Archive for May, 2010

100 Mile Diet Vancouver

The 100-Mile Diet Society and the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm have united to explore how sustainable agriculture can help reduce climate change and nurture the environment.

The “Foodshed Project” is building a strong sense of place so we can deepen our local and planetary connections. The food we eat is intimately linked to our landscape, history and communities.

What is a Foodshed?

“Foodshed” was first used 100 years ago to describe the global flow of food. The term has recently been revived to discuss local food systems and efforts to create more sustainable ways of producing and consuming. It is based on the concept of a watershed, which contains all the streams that feed into a larger river system or drainage place. Incidentally, the Georgia Basin watershed is quite similar to Vancouver’s 100-Mile Diet radius.

The Foodshed website

It’s a whole new way of exploring our foodshed. The map graphic on the home page illustrates the 100-mile radius around Vancouver. Click on the map to zoom in for a closer view, or use your mouse to scroll around to see the various types of fruits, vegetables, animals and marine life of this region. Each icon contains more information about the food and where to find it.

The website is a great place to start your learning journey, and the Vancouver 100-Mile Diet Foodshed Map will complete it—each source contains unique information, meticulously researched.

Vancouver’s 100-Mile Diet Foodshed Map

The poster we created takes bioregional mapping into the realm of art. It lays out the geography of our corner of the 100-Mile Diet region, combined with a food history you’ve never heard before.

The full-colour map is 27 x 39 inches, printed on 80 lb paper made of 100% post-consumer fibres and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. We have used the most sustainably managed printer in this region, and the best available in recycled paper.

The 100-Mile Diet Society

Following the successful online local-food series The 100-Mile Diet, the 100-Mile Diet Society formed in 2006. It is a registered nonprofit administered by volunteer effort. Since 2006 it has managed a 15,000-member website, 100milediet.org, and founded the international 100-Mile Thanksgiving campaign. The organization has inspired tens of thousand of local-eating experiments from the individual to the community level, and is credited as one of the leading inspirations for the local food movement today.

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Granola Bar Recipe










Granola Bars – nummy!


-  1 cup Butter or Margarine

-  1 ½ cups Peanut Butter or Almond Butter

- 1 ½ tbsp Vanilla 2 Cups Brown Sugar

- 1 Cup Corn Syrup

- 6 Cups Quick Oats

- 1 Cup Coconut (toasted) Unsweetened

- 1 Cup Raw Sunflower Seeds

- 1 Cup Sesame Seeds Toasted

- 2 Cups Chocolate Chips

- 1 Cup Raisins

- 1 Cup Dried Cranberries

What to do

- In a skillet, toast Coconut, Sunflower Seeds, & Sunflower Seeds and set aside to cool.

- In a large mixing bowl, cream together Butter, Peanut Butter (almond butter), Vanilla & brown Sugar

- Add Corn Syrup and then mix in remaining ingredients. (make sure the nuts are completely cool)

- Press into a greased 12 x 18 inch cookie sheet.

- Bake in 350 oven for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.

- Let cool slightly and cut while still warm.

Notes from the author:

*****the original recipe said to substitute 1 cup of raisins for the chocolate chips but I added everything. I also added whole almonds and pumpkin seeds. The original recipe had suggested substituting almonds for the sunflower seeds. I also reduced the butter to 2/3 of a cup and the corn syrup by the same amount. I also cut down the brown Sugar to 1 cup. For a first time I would attempt to make only ½ a recipe and use a 13 x 9 cake pan. Mixing up this amount of ingredients is quite the challenge.

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Here is a guest post from Frugalbits – a Vancouver daily money-saving must read.

Old houses cost less than new ones even if you renovate – and the heritage house tour can show you how.

MONEY WELL SPENT | What’s the first thing that comes to mind when making an old house more energy efficient? Changing all the windows maybe? Well, relax. A CMHC case study on renovating for energy savings reveals that replacing the windows and doors of a pre-Second World War house reduces just 11 percent of energy loss compared to 34 percent for insulating and draftproofing of walls, ceiling and foundation; 34 percent for upgrading the furnace; and 18 percent for adding exterior insulation beneath the siding.

