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To Rake or not to Rake: Here is one answer
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To Rake or not to Rake: Here is one answer

Raking the leaves of autumn is an honoured Canadian pastime.  But a fierce controversy erupted last week when a nature group (not Nature Canada!) urged Canadians not to rake their leaves. According to this group, leaving the leaves creates habitat for insects, birds and small mammals, and the decomposing leaves nourish the soil with nutrients as well. Landscape companies disagreed with this recommendation, observing that massed layers of leaves covering lawns deprive emerging grass shoots of light resulting in patchy blotchy-looking lawns. Both sides of the argument are right.  Luckily, Nature Canada has a solution to this vexing problem. On a dry autumn day, use your lawnmower and run over the leaf-covered lawn. Preferably a push mower, but electrical and gas mowers clearly do the job as well! The leaves will be chopped up into much smaller bits for easier decomposition and incorporation into the soil; further the leafy bits will not block the sun from reaching grass shoots in the spring.

For those who really must pursue the autumn raking ritual, rake the leaves into your flower and vegetable gardens or under trees and bushes.  Your tomatoes will be tastier and your viburnums more vivacious!

Green Office: Make Your Workplace Environmentally Friendly
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Green Office: Make Your Workplace Environmentally Friendly

[caption id="attachment_33210" align="alignleft" width="160"]Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy. Earth Day is in the spring, but that doesn’t mean your workplace can’t be green all year round! Even small changes, like switching to a reusable coffee cup or choosing not to print a long document, can add up to make a big difference. In addition to helping the environment, taking steps to work greener can also help you become a healthier person, whether it's adding walking to your commute, making more mindful eating choices, or breathing in cleaner air in your cubicle. As the summer winds down and many of us return to the regular daily grind this autumn, let's consider taking up some of these easy suggestions for creating an environmentally friendly work space. Change up your daily commute. It is common knowledge now that automobiles contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Try alternative modes of getting to work besides driving alone—carpool, take public transit, bike, walk all or partway. Even doing this once or twice a week will make a difference. At Nature Canada, 90% of our staff bike, walk, or bus to work! aloe_veraPut a plant in your workspace. Not only do live plants liven up a dreary, sterile indoor space, they also boost oxygen levels and remove harmful indoor pollutants such as carbon dioxide and formaldehyde from the air. English ivy and the snake plant are two examples that do not require a lot of sunlight. If you have ample sunlight, try aloe vera. Mother Nature Network has a handy infographic to help you pick out the plant ideal for your office environment. Use paper prudently. Think carefully before printing—can you read a document on screen or save it to your desktop or network instead of placing it in your file cabinet? Set up your computers and copiers to use both sides of paper when printing or photocopying. Review the length of your document before you print. If possible, adjust to reduce the number of pages printed. Save old envelopes and reuse them—stick a label over the previous address. Use less-attractive used envelopes for inter-office delivery if you don’t want to mail them out. coffee beansProvide and use shade-grown coffee to be bird-friendly. Organic and fair-trade coffee as well is even better. What makes shade-grown coffee in particular bird-friendly? The clearcutting of forests for sun-grown coffee “is believed to be one of the more significant causes of habitat loss on the Andean slopes of the Canada Warbler’s wintering grounds.” For more information, see “How You Can Help” on our Canada Warbler International Conservation Initiative page. Ditch the disposable cups. Canadians use 1.6 billion disposable coffee cups annually, and it can be confusing on how or if to recycle them. Bring a standard or a good-quality commuter mug to work instead to use for your daily cup(s) of joe. Coffee shops like Tim Hortons and Starbucks will even give you a small discount for bringing in a reusable cup.  Use and encourage the use of reusable containers for food. Store both homemade or take-out lunches and snacks in glassware or reusable lunch bags. Plastic bags are often not recycled, clog drainage systems, and cause serious harm to animals—pieces of them have been found lodged in the stomachs of birds. Use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Conventional cleaning products can release fumes that cause dizziness, asthma, and other health problems. Voice your support for healthier cleaning products to your institution's appropriate contacts. In your workspace, use nature-friendly cleaning supplies such as white vinegar. Also check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning for vetted recommendations. recycling_containersDispose of waste responsibly. Sometimes items that can be recycled or composted ends up in the garbage. Create clear signage that lets everyone know what goes into each bin. Make sure there are plenty of recycling containers near printers, photocopiers, and desks. Reduce workspace energy consumption. Turn off your computer monitor when you leave your desk or set your monitor to power off after a certain amount of time. Turn lights on only when needed, and turn all office lights off at night. Have the last person to leave the workplace check that unneeded lights are out. Turning off building lights not only saves energy, it also helps enable safer migration of birds. Talk to and collaborate with your colleagues to share and spread ideas for going green. Set up a carpool calendar. Start a staff piggy bank to buy sugar and creamer in bulk instead of individual packets. Encourage each other to bring lunch from home and perhaps eat together. As a group, ask management to make environmentally friendly changes to your workplace. We hope these ideas are helpful! How do you keep your workplace green?

