OLDS COLLEGE – Wetland Plants

Research at Olds College has determined at least three native wetland plants in Alberta—sedges, cattails and bulrushes—are “working very well” removing contaminants and excess nutrients from the water. “There’s no data that indicates what plants, what kind of contaminants or nutrients each plant takes up and how much the plants can take up at a time,” says Ruth Elvestad, research technician at Olds College Centre for Innovation.

That’s why AREF supported furthering the research with a project called: Use of Native Wetland Plants and Cold Climate Floating Island Systems for the Remediation of Contaminated Water and Water with Excess Nutrients. The project will test several more native wetland plants to help landowners understand the value of wetlands on their property and how different plants can clean up different contaminants.

“We would say let’s test the water that has algae or other contaminants,” says Elvestad. “Then we should be able to say ‘This is what you’ve got going on in your pond so you need plant X, Y or Z and this is how many you need of each in order to assist in cleaning your water so it can be recycled and used in agriculture, irrigation, and other applicable industries.’”

Rural Climate Solutions online resources and broadcasting

STETTLER LEARNING CENTRE

The Stettler Learning Centre is creating a series of podcasts and a website that are “part educational tool, part source of inspiration” aimed at Alberta producers who want to understand what they can do on the farm to help move toward a clean energy economy.

“This podcast comes straight out of Alberta—one of Canada’s biggest agriculture and energy producers— and dives into the technology and practices that are both good for the farm and good for the climate,” says Derek Leahy, the project coordinator for Rural Routes to Climate Solutions at the Stettler Learning Centre. “The agriculture sector is often characterized as a cause of climate change as opposed to a solution but most people do not realize that there are farming practices that can help us in the fight against climate change.”

From solar power to better land management, many of the practices that can help the environment can also help improve farming and ranching operations. “There are many producers who do not realize many climate solutions can help their farming and ranching operations thrive,” says Leahy. For example, using biodiversity can boost productivity, manage pests and help the land endure Alberta’s endless cycle of floods and droughts. Another podcast covers the benefits of formalizing a cooperative among agricultural producers to save on costs and minimize operators’ environmental footprints.

“Producers are constantly looking for opportunities and new techniques to improve my agricultural operations,” says Leahy. “Our project connects those dots by providing clear, informative and entertaining explanations on how producers can benefit from using climate solutions on their land.”

AREF’s support for the project allows the Learning Centre extend an existing program that received funding from the Alberta Government Community Environment Action Grant program. The initial program developed workshops and other materials for producers about agricultural and land-use practices that reduce carbon emissions.

Turning those materials into podcasts provides a really convenient method for producers to consume the information. “For producers, time is limited and it is also a precious commodity. But with the podcast, a producer can simply download episodes on to his or her phone and listen on the job, particularly on those days that they’re on a tractor or combine all day.” says Leahy.

“It is our hope that through this easily accessible method of learning, producers will be informed and inspired to use climate solutions on their farms. They will benefit and we will all benefit from this.”

Listen to the Rural Routes to Climate Solutions podcast here!

 

Understanding Behavioural Environmental Design Contributors of High Radon Exposure to Protect Canadian Health

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer— after smoking— and the invisible, odorless, radioactive gas may be lurking in your home. AREF is supporting Evict Radon, an awareness campaign that encourages homeowners across the province to test their houses for radon gas while also providing data for researchers who are looking for a solution.

“We want to educate people about the effects of radon gas and encourage as many Albertans as possible to test their homes while also gathering data for medical research,” says Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, an assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary and lead of the Western Canadian Prairie Radon Study.

Radon occurs naturally when radium in the soil and rock breaks down. Goodarzi and his team have detailed radon gas analysis from more than 11,000 homes across Alberta and Saskatchewan. They found a staggering one in six houses contain hazardous levels of radon.

“We now have radon readings from all across Alberta and other parts of the prairies,” says Goodarzi. “We know that homes with higher square footage have higher radon. However, there are still several unknown home metrics that are contributing to high radon.” They’re trying to determine the “X factor” about why newer houses have higher radon than older houses.

The researchers are aiming to test more homes in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Medicine Hat and rural parts of Alberta. The best time to test for radon is during the winter. “That’s when we spend more time inside, and due to the cold, our homes are sealed up tight — the perfect conditions for radon exposure,” says Goodarzi.

People order a $60 Evict Radon test kit at evictradon.ca. They put the device in the lowest level of their home where they spend more than four hours a day and leave it there for at least 90 days. They register their device online, enter the start and end dates and fill out a short home metric survey. After the 90 days are up, the homeowner sends their device to the lab for analysis. They’ll get their radon level within a few weeks.