This is just one of the helpful tips to be gleaned from the 30-page guidebook for this year’s Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s heritage self-guided house tour on Sunday, June 6. Another is that retrofitting an old structure can be less expensive than demolishing and rebuilding—like the $89 million to be saved by the UBC Renews rehabilitation of 10 buildings on the university’s campus.

What You Will See On The Tour

The tour itself features multiple real life examples of how to update an existing home for today’s lifestyle. There are 10 buildings to see, including several with more than one residence, from Vancouver’s first warehouse conversion to a single-family home with a basement suite. The homes represent a variety of architectural styles and renovation approaches, so there are plenty of ideas to take away.

For example, a former Strathcona schoolhouse (shown here) raised and converted to five suites includes sliding walls to accommodate the changing needs of a growing family; a 1922 Craftsman now has a second bathroom created by combining a couple of closets; a 1939 Shaughnessy mansion with kitchen updated more than 20 years ago by well-known architect Robert Lemon still looks fresh.

This year, more than 180 volunteers will be at the homes to answer questions. Homeowners, many of whom share information about their tradespeople, resources, suppliers and even wall colours, are also usually on hand part of the day.—Alex Moore

This year’s tour is Sunday, June 6, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The guidebook, which also serves as a ticket, is $35 plus GST. Tickets are sent by mail and always sell out. To get yours, call 604-264-9642 or visit www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org

Photo: Courtesy Vancouver Heritage Foundation

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Here is a list of Canada’s greenest cities and why they are green. You can get more details about this from the original source at Green Living.

Our cities are leading the way to a cleaner urban future. Find out which ones will get there first. You’re in for a few surprises.

The cleanest air and water, bountiful green spaces, solar-powered and geothermal-heated buildings…all are tantalizingly within reach in several Canadian municipalities. So, where should you point your biodiesel-fueled moving van? To find out, we asked some of the country’s foremost green experts for their predictions on which cities will be Canada’s environmental leaders in the next 5, 10 and 20 years. We also analyzed the innovative and award-winning plans and policies that promise to transform our cities in the years to come.“Ten years in the future, sustainability will be viewed as a common practice, as opposed to an added value for cities,  regions and businesses,” says Richard Florida, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto.

Florida says that in addition to measuring greenhouse gas emissions and other traditional environmental metrics, we’ll also be looking at a community’s green spaces, public transit, and planning and sustainability practices. That doesn’t just apply to big cities like Calgary, Montreal and Toronto. “Some of the smaller jurisdictions like Whistler and Okotoks [Alberta] are definitely on par with larger centres in terms of their sustainability plans,” explains Carmen Bohn, a manager at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). “Their populations and budgets may be smaller, but their thinking is large.” What makes these cities—listed from west to east—so special? Typically, they’ve developed successful initiatives that respond to unique environmental challenges, putting them on track for a more sustainable future, says Megan Jamieson, Canadian director of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. For example, Vancouver’s density planning and air-quality programs reflect its hedged-in geography in the same way that Halifax’s climate change efforts are a reaction to its storm-battered location. “There is no one perfect community,” says Keith Stewart, manager of World Wildlife Fund Canada’s climate change campaign. “However, some are ahead in certain areas—and they need to learn from each other.”

In that spirit, then, here’s what we can learn from Canada’s greenest cities of tomorrow.


Population: 2,116,581*

The urban density experts

Vancouver has gotten a lot right—it uses methane gas emissions from landfills to generate heat and electricity, fuels its fleets with biodiesel and maintains the strictest energy-efficiency guidelines in Canada for new buildings. But there’s still room for improvement. For example, only 11 percent of Vancouver’s land area is currently used for multiple-unit dwellings.

Enter The EcoDensity Charter, which will encourage green laneway housing, rezoning and relaxed building codes to accommodate solar panels and shading. A commitment to making all city operations carbon neutral by 2012 and plans to reduce community GHG emissions by a whopping 80 percent by 2050 (from 1990 levels) will also help to improve air quality, lower energy bills and create an even more livable city.