Common Bird Feeding Myths
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Common Bird Feeding Myths

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] Feeding birds can be a rewarding experience, and a great way to connect with nature. But are you really helping your feathered friends? Here's the truth about some common bird feeding myths:

Myth: Feeding birds prevents them from migrating.

Fact: Birds migrate in response to factors such as length of daylight and weather, not because of food availability. In fact, birds need more food during long migrations, so your feeder may be a welcome stop for species you don't normally see in your area.

Myth: Birds become dependent on feeders.Image of a bird at a bird feeder

Fact: Most birds use many sources of food and do not rely on just one. If your feeder happens to go empty, most birds will find food elsewhere, although you'll have to work harder to bring them back to your yard. Loss of natural habitat due to human development does make it more difficult each year for birds to find the necessary food, particularly during the winter months, so providing a ready source of seeds, fruits or suet can give many birds a leg up.

Myth: The mixed seed at the grocery store is bad.

Fact: Some mixed seed can be bad, while other grocery-store varieties will provide quality for your feeder; the key is in the ingredients. Filler in cheap feed includes lots of milo, wheat, and barley. There may also be inedible objects such as sticks and empty hulls visible in the mix. These seeds are more likely to attract pesky birds and result in more wasted seed on the ground around your feeder. A good mix will have some form of sunflower seed and may also include peanut bits, safflower and millet.
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Spring Tips to Green Your Home
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Spring Tips to Green Your Home

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] Living an environmentally friendly lifestyle can be much simpler than you think. Often, it is the small decisions we make in our day-to-day lives that can have the largest impact on the environment. Want to help promote a clean and healthy environment? Here are a few simple yet effective tips on things you can do at home to live a more sustainable lifestyle. 1. Try larger packs with recyclable packaging. Did you know that the average person uses about 100 rolls of toilet paper each year? That's nearly five kilometres worth of paper! From your bathroom to your kitchen and even your office, you can greatly reduce your impact on the environment by purchasing larger pack sizes with recyclable packaging. 2. Use energy-efficient lightbulbs. A great way to reduce your household energy consumption and save money while you're at it is to switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs or LED bulbs on all of your lighting fixtures. These bulbs typically last longer than standard incandescent bulbs, and can use as little as one-fifth the amount of energy to emit the same amount of light. vegetable basket3. Plant the garden you have always wanted! A great way to get fresh vegetables in your home and be kinder to the environment is by planting your own garden. Foodstuffs often travel extremely long distances from their production site to the grocery shelf, and their processing and transport contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Check out our tips for growing flowers and vegetables here - Connect With Nature: Start Planning Your Spring Garden. If you live in an urban environment, consider growing some of your plants indoors or producing your own balcony garden. 4. Give your clothes a fresh smell by hanging them outside to dry. Hang a clothesline in your backyard or on your balcony, or invest in a foldable clothes rack that you can set up indoors. Doing this will reduce pollution, cut your energy bill and even extend the life of your clothes. clothespins5. Use eco-friendly cleaning products. The harsh chemicals found in most household cleaning supplies get washed down the drain and end up polluting our lakes, rivers, oceans and streams. Organic, all-natural and biodegradable cleaning products are just as effective as most chemical cleaners, and are much friendlier to the environment. Or simply make your own cleaning supplies - check out our 5 Nature-Friendly Products for Spring Cleaning! 6. Adjust your thermostat. Now as the weather is slightly warmer, you can reduce the heat at your home. Let the spring sun warm up your home and by doing so you will save considerable amount of energy and thus money. Cool down by opening your windows for a cool, refreshing breeze. At bedtime, set your bedroom temperature to 18°C, which is ideal for sleep, as your body temperature will drop slightly to prepare for slumber. Turn down the thermostat a bit more if you tend to use a lot of blankets. Sleeping in cooler temperatures may reduce insomnia. For many more ways to save energy in and around your home, visit the US Department of Energy's Spring and Summer Energy Saving Tips. As you can see, there are plenty of ways this spring that you can make your home more green. A lot of these changes are minor and can also save you money while helping the environment. Let us know if you have any other ways to make your home green! Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy contributed to this post.

