Proposed RNG Project for Stratford

The public meeting of the City’s Infrastructure, Transportation and Safety Committee met on Friday, December 17, 2019 to discuss the proposed Renewable Natural Gas Project. This blog post is an attempt to bring out some of the main points of that meeting, in the hope of furthering informed discussion. A much more detailed description of the meeting is available in the minutes of December 17. The Beacon Herald has published their own analysis of Friday’s meeting. as well as a letter to the editor that was heavily critical of the project.

While few question the value of removing 49,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases yearly from our atmosphere, there have been arguments against the project from the beginning, and at the December meeting Councillor Sebben proposed a halt to the project, citing problems with the location, as well as concerns over financial risks (Will we be able to maintain a profitable level of green waste input from other communities? Can we rely on governmental support past the election cycle? What will be the role of private enterprise?) Councillor Sebben’s proposal was referred to the next meeting of council on January 13.

It was a long and fairly contentious meeting, and my notes get scrambled here and there, but I thought Councillor Burbach’s statement supporting the proposed project was the most comprehensive, and I am using it here to outline the arguments of Council, balanced with comments from citizens who spoke at the meeting (in italics).

  • PRO: Removal of greenhouse gases will have local and global benefit. We would be protecting our children’s future.
    Ann Carbert: we must reduce emissions to 45% and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
    Donna Sobura: What is included in the carbon reduction footprint? (fuel, oil, expelled gases, deteriorated concrete)
    Louise McColl: supports the project, time is running out. This is not new technology, it’s in use in Europe.
    .
  • PRO: Project fits in with Council’s strategic plan of last year, commitment to move to zero waste.
    Bob Verdun: pollution issues are not addressed
    .
  • PRO: We would be upgrading infrastructure. We have a city asset that will need to be upgraded in the near future. This project allows us to do that now.
    Louise McColl: cost is concerning, but will be quickly recouped
    .
  • PRO: This will be a revenue-generating project that in the end will pay for itself, by taking in waste from other municipalities. When we move away from natural gas technology in 10-15 years, we’ve paid for the project and probably generated revenue as well.
    Bob Verdun: has concerns about the reliability of the waste disposal industry. Why the rush on this project?
    Dorothy Van Esbroeck: questions the economics of the project.
    Kirk Roberts: concerned that he has not seen the business plan, claims he has been denied access under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Privacy act as a third party is involved.
    .
  • PRO: We will extend the life of our landfill, and save on the cost of exporting green waste elsewhere.
    Bob Verdun: unwise to import green waste. City has not seriously considered garburators, which could feed green waste into the system.
    Donna Sobura: what are the measures used to recognize whether the project is working?

  • CON: Location in a flood plain, next to a river. This was poor planning 70 years ago, but the costs of moving the plant would be astronomical. Councillor Burbach stated that experts have assured Council that the level of risk at the facility would remain the same whether the project goes ahead or not. She recommends upgrades to infrastructure (upgrade of West Gore).
    Blaize Monostory: the sewage plant emits toxic substances into the Avon River and has caused medical problems
    COUNCIL RESPONSE: Our treatment plant does not emit toxins.
    .
  • CON: Truck traffic. As someone who lives less than 50 meters from Huron Street, Councillor Burbach is very aware of the pressing traffic and safety issues. She proposed some remedies that should be implemented whether the project goes ahead or not. (Traffic buffers, section of 3-lane road, short-term parking lane, landscaping.)
    Donna Sobura: the number of trucks will rise as the processing escalates.
    Lloyd Lichti: increased traffic and the project itself will devalue property. Should relocate the facility.

The discussion will be continued at the regular Council meeting on January 13, including:

  • whether a 20-year agreement with FortisBC can be guaranteed;
    (The city has had preliminary discussions with FortisBC, and could enter into an agreement to be a supplier.)
  • whether Ontario Clean Water Agency is willing to invest more than $1.5 million due to the increase in capital cost for this project;
    (Capital costs will be approximately $22.7 million.)
  • confirmation that additional capital costs do not impact the City or any future Municipal Service Corporation;
  • a cost estimate for the construction of a private access road to the back of the plant for trucks to exit;
  • confirmation that there will be available organics for the project for at least 10 years.

All in all, it was pretty inspiring to see so many people turn up to participate in local democracy. The meeting was very well run, although some of the citizen questions remained unanswered. Perhaps this would be a good time to update the FAQ on the city website, which was written in July. Hopefully we will have a good turnout on the 13th.


