the kids are alright! exploring and creating with the planet in mind

kids are growing well as Vanier Elementary!

kids are growing well as Vanier Elementary!

remember grade 6?  that magical time between little and teen.  all the goings-on!  in February was delighted to spend an afternoon with the crowd of grade sixes at Vanier Elementary in St. John’s.

born in 2003, these guys are digital natives. touching buttons, navigating screens, and using media is not technology advancing, it’s how it’s always been.  they are interested in lots of things – what their contemporaries are doing of course, and they love the smart phones and tablets and other devices, but they have an encouraging sense of the wider world around them.  this sense is due in no small part to the grade six curriculum brought to life by the inspiration and dedication of teachers (nods to Mme Daley, Ms Meehan and Mme Chafe).  these 11- and 12-year olds use technology as a tool to explore, create, learn, and take action.  if session is a good indication, critical thinking is part of the process. was there to talk about interactions with the planet, from climate change to the effects of natural and man-made changes in the environment.  it was a lively, thoughtful, and thought-provoking conversation!  these guys include a sixth R in the series of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot: they Respond.

on the day of visit, one class received accolades (and five ipads!) from Newfoundland Power for their award-winning video submission to the TakeChargeNL challenge.  the video is created in the style of Family Feud (en francais!), and teaches about habits that conserve energy.  the video was a hit, and it didn’t stop there.  a few days later, the intent of the group was broadcast throughout the province when a student called up the VOCM Open Line show and shared energy conservation tips on behalf of the class.

also on that day, the other grade six class harvested their first lettuce!   though the bell had rung,  the school day was over, and it was a Friday, a stream of kids were thrilled to offer a tour of the farm.  they are justly proud of their operation.    the growing equipment is neat, compact, and very productive. they like the light and warmth, and the scent of earth in the classroom.  but, as Emily said, the best part is the eating.  harvest time is coming for tomatoes, basil, beans, and peas in the classrom at Vanier.  that’s very encouraging because things are growing well.

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Warm Up the Winter – heat sustainably!

Cold winter weather leads to the familiar home heating dilemma of how to keep the house cozy in freezing temperatures – and how to do it in a way that won’t break the bank, the planet, or in a way that won’t keep you shivering the night away either!  Here are a few tips and ideas for alternative sources of heat and ways to reduce the environmental footprint of the heating system you have.

Tim Murphy and a Masonry Heater, photo courtesy of Home & Cabin magazine

Tim Murphy and a Masonry Heater, courtesy of Home & Cabin magazine

If you’re in the market for a new way to heat your home, this one with light your fire:  Masonry Heater: Masonry Heaters are similar to wood stoves in that heat is generated by burning wood. A masonry heater can provide even heat all day from just a single fire. Masonry materials take a while to heat up, but once they are warm, they will radiate heat for much longer than a metal stove.   It consists of a small firebox surrounded by a masonry mass made from some type of masonry (brick, tile, stone, stucco etc.). The channels of masonry absorb the heat and radiate it out. The fire burns hotly and quickly, which reduces unburned emissions. Masonry heaters are a sustainable choice for the home, as they use wood, a renewable resource, and they burn it efficiently. As an added bonus, you can incorporate a pizza or bread oven into your masonry heater and enjoy some wood-fired foods!   Stone Masonry and Heater Builders is a local enterprise specialzing in same.  They are the ones who built the system at the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove.  Mason Tim Murphy has one in his home and his family was warm and cozy through #NLDark!

Space Heaters: If you have a central home heating system that is not adjustable from room to room, a couple of space heaters may be a good investment. This way you can simply heat one room at a time, instead of the whole house.

DIY Space Heater: Well, say you don’t want to invest in a space heater, or in a power outage… Here is a very alternative and economical solution. Instead, (if you don’t have these three items already) invest in tea lights, a couple of ceramic flowerpots and a loaf pan, and try this DIY Space Heater!

Insulation: If your home isn’t well insulated, it certainly won’t be too warm. Adding insulation and other energy-saving efforts might be a worthy investment!  Check out NL Power

Seal up the drafts: “Find the draft” is a fun game that can be played using a candle or a stick of incense, and following where the flame flickers or smoke drifts to on a blustery day. Check all the windows, doors and any other place a draft might be messing with your warmth. Once found, seal up your drafts with caulking, foam sealant or weather stripping. You can also insulate your windows with plastic, using a handy dandy window insulator kit which can be purchased at your local hardware store (e.g. Canadian Tire).

