stakeholder engagement.

    Building owners complete an online assessment and have an on-site verification by a third-party to then qualify for one of five levels of certification: Certified (attained up to 19 per cent on the questionnaire), Bronze (attained between 20 to 49 per cent on the questionnaire), Silver (attained between 50 to 79 per cent on the questionnaire), Gold (attained between 80 to 89 per cent on the questionnaire) and Platinum (attained between 90 to 100 per cent on the questionnaire). The certification is valid for a three-year period.

    Since the BOMA BEST certification can be applied to buildings of all sizes, it is very popular among building owners and managers in the real estate sector. The certification also provides economic advantages as the operation and maintenance costs of the buildings can be reduced through the installation of high-efficiency systems. Obtaining a building BOMA BEST certifion can also help to attract and retain tenants are many renters are now prioritizing environmental efficiency.

    2) BREEAM: Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method

    Developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in 1990, BREEAM is the world’s first and oldest established sustainability rating system for buildings and is used in more than 90 countries. The BREEAM rating can also be obtained for community planning and other infrastructure projects, commercial buildings and homes that have been renovated. BREEAM asesses energy, health & well-being, innovation, land-use, materials, management, pollution, transport, waste, and water. There are five BREAAM ratings for buildings: Outstanding (85 per cent and above), Excellent (70 per cent and above), Very Good (55 per cent and above), Good (45 per cent and above) and Pass (30 per cent and above).

    3) Energy Star Certification for buildings

    The ENERGY STAR symbol is a well-known addition to many of our appliances. This energy efficiency rating was established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 and is one of the most common rating systems for electrical and electronic appliances. But did you know that buildings can be ENERGY STAR-certified, too?

    Getting an ENERGY STAR certification for your building involves scoring well on these four benchmarks: energy use, water use, waste and materials. The ENERGY STAR certification uses a scoring system out of 100; a score of 50 is the median energy efficiency performance, and a score of 75 or more means top performance. The aim of this certification is to encourage homeowners to improve efficiency and save money. The certification is valid for one year.

    Buildings are increasingly being certified in the Niagara Region through these various sustainability rating systems and certifications—which is a good thing.  It shows the potential for property owners to make impactful contributions to boosting Niagara’s local economy and lend momentum to climate change mitigation and adaptation programs in the future.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair