Public consultations for Ottawa’s Solid Waste Master Plan

A few weeks ago, we spoke about the City of Ottawa redeveloping its Solid Waste Master Plan to decrease the volume of waste added to our landfill as it steadily approaches its maximum capacity. (Jump to The Ottawa landfill is filling up article)

The city has opened up the next round of public consultations until September 12th concerning three ideas proposed to regulate waste:

  1. Partial pay-as-you-throw
    • There will be a limit to the number of garbage bags collected from each house, and anything extra requires a purchased garbage tag. (There will be no limits to yard waste, organics or recyclables)
  1. Reduced item limits
    • There will be a limit to the number of garbage bags collected from each house, and anything extra is not collected.
  1. Clear garbage bags with recycling and organics bans
    • Households will use clear garbage bags, and they will not be collected if there is anything organic or recyclable found inside.

How can you participate?

Article photo: Ignat Kushanrev on Unsplash

Why pesticides don’t mean a healthy lawn

When you look out your window, it is common to see neatly maintained grass lawns fronting the neighbouring properties—this is all part of the long-standing “American Dream.” But, as a Native Plant News article explains, the ideal lawn grass is native to Europe rather than North America. This grass species is poorly suited to our climate and usually requires fertilizers, all the while risking being overrun by other plants (such as clovers or dandelions).

But before you bring out the herbicides to remove these broad-leaf plants, let’s take a look into these chemicals.

Herbicides

Herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides—these “icides” can get quite confusing. Pesticides are known for their general removal of pests, and as a result, they are considered the overarching family name. While herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are pesticide subsets—each with specific targets to remove (plants, insects and fungi, respectively).

The use of pesticide chemicals has long been debated over, and while there are some benefits to their use, there are also many drawbacks. For example, pesticide use increases food production in the agriculture industry by negating insects or aggressive plants, but decreases the local biodiversity of plants and insects (both targeted and unintentionally targeted species). They also increase the likelihood of human health complications.

Bringing pesticides to the home for cosmetic uses (aesthetics and visual appeal) increases the interactions between people and the chemicals. While the Government of Ontario regulates cosmetic pesticides, organizations like the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) have expressed health concerns over their allowed use.

According to Dr. Jane McArthur, Toxics Campaign Director at CAPE, “Children are especially vulnerable during the early stages of physical development and periods of rapid growth.”

Depending on the mother’s exposure during pregnancy, there is an increased risk of childhood cancers and premature births. And in adults, there is an increased risk of cancers, lung complications and Parkinson’s disease.

“A need remains for public education on achieving beautiful, healthy landscapes without harmful chemicals”

But if we stop using herbicides, won’t the lawn be overtaken by weeds?

Let’s talk monocultures

Everyone knows the struggle each spring to remove all weeds from our lawn before they go to seed and stay indefinitely, and then the upkeep throughout the year. Together, this is what creates a monoculture (single species) lawn. While the uniform look may be pleasing, did you know this maintenance is harming your lawn’s health? Polyculture (multiple species) lawns are different, as you can see from the comparison below.

Monoculture Lawns

  • Intense weed control
  • Lack of resilience to environmental factors
  • Often require additional fertilizers

Polyculture Lawns

  • Less (or no) weeding
  • More resilient to environmental factors (such as drought)
  • The mix of species help maintain/cycle nutrients in the soil

In your lawn maintenance, get rid of a couple of weeds that annoy you, but consider leaving some other ones like clover, violets and wild strawberries that will help keep your lawn healthy!

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Additional Resources

Article Photos: Green Ottawa

Keeping cool and active with Ottawa’s heat warnings

Ottawa faced extreme heat warnings last week, proving climate change is here and its effects are impacting us. This coincided with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issuing their dire report on how the climate will fare under the current predictions.

Under the report, Canada is expected to experience a continuation of rising temperatures, while CBC reported that heatwaves are expected to become more frequent and more severe as temperature continue to climb year-round.