Radon occurs in areas all across the country. It’s the primary cause of lung cancer diagnosis in 10,000 to 40,000 Canadians every decade. And every day, an Albertan is diagnosed with radon-induced lung cancer despite never having used tobacco.

 

New look of Pembina’s New Energy Economy Map

It’s been over a year since the New Energy Economy project got its start, premiering at the 2017 Alberta Climate Summit. The goal was to share stories of Albertans taking hold of the energy evolution well underway in the province, and in less than a year it has made amazing progress.

Today, the New Energy Economy Map has over 200 projects, each having broken ground after 2012. They have published more than 20 stories and profiles about these projects and the people who make them happen — touching on renewable energy, efficiency, education, transportation, clean technologies and more. The map is always growing, with new stories published every week.

U of Alberta enhances research on urban expansion

“Urban Alberta is spilling into rural,” says Brent Swallow, an environment and development economist. Too often, decisions about land designation are driven by short-term goals, he says. But there are long-term costs to development and to the “ecosystem services” that rural land provides for cities, such as clean air and water.

Balancing urban expansion with rural conservation is challenging and heavily influenced by people’s attitudes and beliefs. For example, do urbanites in Alberta want to preserve the rural land around their cities? Do they want more locally grown produce at the farmers markets? Are they willing to pay extra to keep the city outskirts green?

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation wants to find answers to these questions to help the real estate industry better understand issues around land stewardship. The foundation’s $50,000 donation will make it possible for Swallow and his research team in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences to conduct a province wide survey of urban attitudes toward fragmentation, conversion and conservation of agricultural land.

Announcement of new Executive Director of the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA)

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation is pleased to announce that Ms. Amelia Martin has been appointed as the Executive Director of the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA).

Ms. Martin joined CPLEA in January 2015 as the public legal education lawyer after leaving private practice in Calgary. While obtaining her law degree at the University of Ottawa, she was selected to be one of the Dean’s Legal Research and Writing Fellows and was involved in teaching the legal research and writing class. As a caseworker at the University’s Community Legal Clinic, she assisted vulnerable clients who were experiencing housing issues or facing criminal charges. She also worked closely with the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation and contributed to a report for the United Nations titled Forced Evictions: Global Crisis, Global Solutions.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation has been a proud supporter of CPLEA for 15 years and are looking forward to working with Ms. Martin in her role as Executive Director.

The CPLEA’s mission is to enhance the accessibility and quality of justice realized in Canada. It addresses its mission by creating learning opportunities and building learning communities that facilitate the creation, management, exchange, and integration of knowledge among people within the justice system and between them and the general public.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation is currently providing funding to CPLEA’s Condo Law for Albertans project which you can learn more about on our website: Phase One and Phase Two

Unlocking the door to Smart Energy Communities – a Framework for Implementation

Communities – the places where we live, work and play – account for 60% of energy use in Canada, as well as over half of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In other words, when we invest, plan and implement effectively for Smart Energy Communities, we can have a direct impact on addressing Canada’s energy and GHG challenges.

QUEST believes that there are three fundamental features of a Smart Energy Community that you can view by watching this video.

  • First, a Smart Energy Community integrates conventional energy networks. That means that the electricity, natural gas, district energy and transportation fuel networks in a community are better coordinated to match energy needs with the most efficient energy source.
  • Second, a Smart Energy Community integrates land use, recognizing that poor land use can equal a whole lot of energy waste.
  • Third, a Smart Energy Community harnesses local energy opportunities.

Many cities and communities in Canada have taken ownership over their energy, recognizing the significant impact energy has on the local economy, health and community resilience. These communities are exemplifying some of the features of a Smart Energy Community.

Consider Surrey, British Columbia, where the municipal government is building a district energy system that will efficiently provide heating and cooling to buildings in the City Centre. Surrey is also developing the largest Organic Biofuels facility in Canada which will turn organic waste into renewable natural gas that will replace diesel and gasoline fueling for municipal vehicle fleets.

Consider also Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, which successfully completed a 10-year community energy plan and exceeded greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by 100%, in part by converting from oil to renewable wood-pellet burning heating systems throughout the city.

And finally, consider Guelph, Ontario where the municipal government and electric utility have collaborated to develop the Galt District Energy system, seven solar energy facilities, a small-scale combined heat and power system, and plans for both a large-scale combined heat and power facility and biomass projects. Guelph is also playing host to net-zero residential developments.

These and many other communities are blazing trails – led in particular by the initiative and leadership of the municipal and provincial governments, gas and electric utilities, and real estate stakeholders that make them up.

Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a Smart Energy Community, Surrey, Yellowknife and Guelph each use a Community Energy Plan to guide decision making around energy.  Lessons learned in these communities can be applied in every community across Canada.

