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.

Beginnings

Just as I came into the Stratford Goodwill last week, I saw a young woman buying a bridal dress. She was a pretty woman, with a nice smile, and seemed delighted to have found the right dress. It made me feel just extraordinarily happy to see a young person who understands what’s important in life. No hype—not the label, not the fancy store, just a nice dress to mark the beginning of a life together. I hope they have a great party. I hope she recycles the dress.

Screen Shot 2019-12-18 at 12.12.14 PMWe are afraid of the future these days. At the mildest level, this shows up as a general crankiness, and a tendency to call people names on Facebook. As we become more aware, our fears manifest as anxiety and grief. At the most extreme level, there’s a large chunk of people actively planning for the collapse of society.

But here’s this young woman, cheerfully and resolutely buying her wedding dress. At Goodwill. Some people just won’t give up on life.

Here’s what I think:

Whatever your sexual orientation, if you’re forming a couple, it’s important to have a ceremony. And a party. Because that’s the way we create social bonds, that’s how we cement our communities. It’s only through community that we’re going to find the will to get ourselves out of the mess we’re in. Be resolute. Be cheerful. Be together.

And keep building your community. If you live in Stratford, there’s a group that regularly meets to talk about climate change, ecological loss, and ways of dealing with it. The name of the group is Climate Momentum, and they have regular gatherings at The Parlour, downtown. It’s not exactly a party, but you can get a beer or a nice glass of wine, and the people are interesting. The next meeting will be January 26, a Saturday, from 2:30 – 4:30 pm (The Parlour is at 101 Wellington Street, Stratford).

Mazel tov.

What Maude Barlow Told Me

On Wednesday I drove into Guelph for the Maude Barlow talk, and it was certainly worth the trip. There were over 300 people there, and all of them were energized: they hooted, they stomped, and they sang encouraging songs. I felt like a real little country mouse in the middle of all that enthusiasm.

The reason they were all so happy is that Guelph just had a major battle over corporate control of local water this spring. With help from the Council of Canadians, citizens of Guelph Eramosa Township opposed a floating glass plant that would have used a minimum of 560 million litres of water each year from the aquifer. And in spite of the fact that citizens didn’t have adequate notice of the plan, in spite of the fact that, as they were told, it was already a “done deal,” they fought it and won.

Now, maybe you had heard about this, but I hadn’t, and it made me think about how important it is that we share the good news as well as the bad. Bad news can make people angry; unfortunately, most of the time it makes us want to curl up with a carton of Rocky Road ice cream until it all goes away. But it doesn’t go away. It won’t go away unless somebody does something about it.

Maude Barlow is the living definition of the term “small but mighty.” When she got up to talk, she did speak of many sad things that are happening to the Canadian environment. She talked about what we have lost, but she also talked about how to win. She said that the way you know you’re winning is that things look downright impossible. People are throwing bricks at you, and the road ahead looks too steep to climb. All you can do is just keep walking, she said, and that’s when you win.

One of the things I took away from this meeting was a new understanding of the word “aquifer.” If you’re like me, you probably learned in school that water is limitless: you use it up, or it goes through the rivers and oceans, it evaporates, and more rains down. The excess goes underground, to the aquifer, and it will never run out. As we’re now learning every day in the news, that’s wrong. Not only can an aquifer be drained (look at India for the most terrifying example) it can also be contaminated, as it has been in many places, due to fracking and other polluting activities. Politicians often try to scare us, telling is that if we want jobs we have to consent to this pollution. Don’t believe it.

I got to talk to Maude after the meeting. I wanted to thank her for all her hard work. She’s been at this for over thirty years, and that’s a long time to be walking up a road that’s too steep to climb. I was surprised when she thanked me instead. She said that it is sometimes very tempting to say that you’ve had enough, that you’d rather just sit and watch the grandchildren, but when you learn how much you’ve made a difference in people’s lives, you just can’t stop.

I guess that’s a good lesson about saying thank you.

If you want to learn more about Maude Barlow and Canada’s water crisis, I recommend her books. They are a plain-spoken explanation of the causes of the Canadian water crisis, and a roadmap on how to deal with it. Here are the two most recent:

Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis

In Boiling Point, bestselling author and activist Maude Barlow lays bare the issues facing Canada’s water reserves, including long-outdated water laws, unmapped and unprotected groundwater reserves, agricultural pollution, industrial-waste dumping, boil-water advisories, and the effects of deforestation and climate change

Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever

The final book in Maude Barlow’s Blue trilogy, Blue Future is a powerful, penetrating, and timely look at the global water crisis — and what we can do to prevent it.

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.

IMG_1287

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.

IMG_1280

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.

 

 

 

IMG_1281

Cheese box, $5

 

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, The Restore will deliver larger items.

 

Large bathroom sink, $45

I also found a huge bathroom sink that I really liked. Some of the plumbing fixtures are brand new, others are gently used. This one was used, but it really wasn’t too bad. I would probably replace the taps; a shiny new set of taps changes everything with a sink.

And don’t forget to consider alternate uses for these 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…

IMG_1286

Stained glass window $35

And I had a good time digging around the doors and windows (I never neglect this area: think about repurposing doors as tables and desks, or updating cupboard fronts). I found an adorable little piece of stained glass. Sure wish I had a place for 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. She 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.

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.

Sugarbush trip

There is nothing more fun than taking kids out to learn where their food comes from. Especially when you get to feed them at the same time. So when maple sugar time rolled around again this year, I grabbed a couple of short folk and made my way to St. Marys, where McCully’s Hill Farm is having their annual Maple Festival Tour. It’s really easy to find, just north of town.

IMG_1118

Go for the breakfast tour, Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of this month. For eight bucks a head, you fill your kids up with a slap-up pancake and sausage breakfast, and then, when they are weighed down and well-behaved from all the food, you all ride up to the barn, where they can visit with a variety of interesting and reasonably non-threatening animals.

 

Clydesdales

Forgot their names, but they were peaceful animals.

 

The high point of the trip is the tour of the sugarbush, on a wagon pulled by honest-to-God Clydesdales, led by a driver who knows an awful lot about the history of maple sugar, and of St. Marys in general. Even the most troublesome of our crew was attentive, and surprisingly well-behaved.

 

 

On the way back we were shown how maple syrup is made in the sugar shack, with lots of really satisfying and informative fire-stoking and sap-boiling and syrup-tasting. By the time they left the sugar shack, I think they had learned a lot. At this point, though, I would recommend avoiding the topic of whether we could all go home and make maple syrup together in our own kitchen. Instead, distract them by having them run around the pasture a few times. Five times, at  least.

 

 

It was pretty successful all round, and after the ride back we had a look around the store for interesting preserves, eggs, meat (they have bison) and other farm specialties. I got a really nice orange marmelade. It’s not really like a marmelade, more like an orange jelly, but very delicate. I like it a lot.

 

Then you go home, where hopefully the children will collapse for at least a little while. Make yourself a coffee, put your feet up, and congratulate yourself for being a great parent. That’s the part I like best.

 

Maple Festival Tour & Brunch:
Saturdays & Sundays through March & Good Friday
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
http://www.mccullys.ca/view.php?public/For_the_Kids/Maple_Syrup_Festival,_2018

%d bloggers like this: