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Alberta Septic Maintenance Pilot Program Launched

Partners come together to support responsible management of private onsite wastewater systems

By: Land Stewardship Centre

For rural homeowners, private onsite wastewater systems (septic systems) are often the only option for treating their household wastewater. How these systems are used, and the decisions homeowners make about how to manage and maintain their septic systems have the potential to have a significant cumulative effect on the Alberta landscape, the environment and our water resources.

The potential for operation issues or failures increases without routine maintenance. These failures can result in contamination of surface water and groundwater, and also pose a health risk to people and animals exposed to untreated wastewater.

Unfortunately, landowners in Alberta have not always had access to the information, resources and support that can help them responsibly manage their systems. So, in early 2015, Land Stewardship Centre (LSC), in partnership with Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association (AOWMA) launched Septic Sense, an onsite wastewater system education and outreach pilot program for landowners in Alberta.

“Surface water contamination from poorly managed and maintained septic systems can be an issue, especially around more developed recreational lakes. The Septic Sense pilot program is a proactive, collaborative approach to educating landowners, and helping them properly manage and maintain their septic systems can help address this concern,” says Amrita Grewal, Program Research Coordinator with LSC.

This multi-agency initiative is being rolled out as a one-year pilot project in order to implement, test and evaluate the feasibility of developing a full-fledged septic system operation and maintenance workshop program in Alberta. LSC and AOWMA have engaged representatives from government, municipalities and industry to serve on a Steering Committee and provide oversight for the pilot program. Alberta Municipal Affairs, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Agriculture and Rural Development, in addition to the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) and the Association of Summer Villages of Alberta (ASVA), have all been approached to join the Steering Committee.

Similar in format and style, and an excellent complement to the province’s long-standing Working Well program (www.workingwell.alberta.ca), the Septic Sense pilot program will offer a range of educational opportunities and resource materials for landowners, including a workshop and a homeowner’s guide developed by wastewater management experts that covers various types of septic systems and ways to cost-effectively maintain septic system. Program information will include an overview of the relevant legislation governing onsite wastewater systems and stress the importance of having licensed contractors design and install systems to ensure they meet all guidelines and requirements. Appropriate use and maintenance of septic systems, and a troubleshooting guide that addresses common issues and questions will also be included.

The response from municipalities and other organizations for this type of program has been extremely positive, and many have expressed how useful such a program will be to landowners.

For more information on the Septic Sense pilot program, contact AOWMA www.aowma.com or LSC www.landstewardship.org.

25 years of celebrating environmental successes with the Emerald Awards

From a couple that’s revived a Cree water blessing at the Battle River to teachers that inspire students, from projects at giant corporations to a young woman who worked in her basement to clean tailings ponds—the Alberta Emerald Awards shines a light on hundreds of environmental stars across the province.

“Since we began in 1992, the Emerald Awards have showcased 280 recipients from across Alberta in sectors from business, government, youth, individuals schools and more, each with its own unique environmental success story,” says Carmen Boyko, Executive Director, Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF). “By showcasing the incredible dedication and hard work of the Emerald Award finalists and recipients we hope to inspire everyone to take a look at their everyday environmental habits and practices, helping to build toward a healthier more vibrant environment.”

As well as the Emerald Awards, the AEF holds Emerald Day events in communities across Alberta to showcase work by the finalists and recipients. Emerald Days include environmental booths, a speakers series featuring awards recipients and finalists well as activities for kids and an environmentally friendly family movie. AEF’s Youth Environmental Engagement Grant Program inspires “the next generation of eco-heroes” by giving up to 100 young people micro-grants of up to $400 for environmental projects across the province.

“I’m proud to be a part of this 25th annual celebration as we celebrate and showcase some pretty extraordinary achievements made by individuals and organizations, all of who are dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and sustaining the environment,” says Boyko. “We know that Albertans are passionate about the environment and we are honoured to share new and innovated environmental research, technology and practices.”

