great day – Earth Day 2017 !

thegreenrock-ers Amanda Russell and Perla Hernandez's booth on Earth Day

thegreenrock-ers Amanda Russell and Perla Hernandez at the Earth Day Fair

Saturday afternoon rain didn’t stop crowds of boisterous families from making it to the Earth Day Fair at the Suncor Fluvarium on April 22!  Over 250 people attended the event! Just about all of them stopped at’s booth to learn about ways to take action, take care of the planet, and how to live sustainably.

Each year, 1 billion people in more than 195 countries celebrate  Earth Day worldwide. The key purpose is to get people together, to celebrate mother nature, and think about ways in which they can take action.

In line with this message, was very pleased and excited to share our signature projects for this year:

  • #playoutdoors ~ Less screen time and more time outdoors! In collaboration with the Junior Forest Wardens-NL, #playoutdoors raises awareness about nature deficit disorder and challenges families to get outdoors, make new friends and learn new skills.
  • ReGeneration: The Plastic Bag Project (coming up!) ~ An intergenerational awareness and action program that brings seniors and students together to share strengths, and transfer skills toward a common purpose of recycling single-use plastic bags through crafting durable tote bags. This project is supported by The Co-operators IMPACT! Fund 2017.
  • Guide to the Good ~ A social enterprise that makes it easier for people to choose local for their purchasing and lifestyle choices. Local businesses bring economic, ethical and social benefits to our lives and our communities. Guide to the Good is currently being piloted in the Northeast Avalon, but the goal is for there to be a guide to the good in communities everywhere!

Visitors were asked to participate in the “how do you fit in?” campaign and to think about ways in which they can help protect the environment through their daily actions.

At the end of the day we had some local giveaways from businesses featured on the Guide to the Good. The draw was live-streamed via Facebook

Facebook Live of the guide to the good draw

  • Prize #1 Local Basket!
    Jumping Bean‘s low CO2 emission roasting coffee; hypoallergenic, artisan soaps and body products made locally from St. John’s Soap Works; and local hand-knitted hat by Casey’s Crafts.
  • Prize #2 Firewood and Coffee! 
    Bundles of local sustainable and licensed firewood from Firewood Factory; 2 gift-cards from  Jumping Bean .

Two winners were randomly selected out of 104 individual tickets. Congrats Olivia and Joan! is a not-for–profit company that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like us and share!

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west coast canola – playing with the grain

this is a happy cross-post with because this story is cool for both audiences!  if you’re a follower of both firstly thank you!, and secondly please forgive the duplication.

Dr. Vanessa Kavanagh’s twitter handle is @NLGrainDr, and that is just a hint of how she feels about growing grain.  She shares pictures of tiny vials of Newfoundland canola oil like parents share pictures of their infant – with love and joy and hope.  She cares because she sees grain generally and growth specifically as opportunities to create and innovate in ways that will make this place a more sustainable, food secure, and healthier province.

Born to Corner Brook, this Doctor of Philosophy in agriculture is the Research Scientist for the provincial government.  She was beyond thrilled with the opportunity to apply her academic research – she earned her PhD in Plant Science at the University of Alberta – to the first canola field planted in the province, in Pasadena.  The project brought together a community of farmers, researchers, and visionaries, and all are reaping the benefits.

Cooks, bakers and salad-makers know canola oil as the Canadian cousin of rapeseed oil, lesser known is that canola is of the Brassicaceae plant family where cabbage and turnip reside.  “We knows all about cabbage and turnip,” says my mother, and if you can project the return on the pilot year, it’s no great leap to reap canola.

me in canola fieldThe first fields were seeded on Hammond Farms in May of 2016, and it was the beginning of a glorious growing season.  A few weeks later, canola plants, pollinated by the local bee population (40 hives of some of the healthiest bees in the world), yielded acres of yellow canola fields.  The height shown in the photo is just when they were getting going!  (It would have been lovely to see how Gerry Squires would have interpreted those fields – but the visual wasn’t the point in this case, it was just a good step on the journey).  Harvested produce has three forms – livestock feed, edible oil, or bio-fuel.

The livestock feed is more important to food security than might first appear:  when counting the on-island food resources we count the chickens and pigs and cows, but if their feed comes from away, which it often does, then that resource is not food secure.   The livestock food source goes hand-in-glove with the edible oil, as the livestock food pellets are the little black seeds minus oil. Canola plants share properties of all crops in that their taste is influenced by the characteristics of the soil and the weather.  So opportunities for artisan cold-pressed canola oil adds another level of local to the wave of foodie excellence that’s making sustainable not only sensible, but fashionable and healthy.

And it’s going well!  Vanessa says, “We have indeed had some great success with the canola pressing and it is almost complete!  The oil is a clear golden honey colour with a really nice flavour.”

