By Mary Elizabeth O’Toole
In communities around the world and along the Eastern Shore, people are sharing climate change concerns and action strategies for reducing their environmental impact. Some are making significant lifestyle changes, like building off-grid homes or getting rid of their cars to reduce their carbon footprint. Others are looking for less dramatic changes that they can make quickly. Many feel overwhelmed with the possibilities, and question if one person or family can really make any difference without a huge investment of time and/or money.
So what can you do to make a difference starting today? Many people are looking for answers to the principles of permaculture, a low-impact design philosophy that integrates landscape design, renewable energy, organic agriculture, and low-energy building. Here are a few tips from local permaculture practitioners and educators on getting started.
Behavioural Changes: Everyone we interviewed agreed that change begins with small actions. Consume less, waste less. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Turn off lights. Shower less often. Telecommute. Embrace active transportation and walk or ride your bike more. Refuse single-use plastics and plastic wraps and replace them with reusable bags or beeswax wraps.
Grow your own food or buy local: Use low impact gardening strategies. Plant to encourage pollinators. Make your own compost - consider vermiculture (worm composting) to turn your kitchen scraps into a nutrient-rich soil enhancement. In May, Lynne Pascoe of Lower Ship Harbour gave a family-friendly, hands-on presentation on starting a worm bin. Her advice “You do need to pay attention to temperature and moisture levels, but otherwise, the worms are very easy to look after. There are lots of good online resources so do some research but don’t over think it.”
Collect rainwater: Get a rain barrel or barrels and catch rainwater for use in your home or garden. Caryl Michaelson makes the most of rain collection at her home in East Chezzetcook, where she combines rain barrels with diversion. “Rain falling off our roof was puddling around the corners of our house until I dug channels down to our gardens, and made small rock dams to divert water to areas that needed water.”
Look to natural and traditional strategies for inspiration. Charles Williams, permaculture educator at the Deanery Project in Ship Harbour, says his favourite recommendation to people interested in a simple, inexpensive way to conserve energy is to try a “haybox”, a hyper-insulated airtight container that acts like a slow cooker. “Traditionally, a haybox would have been insulated with hay. I use a cooler with 2” foam insulation and fill extra space with towels. It works just like a slow cooker but once you bring your dish to temperature, you place it in the haybox, so no more electricity or gas is required.”
Use renewable energy.
Lesley Magee has lived off-grid in Three Fathom Harbour for more than 12 years. She is a strong advocate for using renewables. “It takes a bit of investment to install solar, but prices keep coming down and Solar Nova Scotia (http://www.solarns.ca/) provides guidelines and lists opportunities like group buys and rebates to make buying more affordable.”
Visit the Deanery Project to learn more about permaculture classes and other strategies for a more sustainable lifestyle http://thedeaneryproject.com/permaculture-design-certificate/