Home Heating System Maintenance: Home heating systems need to be cleaned out and maintained (usually on a yearly basis). It’s a good idea to have your system looked into to make sure there aren’t any kinks messing with its efficiency.

Blankets: If you’re trying to stay warm on the cheap, try hanging some heavy blankets in doorways and over windows, this will help keep the heat in. This is especially good for the kitchen to trap the heat from the oven.

Rugs: Putting down a few rugs on those cold winter floors can help to insulate and keep your feet nice and cozy!

Check out Take Charge NL a Newfoundland Power program designed to help save energy – and money!.

And lastly, try wearing more sweaters! Sweaters are both warm and fashionable, and you can wrap yourself in a blanket for good measure. Sometimes it’s nice to try this “old-fashioned” method, it’s certainly sustainable, and National Sweater Day is coming up February 6!

needs must ~ notes of hope from #NLDark

‘Needs must’ is an old phrase is not heard so often any more, but it fits perfectly with the #NLDark situation, and sustainability.

Puzzle completed by the glow of the snow

Puzzle completed by the glow of the snow

On those days early in 2014 there was not enough electricity being generated in Newfoundland to meet the demand.  Everyone was affected.  The house was heated by the fireplace and my family was entertained by a Yellow Submarine puzzle, completed by snowglow.

The environmentalists, the green people, the Al Gores and David Suzukis and so many more have been talking about conservation for decades.  #NLDark proved that we can conserve when ‘needs must’.  

Our power grid is a closed system.   The planet is a closed system.  We can change what we’re doing so that it – the power and the planet – keeps going along.  We saw that in action through #NLDark.  Yes yes yes there were challenges, but this is not about that.  This is about the hope that came out of it.  Co-operation, support, and conservation.  (There was also a very hearty showing of innovation and consideration, but that can be a different post.)

I  know where I was when the rotating power outages started – heading up Torbay Road to pick up a pizza for a Christmas holidays sleepover party.  No power on one side of Torbay Road, full blast on the other.  Eerie.   I didn’t know what was going on. 

Then Good Thing #1:  People co-operated.  At the Torbay Road Newfoundland Drive intersection (six lanes heading toward Torbay), the collective ‘we’ figured out the 24-lane-stop-intersection fast, and got it going with grace.  If someone went astray (not waiting for their right turn), the collective we picked it up and resumed the accepted pattern.  Nice eye contacts between drivers in parallel lanes.  Ten points for us!

Then Good Thing #2:  People supported.  Just a little further up the road Peter’s Pizza pick-up was like a kitchen party.  The guy behind the counter seemed new, but was very friendly and upfront:  there is a backlog.  When he came out with a pizza he’d kind of announce it.  One man was reading out the twitter feed to the rest.  Another came in to pick-up a pizza ordered pre-outage.  We welcomed him.  He went to pay and was walking away from the counter when the Peter’s Pizza guy called him back and asked quietly (but we could all hear)…. “Did you mean to leave a $20 tip?”.  “Yes.” said the late-comer.  We all looked up!  “It’s going to be awhile.”  said Peter’s Pizza guy.  “Maybe I’ll get mine first,”  said the new-comer.  All laughed (and he did not get his pizza first.).  Gold stars!

Then Good Thing #3:  People conserved.   Arrived home to a powered-house, but little was on in the way of electricity.  Our kids – the same kids who are unable to turn off a screen or a light – were on it.  Turn off the Christmas Lights, don’t run the dishwasher, conserve conserve conserve was all over facebook.  And it went on from there.  People conserved.  Hallelujah!

What we waste is the difference between what we need and what we use.  #NLDark showed that we have what it takes to do better when needs must.   And that can be cozy.

the cat wasn't worried

the cat wasn’t worried

30 days day 10.