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How to Stay Green in the New Year
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How to Stay Green in the New Year

[caption id="attachment_24341" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Guest Blogger Eileen Guest Blogger, Eileen Magill[/caption] This blog is written by guest blogger, Eileen Magill.  This new year, why not make a resolution to be kinder to the environment? I have compiled a list of ways that you can make 2018 green, clean, and easy on our earth.

Transportation

Commuting to work, school, or just travelling anywhere can produce lots of harmful emissions. Here are some ways to reduce your contribution of these emissions:
  • Take public transit instead of driving
  • Carpool with your colleagues or friends
  • If your destination is close enough, bike or walk there
  • If it’s in your budget, buy a hybrid or electric vehicle

WasteImage of a man biking on a path

Many people, myself included, sometimes forget that all of our waste has to end up somewhere. Here are some ways you can reduce your garbage output:
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle!
  • Put all unfinished food in a compost
  • Buy fresh foods instead of packaged food
  • Buy a reusable coffee mug to use instead of plastic cups
  • Use reusable containers instead of plastic wrap or disposable options
  • Avoid using single coffee “pods” that can’t be recycled

Food

Believe it or not, but the food you buy and consume has a huge effect on the environment. Here are some ways you can be a more environmentally friendly grocery shopper and eater:
  • Buy local produce instead of imported goods
  • Shop at farmer’s markets
  • Try to grow your own spices - there are many ways that you can have a small garden in your window sill

Home

Perhaps the biggest impact you can have on the environment is to live greener in your own home. Here are some ways you can be kind to the environment in your home:
  • Keep temperature at 19 degrees Celsius and wear a sweater
  • Turn off your air conditioning sometimes and use fans instead
  • Turn off lights and unplug accessories when you’re not using them
  • Use electricity at off peak times (this is because clean energy sources can often take care of base load needs but when too many people are using electricity at the same time then natural gas needs to be added)
  • Get home energy retrofit
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated so you don’t lose heat and waste energy
With each passing year, our earth is slowly degrading and it is up to us to reverse this trend. Even committing to two or three of these above suggestions can have a huge impact on the future of our earth. Let’s make 2017 a great year for the environment!
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6 Hot Home Tips for Cool Summer Living
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6 Hot Home Tips for Cool Summer Living

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Samantha Nurse Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] As summer begins, it means that we've only recently dusted our standing fans, planted our vegetable gardens, and started planning our weekend getaways. But what about all the time that we'll be spending indoors when the thermostat is pushing 30? With a little planning, you can easily keep your home cool and your energy bills down. If you're looking to beat the heat naturally, stay cool while keeping these green tips in mind: Create a stir. Circulating air keeps you cooler, and fans use 90% less energy than air conditioners. If you can, set up a cross-current with window fans. Get with the program. On days when air conditioning is an absolute necessity, set the thermostat to 25C and leave it there. If you'll be away from home for more than four hours, turn the a/c off and program it to turn on an hour before you return.Image of a Green Roof Invest in low-E. Windows with low-E films keep out the summer heat. As a bonus, they'll also keep heat inside during the winter. Make sure all windows are properly sealed to avoid drafts. Reflect on your roof. If you're planning on updating your roof, choose light-coloured materials to redirect the sun's heat away from your home. Alternatively, install a radiant barrier inside your roof to accomplish some of the same goals. Go green – from the top down. Consider a green roof that will not only cool your home, but can provide habitat for wildlife if you plant native, drought-tolerant species. Environment Canada research shows that a typical one-storey building with about 10 cm of grass and growth medium on its roof cuts its cooling needs by 25%. Don't forget the garden. Plant shrubs and trees that will shield your house from the sun and keep it cooler while attracting beneficial birds, insects, and other nature neighbours. As an added incentive, following these green tips for staying cool and you'll be contributing to the global effort to fight climate change. Much of the energy that we use during the summer goes into trying to stay cool and comfortable indoors. Reducing our household energy consumption makes sense for the planet and the pocketbook.

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Grass Roots: Small Ideas to Bring the Outside In
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Grass Roots: Small Ideas to Bring the Outside In

[caption id="attachment_23392" align="alignleft" width="200"]Laura Strachan, Guest Blogger Laura Strachan, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by Nature Canada's guest blogger, Laura Strachan. I am willing to bet that most of us see more concrete than grass in the run of a day. Hustling from home to office, to malls, to school and back we tend to lose sight of the immense natural world around us as we travel through our daily routine. But let’s not forget what keeps us alive. There is real dirt under that concrete! Birds and animals are running around in the streets! That tree in the mall is helping to clean the air!

