Way to Bale – Part Two!

Last year, we posted the results of our plastic recycling campaign. This year, we have the next installment with over 20,000 lbs of plastic that was sent off to the local recycling facility.

GNI’s Materials and Solid Waste goals focuses on how to meet our comany’s need for materials and their disposal while minimizing environmental impact. This strategy includes upstream and downstream solutions, reducing use and improving our waste management systems.

If you have any recycling tips to share, please post them below.

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Are building codes cutting down log homes?

There’s just something about a log home that screams “Nature”. They are beautiful pieces of art that word workers have laboured over every detail to make each home unique. But, how energy efficient are these homes according to the modern building codes?

Log homes: the beauty of nature

Each year, the building code changes across the country. These changes are causing log home builders to wonder if they will have the change the way they build their masterpieces. Currently, log homes face a problem in the way their walls conduct heat (the “R Value”). A six-inch thick log wall generally has a value less than R10. In comparison, new homes generally have their above-grade walls at R22. This means that because the log walls score so low that they have to push the envelope on the other parts of the home – which is ok, for right now. For example, since 2006 in Ontario, the building code makes exceptions for log homes, allowing a lower log-wall R Value if it is balanced out by extra ceiling insulation. A good example of this is the “Compliance Packages” that allow builders to vary the R Values throughout the home to create a balanced building envelope. The ideal product for new log homes is spray polyurethane foam insulation, because it has multiple uses. Not only is it insulation, but it acts as an air barrier, a vapour barrier, and it expands to fill all cracks and uneven surfaces. It also has a high R Value per inch, which is what offsets the low R-value in the log wall. This method of insulating a log home has been working wonders in the industry, creating an easy way to bring the log home up to standards.

The typical log home – cozy!

But now the government is proposing more energy-efficiency rules for the National Building Code of Canada, which benchmarks the standards for building codes in provinces and municipalities. The proposed changes will require more synthetic materials to be used during construction. Instead of the typical log home, the builder would have to sacrifice the exposed timbers inside for plastics and more dense materials. In short, the log homes would have to be modernized to meet the building code, something that looks unattractive to buyers and negates the “natural” feeling of a log home.

How will the log home industry hold up to the new building codes, and the changes that will occur in the near future? Will log homes be modernized past the point of recognition? We can only wait and see.

Read more about log homes and the future, and what the builders have to say about it.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment!

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5 Ways to Be Green in 2012

 

Are you looking for ways to make your 2012 “Green”? Here are some easy things that you can do to help the environment. Why not make one of them a New Year resolution?

 

Water bottle waste

 

1. Veto the water bottle – that’s right folks, they may be convenient, but they have a huge impact on our environment!

  • Plastic bottles take 700 years to begin composting
  • 80% of the plastic bottles are not recycled and end up in landfills
  • There are harmful chemicals in plastic, such as bisphenol A (or BPA) that can leech into your water
  • Twice as much water is used to produce the bottles than the actual amount of water in the bottle

So be healthy and environmentally friendly! Buy a reusable BPA free bottle and fill it from the tap. Sources: greenupgrader.com, otterbottle.ca 

Use a reusable bag and stop paying for plastic

2. Reusable Grocery Bags – stop paying for those plastic bags at grocery stores and invest in a reusable bag. Keep a small one bundled up in your purse or a few in your car, and you’ll never pay for a plastic bag again.

  • Canadians use 9-15 billion plastic shopping bags per year. Having a hard time picturing that? If you tied 9 billion together, you could circle the earth 55 times.
  • Plastic bags are in the top 12 items of debris most often found in coastal clean ups. When plastic bags are in the water, they can pose a threat to turtles, whales and dolphins who confuse them with jellyfish. They eat them, and can choke on them.

Source: greenerfootprints.com 

Get rid of those files - convert to paperless!

3. Convert to paperless – Paperless is the way to go. You can get your bills and bank statements online. This saves the waste, and it can save you a buck or two.

  • Some places charge you an extra $2.00 – $5.00 per month for using paper billing still.
  • You can also subscribe to your favorite magazine or newspaper online instead of getting it delivered
  • In the US, each person uses 340 kilograms of paper every year
  • World consumption of paper has increased by 400 percent in the last 40 years

Source: ecology.com 

Start a garden to grow your own

4. Grow Your Own (Or buy local) – If you have a green thumb, try to grow some of your own veggies. You’ll feel rewarded when you finally get to eat them!

If you’re not a garden guru, try visiting your local farm market for fresh fruits, veggies and meats. You’ll generally find better quality than at the grocery store, plus you reduce the waste created by packaging, shipping and storing facilities.