AREF is happy to support the Emerald Awards’ Shared Footprint category to celebrate projects that go beyond normal land management to have a positive impact on the environment. “Recipients of the Shared Footprints Award go above and beyond land and water stewardship, building and shared knowledge, improving air quality and reducing land disturbances,” says Boyko. “AREF’s support with this category has been invaluable.”

The Emerald Awards are unique in Canada and helps bring governments, private industry, non-government organizations and individuals together in support of the environment. This year, 70 people and/or organizations were nominated for an award and there will be 32 finalists announced, across 12 categories. The Emerald Awards will be held June 8 at TELUS Spark in Calgary.

The Alberta Water Nexus Simulation

The Alberta WaterPortal, through sponsorship from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Enbridge, and Veolia, developed case studies, an interactive simulation, and Sankey diagram for users to explore the implications of the convergence of demands for water in the Bow River Basin. Known as the Nexus, this concept highlights the interconnectedness of water for food, energy, and communities.

A first in Alberta, the Alberta Nexus Project analyzed strategic plans as well as existing watershed and industry data within the Bow River Basin to create an interactive simulation that shows the influence of future water demand on overall water management and availability on a regional basis. Users can try their hand at water management to see how well they can manage the converging demands of water, in addition to population growth and climatic change, in 2030.

Regardless of where it is applied, the Nexus Concept is complex and shows the intricate nature of water management. As populations grow, the Nexus Concept and approach to decision-making will result in a more holistic water management process and help us to address the risk of resource scarcity.

See if you can manage water needs across the Bow River Basin in 2030:  http://www.albertawater.com/nexus-simulation

New Energy Efficiency Agency Coming to Alberta

The recent announcement of a new energy efficiency agency for Alberta is good news for the real estate sector as energy efficiency programs have a proven track record of helping consumers save money and increasing the value of real estate.

In fact, energy efficiency programs currently exist in every province in Canada and state in the U.S. except Alberta. This was discovered as part of research undertaken by the Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance (AEEA), a grantee of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

“Energy efficiency programs have been saving consumers money since the 1970s,” sums up Jesse Row, Executive Director of the AEEA. “In Alberta, we’ve been funding energy efficiency programs just when there’s a government surplus, but the opposite approach is taken just about everywhere else.”

Research conducted by the AEEA has identified that most energy efficiency programs in Canada and the U.S. are funded every month through a modest charge on utility bills. The funds are then used to help households and businesses reduce their energy consumption and save three to four times more money than they cost.

“Most energy efficiency programs need to report publicly to an energy regulator to make sure they’re making good use of consumer dollars,” adds Row. “Not only have programs demonstrated a suitable return on investment for consumers over the years, provinces and states have increased their funding as they’ve seen that energy efficiency is the cheapest way to meet increasing energy demand.”

More recently, energy efficiency programs have also been used to stimulate the economy and create jobs during economic downturns. During the last recession and recovery in the U.S., numbers compiled by the AEEA show that funding for energy efficiency programs went from US$3 billion in 2007 to US$8 billion in 2011. This funding increase happened at both the state level and through the U.S. federal government (mainly though the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). Not only did energy efficiency programming in the U.S. increase during their last recession, it has maintained this level of funding as states continue to see a strong return on these investments.

For the real estate sector, the launch of an energy efficiency agency in Alberta creates opportunities to deliver more value-added services to clients. Energy efficiency programs in other provinces and states are very popular with households and businesses. These programs typically provide direct support for consumers, including financial incentives, to save energy through a combination of behaviour changes and physical upgrades to properties. The real estate sector is ideally positioned to help consumers take advantage of these new programs.

Once these programs are in place, the benefits to Alberta’s real estate sector are significant. A recent study commissioned by the AEEA shows that even an average-sized energy efficiency program for Alberta has the potential to result in over $200 million in additional energy efficiency upgrades to homes and buildings in the province each year. These investments lead directly to increased property values and over $500 million in annual energy bill savings for consumers. These savings can then be reinvested into other parts of the economy and create additional economic benefits for the province.