*All population figures reflect census metropolitan area according to the Government of Canada’s 2006 census (Statistics Canada)


Population: 18,700

Canada’s geothermal energy hot spot

Per-person greenhouse gas emissions in this territorial capital are among the nation’s highest because so much energy is used for heating. However, these emission levels should be falling due to aggressive actions by the city. Yellowknife will become a whole lot greener thanks to its Community Energy Plan, developed with the input of The Pembina Institute (dedicated to sustainable energy) and some of Canada’s most energy-efficient building codes.

Municipal officials talk most enthusiastically about the plan to use clean, geothermal energy from a nearby abandoned goldmine (the Con Mine) to heat 2,000 homes. If the project gets the green light, heat trapped deep within the mine will be captured in a loop system to heat homes and other buildings. Development of the system will also remediate the mine.

Plenty of green space, anti-sprawl planning and programs to promote walking, cycling and transit should also slash greenhouse gases, while boosting the health and fitness of Yellowknifers.


Population: 1,079,310

The green electricity capital

Forget dirty oil; Calgary is and will continue to be all about clean voltage. It is the only municipality in Canada to draw at least 75 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, and it plans to jack that up to 90 percent by 2012. Calgary also intends to divert percent of its waste from landfills by 2020 and to stay at or below 2003 water-use levels, despite its growing population.

Best of all, the imagineCALGARY program allowed citizens to contribute to a 100-year plan with ambitious goals, such as remediating at least 30 percent of Calgary’s contaminated areas and decreasing distance travelled yearly by private vehicles by 20 percent. (Calgarians will be riding the wind energy-powered CTrain instead.)

With these initiatives in play, the city is stampeding toward having clean air and plenty of water for years to come.


Population: 17,145

The solar centre of Canada

The future looks bright in Okotoks, Alberta—so bright that we just had to include it on our list, even though it’s technically a town. Its sunbelt location made it the perfect spot for the Drake Landing Solar Community—the first subdivision in North America to warm 90 percent of its water and living space with the sun. This innovative community has put Okotoks on the renewable-energy map and spurred more plans for leading-edge solar, green building and geothermal developments.

And the city’s enthusiasm isn’t cooling down, either: Okotoks is well on its way to a 70-litre-per-person daily water consumption limit. It already has the lowest water use in the region, as well as an 80 percent refuse-diversion aim by 2015. A composting sewage treatment plant, off-street pedestrian pathways and local employment opportunities to discourage commuting are just a few other reasons why this community will, as its councillors point out, be “better, not just bigger.”


Population: 1,034,945

The water smart city

How will Edmonton quench the needs of businesses in a region with limited rainfall and water supplies? Recycle wastewater! Edmonton’s Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plan is already doing just that for a Petro-Canada refinery, eliminating the refinery’s need to draw millions of litres of fresh water daily from the North Saskatchewan River. The plan has the built-in capacity to water trees and serve future industrial customers as well, so just imagine how much water the city will conserve over the years.

What’s more, Edmonton plans to slash waste going into landfills by up to 90 percent by 2010 and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent (from 1990 levels) by 2020. When you consider that it is already diverting methane gas from landfills to power homes, expanding light rail transit and offering multi-use trails for streetcars, pedestrians and cyclists, you can see why Edmonton will be a refreshingly sustainable place to put down roots.

Greater Sudbury

Population: 158,258

The model for post-industrial recovery

Who would have predicted that Canada’s mining capital would emerge as a future environmental leader?

The transformation of Sudbury, Ontario, is in progress thanks to EarthCare Sudbury, a community-led action plan for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable city. Among other programs, the municipality plans to continue improving damaged watersheds, produce 50 percent of the region’s energy and fuel locally, develop wind farms, build LEED-certified and clean energy-powered buildings and extend Sudbury’s network of trails and walkways.

And talk about sowing seeds of change: In the past five years alone, the city has planted more than 870,000 tree seedlings. Trees instead of mine tailings? Hear, hear!


