These questions reflect some of the common inquiries from community leagues on sustainability.
Still have questions?
Contact us at GreenLeagues@efcl.org
- What is an Energy Audit?
An energy audit is a detailed inventory of the energy performance in a building.
- How does getting an Energy Audit to benefit my community league?
The information obtained from an energy audit is used to identify opportunities to improve efficiency, decrease energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The measures outlined by an Energy Audit make community league halls easier to operate, cheaper to maintain and also increase the comfort of those using the facility.
Energy audits also verify the effectiveness of Energy Management Opportunities that have already been implemented within a facility.
- How can I get an energy audit completed for our facility?
Community leagues can reach out to certified energy auditors that will take on the work as a contractor.
Currently, the Government of Alberta’s NEET (Non-profit Energy Efficiency Transition) Program provided funding for non-profits and volunteer-based organizations in Alberta to obtain detailed energy audits and create energy management plans. NEET covers 100% of the direct costs, up to $12,000. Find more information here:
Energy Efficiency Upgrades / Installation
- What is LED lighting?
LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) use a semiconductor to produce light in a process that is much more efficient and a much longer lifespan than traditional incandescent lights.
- Will switching to LEDs affect the color/appearance of our facility?
While early versions of LED did tend to have a blue tint, modern LEDs are now being designed on the Kelvin scale. On this scale bulbs with a low number give off a warmer light (yellowish), while bulbs with high number give off a cooler light (blueish) so you don’t have to worry about the effect on appearance.
- What other kinds of upgrades can we do to our lighting?
The other side of lighting upgrades is reducing how often the lights are on. This kind of upgrade can exist at multiple levels of implementation:
- Encouraging users to turn off the lights when they leave a room
- Add dimmer switches to provide an appropriate amount of lighting. With LED lights, the effect of dimming lights to power use is fairly linear.
- Program the lighting system onto timers and/ or occupancy sensors. This ensures that energy is only being used at appropriate times / when there is someone using the facility.
- How does upgrading our lighting improve our facility?
With their high efficiency and lifespan, the new lights will translate into energy savings, maintenance savings, and environmental sustainability. Replacing outdated lighting system have a fat return on investment – paying for themselves in three to five years (on average). Adding dimmers, timers, or occupancy sensor also improve the control and comfort of the building.
- How can I upgrade lighting in our facility?
Energy Audits will outline any Energy Conservation Measures that are relate to lighting. Acting on these measures can include: LED lights, dimmer switches, timers and sensors all of which can be purchased at various hardware/home improvement retailers. The Government of Alberta has run various online or instore rebates on lighting upgrades. Check in here to see if there are any current savings for lighting systems:
For larger project, an electrical contractor can be used to complete the project. Consider following up with the contractor as they often can complete the outlined tasks or have someone else they trust to do the work. Also, the EFCL’s Energy Transition Officer is here to help with contractor vetting. Contact them at:
Heat and Cooling Upgrades
- How can I upgrade our facility, so we need less energy to heat / cool it?
Upgrading the building envelope to ensure that the building is air-tight and well insulated. Making sure the basement, walls, windows, doors, and roof are not leaky improves the energy efficiency of all buildings.
Make sure that your HVAC system had normal maintenance and records, to ensure optimal performance.
- My community’s leagues heating system is old and needs to be replaced soon, what should we look for?
Installing a high-efficiency furnace (95 % AFUE rating for gas-fired furnaces, 90% AFUE rating for condensing furnaces or boilers) will start to save you money right away.
Also consider electricity-based options, like electric furnaces or alternatives like airs-sourced or ground-source heat pump systems.
Combining the new heating system with a programmable thermostat will maximize the savings that can be made without compromising the thermal comfort of users.
- How can I upgrade heating and cooling in our facility?
Energy Audits will also outline any Energy Conservation Measures that are related to heating and cooling. Acting on these measures can include: adding insulation, upgrading windows and doors, weatherproofing, and upgrades to the HVAC system. The Government of Alberta has run various online or instore rebates on building envelope and HVAC upgrades. Check in here to see if there are any current savings for heating/cooling systems:
For a larger project, an HVAC contractor can be used to complete the project. If you completed an energy audit, consider following up with the contractor as they often can complete the outlined tasks or have someone else they trust to do the work. Also, the EFCL’s Energy Transition Officer is here to help with contractor vetting.
- How can our facilities use less energy to heat water?