3 Ways to help reduce your impact on the climate

  • Keep in mind your carbon footprint—this is the representation of the amount of greenhouse gases that your actions generate (calculate yours here).
  • Shop local and reduce the kilometres your food has to travel.
  • Use active transportation (walk, bike, bus, etc.).

Tips for heatwaves

We also touched base with Ottawa Public Health regarding the heat warnings. They explained that “heat warnings issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada mean extra precautions need to be taken by everyone… it [is] important to think ahead and plan for ways to stay cool while respecting Public Health COVID-19 prevention measures.”

  • Engage in outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day (typically in the early morning and evening).
  • When going out in the sun, wear sunscreen and remember to reapply.
  • Consume plenty of fluids (water is best) throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty!
  • Wear light-coloured and loose clothing.

For more tips and tricks, check out Ottawa Public Health’s page on Beating the Heat!

Canada Is [Still] On Fire — Mass Organizing Call

Climate scientists just declared a code red. But our politicians aren’t acting like it’s an emergency. Time to ramp up the pressure. 

Join us on Tuesday, August 17 at 3pm PT / 4pm MT / 5pm CT / 6pm ET / 7pm AT / 7:30pm NDT to learn about our bold, unapologetic plans to demand real action on the climate emergency.

Sign up – https://act.350.org/signup/still-on-fire

Extreme heat early this summer has sparked one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. We’ve seen smoke cover cities, flooding, droughts and just heard from the IPCC that this is a “code red” moment when it comes to tackling the climate emergency. And, this is all happening with the specter of an election on the horizon. That’s why we’ve got a plan to bring climate action to the forefront of the Canadian political landscape but we can’t do it without you.

Spread the word – twitter | facebook


Work for Climate Action – Jobs, Internships, Volunteer, Action: GoodWork.ca/Climate

Watch out for ticks!

Due to climate change, ticks are making a rise in Southwestern Ontario. Warming temperatures are shortening the cold season, increasing the number of warm days and resulting in a climate more accommodating for species like ticks.

Ticks to know

There are a few different types of ticks, but the two of importance in Ontario are dog ticks and deer/blacklegged ticks.

Deer/Blacklegged Ticks

  • Are carriers of Lyme disease
  • Live in forested areas
  • Found in early spring/late fall

Dog Ticks

  • Do not carry Lyme disease
  • Live in tree cover/long grass
  • Found in spring/summer

Avoiding ticks

  • Make sure to check yourself, your children, and you pets after having been outside.
  • Wear pants and long sleeves to reduce skin exposure.
  • When hiking, stay on the path instead of bushwhacking.
  • Maintain your property:
    • If you have a lawn, keep the grass cut short.
    • Consider creating a woodchip/gravel border between your lawn and a naturalized/wooded area.

Think twice before using pesticides. Ontario prohibits their use for most cosmetic purposes, and pesticides increase health risks for both humans and native species.

If you find a tick

Remove the tick using a tick key or a pair of tweezers—grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and carefully pulling it straight out. Do not use other “techniques” such as using petroleum jelly or a lit match, and avoid crushing the tick as it can cause Lyme disease bacteria to pass into the bloodstream.

  • Access eTick for quick image identification.
  • To help officials monitor where ticks live, you can submit ones you’ve found for testing at your public health unit.

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Check out our sources for more information!

An interview with Pollinator Partnership Canada

We got the chance to sit down and chat with Pollinator Partnership Canada’s (P2C) director, Victoria Wojcik, and see how P2C is helping pollinators—bees, butterflies and other creatures—to build resilience in the face of growing challenges.

Wojcik started off by detailing how crucial pollinators are to our society: “Every terrestrial system is pollinator dependent, the degree varies, but it’s really high… 85-95%.” This means that 85-95% of plants depend on pollinators to survive, and we humans depend on them too.

Pollinators are mainly considered for their role in food production, but they also play a part in the production of textiles and fibers for clothing, furniture, pharmaceuticals, and other goods.

Despite their importance, the driver of pollinator population decline is habitat loss, which is made worse by pesticide use, pests and disease, invasive species and climate change. Vital ecosystems are being transformed into different land uses, including residential neighbourhoods and commercial centres. Development of agricultural land is twice as bad—taking away from pollinator habitats and adding to the risk of pesticide pressure.