20131024_13042012:10 lunch flow with mel – very nice way to middle up the day.

observation:  at the start, i figured 10 days would be a bit of a milestone, and anticipated that it would start getting onerous.  while it’s becoming more challenging to keep space for the class in the day, it’s not onerous.  feeling good, feeling flexible in mind and body, and feeling inspired makes it sustainable.

the yoga door is open.

thirty days – day six


2013-10-20 13.52.40 (1)my body feels more.  it sits with purpose.  and today ramped it all up.

core strength vinyasa yoga.  12:30.  in the middle of a relaxing-type sunday in the fall in almost downtown st. john’s.  it was on fire.

Based on the teachings of Sadie Nardini, founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, this Flow class will focus on connecting to our core and building inner strength.

wow.  i’ve done the class numerous times before, but today was different.  maybe because i’ve loosened up in the past few days.  each movement came from the middle, seeking and settling in to the burn, driven by breath and controlled strength.

core leads you to know what you need.. and then you get it.  water.  good coffee, clean air, and a good read.

30 Days ~ day 3

20131017_115653third day in and still revving!  i feel my body stretching, my breath deepening.   next session is this evening:  Deep Chill Vinyasa – described as

A bit of Yin, a bit of Yang: the most delicious (and steathily challenging) of classes!   A 45 minute serving of sticky, sweaty Vinyasa Flow, lathered with 15 minutes of yin yoga (deep, intense stretching), and a 15 minute restorative asana topping.  YUM.

sounds balanced, and sustainable!  and like i should bring a towel.

on that note – the towels.  in this house they are regenerating piles of damp-used-once-on-a-clean-body beings that create work and waste.  five bodies, daily (almost) showers, left around, washed, dried (line where possible), folded, put away.  20 minutes of work for four minutes of use.  the madness has to stop!   in response i’ve allotted two towels per person for one week.  hid the rest (save one for my deep chill).   they can hang them up to dry.

may the force be with us.

Impa, the miracle cat

impa is 17.5 years old.   she has been part of our habitat for a long time.

at her height she weighed about 18 lb.  now she’s weighs about 4. early in february she took a turn.  she did  not groom.  she would not eat.  she did not get up for three days.  we thought she was ready to meet her maker and made arrangements to help.  that didn’t happen.

home again.  curled up in her bed, we offered glucosamine paste, tiny bits of chicken, and drops of water.  she expressed interest.  after another day or so she was able to get up – feeble, unsteady, and it looked like it hurt, but she got up.  she ate nutrient dense cat food and continued to improve.

a week later, three of us and the vet spent 45 minutes shaving her matts out. (two of us were wearing big gloves, and that was good.) impa is back!  so giant-eyed, skinny, and furry-legged we started calling her twiggy.  that was almost  a week ago.  now she goes up and down the stairs, has resumed her normal eating habits – voracious but  particular – and has resumed her position as boss cat to the other two. here she is!  impa, twiggy, the miracle cat.  back from almost dead.  (just like in the princess bride.)

made right here beef, lettuce, cupcakes, upcycled clothes and more!

YES!  the farmers market!  carrots, pickles, handmade paper, books and so much more  at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market.   the people who grew it, made it/make it,  or farmed it sell it live and in person!

the Farmers’ Market is one of the best ways to buy close to home for food, gifts, and treats!

in the summer of 2011 Green Team did a bit of hangin’, shoppin’ and talkin’ at the Market.  great stories of sustainable choices were easy to find ~  check it out!

and check out the site it opens in june at the Lion’s Club on Bonaventure Avenue, just behind the ReMax Centre (Curling Club)


Rubber Meets Road – Bike St. John’s

Ride On!!  The City of St. John’s is moving to make biking a more typical transport option.   Bike racks on busses, bike racks all around, showers in new buildings!  It’s coming!

During the summer of 2011, Conservation Corps Green Team met with Deputy Mayor (and bike planner!) Shannie Duff to get the skivvy.

There’s more!  Check it out at   The City also offers ‘CanBike’ Bike Training for children and adults.  Download the City’s Active Living Guide (page 36) for details, or e-mail or visit the City’s cycling plan website at

Check it all out and hit the road!

Jimmy Hikes! – trails in and around St. John’s

it’s spring-ish ~ crocuses peeking up, snow unshoveled and gone, and the icebergs cometh! great time to hit the trails.  during the summer of 2011 Conservation Corps Green Team took to the hills and found that there is much to be got from wandering, strolling and striding the hills of the East Coast Trails.

check it out – add colour to spring!   find out more at