Keep up to date on the latest energy efficiency developments in Alberta through the Alberta Energy Efficiency Alliance (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) or by signing up for an AEEA membership.

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Energy Poverty in Alberta

A surprising number of Albertans are being left out in the cold… inside their own homes.

They are the energy poor, those hard pressed to pay their utility bills. Living in cold, damp homes impacts their health and well being, especially the elderly, young, disabled and those with long-term illnesses. Needless to say, they can ill afford the energy-efficiency measures that would improve their lives and benefit the environment.

About 455,000 Albertans live in energy poverty. These low-income families spend three times more disposable income on home energy—heating, cooking and lighting—than the average household. For the poorest, it’s more than 9 per cent of their after-tax income.

The energy poor must often make difficult choices between competing necessities such as energy, water, food and clothing. The most dramatic choice for some is to “heat or eat.” Indeed, evidence suggests the poorest households, especially among seniors, spend less on food in winter to pay for additional heating.

Living in cold homes can contribute to heart disease, reduced lung function, suppressed immune systems, asthma attacks and exacerbated arthritis. It is also associated with increased stress, social isolation and, for children, impaired educational success.

Energy poverty thus results in increased public costs for health care and social services. One study suggests that every $1 spent on raising living temperatures to acceptable standards saves 42 cents in health-care costs.

Alberta’s energy poor could also be disproportionately impacted by any changes to the provincial government’s climate-change policies. Such changes will likely lead to increased energy prices, hurting poorer households, which ironically emit fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the norm.

The most cost-effective, sustainable solution to this problem is to increase the energy efficiency of energy-poor households, starting with those most in need. Realistically, this can only happen with substantial subsidies.

Many jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S. operate and fund energy efficiency and conservation programs for low-income households. In Calgary, All One Sky Foundation has for several years operated a demonstration Energy Angel program, which provides energy-efficiency upgrades to the homes of low-income seniors.

But this is just a start for what needs to be a much more widespread effort. Tackling energy poverty in Alberta offers a potential win-win-win for three important environmental and social policy agendas: climate-change mitigation and greenhouse gas reduction; health and well-being; and poverty alleviation.

Read All One Sky Foundation’s “Energy Poverty – An Agenda for Alberta” report here.

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*Image: Helen Corbett, Executive Director of the All One Sky Foundation with Alberta Real Estate Foundation Past Chair Gary Willson.

 

The Alberta Emerald Foundation Announces 25th Annual Emerald Awards Finalists

Today, at Calgary’s Eau Claire Market, hopeful nominees joined the Alberta Emerald Foundation (AEF), its sponsors, volunteers and other members from the local community, for the announcement of the 25th Annual Emerald Awards Finalists.

Over the past weeks, a panel of knowledgeable third-party judges with cross-sectoral experience rose to the challenge of narrowing down the brilliant examples of innovation and environmental achievement nominated this year for the uniquely-Albertan award. A maximum of three nominees in each of the ten Emerald Award categories have been selected as a finalist. Only one per category will take home the award.

“The Alberta Emerald Foundation is at the forefront of celebrating great achievements in sustainable development, bringing awareness to the many unique environmental projects occurring throughout Alberta,” says Aaron Dublenko, past Emerald Award recipient and member of the current judging panel. “Whether it’s schools, industry, government, non-governmental agencies, large or small companies, anyone can be acknowledged for their ingenuity in sustainable practices. Such recognition reminds us that despite the many pressures our air, water and soil face, people are working tirelessly to use less, reduce their footprints and educate others on how to do the same.”

“We are the only Foundation in the country to recognize the important work of environmental leaders across all sectors,” says Andy Etmanski, Chair of the Board, AEF. “By honouring and elevating the ingenuity, dedication and hard work of these individuals and organizations, we inspire others to follow their example, benefiting all Albertans with a healthier and cleaner environment.”