Population: 5,113,258

The boldest retrofitter

Toronto’s Tower Renewal project will reclad, relandscape and revitalize Toronto’s concrete apartment complexes. “Only Moscow has more of these inefficient old concrete buildings,” explains WWF Canada‘s Stewart, noting plans to insulate them, add geothermal heating and reconnect the buildings to surrounding green spaces and ravines. This plan alone could cut greenhouse gas emissions by one million tonnes.

The newly adopted Toronto Green Standard will also spur the development of more sustainable buildings and landscapes. The city boasts a goal to divert 70 percent of waste by 2010 and reduce greenhouse gases by 30 percent by 2020, as well as a transit plan that foresees clean, light rail transit moving people across town.

Toronto’s new Environmental Reporting, Disclosure and Innovation Program—which will require businesses and municipal operations to publicly report their use and release of 25 hazardous chemicals—should result in fewer toxins in the environment and encourage other cities to follow suit.

No wonder the Ethisphere Institute, an international think tank dedicated to best practices in corporate sustainability, includes Toronto in its report “Global Sustainability Centers: The 20 Cities Of 2020.”


Population: 3,635,571

The most bike-friendly city in the nation

Two wheels may be better than four when you live in Montreal. After all, the city is doubling its bike paths from 400 to 800 kilometres and introducing a public bike program, Bixi, in the downtown core this month. What’s more, Montreal is spending millions of dollars on public transit, including subway extensions and rail development, in an effort to boost ridership to a full eight percent of the population by 2012.

“They understand the importance of transforming the city’s energy consumption cycle—especially of fossil fuels,” says Thomas Duchaine of Equiterre in Quebec City. “This is fundamental in order to determine how green a city can be.”

Fewer cars on the road, some of the strongest air-quality and pesticide regulations in North America, and major strides toward reducing airborne benzene and particulate pollution will offer a breath of fresh air. As for its plans to implement a drinking water conservation bylaw and to ensure that at least eight percent of Montreal consists of protected environments promoting bio-diversity? Environmentalists say, oui, oui, oui!


Population: 372,858

Climate change combatter

While Halifax was still pumping raw sewage into the harbour, few could imagine that it would become a future environmental darling. Yet clean air, water, land and energy programs, together with a 25-year plan to control growth and avoid sprawl, will help to make this region a model of sustainability.

The city’s award-winning Climate SMART program encourages residents and businesses to take action against climate change and severe weather. And Halifax has committed to reduce greenhouse gases to 20 percent below 1997 levels by 2012, among other goals.

Halifax residents will also enjoy a revitalized downtown core, thanks to HRMbyDESIGN, a reurbanization project to develop vacant sites and improve the existing infrastructure. World-class waste management efforts, a pesticide ban and a no-scent policy, as well as geothermal energy projects and harbour cleanup efforts, mean the winds of change will smell sweet for Haligonians.

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Three months later and I am proud to say that this challenge has changed our family on many levels!

We were always very aware of the importance that this challenge advocates but somehow by writing this blog, working with my family, interacting with my neighbours, community and Metro Vancouver and the media – being green and mindful has now become just part of who we are.

Let me give you some examples:

- diapers – the idea of purchasing the old pull ups that fester for a century in the landfill is impossible now

- throwing avocado pits, meat and bones in the trash seems counter-intuitive now

- buying toys with all the plastic and cardboard packaging makes us feel ill and we avoid avoid avoid

- educating a broader range of people is imperative and natural and all four of us seem to want to do that now

We want to do more now. We would love to create a garden and make our own vegetables, we would love to put a green cone in and we would love to have an additional composter. Sadly our yard is very tiny with minimal sun so our planning will be the first step on our continued journey.

This challenge has made a profound impact on us as a family and I would say all of the 15 families involved. We worked together as a community to make a change and we have and better than that we have impacted our greater community with media and our signage in our yards boldly stating that we are ‘aiming for ZERO WASTE’.

