In this issue...Food for Thought...Net Zero House...Where does your plastic end up?...News from our Partners....Upcoming Events...Volunteer & Employment Opportunities
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Food for Thought

Did you throw any food in the garbage this week? That squishy cucumber from the bottom of the produce drawer, maybe? How about that leftover jar of something from the back of the fridge?

All together, in Canada, we waste about $31 billion worth of food every year and nearly half of that is food that we’ve purchased but never eaten.

We all know that wasting food is bad and yet in Lethbridge, food and organic material makes up 21% of our residential waste and 15% of our commercial and institutional waste. Not only are we throwing away food that could be used to feed people who need it, a new report released this week suggests that reducing our food waste will also mitigate climate change by reducing emissions from agriculture.

There is some positive news, however. In many cities, local food banks are partnering with grocery stores to recover culled produce and other food before it is composted or landfilled. Grocery store chain Loblaws made headlines earlier this year for offering “ugly” or misshapen produce for sale at a discount through its Naturally Imperfect program. The program has been so popular that it has been expanded across the country.

Here in Lethbridge the newly approved Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Waste Diversion Strategy means that businesses will not be allowed to dispose of food waste in the landfill within the next five years.

Part of the solution rests with you and I. To reduce your own food waste, try to plan ahead and buy what you need, learn to love your leftovers rather than throwing them in the garbage and get a composter to help keep vegetable scraps out of the landfill.

To learn more about food waste, Environment Lethbridge is partnering with Chinook Food Connect and Oldman Watershed Council to focus on food waste for Earth Day. Join us at 11:00 at the Lethbridge Library (Community Room) for presentations on reducing the food waste in our landfills. At 3:00, we will be screening the award-winning film “Just Eat It,” a documentary about food waste in North America at the Hub at our office at 319-6 St. S. in Lethbridge.

And as for your squishy cucumber? Be sure to use it up before it goes bad, perhaps by turning it into a great batch of tzatziki?

Net-Zero House Takes Shape in Lethbridge 

A local family is in the process of building a net-zero house on the westside of Lethbridge. Brian Sexton agreed to talk about the project and answer some of our questions about the construction of their net-zero house.

Tell me a little bit about yourself?
My wife, Katrina, and I have always had an interest in energy efficiency, whether it was with our vehicles or in our home.  We are both engineers by training and have been exposed to various energy efficiency projects through our work.  Today we both work in environmental fields which fits well with our personal values.  Outside of work time, we focus on our two young boys; Connor and Alex and enjoy outside pursuits, especially running.  Spare time is rare these days but when there is time, Katrina enjoys quilting and I enjoy making biofuel for one of our vehicles.
What is a net-zero home?
A net-zero home is a home that, over the course of a year, produces the same amount of energy as it uses.  This is achieved by incorporating four important factors into the design of the house:
This includes high levels of insulation and air sealing in the walls and attic.  Energy conserving windows are also important.
This involves capturing as much energy as possible that is known to be leaving the home.  For example, a heat recovery ventilator is used to capture some of the heat from exhaust air leaving the home.
This involves choosing high efficiency lights and appliances.
In a net zero home this typically means using solar panels to produce electricity for the home.  When the solar panels are producing more energy than the home needs, the surplus is supplied to the electricity grid.  Otherwise, the home draws electricity from the grid like any other home.
What made you want to build a net-zero home?
The first home we ever owned was very energy efficient but, being our first time paying energy bills, we didn’t realize just how efficient the house was.  Our friends would tell us how high their bills were and we just assumed they were leaving the heat and lights on all day.  Then we moved to a newer, similar sized house and our energy bills more than doubled.  That’s when we realized just how efficient our first house was, and how inefficient traditionally built houses can be.  We tried a few things to reduce our energy costs but to little or no avail.  The cost of upgrading the home to an energy standard that we were used to was just too costly.  So we decided to build new.  After doing a bit of research, we discovered there were a number of home builders in Edmonton building net-zero homes.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered?
To date, there really hasn’t been any major challenge.  There have been a number of small challenges along the way but I believe these are no different than the challenges encountered with building a traditional house.  The net-zero home we are building uses all the same construction materials as a traditional home, things are just assembled a little differently and special attention is paid to certain details.
What was the most important thing you learned during the project?
We learned that “what’s behind the wall” is extremely important in net-zero home construction.  Attention to detail, especially insulation and air sealing, is critical to the success of a net-zero home.  In other words, the things that get covered up.  The average home buyer tends to be more concerned with what they can see (flooring, paint, and countertops) than they are with the things they can’t see (insulation, air sealing, and energy loss) so there needs to be a shift in thinking here.
What words of advice would you have for others who are considering a net-zero building?
I think the most important thing is to find a designer or a builder who has lots of experience in net-zero housing.  We were lucky enough to work with Peter Amerongen of Habitat Studio in Edmonton.  Peter has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the area of net-zero housing.
What do you see as the future potential for similar projects in Lethbridge?
Lethbridge has incredible potential for net-zero housing.  There are approximately 35 net zero homes built in Edmonton now.  If it can work there, surely it can work here.  Lethbridge has a strong construction industry that is relatively unaffected by the highs and lows of the provincial economy.  We just need a builder or a number of builders who are open to the idea of energy efficient construction.  We have discovered that building a net zero home is no more complicated than building a traditional home.  It just depends if you’re willing to learn something new and exciting.  With our mild winters, plenty of sunlight hours, and a strong construction industry, Lethbridge has the potential to be a national leader in net-zero housing.
How far does our plastic garbage travel? Farther than you think and it's having devastating effects.