Dry your clothes outside to make them wrinkle-free!

5. Save Money by Saving Around the Home – There are many long-term ideas for saving money by saving around the home. You can do significant things or you can save on a smaller scale. The choice is yours.

  • On a large scale, you can upgrade the efficiency of your home. You can upgrade your furnace, windows, or your insulation. This will make it so your home uses less energy to heat, and ensure that less energy is wasted through gaps and cracks. If you do look into some of these ideas, be sure to check out the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes grants available through National Resources Canada. Find out more at http://nrcan.gc.ca
  • On a smaller scale, you can use less by taking shorter showers, use a clothes line, use a timer on your thermostat and unplugging electronics when not in use
  • The average shower uses 20 gallons of water, where as an average bath uses 30-50 gallons of water
  • Drying your clothes by sunlight helps kill germs because the sun acts as a natural germ killer as it warms up. It also improves your clothes appearance by reducing wrinkling when the wind blows’

Sources: livestrong.com, consumerenergycentre.org

So make the decision this year to live green and help the environment! Do you have any other eco-friendly ideas for a new years resolution? We’d love to hear them!

Happy New Year!

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Simple Living in Tinker’s Bubble

Be one with nature in Tinker’s Bubble

This is an apple press found in Tinker's Bubble

Talk about being eco-friendly! This small community in England, called Tinker’s Bubble, is aimed at low-impact living and being as eco-friendly as possible. Formed in 1994, this group of individuals lives in a hand-made community that can self-sustain – everything from food, clothes, income, and dwellings.

Tinker’s Bubble keeps itself running with little assistance from the outside world. It is sustained by people sharing daily tasks, domestic duties, and selling their produce and crafts at an organic market.

To read more about how this community is sustained, visit Tinker’s Bubble.

What are you thoughts – would you be able to live this close with nature?

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Way to Bale!

Sustainability has many definitions, but the most common is that sustainability “…is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Brundtland Report (1987).

We are committed to the development of energy efficient buildings and homes by improving the insulation levels in the building envelope. While working towards this goal, we are always mindful of our environmental impact and the influence that our actions will have on future generations.

Great Northern’s ‘Materials and Solid Waste’ goals focus on how to meet our need for materials and their disposal while minimizing waste products. In continuing with our commitment to operate as a sustainable, environmentally mindful company, we have recently packaged and shipped over 10 tonnes of plastic to a local recycling facility for processing. The plastic comes from the packaging that encases certain insulation products, including cellulose and fiberglass materials which are commonly used in attic and wall insulation. Less waste in our landfills means a more sustainable earth for future generations.

If you have any recycling tips to share, please post them below :)

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Have You Considered an Environment-Friendly Christmas?

Whether this year’s Christmas will be white or not, is still in Mother Nature’s hands. In the mean time though, you can help make this Christmas GREEN

Holiday celebrations result in an annual consumption of thousands of tonnes of wrapping paper, millions of trees and turkeys, and hundreds of millions of cards. But there are ways to reduce your festive impact without becoming Ebenezer Scrooge, scrimping on food or switching off lights.

1. FOOD

Left overs, not just in pots, but also in plates, give birth to more garbage. This year, try to reduce waste and source sustainable food over the festive period. How about buying an organic turkey?

2. GIFTS

Our shopping habits are responsible for much of our personal carbon footprints.  Take advantage of Buy Nothing Day  and try to buy less – or at least buy greener.

3. WASTE

Apart from the food wasted, there are numerous other “things” that can produce waste. Decorations, gift wrappers, receipts, and disposable cutlery are just a few examples! So, create lesser waste. Or, if you just can’t help it, find out how to dispose that waste wisely. Don’t forget to recycle your Christmas tree!

And with all the Green that you’re spreading, who knows? Mother Nature just might grant us with beautiful weather over the holidays!

 

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Ask questions before hiring a roofing contractor

If you’re planning on roofing your home sometime in the near or far future, you may want to research your options quite carefully, because this long-term investment will definitely reflect the value of your home and curb appeal.

Trust the professional, but the Correct one! How, you may ask? Well, here’s a checklist from National Post to help you on the journey.

  1. Are they certified installers and covered under the warranty plan of the roofing product?
  2. Are they fully licensed in your area to perform roofing work?
  3. Are they adequately insured for your protection?
  4. Do they have a proven reputation for providing quality roofing?
  5. Do they treat the roof as an integrated system?

Other than this checklist, keep these tips in mind:
-          Roofing materials vary from the traditional three-tab or strip shingles that have been around for many years, to architectural shingles, treated cedar, composite or metal roofs.

-          When deciding which product to use, try to consider the overall style and look of your house that will fit in with the neighbourhood.

-          Ask your installer for locations where you can see the material actually used on a house.

-          Proper attic ventilation systems allow a continuous flow of outside air through the attic. It consists of a balance between air intake (at your eaves or soffits) and air exhaust (at or near your roof ridge). Consider a minimum of at least one square foot of attic ventilation for every 200 square feet of attic space. Proper ventilation in the attic will reduce heat buildup, moisture and condensation, weather infiltration and ice dam buildup. Poor attic ventilation can ruin your insulation, destroy your shingles, and raise your energy bills.

-          When installing a new roof, it’s always best to remove the existing roofing materials. This reduces excess weight and gives you the opportunity to properly examine the roof deck for defects or damages. It also allows installation of waterproofing underlayment.

-          Waterproofing underlayments (ice and water shield) should always be used in valleys, on ridges, at eaves and around chimneys and skylights. On low-pitch roofs, the entire roof should be covered with ice and water shield before installation of shingles. This will create a watertight seal that keeps water out at the most vulnerable areas of your roof.

-          Pay attention to the manufacturer’s warranty. Warranties range from 20 years to lifetime. There are two types of coverage that you should ask your contractor about: Coverage against material defects and coverage against workmanship errors. Look for warranties that cover materials and labour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do your heating bills leave you cold? Direct Energy has money-saving tips

Having trouble managing your energy bills?

According to Direct Energy, Canadian homeowners are eligible to save approximately $980, equivalent to 25.9%, on their annual heating bill and qualify for up to $2,655 in rebates. All this can be accomplished in
THREE EASY STEPS:


1. Boost Insulation. You could save close to $307/year or 8.13% on heating bills, just by topping up attic and basement insulation. In addition, earn up to $1,250 through ecoENERGY rebates on attic and basement insulation.

Estimated Savings: $1,557

2. Upgrade equipment. A high-efficiency furnace could save you up to $565/year or 15% on heating bills, compared to the conventional one. Haven’t replaced a furnace before? Even better! Replacing a furnace for the first time could save you an additional $790, thanks to the federal ecoENERGY rebate program.

Estimated Savings: $1,355

3. Seal Leaks and Improve Air Quality. Caulk and seal leaks with weather stripping to save up to $108/year or 2.9% on heating bills. Improve air quality of the home and earn about $375 with ecoENERGY, plus an extra saving of approximately $240 through ecoENERGY rebates.

Estimated Savings: $723

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Green Roof Design

Green roofs are becoming an increasingly popular choice in recent buildings, usually those aiming for sustainability.

On a list of pros and cons of this element, the cons side seems to be vacant. However, many are still unaware of the real benefits of a green roof design, while others aren’t even aware of what it is. Defining a green roof is quite simple, for it is simply a rooftop that is not only green in colour but also in the environment-friendly benefits it offers.

What enables it to be so green?

The answer is, its three layers: a membrane separating the moist organic material from the underlying roof; a soil component comprised of a mixture of organic and inorganic compounds and; vegetation and amenities, whether it’s a simple grass meadow or a lush forest with ponds and pathways.

Even this basic design comes in two variations: extensive and intensive.

An extensive roof leans to the lighter side and meant to host bugs. Its soil levels are of a lower profile—two to eight inches—and the vegetation is similar to a mountain grassland or plateau combining shrubs and grasses.

On the contrary, an intensive design is meant to host humans. It requires a vast variety of vegetation, e.g. from grasses to full grown trees. The soil level is much deeper, e.g. eight to fifteen inches and consists of at least 50% organic material, much more in comparison to the extensive design. Deeper soil is capable of accommodating trees and ponds. In addition to the naturally enhanced beauty of the roof, gazebos, walking paths and benches are also incorporated to appeal humans.

Regardless of the type of chosen design, the advantages are all the same:

  • Reduced heating of the surrounding area
  • Improved humidity levels
  • Air Purity
  • A home to a thriving community of insects and birds
  • Economic gains
  • Psychological gains

If you walk on a hot paved surface in the Summer, the grass across the street feels cool. Concrete and asphalt are perfect examples of surfaces that give off a lot of heat. If the heat-emitting building material is replaced with a nice meadow or grass roof top, the entire city’s temperature could drop anywhere between 2-10 degrees. A green roof also acts like a giant filter and will absorb dust particles and toxins in the air.

Most green roofs are found in commercial buildings, but even a small residential patch of green roof can have a positive impact on air quality. 