EDIT: The original version of this post credited the Council statement to Councillor Ingram, when it was actually Councillor Burbach who spoke. My apologies to both councillors for the error.

The Restore is My Happy Place

The Restore moved a little over a month ago. It used to be a little hard to find, but now it has a big storefront at 598 Lorne Avenue. I’ll bet you pass it all the time. If you haven’t been there, this month is a good time to make a visit, because on Saturday, September 15 they are celebrating their move with a big barbecue from 11am – 3pm.

Many people think that The Restore just carries boring stuff, like old bags of nails and leftover paint. Leaving aside the point that nails are far more expensive than you would think, and old paint is perfectly good if you are not too picky about shade, there are also many surprises there. I thought I would show a few of these in this post, just to give you a general idea.

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Art Deco lamp, $15

The first thing I liked about the new location is the lighting area. Its bigger, brighter, and much better organized. I saw a really cool lamp–well, it would have been cool, with a different lampshade. You need imagination at The Restore. The shape of this shade is just not right, and it’s too low.

The best thing about The Restore is that it is a charity. You feel good about making a purchase, because your money is going to help other people. It sells things that would otherwise go to the landfill. And if you don’t like it, you can just take it back. You might be out a few bucks, but they will be able to sell it again!

Antique oak sideboard, $350

They occasionally have antiques, too, like this oak sideboard. It was a solid looking piece, refinished, not much damage. You could get a whole set of dishes and silverware in there, or maybe use it as an entertainment centre. I like old wood, it’s warm and friendly. If you have something like this to donate, just let them know, and they will come pick it up.

I was talking with Florance Daniels, who is the Assistant Manager of the Stratford Restore. She is the whirlwind organizer of all the many different things that wind up on display. Florence says that business has really picked up since the move, so hopefully there will be higher turnover.

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Metal chest, $60

The Restore is a great place to exercise your creativity. Take the metal chest on the right, for example. It would make a good low coffee table, and would really pop if you spray painted it a strong colour. You might even set it on a stand to give it more height. And you would be absolutely certain that you were the only person in the world who had a coffee table like this.

On the other hand, if you just wanted a small low table, you could try one of the cheese boxes. At $5, you don’t have much to lose, and you could really go nuts with paint or wallpaper, or you could even just leave them as is. Like the metal chest, this kind of low table is double purpose; it holds a cup of coffee, and can store an entire set of Lego. And they don’t smell of cheese. Not at all.

The Restore is best known for its architectural salvage. If you are a home remodeler, or if you like interesting things to hold up vines in your garden, this is definitely your place. The aluminum columns I saw were in really good shape, and as far as I can see were less than half the retail price. They were pretty tall, too, maybe 12 -16 feet (not certain about the height).

If you keep checking back, you can often find entire sets of kitchen cupboards for ridiculously low prices. You need to do research on refinishing, but some of these sets are in really good condition, and just need a little elbow grease to get them in shape.

And don’t forget to consider alternate uses for things. You may think this is weird, but I love toilet cisterns (the backs of toilets). They are very pretty, they’re ceramic, and they have a drainage hole at the bottom. They make wonderful plant pots, especially when you mix them with coloured or terra cotta ones. People never notice that it’s part of a toilet. Well, at least, they’ve never mentioned it…

What I like best about The Restore is the thrill of the hunt.  It’s very well organized, but you still have to really look around to find something that is of value to you. It’s an especially good trip when you are broke, and need a pick-me-up for less than ten bucks. You can usually find something. If you’re renovating, the best way to shop at The Restore is to drop by frequently. If you see something you like, make the decision immediately, because it won’t be there when you come back.

Or talk to Florance. Florance knows everything. Florance is a recycling goddess.

The Restore
598 Lorne Avenue East
Stratford, ON N5A 6S5
(519)273-7155
fdaniels@habitat4home.ca
https://www.facebook.com/StratfordReStore/

Stratford Trashion Week, April 15 – 21

Jessika Guy, Owner of The Green Hair Spa launches the first annual week-long celebration of eco-friendly fashion events to celebrate Earth Week. It was a natural, although ambitious extension of Guy’s existing business model. Her salon in Downtown Stratford, promotes an environmentally friendly approach to beauty and haircare, Stratford Trashion Week brings together her commitment to the environment with her love of vintage and recycled fashion helping her draw attention to and celebrate Earth Week in a cool and creative way.

Stratford Trashion Week will feature design competitions, environmental awareness, industry experts, workshops and of course, fashion shows all of which focus on promoting the idea of eco-fashion as an alternative to the fast, throwaway fashion that has become the mainstay of the fashion industry.

Highlights of Stratford Trashion Week include:

Revival House (70 Brunswick)

 

Sunday, April 15, 2018 – Opening Night Party / Thrift and Vintage Fashion Show, Revival House (70 Brunswick Street) at 6:30. Featuring fashions from local thrift and vintage shops, art auction, expert talk on fast fashion, and retro dance party. Dress to impress in your vintage best. Tickets $50 or 4/$150 are also available through the website. Fundraiser for Canadian Freshwater Alliance.

 

 

Factory 163 (163 King)

 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 – Trashion Show featuring wearable creations from throw away items, Perth Pop-Up Eco Market, aerial performance artist, and presentation by Bee City Canada. No trash talking, just trash walking. Free event, 6:30 at Factory 163.

Thursday, April 19, 2018 – Beeswax wrap workshop with Upcycle Lifestyle, registration is required: email stratfordtrashionweek@gmail.com. Event starts 6:30 at Factory163 (163 King Street) Tickets $35, also available through the website.

Friday, April 20, 2018 – Community Clothing Swap and expert talk about sustainability in your wardrobe from Daniela Siggia (VP of Textile Waste Diversion) Free event, 6:30 at Factory163 (163 King Street)

Gallery Stratford (54 Romeo Street)


Saturday, April 21, 2018
– Re-Fashion Show and Design Competition. 12 designers transform new fashion from used clothing ready for the runway. Expert judges Kelly McIntosh (actor), Dana Ruby Martin (co-founder of Revival by Martin and co.), Carrie Wreford (co-owner of Bradhaws Canada), William Riquelme (photographer for Lada Magazine) & Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks (creator of Peggy Sue Collections). Gallery Stratford (54 Romeo Street) at 6:30. Tickets are $75, a fundraiser for Gallery Stratford. They can also be purchased through the website.

 

Stratford Trashion Week welcomes 2017 Canadian Sustainable Fashion award winner, Peggy Sue Deaven-Smiltnieks from Peggy Sue Collections as one of the Re-Fashion Show judges and guest speaker to discuss what makes her ‘farm-to- fashion’ approach to fashion design different and why it’s so important today. Daniela Siggia VP of Textile Waste Diversion, York Region says “I celebrate the organizers of Stratford Trashion Week, for dedicating an entire week to this subject!”

Raising awareness about the effects of fast fashion on the planet is just the beginning. Stratford Trashion Week is designed to encourage change in the way we look at our wardrobe AND give people the tools they need to succeed at making sustainable fashion choices for a healthier world. Contact Jessika Guy at 519-305-0941 for further information on this event.

Other Contacts:

stratfordtrashionweek@gmail.com
www.stratfordtrashionweek.ca
Facebook: @stratfordtrashionweek
Instagram: @stratfordtrashionweek
Twitter: @strattrashion

 

Keep Your Recycling Clean

Chief Security Officer and Assistant Recycling Inspector

There was interesting link posted in the Stratford Free Press Facebook Group today, leading to a CBC article about the dangers of sloppy recycling. In case you didn’t read it, here are the high points:

Problems:

  • contamination dramatically increases recycling costs
  • even a few spoonfuls of peanut butter or a gob of yogurt left in a jar can contaminate a tonne of paper
  • even a coffee stain can make a sheet of paper unrecyclable
  • many places can’t recycle black plastic
  • dirtiest cities are Toronto and Edmonton, where contamination rates can be up to 25%

 

Solutions:

  •  better sorting regulations. Clean cities like St. John’s and Vancouver sell their recyclables at a higher price, because they have stricter rules
  • change the list of accepted items
  • upgrade plants
  • educate residents

This all sounds good to me, but I notice the article didn’t say much about other ways of dealing with what we discard. Maybe we should tell our provincial and municipal representatives that we support them in their efforts to reduce waste. Maybe we should look for alternatives to disposables. And maybe we should stop meekly accepting purchases wrapped in toxic, non-recyclable plastic that cuts your fingers when you try to open them.

Or maybe we should do what these people did:

Coffee with a conscience

Every time I start getting depressed about the awful state of our environment, and the total jackass stupidity that contributes to it, something wonderful happens to me. It’s true.