News from our Partners

Welcome to Solar Optix and Vita Water Technologies, our new business partners. If your business or community organization would like to become a partner of Environment Lethbridge, please visit our webpage for an application form.

The City of Lethbridge is looking for feedback on the River Valley Parks Master Plan. Click here to take their survey.

Upcoming Events

April 9 - Bikebridge Annual General Meeting. 1:30 pm, Lethbridge Red Cross Meeting Room, 335 Columbia Blvd W.

April 10-16. National Volunteer Week. Join Volunteer Lethbridge for events throughout the week to celebrate volunteering in our community.

April 11 - The Local Conscience: Beyond Food with Julia Mitchell, owner of the Urban Grocer. 4 pm, University of Lethbridge Room PE261. 

April 13 - A Case for Logging the Castle with Ken Orich. 7 pm at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. Hosted by Lethbridge Naturalists Society.

April 14Ainna’kootsiiyo’p: Living in Mutual Respect with our Environment and its Inhabitants with Ryan Heavy Head. 7 pm, Lethbridge Public Library Theatre Gallery. Hosted by Waterton Natural History Association and the Lethbridge Public Library.

April 20 - Southern Alberta Group for the Environment (SAGE) monthly meeting. 7pm, Lethbridge Public Library.

April 21 - City Council Environment Committee monthly meeting. 10 am, City Council Chambers.

April 21Little Burrows on the Prairie: Life and Times of Yellow-Bellied Marmots in Southern Alberta with Berna-Dean Holland. 7 pm, Lethbridge Public Library Theatre Gallery. Hosted by Waterton Natural History Association and the Lethbridge Public Library.

April 22 - Reducing Food Waste and Organic Materials in our Landfills. 11 am, Lethbridge Public Library Community Room. Hosted by Chinook Food Connect, Oldman Watershed Council and Environment Lethbridge.

April 22 - Just Eat It! 3pm, 319-6 St. S, Lethbridge. Film screening hosted by Environment Lethbridge, Oldman Watershed Council and Chinook Food Connect. Learn about food waste and food rescue from a Canadian perspective.

April 28Things With Sharp Teeth: Living with Wolves and Grizzlies with Kevin van Tighem. 7 pm, Lethbridge Public Library Theatre Gallery. Hosted by Waterton Natural History Association and the Lethbridge Public Library.

April 30 - Lethbridge Bike Swap, Drop off, 9 am - 2 pm; Sale 2:30 - 4 pm, Southminster United Church gymnasium. New and used bikes available at reasonable prices. Hosted by Bikebridge. 

May 3 - Lethbridge Green Drinks. 4:00 pm Owl Acoustic Lounge 411-3 Ave S. Informal gathering to discuss environmental issues, projects and solutions. First Tuesday of each month.

Volunteer & Employment Opportunities

Environment Lethbridge is looking for an energetic student to join us as Events and Outreach Coordinator for the summer. Full details on our website.
April 2016

Also in this issue:

Net Zero House

Plastic in Our Oceans

News from our Partners

Upcoming Events

Volunteer Opportunities

Sustainability Tip
When you bring home new groceries, move the older items to the front of the fridge so that they can be used rather than forgotten.

Did you know?
Approximately 20% of our methane emissions come from our landfills and are directly related to the food we throw away.

Do you have news, events or opportunities that you would like to share through our newsletter? Email your content to before the 25th of each month.

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By becoming a Community Partner, you will become part of a network of businesses, organizations and institutions working to enhance sustainability in Lethbridge. Please consider joining today to help create a green Lethbridge.
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