Community leagues typically have sporadic hot water usage, so using a hot water tank can waste a lot of energy since the water is constantly being heated but not used. It may be beneficial to upgrade into a tankless (on-demand) water heater which does not have the standby energy losses. On-demand water heater are expensive, so it is best to work with a professional to determine if it will be a good investment for your community league.
- How can our facility use less water?
Installing low-flush toilets and low flow faucets/showerheads are water conversation fixtures that also reduce the costs of water to the facility.
Rain barrels to capture and rainwater for irrigation instead of tap water will reduce your water bill as well.
- How can I reduce water consumption in our facility?
Depending on the scope of the energy audit, there may be upgrades outlined in the audit. Again, consider following up with the contractor that completed the audit to start implementing the conservation methods. The EFCL’s Energy Transition Officer can help with vetting a plumber to make the upgrades happen as well.
The Government of Alberta has run various online or instore rebates on water-efficient appliances Check in here to see if there are any current savings for heating / cooling systems:
- Why should we install solar panels at our facility?
A solar PV system provides a return on investment while reducing your environmental footprint. They supply electricity for years after the initial financial investment has been paid back. Solar PV system also buffers the facility against utility companies’ rate changes and shifting electricity prices.
- How will the panels provide our facility power when it is not sunny out?
Most urban solar PV systems are grid-tied, which means they are safely connected to the normal utility grid. When the sun is out and there is excess solar production, the electricity is exported to the grid and the facility is credited by the utility provider. At night or when cloudy, the electricity is bought back from the grid.
- What happens to the solar panels in winter?
Layers of snow on top of the panels will reduce the production of the panels, but it is much less than you may think. 5 years of local data was collected at NAIT and the results showed that snowfall caused a 3% energy loss. Read more here:
Overall, system owners can expect to overproduce in the summer, while underproducing in the winter.
- How can we pay for the solar PV?
Investment into a solar PV system can be an expensive initial cost, but currently, there are Provincial and Municipal program that, together, cover up to a third of the installation costs:
There are also several grants available for community leagues to access in order to pay for the systems. You can find a list of sustainability-centric grants here:
Together, the rebates and grant funding can make community solar project very affordable.
- How can I get a solar PV project started for my facility?
Contact a solar contractor, and they will evaluate the viability and performance that a solar PV system will have at your facility. Getting quotes from several contractors allows to you compare options and get the system that is best for you. Once again, the Energy Transition Officer is here to help you with any questions you might have.
Have more questions about solar, check out our previously published Solar FAQ for more specifics
- How can I reduce my water consumption?
There are several ways to reduce your water consumption without spending money or upgrading your home.
Many people use sprinklers throughout the growing season to water their grass. Covering your lawn in treated water is wasteful. Consider watering your lawn every 3 days or once a week. Or, if you want to minimize water consumption, quit watering your lawn altogether. It may not be as green-looking, but you will earn points with your sustainable-minded neighbours for being environmentally friendly!
When it comes to garden watering, consider using a rain barrel. Rainwater is free, better for your plants, reduces your water bill and, most importantly, is environmentally friendly and sustainable.
There are many ways to reduce consumption inside the house. People often leave the tap running while they wash, dry and put away dishes, or while brushing their teeth. Breaking this habit goes a long way in reducing water use, so try to turn off the tap when not in use. Also, make sure to regularly check that your faucets don’t leak. A leaky faucet adds up quickly. Fixing a leaky faucet is a maintenance task that will save you money and reduce water consumption.
Another way to reduce consumption is to take shorter showers. Consider reducing your shower time to 20, 10, or even 5 minutes if possible. Just make sure you get all the soap out of your hair!
Finally, if you have a pool or hot tub, always keep the cover on. This will reduce evaporation and the need to refill the pool or tub. As an added benefit, the water will stay warm for longer and require less energy to heat, saving you money.
- How can I reduce my electricity consumption?
There are many ways to reduce electricity consumption throughout the home with minimal added effort. The first and most important thing people can do to reduce electricity use is to turn things off. Don’t leave a room without turning off the lights, and never leave home without turning them off. Try to remind yourself every time – adding a little reminder until you create a new habit can be helpful. They say it takes 66 days to form a new habit. Here at Green Leagues, we use stickers throughout our office to help remind ourselves to turn off the lights. Put these up at home and in your Community League to remind others and reinforce good habits.
It’s not just lights that you should turn off. Electronics such as televisions, stereo equipment, and computer equipment use a constant supply of electricity as well. Always turn off the television when you aren’t watching and use the sleep timer on your remote if you watch television when going to bed. You will sleep better and save electricity. Computer equipment should be turned off or put to sleep when not in use. Consider setting your computer to power saving mode, even when plugged in.