We will keep our sign up for as long as we can to continue to raise awareness and even when the sign is gone we will always strive towards a zero waste life.

This was/is pretty cool and I am proud to have been part of it!

Have a great week.


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The Doggie Dooley Pet Waste Disposal System works like a miniature septic tank, utilizing natural bacteria and enzyme cultures to reduce dog waste to a ground absorbed liquid.

Simply shovel stools into the system, occasionally add water and the Digester Powder.

Neat, clean, and convenient.

An environmentally friendly way to dispose of pet waste!

Each unit comes with a starter 6 month supply of Digester Powder. The Digester Powder is a non-toxic, harmless mixture designed especially for pet waste.

The systems are harmless to pets, lawns, and shrubs. The Doggie Dooley is an excellent way to dispose of pet waste safely and control odors. Works well in all soil conditions except in areas with hard, non-draining clay soil.

Doggie Dooley, celebrating 40 years!

For more information click here.

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Here is a great resource for children and schools – a site out of Illinois talking all about worms and worm bin composting for kids.

You can learn all about worms and how to compost on this highly educational, fun and rewarding site.

Here are a few highlights but please check it out on your own: Click here to play with Herman!

  • An earthworm can grow only so long. A well-fed adult will depend on what kind of worm it is, how many segments it has, how old it is and how well fed it is. An Lumbricus terrestris will be from 90-300 millimeters long.
  • A worm has no arms, legs or eyes.
  • There are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms.
  • Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. If they don’t have these things, they go somewhere else.
  • In one acre of land, there can be more than a million earthworms.
  • The largest earthworm ever found was in South Africa and measured 22 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.
  • Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants. The sticky slime helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates.
  • Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms more than 100 years ago.
  • Worms are cold-blooded animals.
  • Earthworms have the ability to replace or replicate lost segments. This ability varies greatly depending on the species of worm you have, the amount of damage to the worm and where it is cut. It may be easy for a worm to replace a lost tail, but may be very difficult or impossible to replace a lost head if things are not just right.
  • Baby worms are not born. They hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice.
  • The Australian Gippsland Earthworm grows to 12 feet long and can weigh 1-1/2 pounds.
  • Even though worms don’t have eyes, they can sense light, especially at their anterior (front end). They move away from light and will become paralyzed if exposed to light for too long (approximately one hour).
  • If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die.
  • Worms are hermaphrodites. Each worm has both male and female organs. Worms mate by joining their clitella (swollen area near the head of a mature worm) and exchanging sperm. Then each worm forms an egg capsule in its clitellum.
  • Worms can eat their weight each day.

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Have a wonderful long weekend! Here are a few things you could do this weekend as well as all your local events and fireworks. Be safe and have a wonderful long weekend.

See ya next week.


May 17 – 24, 2010
Vancouver International Children’s Festival 2010. A world-renowned festival of performing arts for young audiences, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival has been educating, entertaining and inspiring young audiences since 1978. Jam-packed with music, theatre, dance, storytelling, puppetry, circus arts and much more, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival embodies the buoyant spirit and endless curiosity of children all over the world. Kids of all ages can try something new or just have some fun at one of our more than 20 colourful site activities! http://www.childrensfestival.ca

May 19, 2010
Free The Children celebrates young global change makers in BC at West Fest 2.0. Join Free The Children for a night of renowned speakers, inspiring youth leaders and rockin’ live performances at West Fest 2.0. This exciting event marks the one year anniversary of our west coast headquarters and showcases the exemplary achievements of youth in B.C. Made possible by the hard work of Free The Children staff and volunteers – West Fest 2.0 invites youth, schools groups, families and community members to share in the celebration. The Vogue Theatre, www.freethechildren.com/westfest.