The greatest advantage to a city is that a green roof provides is its effect on human emotion and moral. Being surrounded by nature is appealing to people, whether it be in an aquarium, plants in the living room ro a rooftop meadow. It brightens up the mood to see greenery replaced with a cold, concrete, lifeless environment.  There are also many economic gains to be had with a green roof project. An immediate gain is that a green roof will have a longer lifespan due to it not being entirely deteriorating by the sun’s harsh rays. A heavy, moist surface also reduces the cost of roofing materials. Other indirect benefits include lower A/C costs due to the thermal mass effect (lowering the heating in winter), new jobs to maintain and manage the areas, and a general improvement in the state of the building thus increasing its value.

 

Is a green roof expensive?

The cost of a green roof is dependant on a few variables, especially the type and size of roof. For instance, a small extensive roof may cost as little as $10-$20 per square foot, while an intensive roof would cost $20-$40 per square foot.

As the great architect Friedenreich Hundertwasser once mentioned:

The true proportions in this world are the views to the stars and the views down to the surface of the earth. Grass and vegetation in the city should grow on all horizontal spaces – that is to say, wherever rain and snow falls vegetation should grow, on the roads and on the roofs. The horizontal is the domain of nature and wherever vegetation grows on the horizontal level man is off limits; he should not interfere. I mean taking away territories from nature, which human beings have always done.

 

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Winterizing Your Home

It’s that time of the year again!

Latest fashions in warm clothing have begun to overwhelm shopping malls, prompting us to prepare for the upcoming winter.
Regardless of your location, you are bound to experience this seasonal change—unless you live in Hawaii of course. As you begin replacing t-shirts with wool sweaters, you should also start thinking of hot ideas to help your home dress warm this winter.

Here are ten great tips to help you out!

1. Furnace Inspection

  • Get an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace and clean ducts
  • Stock up on, and change furnace filters monthly
  • Consider using a programmable thermostat
  • If your home uses a hot-water heater, open the valves slightly and close them when water appears
  • Remove all flammable material around your furnace

 2. Get the Fireplace Ready

  • Cover the chimney top to block out rodents and birds
  • Ensure that the chimney is clean and free of soot and creosote
  • Store firewood in a dry place, away from the exterior of your home
  • Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing
  • Check the mortar between bricks and tuck point

3. Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

  • Seal any crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes
  • Caulk windows and weather-strip doors to keep the cold air out
  • Replace any cracked glass in your windows; if you choose to replace the entire window, be sure to prime and pain all exposed wood
  • Got a basement? Protect its window walls by covering them with plastic shields
  • Install storm windows or switch out summer screen with glass replacements from storage

4. Inspect Roofs, Gutters and Downspouts

  • If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, add extra insulation to prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams
  • Inspect flashing to ensure water can’t enter the home
  • Replace worn roof shingles or tiles
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts using a water hose, to remove debris
  • Consider installing leaf guard on gutters or extensions on downspouts to direct water away from your home

5. Service Weather-Specific equipment

  • Drain gas from lawnmowers
  • Service or tune-up snow blowers
  • Replace any eroded rakes or snow shovels
  • Clean and pack away all summer gardening equipment in a dry place
  • Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt/sand

6. Check Foundations

  • Rake away all debris and edible vegetation from the foundation
  • Prevent small animals from crawling under the house by sealing up entry points and foundation cracks
  • Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation
  • Secure crawlspace entrances

7. Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

  • Store extra smoke detector batteries and change them when daylight savings ends
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and/or water heater
  • Test both detectors to make sure they work
  • If your fire extinguisher is older than 10 years, replace it

8. Prevent Plumbing Freezes

  • Locate your water main in case you need to shut it off in an emergency
  • Drain all garden hoses
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes
  • Drain air conditioner pipes and turn off your AC if it has a water shut-off valve
  • Going on vacation? Leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees

9. Prepare Landscaping and Outdoor Surfaces

  • Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or to electrical wires
  • Consult a gardener to find out when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury
  • Plant spring flower bulbs and lift bulbs, e.g. dahlias, in areas where the ground freezes
  • Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks
  • Don’t automatically remove dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery in an otherwise dreary, snow-drenched yard
  • Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area

10. Prepare an Emergency Kit

  • Buy indoor candles and matches (or lighter) in case of a power outage
  • Store your utility companies’ phone numbers in an accessible place, e.g. on the fridge or inside the phone book
  • Keep a battery back-up to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment
  • Store extra cases of bottled water and non-perishable food supplies, blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and accessible location
  • Have an evacuation plan ready, in case of a major emergency!

 

 

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