Consider using power bars where you have stereo equipment and computer equipment. Turn off the power bar to cut power to all devices, reducing phantom loads (power drawn from devices when idle). Just be sure to save first if your computer or gaming console is plugged into the power bar.
- How can I reduce my heating/natural gas consumption?
Due to our cold climate, heating our homes accounts for roughly 42% of residential energy use in Canada. Like water and electricity, there are a few easy steps you can take to reduce your heating (and cooling). The first and most important is to use your programmable thermostat. Most homes have thermostats that can be programmed, but many do not know how to use them or choose not to (Tip: search the model of your thermostat online and find the manual to learn how to use the programmable settings). Program your thermostat to 15 to 17°C when no one is home and when you go to sleep, and then to climb back up to 18 to 20°C before you get home or wake up. You will hardly notice the difference since it will only cool off when you aren’t home or when you’re asleep. This will have the bonus of helping you sleep better!
Another way to reduce heating is to close your windows during the day in the summer. Most people believe that having their windows open when it’s hot outside will help keep things cool, but the opposite can be true. If it’s hotter outside than inside, closing your windows helps to create a small insulative barrier that will keep things cooler indoors. Just remember to open your windows at night when it cools off. If you’re concerned about airflow, try opening 2 windows on each floor (one east window and one west window works best) to keep air circulating and close the rest.
Also, consider closing your blinds and curtains on hot sunny days and cold winter nights. Closing curtains and drapes when the sun is shining will reduce passive solar radiation within the home, and closing curtains and drapes in winter adds one more insulative barrier that helps keep the heat in. Just remember to keep curtains open during the day in the winter to let in the sun, heating your home and letting the light in, reducing your heating load and the need to turn on the lights.
- How do I compost?
When organics get sent to the landfill, they get trapped underneath other garbage. When this happens, the lack of oxygen causes the organic waste to produce methane gas as it breaks down. Methane is roughly 25 times worse than carbon dioxide for contributing to climate change. This can be avoided by composting at home, but many people don’t know how to compost or are concerned about the smell. Below, we explain how to compost and ways to reduce nasty smells coming from the compost pile.
The first step is to purchase a kitchen compost pail and create an outdoor compost pile. A kitchen pail is a small receptacle for organic wastes that sits on your kitchen counter and is emptied into the outdoor compost pile regularly. Some kitchen compost pails come with filters to help reduce the smell. Just be sure to replace the filter regularly or it will stop working, and always empty the compost pail every few days, rinsing the pail each time (Tip: put a folded piece of paper towel in the bottom of the pail to help make cleaning and emptying easier).
There are several ways to create an outdoor compost pile. The cheapest way is to dig a hole in the ground and dump your organic wastes inside. This is typically only done on large properties such as acreages where a lot of yard wastes accumulate. If you decide to go this route, make sure to fence off your pile to prevent critters and pests from getting into the pile and making a mess.
In the city, it is typical to use a compost bin for your outdoor pile. Compost bins are large black bins with holes in the sides for air circulation. Bins can be purchased from the garden section of your local hardware store. Alternatively, you can make your own compost bin by drilling holes in a black garbage pail.
For a compost pile to be effective, it must be turned regularly. Turning your compost involves mixing it up to increase air circulation throughout the pile. If organic wastes break down without the presence of oxygen, methane is created. To avoid this, the pile must be turned regularly. Turning the pile also increases the speed of the composting process. To turn your pile, you can use a shovel or garden fork, though this can be difficult in store-bought bins. An alternative is to purchase a compost turner. These tools designed specifically to mix up the compost pile can be found online or at your local hardware store. Finally, you can purchase outdoor compost tumblers that turn the pile over with a crank, eliminating the need to mix the pile with a fork or compost turner. Again, the pile should be turned over regularly, generally a minimum of once a week to be effective and reduce methane production. Turning over the pile also reduces odours. The more you turn or mix your compost pile, the less it will smell. Also, try placing the pile away from where you spend time. Ideally, place the compost pile in a corner of the yard, away from the patio and back door and in a shady location.
- What can I compost?