Bio-fuel means that the harvested oil can be poured into the engine of the diesel tractor.  At the pilot scale this is not an economically wise use, it does clearly illustrate the possibilities.

Another inspiring feature of the project is that there is zero waste.  Vanessa says, “The other material outcome after processing the plant is straw, and most of that was cut up and used as bedding for cows.  The straw that wasn’t bedding is disked into the soil to add organic matter.  Nothing is wasted.”

For the canola project in 2017 Vanessa et al have 20-40 acres secured in Cormack, and she says, “Our farmers there are really looking forward to their fields of gold!   I can’t at all say that we’ve perfected the system after only one season, but we know a tremendous amount more than before and I think this year is going to be better than last.”

Dr. Vanessa Kavanagh is part of the grain research team that is looking at new ways to scale sustainable. The canola project is one of several components of the research-based cereal grain and oilseeds program, which is leading innovation in the feed and food industries.


cropped-thegreenrock-1.png is a not-for–profit company that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like us and share!

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#playoutdoors – less screen time, more outdoor time


spending time in nature has positive physical and mental health benefits for both adults and children

in the fall of 2016, in collaboration with the  Junior Forest Wardens NL launched a  #playoutdoors awareness campaign to get people outdoors and start new Junior Forest Warden NL Clubs.  Junior Forest Wardens, a family-based outdoor adventure group, has been active in NL since the 1940s.  numerous families have reaped the benefits of outdoor together time over the years, but numbers have been declining since the 1980s.

nature deficit disorder: kids are spending less time outdoors

kids these days are spending more time on screens than outdoors and that’s causing problems to their health. there’s extensive research about Nature Deficit Disorder. conversely, spending time in nature for adults, and especially for children brings the mental and physical health benefits. children experience positive social, psychological, and spiritual impacts on their personal and cognitive development.



JFW helps families and friends find time to hang out in the woods

as a side effect of modern, busy and sedentary lifestyles in recent years our exposure to nature has diminished. within a generation, Canada has transitioned from a rural to an urban nation, with 80% of Canadians now living in cities. as a result of this transition, it is estimated that Canadians today spend on average 90% of their time indoors, which has lead to a variety of chronic health issues as a result of sedentary lifestyles

aside from the mental and physical health benefits, getting kids in nature can also have positive impacts on our environment and our communities. a study by the University of British Columbia, suggests that providing positive childhood experiences in nature, can help to develop care and awareness of the environment as adults.

2013-09-28 11.22.43

children who play outside are more likely to protect nature as adults

#playoutdoors campaign

the Junior Forest Wardens NL is dedicated to bringing families with school-aged children together to enjoy and learn about the natural environment. together and JFW launched a successful campaign that delivered 10 community outreach events, reached out to 17 community organizations which engaged over 50 families in the St. John’s metro area and led to the start of two new JFW Clubs:  the Wild Wanderers and the Rollin’ Capelin.

up next
after all the success of the #playoutdoors is working with JFW and other community partners to look into ways to expand the project this year. stay tuned!

update! #playoutdoors won a 2017 Pinnacle Award by the International Association of Business Communicators Newfoundland and Labrador! read all about it here


cropped-thegreenrock-1.png is a not-for–profit company that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like us and share!

twitter: @thegreenrockca

the people have spoken ~ we want local!

it’s a day to talk about the importance of local business.  a while back started a survey to find out how ‘local’ fits into consumer purchasing decisions.

it turns out that ‘local’ is an important consideration for people when they are buying, and, even more encouraging, people would buy more local goods if they knew local options where available and they knew how to access the goods.  the results of the poll will help us build Habits for Your Habitat – Guide to the Good, and that will make it easier for those of us in the Northeast Avalon to include more ‘local’ in our purchasing decisions.

here are couple of highlights –

  • it shows that buying ‘local’ is a significant factor for the majority the people Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.32.36 PM
  • and the poll also shows that there is a significant potential for local businesses to increase the market share for their goods and services.  when asked how they felt about the percentage of local spending,  86.6% of the respondents said they would spend more locally if they knew local options where available and they knew how to access the goods

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.34.36 PM


all good news!  thanks to all those who participated.

You can see the survey’s summary of response  in this link: is a non-profit that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like and share!

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reasons to like the weather – July 2015, NL

wpid-20140104_160321.jpg1. no mosquitos

2. people stay close – seeking body heat

3. no shoveling

4. it’s not too hot.

5. if you’re not pleased with the location of your plants, you can transplant them no problem

6.  the air is not choked with smoke from forest fires

7.  people aren’t complaining about the heat

8.  sunburn is not a problem

9.  hair curls

10.  cool weather vacations are trendy

11.  there are good jokes

12.  the weather is good for running the Tele 10

13.  it’s good for allergies

14.  it’s good for fishing

15.  the grass is nice and green

cropped-thegreenrock-1.png is a non-profit that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like and share!