Green and Clean

Mom always said “a room should always have some greenery”. Having plants in your home makes an underestimated contribution to the comfort of the room. They’re alive, fresh and can help clean the air. Houseplants are a decor must that never go out of style.

For the Birds

Birds are amazing creatures, so why not encourage them to visit? Install a feeder near a window so you can get an undisturbed view. This one is inexpensive and attaches right to your window, or DIY with some of these ideas. You might want to sign out a book on local birds from your library so you know what you are looking at! As well, you can check out these 12 different ways to make your whole backyard bird-friendly

basil-932079_1280Grow Food

Double down on the houseplants and grow edible ones! Herbs and microgreens can be grown easily in a windowbox or mini greenhouse. A variety of dwarf fruit trees can also be purchased that can be grown indoors. Check out your local nursery for details and what suits your environment best.

Plant a Tree

You can never have too many trees. Trees clean the air, create privacy, provide food and habitat for small creatures. If you don’t have land, look for Adopt-a-Tree programs in your area, where you can foster the growth and maintenance of trees on public property.

Decorate with Nature

It’s free! Fill a glass bowl or vase with pinecones or acorns. Use those special rocks and shells your kids collected in a centrepiece. Enlarge photos from your favorite canoe trip and frame them on the wall. Put the paddle on the wall too! Use rocks or logs as bookends. Be careful not to disturb any growth or habitats that are in use when collecting your items.

Open a Window

Take an hour a week to open all of the windows and “air out” your home. Freshen up the air and let some natural light in! Sadly we can’t all be on a perpetual camping trip to enjoy the outdoors. But some simple additions may help bring the natural world to you wherever you live.  And take the opportunity to learn about your living environment while you’re at it. It’s right outside your door! Email Signup

Video: How to grow a tiny forest anywhere
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Video: How to grow a tiny forest anywhere

Greening your NatureHood! A forest planted by humans, then left to nature’s own devices, typically takes at least 100 years to mature. But what if we could make the process happen ten times faster? In this short talk, eco-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma explains how to create a mini-forest ecosystem anywhere.

Preparing your waterfront property for winter
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Preparing your waterfront property for winter

Image of a lake in autumn
With the last long weekend of summer now just a distant memory, some of you will be preparing your waterfront properties for the cold weather ahead.
We have a slew of helpful tips and how-to's that will guide you through the process of setting up and stowing away items on your property in an environmentally friendly way.
Check out our handy resource, called 'Living by Water' to learn what you can do to prepare for runoff, snow removal, wildlife, plumbing, leaves and more.

How Green Was Your Christmas?
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How Green Was Your Christmas?

  Photo: Swiv via Flickrchristmas tree lights by swiv You know Christmas is officially over when used Christmas trees have made their way to the front lawn. Walking around my neighbourhood in Ottawa, I was surprised to see how many households decided to opt for a real tree this year. For many it seems, the trend in purchasing real trees has caught on. Perhaps it’s the fresh scent of pine needles that fills a home, or the fun family outing that almost always ends in hot chocolate and cookies at a local tree farm. But based on our recent quick poll, which asked “What type of tree do you have this Christmas?”, nature lovers are saying they would rather have an artificial tree than a real tree bring Christmas cheer to their home. 41% of respondents said they had an artificial tree this past Christmas, and 24% had a real tree. For religious or other reasons, 34% said they did not have a Christmas tree. See the poll results here. For people who do celebrate Christmas, choosing the greenest option can be difficult. But there is a range of options and issues to consider. I won’t go in to detail here, as we’ve covered this in a previous post. Making eco-conscious choices over the Christmas holidays goes beyond what kind of tree you choose to use. Here are a few suggestions on how to green your Christmas decorations from people who participated in our poll. “I use items that were passed down from my parents as well as items recycled through second hand stores. Instead of wrapping presents, I use cloth bags that I have sewn from old jeans and other used clothing.” “…I hang a green plastic garland purchased over 20 years ago (still in good shape) on our porch every year. I use LED lights and only at night! As the carol says, let heaven AND NATURE sing!” “Christmas lights at a minumum, lighted only from sunset to 10:00 pm and not left on all night. No wrapping paper which cannot be re-cycled is used. Home-made Christmas Cards on recyclable paper.” “I use a lot of handmade ornaments when decorating,and as we own a 50acre property we choose our own tree and replant in the spring.I then put the used tree under my bird feeders for protection of my feathered friends.” Do you have tips for green Christmas decorations? Share them with us it the comments below.

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