The Emerald Awards recognize and celebrate environmental excellence achieved by individuals, not-for-profit associations, large and small corporations, community groups and governments from across Alberta. Since 1992, the Emerald Awards has recognized over 475 finalists and 280 recipients who have demonstrated creative thinking and innovation in environmental management systems, technologies and education programs.

The 25th Annual Emerald Awards will be presented on June 8, 2016 at Telus Spark in Calgary.

Congratulations to ALUS in Alberta and Beaver Hills Initiative for being named finalists in the Shared Footprint category!

To read the full list of finalists, visit the Alberta Emerald Foundation’s website here.

AREF Announces Support of the Energy Futures Lab

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) approved a grant of $250,000 to foster community engagement with a focus on energy literacy across Alberta through the Energy Futures Lab. This is a bold commitment by AREF toward co-creating the province’s energy future as part of the Foundation’s 25th anniversary.

“This is an important conversation to have in the province and it affects all Albertans.” Charlie Ponde, Chair of the AREF Board of Governors states. “The Board is pleased that the Energy Futures Lab is representing a microcosm of Alberta as a whole by engaging industry, government, academia, non-for-profit and First Nations to achieve a robust and constructive conversation.”

Cheryl De Paoli, AREF’s Executive Director, and an EFL Steering Committee Member for the past year, adds, “We want people to really understand where their energy comes from, and to understand what it means to talk about renewables and innovation. We have to get beyond an “Us vs. Them” argument and a commitment to energy literacy is going to be a big part of getting us there.”

AREF’s funding is to support the Energy Futures Lab’s public engagement commitment to share more broadly EFL Fellowship discussions, prototyping and new innovations with communities across Alberta.

“Our grant to the Energy Futures Lab is AREF’s commitment to Alberta’s innovative spirit.” Cheryl De Paoli states, “We have a history of incredible ingenuity in getting oil and gas out of the ground and to market. And this spirit will be critical in setting ourselves on a path to move beyond oil and gas, and to position Alberta as a global energy leader now and into the future.”

One of the major opportunities to engage Albertans in shaping their energy future is the Newtonian Shift game which is an immersive simulation game that condenses 20 years of energy transition into a single day. Players take on one of a variety of roles within an outdated and inefficient energy system and collaborate in order to create the energy system of the future or risk being left behind. Over the coming year, a series of game sessions will be hosted in communities across Alberta. The first two of these will be held in Calgary on Thursday, April 7 and Edmonton on Thursday, April 14.

Read the full announcement on the Energy Futures Lab here.

The grant is made under the AREF’s new Community Innovation funding stream which supports projects, practices and ideas that encourage experimentation with the goal of creating new ways of realizing community potential and character within Alberta.

Board Chair named REALTOR® of the Year

We are delighted to announce that Alberta Real Estate Foundation Board Chair, Charlie Ponde, was named REALTOR® of the Year at the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton’s gala dinner on March 4th, 2016.

Charlie has been an active and full-time member of the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton ever since he entered the real estate profession in 1992. Charlie was elected and served as the President of the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton in 2000. He has served on numerous committees relating to real estate including AREX Claims Committee, the Edmonton Realtors’ Charitable Foundation (Governor and President), the Arbitration and Professional Standards Committee, the Technology Committee and the Government and Political Action Committee.

Charlie is also an active member of the community. His involvement includes the Affordable Housing Committee, Sign of Hope Campaign – Catholic Social Services, The Christmas Bureau, Realty Watch and the Neighborhood Watch Programs, St. Albert Lottery Board, St. Albert’s City Plan 2000 Advisory Committee (Municipal Development Plan), the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association and is a Director with CARP, a seniors national advocacy organization.

Charlie was named Chair of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation Board on January 1, 2016.

On behalf of the Board of Governors and staff of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, we would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Charlie on this achievement. Thank you for your dedication to the industry and the community!