May 21 – 22, 2010
May Long Weekend – Official Patio Season Opener and Benefit for Children’s Hospital.  Hamilton Street Grill officially opens their patio with a BBQ benefiting Children’s Hospital. www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

May 21 – 24, 2010
Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair. This 4 day event hosts some of the world’s top cowboys & cowgirls as well as tons of family-friendly fun, including BC’s largest travelling midway. Enjoy live entertainment, education, exhibitions, arts & crafts competitions, rodeo action & more. All ages are guaranteed a memorable Victoria Day Long Weekend. http://www.cloverdalerodeo.com

May 24, 2010
21st Annual Edition North Shore Spring Triathlon. Join us for the 21st anniversary edition of the North Shore Spring Triathlon on Monday, May 24, 2010 (Victoria Day). This year’s race features a spectator friendly course, Legendary Race Announcer Steve King & long-sleeved technical garments for all participants. Downline a copy of the 2009 entry form at our website. There is a course for everyone: kids 7 & under, 8-11 & 12-15; adults. http://www.nstc.ca

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A backyard solution to your dog waste woes
By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul

Vancouver, British Columbia is one of my favorite cities on the planet, having attended Simon Fraser University in the mid 1970s. Located in a glorious water-mountain setting three hours north of Seattle, you can’t find a friendlier city. After landing in the airport, I hopped on a city bus only to discover I didn’t have the correct change.

“No problem,” said the driver. “I’ll take you to the hotel at the next stop where you can buy a cup of coffee and get some change.” When I returned, he refused my thank-you tip and smiled. “Nah, just have a great time while you’re here.”

In downtown Vancouver, it’s easy to find greenery. Rooftop gardens are becoming the norm on office buildings and condominiums, apple trees are planted along sidewalks, and the urban landscapes are so beautifully maintained, they regularly host weddings — all in an urban environment that’s the third mostly densely populated in North America, following New York and San Francisco.

dog waste composterAnd with all those people, you can expect challenges. Take dogs, for example. As with any dog, what goes in, must come out. Yes, we’re talking dog poop, and how to dispose of it.

Mike Levenston at City Farmer, a demonstration garden and compost site run by Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture in Vancouver, B.C. lives in the city and has a dog. I met with Mike at the City Farmer garden, and over a sprout-filled sandwich, we chatted about worm composting and composting dog waste. Gardeners have no fear when it comes to discussing most anything, anytime.

“People obviously love their dogs,” he said, “but it’s a big problem worldwide. You can see people picking up after their dog, and then wondering what do with it.”

After lunch, we strolled over to the fence at the edge of the demonstration garden. I peered down at a green, plastic garbage lid sitting on the ground. It was decorated with pink flowers and a cartoon dog. The words “Dog Waste Composter” encircled the dog.

What About Urine in the Garden?

According to wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, urine is sterile and contains large amounts of urea, an excellent source of nitrogen for plants. Recommended dilution: 10-15 parts water to 1 part urine for application growing season. Urine is also a good source of phosphorus and potassium, and is widely considered as good as or better than commercially-available chemical fertilizers. Urine is also used in composting to increase the nitrogen content of the mulch, accelerating the composting process and increasing its final nutrient values.

“In the city,” Mike said, “Garbage collectors don’t want dog waste to go into the truck because it gets messy and the bags explode. The sewage people don’t want it down the toilet because it has a lot of grit on it and mucks it up. So there’s really nothing environmental that you can do.”

The solution, says Mike, is to compost dog waste in yard, using a old plastic garbage can. The folks at City Farmer developed the method, which is one of the most popular tips on the cityfarmer.org web site. The technique provides “a chance where people can have it slowly decompose in a yard and be environmentally safe.”

Here’s a step-by-step description:

  1. Take and old garbage can and drill a dozen or so holes in the side.
  2. Cut out the bottom (A keyhole saw works great for this.)
  3. Dig a hole in the ground, deep enough for the garbage can.
  4. Toss some rocks or gravel in the hole for drainage and position the garbage can so it’s a little higher than the soil level.
  5. Place the lid on top (you might want to paint it with something like Dog Waste Composter.)
  6. When you scoop some poop, put it in the hole and sprinkle in some septic starter (available at hardware stores) and add some water.