“Every terrestrial system is pollinator dependent, the degree varies, but it’s really high… 85-95%”

Climate change is another factor impacting pollinators, causing lasting negative temperatures and changing precipitation levels. Wojcik described how insects tend to follow cues based on temperature; with climate change, this risks a “dissociation between when plants are normally in bloom, and when their pollinators emerge.” This could result in both species struggling—plants being pollinated late and pollinators missing out on food sources.

Wojcik emphasises that actions to save pollinators are not a lost cause. While climate change will likely cause us to lose some species and declines in some populations, there will also be some that thrive. The key, she said, is the choices we make.

“What helps pollinators is everyone making better choices, different choices that lessen the impacts that are harmful”

P2C’s goal is to help people make these better choices. Their Ecoregional Planting Guides help gardeners by detailing native pollinators found in the area and lists of native plants they prefer. In partnership with Bee City Canada, cities and schools are becoming certified bee-friendly—meaning they’re actively working towards a better pollinator future. Further, P2C runs a Pollinator Stewardship Certification program to help citizens take a more active role in pollinator conservation. The program involves educating participants about pollinator ecology, habitat creation, and public education strategies.

According to Wojcik, everyone can help pollinators in three simple but meaningful ways. These include:

  1. Planting native species—Even one plant will make a difference. If everyone in the city of Ottawa planted one native species, there would be more than 1.4 million new plants!
  2. Shopping local and sustainable—This helps decrease your individual food miles and reduces pesticide pressure on pollinators.
  3. Spreading the word—Inform people about the challenges pollinators face and what everyone can do to help.

Let’s work together and help pollinators thrive!

The dog-strangling vine invasion

Dog-strangling vine in Kanata (Photo credits to Green Ottawa)

Don’t worry, your dog is safe

Contrary to the name, dog-strangling vine will not harm your pet, but rather outcompetes or “strangles” native species and young saplings. As a particularly aggressive invasive species, it has been spreading rapidly throughout the province.

What does it look like?

Dog-strangling vine (Photo credits to Green Ottawa)

Stem: Typically grows 1–2 meters tall and wraps around nearby structures

Leaves: Grow on opposite sides of the stem, are about 12 cm long and are oval shaped with pointed tips

Flowers: Range from pink to dark purple, star shaped (5 petals and between 5–9 mm long)

Seed pods: Bean shaped, about 4–7 cm long and release feathery white seeds towards the end of summer

Why is it a problem?

By taking over landscapes, it not only threatens native plants but all species that rely on them and the ecosystem they create. The monarch butterfly is once such species being threatened. They lay their eggs on dog-strangling vine (confusing it with milkweed) and the caterpillars starve, unable to eat the plant. Further, browsing animals like deer avoid eating it, allowing for its range to grow (choking out native plants even more), while the roots and leaves may also be toxic for livestock.

How to remove it

Dog-strangling vine needs to be removed before it begins to outcompete native species. As cutting or mowing the plant will cause it to grow faster and flower again, uprooting is the best means of removal. Digging out as much root as possible will also have a substantial impact. The City of Ottawa advises that plant material be dried out at the site (if possible), placed in a black garbage bag in the sun for at least a week and thrown out with the garbage.

Do not burn the plant material or place in the green bin/compost — it will continue to spread.

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Check out our sources for a more in-depth review of dog-strangling vine!

The Ottawa landfill is filling up

What will happen now?

As our landfill is reaching capacity, the City of Ottawa is creating a new garbage management plan.

How can you help out? Check out the Solid Waste Master Plan on the City of Ottawa website where you can:

  • View their ideas, timeline and reports for each phase of the process
  • Ask questions and receive responses
  • Learn when the next round of community consultations are taking place and how you can participate, to voice your thoughts

While you’re at it, take a look at these quick tips to reducing waste!

Climate destruction?!?

Knocking down a forest to sell toys to rich boys?

In the age of climate crisis, how can we still invest in cars, car culture? Voice your indignance, be the change:

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