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https://www.facebook.com/CarlaColesArtist/

Yesterday I wandered into Revel for a coffee. Often when I go into coffee shops I start nagging the cashier about whether they use plastic straws and cups. I try to do it in a nice way, but I do find that many shops look really relieved when I leave. So imagine my surprise when the cashier brightly replied that Revel uses biodegradable straws. If you use one of their straws in a coffee, it will melt (I didn’t try this). In fact, all their disposables are biodegradable.

Not only that, but they source their disposables from a Canadian company, Green Shift in Toronto. It’s a great company. Certification from all kinds of environmental associations, including the European Union Eco-Label, no animal testing, and fair trade products. I like this company’s holistic attitude to sourcing products, too:

Green Shift™ carefully sources and investigates products, factoring in the entire lifecycle of the product and the companies behind the products, because not only is green washing in individual products rampant, a key aspect that many people sadly overlook is that it is not just what you buy but where you buy it that counts. In other words, while a product itself may be “green” one should always consider the companies they are supporting in each purchase and whether helping that company to thrive will help or hinder environmental progress.

 

Greenwashing is a pet peeve of mine. It’s so good to find a company that understands that you can’t just look at the surface of things. You have to really dig, and use your brain. If you’re interested in ordering from Green Shift, you can have a look at their catalogue here: http://greenshift.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Green-Shift-Catalogue-2017v3.pdf

 

I’m so glad I wandered in yesterday. Now I’m wondering how many other coffee shops in town are getting the message about disposables. I’ll have to check them out. Maybe you could, too. But if you’re getting a little discouraged about pollution, drop by Revel for a coffee and give them a cheery wave.

There are microfibres in your beer

You need more than “the touch test” to find ethical clothing

This week I attended a workshop on microfibre pollution hosted by The Bus Store Bookshop at  LifeSpin in London. The workshop was designed by the Synthetic Collective, a group from Western University, and presented by Kristy Robertson, who teaches there. I hadn’t planned to do another post on clothing for a while, as there are other subjects I want to cover. I’m really encouraged, though, by the amount of interest there is in this topic. It just keeps coming up, wherever I turn.

When I first got the notice I thought, “A workshop? Really? Can’t they just e-mail me the info?” But I made the trip anyway, and I’m glad I did, because you really did need to be there, to touch and see the fabrics. We started off by trying to find an article of clothing we could be sure wasn’t harmful to the environment. Predictably, we failed. The most common reason was the presence of microfibres, tiny synthetic particles found in most clothing that we buy. When clothing is washed, these particles are shed, and they are everywhere; in water, in the air, in the food chain, and yes, even in Black Swan Porter (my personal favourite). You can’t see them, but they’re there.

The bad news:

  • Damage to environment: Microplastics are everywhere, making up 85% of manmade debris found on shorelines worldwide (I’m pretty sure you know this already). Microfibres are the smallest microplastic particles, and ride on the ocean, just under the surface, as floating goo.
  • Remediation is difficult: Most sewage treatment plants can capture microplastics, but microfibres are too small. There are filters that can be added to a washload, but again, microfibres are too small for them.
  • Harm for humans: We have no idea what this means for our health. The studies just aren’t there. This means that we can’t legislate against them.

The good news:

  • Front-loading washers shed fewer microfibres
  • Wool, silk and flax are best clothing choices, but watch out for dyes. Support knowledgeable clothing stores.
  • Used clothing has already had many of the microfibres washed out, so if you must buy a synthetic, try a consignment store.

Future actions:

  • Advocate for wastewater treatment reform
  • Support regulation for washing machine retrofits
  • Alter our washing machine use. No unnecessary washing, seek out better filters.
  • Look for biodegradables when shopping (not just clothing: linens, curtains, mops, cleaning accessories)

All in all, it was a great trip, and I’m really impressed with the Synthetic Collective. They have this great idea of putting their materials together in a slideshow that will be made available for community groups to use on their own. Anybody interested in doing one here in Stratford?

 

 

My New Year’s Resolution

Twenty seven pelicans saved from impalement

Sometimes the most effective change starts really small.

Today I went through the entire house and collected all the pens that no longer work. Twenty seven of them, in fact. These have been accumulating because of my fear that any pen I throw out will eventually wind up skewering some innocent pelican somewhere. So I have been keeping them in odd places around the house. This has been going on too long, and I am worried about becoming one of those hoarder ladies you read about in the paper.

I took all the dry Sharpies, and promised myself never to buy another one. I took all those nice pens I got from the bank. I took all the pens I get in the mail from charities (shame on you, charities!). I even took that really cool chunky silver pen I got at a conference years ago, and had been keeping in case I could figure out how to refill it. I put them all in a nice recyclable can, and when the can is full I will put them in a paper bag, write “recycle” on it, and take it to Staples on Ontario Street, which has an excellent writing tools recycling programme.