A Community Energy Plan is a tool that helps communities define priorities around energy with a view to improving efficiency, cutting emissions and driving economic development. Community Energy Plans are an important and effective enabler for becoming a Smart Energy Community.

Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Canada

That is why QUEST has partnered with The Community Energy Association and Sustainable Prosperity, Canada’s leading community energy experts, to launch a national initiative entitled Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Canada. The objective of this multiyear initiative is to build the capacity of Canadian communities to develop and implement Community Energy Plans. This will be done through the development of a Community Energy Implementation Framework.

Over the next year, the project will be drawing on lessons learned from communities across Canada through research, as well as a series of national workshops, to develop the Implementation Framework.  The Framework will help communities navigate the challenges faced when it comes to implementing Community Energy Plans and will provide them with the tools they need to become Smart Energy Communities.

QUEST recognizes that every community will have its own unique set of opportunities and challenges for advancing Smart Energy Communities. The solutions will vary from community to community. The Getting to Implementation initiative is one of the first steps for identifying the success factors and barriers for CEP implementation. Understanding these will bring QUEST one step closer to defining how other communities across Canada can develop and implement Community Energy Plans effectively, and become Smart Energy Communities.

Be sure to attend Community Energy Planning: Getting to Implementation in Alberta on June 18th 9:30 am – 3:30 pm at the University of Alberta. Register here.

By: Eric Campbell, Acting Director, Programs & Service, QUEST and Sarah Marchionda, Manager, Research & Education, QUEST

Alberta Green Condo Guide: Saving money and helping the environment

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta outlines how to capitalize on energy saving opportunities in common areas of a condominium, including centralized heating, cooling and ventilation systems and lighting.

Reducing a building’s energy bills is a huge opportunity to save money and reduce a building’s impact on the environment.   In fact, at least 40 per cent of a condominium building’s operating costs go to gas, electricity and water bills, making utilities the largest controllable expense for any condo corporation.

And most older condos can cut these costs by 30 per cent by doing a few upgrades, adding more efficient lighting or boilers.  Even a newer building can realize savings of at least 15 per cent.

This simple to follow and easy to read 14-page guide outlines a number of steps that will not only reduce a condo’s energy use—saving money and reducing emissions—it will result in a more comfortable and well maintained building.

The step-by-step overview of how you can green a condo begins with information on how to baseline and benchmark a building’s energy use, perform an energy audit and set goals.  Next, it goes through a high level explanation of how to identify opportunities for improvement, assess the business case for upgrades and improvements and develop and track a retrofit plan.

A good energy retrofit will help protect the capital that’s invested in a condo by ensuring the building’s systems are in good operational order and operating costs are under control. A green building is comfortable and cost-efficient, which protects an owner’s investment and is more attractive to buyers.

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta, funded in part with a grant from AREF, is based on work originated by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and adapted for Alberta by the Pembina Institute.

What Lies Beneath? Buyer beware

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: You buy a home, move in, then find out there’s an abandoned gas well beneath, leaking and contaminating your property. Think it can’t happen to you? It can. According to the Energy Resources Conservation Board in November 2012 over 150,000 abandoned well sites dotted the Alberta landscape, making it essential that buyers do their homework.

These nightmares happen because of gaps between what Albertans should know, could know and actually do know about their environment,” says Adam Driedzic, Staff Counsel and author of a new Environmental Law Centre publication, What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta.

In real estate transactions the onus is generally on the buyer to do their due diligence and the general rule for buying and selling real estate is ‘buyer beware’. Unfortunately there’s no checklist to prove due diligence and no one-stop shop for environmental information.

The best way to demonstrate due diligence is to identify environmental concerns, learn what information is available about those concerns and act on that knowledge. Buyers who make inquiries into the environmental conditions of the specific site and the local area are in the best position to make sound choices and solid deals.

Most land in Alberta has already been used for something. In Calmar, oil and gas extraction took place on farmland that was re-zoned, subdivided, developed into a residential community and sold without exposing what lay beneath or what other activities had taken place on the land previously.

And in Alberta it isn’t just oil and gas activities that are concerning. Whether you’re looking to buy a giant parcel of farmland or a tiny infill lot in the city, there are many activities that can impact the land, air and water that surround your potential new home. Feedlots, pesticide application, old dry-cleaners or landfills – even recreational activities like off highway vehicle use – can affect your quality of life.

What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta provides practical information-finding tips, outlines environmental concerns you may want to think about and describes where to get started to find the information you need to make the best choices when buying property in Alberta. A twelve-page booklet based on this guidebook, Buyer Beware, is also available.