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how sweet it is – first time tapping

2015-04-25 12.16.14o how sweet is spring!  the days have softened and our first tapping season is over.

first big thought is man, those trees are humbling.  tapping connects the person to the tree as well as the tree to a bucket.  trees are big, and strong and beautiful.  they are alive.  they provide shade and cover.  they produce carbon dioxide we breathe.

that thought is as simple as day follows night, and it is astonishing. more astonishing that wi-fi.  and the sap is ambrosia.

the idea to tap was generated in 2014 at the Friends of Pippy Park tapping demo, and galvanized at the Maple Tapping workshop with Lisa and Steve McBride in February. detailed how-to here.

owen the teenaged boy was chief tapping guy, and we started around the third week in March.  we looked at bark and branches, found out which way was south, and felt the life in the tree as we touched it. so much life that drilling the hole felt uncomfortable.   respectfully, we tapped four trees, a silver maple (imported by a neighbour 40 odd years ago from Moncton, NB), one on our street, one in the garden, and one on LeMarchant Road.  owen was collector for the nearby trees.   Nina and Jerome tended the tree on LeMarchant.

the first boil up took a day indoors on the stove and yielded about a cup of syrup.  (square bottle, top left).  filtering was a challenge as I was using a coffee filter, but the filter took too much.  i double sieved it, thus (I think) the cloudiness.

the second boil took two days indoors on the stove, and yielded almost a liter of syrup (second bottle from left).  it was strained through a double sheet of cheesecloth and a sieve.  during this boil i became concerned about the steam.  even with the fan on and the windows open, the house felt like a big damp sponge.  add in thoughts about poor use of water, time and energy in transforming 20 liters of water to steam and the project needed a re-jig.   a conversation with Maggie Kieley about her success in freezing sap encouraged  me to try another idea.

the third boil (third from left) was done on a propane tank outdoors and filtered through cheesecloth and a sieve.  it was a huge batch… maybe 25 liters, and it yielded more than a liter of the darkest sap.  it took a full tank of propane, and it took three days. it was a step toward the freeze method.  at that time it was still freezing on many days (as well as nights), so we didn’t boil what was frozen. it improved efficiency/reduced boiling time, but it felt wrong to throw out the sap.

the fourth boil (far right) was done on a propane tank outdoors. it took a couple of hours, sieved through a t-shirt-like cotton, and yielded the lightest colour syrup   it was a bit of eureka boil.  after collecting the sap we froze it, and boiled the first half (or so) of what melted.  (we used a weird drip method whereby the frozen container was put upside down in a very large spouted bowl.  there is something about the way sugar freezes that may yield higher concentrations if poured this way.).  when the rest of sap melted, we saved it for drinking.  lovely with a whisper of sweet at the end.  it’s probably very good for the body.
11149657_10155500401170710_5527849448356942213_oon the day it got warm we removed the taps. sooner than necessary as it turned out.  the trees looked bare, and with nothing to catch the sap, you could easily imagine that the tree was crying so we stopped the leaking with a dowel. bad idea it turns out.  new information from experienced tappers says that’s not the way to go:  best to let the sap flow as long as it flows.   keep collecting the sap as long as it’s clear, but if it’s cloudy, the fermentation process is starting to happen.  the literature says that the tree will heal by the end of the summer (photo at right is a healed tree).  place next year’s tap several inches away.

between now and then we will share and revere the syrup.  people often say something doesn’t taste as good if you cook it yourself, but this doesn’t hold true for maple syrup. all the shades are gorgeous to see and taste.   it’s explosive and gentle at the same time, silky and sticky, powerful and soft, a mix of two opposites.   kind of like the tree.

cropped-thegreenrock-1.png is a non-profit that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like and share!

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Common Ground – space

cool stuff on the go on Harvey Road in St. John’s!  Common Ground is a non-profit co-working space that’s affordable, friendly (there is even a common ground hound!), and creates an instant collaborative community.

Common Ground-ers love the experience, especially the collaborative-ness.  entrepreneurs, freelancers, creatives, and others in need of space to create and build can use it. Conservation Corps green team 2014 paid a visit to Jennifer Smith on a quiet day in August (it was hot back then!), and she shared the big picture.  for this vid, David Maher was the  director/interviewer; Chris Ball on audio, and Jeff Smyth behind the camera.  the music – Acoustic Breeze – is composed and performed by Bensound.

in July and August 2014 Conservation Corps Green Team – Tamara Segura, Chris Ball, David Maher and Team Lead Jeff Smyth talked and taped, walked in the sun, swung on the swings, got out there and got inspired by the great green good going on in the Northeast Avalon.  Over the coming months their work will be released on Conservation Corps Green Team 2014 was sponsored by Junior Forest Wardens NL.  (thank you!)



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