Read the REALTORS® Association of Edmonton announcement here.

 

March 2016 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $445,000 in community investment projects at their recent meeting.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) supports initiatives that enhance the real estate industry and benefit the communities of Alberta. AREF was set up in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded approximately 17 million dollars in community and industry grants to over 550 projects across Alberta.

AREF is currently celebrating its 25th Anniversary of making a difference in Alberta. To celebrate we launched a new area of interest call Community Innovation and will be highlighting past grantees. Keep in touch with AREF through our website or on Twitter (@arefabca) to ensure you do not miss out on what is to come!

Projects approved at the March meeting include:

Accessible Housing Accessible U

Accessible U is an information hub about accessibility, especially in residential environments. Meeting information needs for Albertans experiencing mobility barriers, Accessible U is committed to making relevant, understandable information readily available to everyone. We’re creating a space to inform and empower people, creating a more accessible Alberta.

Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN) ARDN Sustainable Housing Initiative

There is an acute shortage of affordable housing in many rural Alberta communities. ARDN will work with several rural communities to start addressing this issue by conducting affordable housing needs assessments and feasibility studies in a coordinated and cost effective manner, and create and share a model of best practices.

Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) Communications and Outreach for the ALUS Alberta Municipal Alliance (AAMA)

The AAMA is made up of ten ALUS communities, led by ALUS in partnership with municipalities. These programs are changing private land and conservation dynamics in several ways: they incentivize conservation activities on agricultural land by paying for ecosystem services; they build ownership over conservation and community support (each community forms a Partnership Advisory Committee made up of farmers, municipal officials, realtors, watershed based conservation groups, etc.); and they achieve measurable, verified conservation.

Capital Region Housing Foundation (HOME Program) MOVE Forward

The MOVE Forward Program encompasses education, counselling and advocacy, and referral to service providers to assist and support individuals to become successful, stable tenants/renters. Program components include 12 hours of in-class education deigned to create a personalized plan for stable housing; improve an individual’s communication skills, and create a workable household budget that makes rent a priority. The core of the program is the education component of six 120 minute sessions delivered by a team of specialized facilitators and community experts.

Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) Alberta Water Issues CAWST Capacity Building Workshop Package

CAWST is bringing its model for adult water education home to Alberta. With local partners, we will co-develop and pilot 3-5 lesson plans that introduce members of corporate groups and community organizations to water and sanitation issues, building their capacity to protect Alberta’s resources and share this knowledge.

The Natural Step Energy Futures Lab

The Energy Futures Lab (EFL) is an Alberta-based collaboration for tackling the interconnected issues of climate change, energy security, and sustainable development today in order to build the foundation for Alberta’s future prosperity. The convening question for the EFL is: How can Alberta’s leadership position in today’s energy system serve as a platform for the transition to the energy system that the future requires of us? We are requesting funding to develop and implement the public engagement stream of the EFL, which will use a community innovation approach to engage more than 100,000 Albertans, including real estate stakeholders, in dialogue, learning and action about energy transition in the province.

The Pembina Institute Renewable Best Practices

Over the next 15 years, wind capacity in Alberta will roughly quadruple, with the provincial goal of 30% renewable electricity by 2030. While wind is a cleaner source of electricity, some residents have concerns about the impact on vistas, property values, and local and migratory species. These concerns are best mitigated proactively by adhering to best practices for wind development. The purpose of this project is to highlight best practices that empower and benefit stakeholders as well as minimize the impact on the ecosystem, and to build a framework that will enable  development of responsible and socially acceptable wind projects in Alberta.

The University of Lethbridge Challenges and Solutions in Acquiring Water for Housing Development

Housing development is a $10 billion industry in Alberta. However, it may be curtailed by lack of water needed to service new residential communities. This study explores the challenges and solutions to acquiring water for housing development and the secondary impact a decline in the industry could have on the real estate market.