According to the www.cityfarmer.org web site, “Within 48 hours, the septic tank starter, (which is non-caustic and promotes natural bacterial growth) will have begun its work and you can add more dog doo. You can then begin to add it daily. This waste biodegrades and flows into the subsoil.”

Mike adds that you should not put the composted dog waste in your garden.

While burying a garbage can to compost dog waste might seem like overkill if you live near the woods or close to a patch of blackberry bushes, but when you think about it, why not contain the waste in a more environmentally-friendly manner?

By the way, if you know someone that lives in a city, the www.cityfarmer.org web site is loaded with all kinds of helpful urban agriculture tips.

Discover more tips by Marion Owen.

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This article appeared in The Record May 1, 2010

Green cones will soon be gobbling up organics at 20 sites around the Royal City.

Green cones are a food waste digester system that’s currently being used by the Glenbrook North Zero Waste Challenge pilot project. As part of that initiative, a representative from the organization that distributes the green cones locally demonstrated the units to some employees at the city’s works yard.

“We thought it was interesting to give it a shot, try it out and see how it works,” said Kristian Davis, the city’s supervisor of solid waste and recycling.

Coun. Bill Harper had learned about the green cones at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention and felt it was something council should hear about, as it may have citywide implications.

“I thought this is like a revolution of composting organic waste,” he said. “You can put in chicken, cooked food, paper napkins.”

It’s estimated that food waste accounts for up to 30 per cent of residential garbage that ends up in landfills. The city believes green cones may provide an alternative way of dealing with food waste, by breaking these materials down in a safe way.

“It’s a food waste digester. It is not a composter,” Davis said. “It is being digested into the ground.”

Using solar heat, the contents are broken down into nutrient-rich water that drains into the soil around the green cone unit. The product that’s drained into the ground is safe.

“It’s all food that you have in your kitchen,” Davis pointed out. “It would accept anything from pasta, meat, bones, dairy.”

A staff report notes that the green cone is being used worldwide, including places like England, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the United States. More and more Metro Vancouver communities are considering them as a way of reducing the waste going to the landfill.

“The green cones have been around for more than 20 years,” Davis said. “It hasn’t really caught on here. In Europe, people, their attitudes are a bit different over there. They realized years ago there was an issue, we are going to just be coming to that point now that there is a need to dispose of our food waste.”

Staff at the city’s works yard are excited about putting the green cone to use and seeing how it works. All totalled, the city has purchased 20 green cones that will be used to determine whether more should be purchased.

“These green cones are meant for a family of about four to five,” Davis said. “They are basically on trial purposes.”

According to Davis, the green cones retail for about $140. It’s believed the city could purchase them for about $100 and subsidize the cost, a process that’s been done in the past with composters and rain barrels.

“They are supposed to be able to be used all year round,” Davis said about the green cones. “They do work with solar energy. It would be best located in a sunny area of the garden. They do work well in winter time.”

Because heat speeds up the degradation process, the green cones should be placed in the sunniest place in the yard.

“It is so warm (inside) that in the middle of winter, snow will melt on it,” Harper noted.

To install the green cone, a hole is dug in the ground, and the “digestion chamber” basket is buried below ground level.

“They don’t ever fill up is what I’ve been told,” Davis said. “They are constantly under this degradation process.”

A staff report notes that raccoons, coyotes and other animals are unable to tip over the green cones because they’re partially buried in the ground.

Because a hole is dug into the ground and the exterior has no ventilation, Davis said all smells from the food products are contained.

“The one downside is flies,” he said of a pest that can be treated. “That is inside the cone. There are sprays that don’t harm the bacteria.”

Harper believes the green cones could be helpful in reducing the amount of organic waste going to landfills.

“If you could get organics out of your garbage, that is a huge reduction in tipping fees,” he said.

If the pilot project has positive results, Harper would like to see the green cones offered to residents at a subsidized rate.

“We do the subsidized program now for regular composters,” he noted. “We want to see that they work, the way they work.”

Although commercial operators in the city don’t have recycling services, Harper believes the green cones could have implications for restaurants. “Just think about how much organic (waste) is thrown out at a restaurant.”


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