The Environmental Law Centre is Alberta’s leading environmental public policy and law reform charity. The full publication and booklet can both be downloaded on the Environmental Law Centre website.

Stewarding Lac La Biche, by Living Lakes Canada

Lac La Biche is the seventh largest lake in Alberta, with importance to the local economy and culture.  Local and provincial government, in collaboration with lake stakeholders, created a watershed management plan for Lac La Biche in 2009, but little has been done to date to implement it.  That is soon about to change, with the formation of the Stewards of the Lac La Biche Watershed, a group of community stakeholders committed to implementing the monitoring, outreach and stewardship recommendations in the plan.  With the support of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the newly formed group will be able to take on activities that will increase publicly available science about the lake and provide means of disseminating that information to stakeholders.  Since the project start date, a group of steering committee members has formed to work out the mechanics of the group so that it will make the broadest and most enduring impact on protecting the lake values.

Location of Lac La Biche

 

 

 

Thirty-Five sites will get naked during Doors Open Calgary

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 – Many of Calgary’s most culturally and historically significant buildings are going to bare it all during Doors Open YYC – DO YYC Naked on September 29 and 30, 2012.

For these two days only, buildings in all quadrants of the city are opening their doors – free of charge – to the public and providing special revealing tours and experiences designed specifically for DO YYC Naked. No matter where you live, you’ll be able to find something close-by and memorable to experience. In some places, the sites are close enough together that you’ll be able to take in a few in a single day.

“This year is the perfect time to take a great event like Doors Open and do it in a way that is pure Calgary energy,” says board member for Doors Open YYC, Jeff Hessel of Tourism Calgary.

Arts lovers will find inspiration in sites like the National Music Centre, King Edward School, Atlantic Avenue Art Block and the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts.
History buffs will love sharing the experiences and stories of the Colonel Walker House, Deane House, Fort Calgary and will even get a chance to view rarely shared archives at the Lougheed House.

Sports enthusiasts will have a hard time choosing between taking in a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the Olympic Oval or getting behind the scenes at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Kids will love to visit the Oliver Bowen LRV Facility where they can ride a C-Train car as it goes through the wash, the Nat Christie Centre where they can learn about the costumes of the Alberta Ballet and The Military Museums for the always loud and impressive cannon demonstrations.

For people who love to know how things work, there are special tours of the City of Calgary Victoria Park Bus Maintenance Facility and the Traffic Management Centre.
Environmentally minded Calgarians will be awed and inspired by tours of The City of Calgary Water Centre and the Pine Creek Wastewater Treatment Centre as well as the Genesis Centre of Community Wellness and the Energy Environment Experiential Learning building at the University of Calgary.

“As you can see, a lot of effort went into putting together an event that would have something for everyone and would showcase the architecture, culture, heritage and inner workings of our unique city” explains Joni Carroll, Doors Open YYC program manager.

Doors Open YYC will show you Calgary like you’ve never seen it before. For the full list of Doors Open YYC sites with details about accessibility, programming and a map to help visitors get the most out of the weekend, visit doyycnaked.com

You can see a full listing of the sites by going here.

Affordable homes is a dream come true for two Albertan families

Owning a home is so much than acquiring an appreciating asset – it’s a source of pride and new tie to the community. You could see the emotion on the faces of all four families that benefited from new Habitat for Humanity homes in Strathcona County. On a sunny July 27th, four families were handed keys that started new chapters in their lives. Two of the four homes were supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the REALTORS® Community Foundation and the Government of Alberta. The County of Strathcona also played a key role with significant contributions to all the homes.

Jay Freeman, Chair of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF), said of all the worthwhile projects that the Foundation supports, Habitat for Humanity is one of his favourites. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony he said, “With these projects we can see, in a very concrete way, how our small contribution is benefiting.” The families moving into the new homes couldn’t agree more. Both parents and children spoke about how owning a home will make a difference to them and their families. One of the new owners named Clodia said, “Owing a house means stability and security, but also it means I can be a good role model for my daughter.”

 

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Habitat for Humanity believes in giving people a hand up, not a hand out. Habitat Homes are built by volunteers and donors and sold to qualified families. Those who are approved to receive a home must agree to work 500 hours at the build site in place of a down payment. Habitat holds the mortgage interest-free and amortizes it over as many years as necessary to ensure the families do not pay over 25 percent of their income for housing.

Affordable housing is one of the Foundation’s areas of interest for projects. It often partners with Real Estate Boards across the province, such as the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton, to match their donation and double the impact in communities across Alberta. Habitat for Humanity is a deserving partner as it serves families that are low to moderate income and offers them an innovative financing option. The Alberta Real Estate Foundation is proud of its contribution to this great event and join with others in welcoming these four families home.