I cannot tell you how much better I feel after this 15-minute activity. I don’t know if it’s my feng shui, my chi, or my karma, but it feels very good.

I did keep the mechanical pencils, though. I know it’s unrealistic, but I do believe that someday, somehow, I will learn how to make them work.

Happy New Year, everybody!

 

The Life of Things

Hat-clock. Antiques Warehouse

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Hat-clock. Antique Warehouse

When it comes to antiques, I’m not one for a lot of clutter. Personally, I think there are some things that just shouldn’t have been made in the first place. So my trip to the Stratford Antique Warehouse wasn’t completely successful. I think this mall-like store is of more interest to people who like to collect smaller things. However, it’s a lot of fun to wander around there; there’s a ton of fun things to look at, the prices didn’t seem too bad, the people are friendly, and from an environmental perspective, it’s keeping stuff out of the dump and preventing the manufacture of new things. I think this could be called an environmentally friendly business.

 

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Dressers, Glen Manor Galleries

 

But today I was really out looking at more practical objects, so I decided to continue on to Shakespeare, where there’s a whole community of antique stores. I started off at Glen Manor Galleries, which has a number of breathtaking pieces. I asked Brian Campbell, the owner, if he thought his business is environmentally friendly.

Brian does not suffer fools gladly. It is obvious to him that fine furniture is much more ethical than Ikea particle board, and he told me as much. I then asked him if there were any problems with chemicals used in refinishing furniture, as when lead paint must be stripped off. His eyes bulged slightly. “Paint? On my furniture? I would never stock such a thing.”

Brian has pretty well convinced me that for the high end of the antiques market, there are few environmental concerns, and he’s also made me reflect on how we relate to the things in our lives. Many of the pieces in Brian’s store were made before he was born, and Brian is not a young man. The things in our life sometimes have more permanence than we do, and the careful selection of a fine piece of furniture that may outlast you could well be an act of anti-consumerism.

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Barn Boards, Flip! Vintage Antiques

Helpful as Brian was, I still had unanswered questions, so I crossed the road to Flip! Vintage Antiques. It seemed to be a little more my style. The first thing that caught my eye was the wonderful barn boards, at five bucks a linear foot. The owner, Wayne Ross, also showed me a huge slab of walnut, about three inches thick. I was in heaven.

I was surprised to learn from Wayne that the great majority of his customers are local. I would have thought they’d be tourists, and this really changed the way I’ve been thinking about Stratford antiques businesses. They aren’t just bringing money into our community, they are providing a service for it.

 

 

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Wayne also runs Land & Ross Antiques & Designs, across the road from Flip! He refinishes a lot of the items he sells, so he could help me with my environmental questions. He said he uses mostly Varsol and TSP, which he believes to be relatively harmless to the environment. He also reminded me that there are organic paint strippers. I’ve used these, and they do work, but I know they’re a lot more expensive than Varsol.

When lead paint must be stripped, Wayne keeps the waste in a barrel and disposes of it through a waste removal company. It is apparently burned, with a heavy use of scrubbers to clean the air. This news didn’t thrill me, but after researching this a bit, I don’t see how Wayne could deal with this waste in any other way.  On the other hand, there is room for change, but I’ll talk about that in another post.

Wayne also had his own reflections on how we deal with the things in our lives. Sometimes a piece will stay with a family for years, always with the idea that it could be sold through a dealer. In a way, the relationship with the furniture is just temporary, and somehow gives the piece an independence, a life of its own.

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Coat rack(?), Uptown Gallery

I finished my visit to Shakespeare at the Uptown Gallery. This store has a lot of midcentury modern items, and also one or two really cool old pieces, like this (coat rack?) made from barn utensils. I know mid-century modern is more appealing to the under-40 set, so I asked the owner if he thought younger people were as interested in antiques as the older generations.

He shook his head sadly. “The younger generation is a throw-away generation,” he said, “but that’s really a story for another article.”

He’s right.

So that was my antiques trip, a visit with the three wise men of Shakespeare. All in all, it was a positive one. After doing my research, I’ve still got a lot of reservations regarding refinished furniture. I think I’d have to insist on pieces that were stripped with organics (I am happy to pay extra), but I think I can continue to go antiquing with a clear conscience. It is the ultimate reuse and recycle experience.