Almost all organic wastes can be composted. Organic wastes from the kitchen can be put into the compost. This includes vegetable cuttings, fruit peels and pits, and even coffee grounds and eggshells (eggshells will no break down with the rest but help to oxygenate the compost and improve drainage). Make sure to avoid meat scraps and fats. For outdoor wastes, dead leaves, grass clippings, and plant wastes are all compostable. If you have dogs, avoid adding grass clippings from the backyard. Also avoid adding weeds whenever possible, since you don’t want to add seeds from noxious plants into your garden. Finally, maintaining a healthy balance between nitrogen and carbon will help speed up the composting process and cut down on odors. The best way to ensure a good ratio of nitrogen to carbon in your pile is to include roughly 2 parts green organics to 1 part brown organics (this is more of a general guideline than an exact science, so don’t worry if you can’t achieve this ratio exactly–even one part green to one part brown organics works well).
Composting is great for the environment and can also help with home gardening. Gardeners call compost “black gold” because it is such an effective fertilizer. Sprinkle compost on your garden or mix it with peat moss and pearlite for a great potting mix.
- I don’t have a backyard. How can I compost?
While Edmonton does not currently have a green bin program (though they are currently running a green bin pilot program – check out the Edmonton Journal article about the program here,), there are other ways to compost without a backyard. One way is to find out if your Community League has a Community Garden. Most Community Gardens throughout the city have composting programs. If you’re unsure, check out this link for a map of Community Gardens in Edmonton, or contact your local Community League to find out.
As a part of the City of Edmonton’s new zero waste policy, a green bin program is expected to roll out city-wide around 2020. The new waste program will require residents to sort recyclables, kitchen organics, yard waste, and general waste into four separate coloured bins. Get ahead of the game by learning to compost now, and you may avoid headaches in the future.
If there isn’t a Community Garden near you, or if you don’t want to transport your organic waste, you can create a Worm Bin. A worm bin is a compost bin you can keep inside your house! The worms help speed up the decomposition process, resulting in fewer odours and no turning over of the bin. This method requires more preparation than backyard composting but is a great alternative for people living in apartments or without access to a backyard. Here is how you do it:
- Purchase or build your worm bin. You can purchase a pre-made worm bin or make your own. To make a worm bin, buy a ceramic container of the appropriate size (the size will depend on how much space you have in your apartment and how much organic waste you produce) and cut or drill holes in the top and bottom of the container. Place the bin on a drainage tray to catch any liquids coming out of the bottom.
- Prep your bin. Cover the bottom of the bin with strips of paper (either cut newspaper into strips or, if you have a shredder, you can use shredded paper–bonus points since shredded paper cannot be recycled!). Next, pour a small amount of potting soil or peat moss onto the paper scraps, then add your worms. Worms can be purchased from your local bait shop, or at some specialty gardening stores. You need roughly one pound of worms per square foot of container space.
- Place the worm bin indoors (the worms prefer room temperature), preferably somewhere it will receive some sunlight.
You’re all set to add your kitchen organics. Since you want to maintain a healthy carbon and nitrogen balance (see above), you will want to add kitchen waste and paper at a roughly even ratio throughout the process. It may also help to have two worm bins, which you can cycle so that you have compost for house plants (or a windowsill herb garden) in one bin while the worms go to work on the other bin. You can add most of the same wastes to your worm bin as you would to an outdoor compost bin, except for citrus peals; worms do not like citrus, so continue to throw these in the trash.
- What can I put in my blue bag?
While this might change in the future, in Edmonton we don’t currently have to separate our paper, plastic, metal, and glass for recycling. Most paper, plastic, metal, and glass can be recycled, with a few exceptions. Never include any broken glass or sharp metals in your recycling bag as it is hazardous to sorters. And always rinse everything clean before putting it into the recycling. If you’re unsure of what you can put into your blue bag, download the WasteWise app on the Google Play or iTunes store on your phone, check out this guide from the city of Edmonton, or visit their website here.
- Where do I bring items that can’t go in my compost, blue bag, or to the landfill?
All items that cannot be recycled, composted or sent to the landfill can be brought to your local Eco Station. There are small fees associated with bringing certain items to the Eco Station, but they are never expensive. Some items that should be brought to the Eco Station include batteries, broken appliances, and scrap metals, electronics, household hazardous wastes, and large items and mixed wastes such as old furniture or picture frames. For more information, visit the City of Edmonton’s website here.
- How else can I reduce waste?
Always look for more ways to reduce plastic use and to re-use anything. Consider purchasing tote bags or boxes to bring to the grocery store. Grocery bags account for a huge amount of plastic consumption. Also, consider purchasing reusable straws, and skip the lid on purchased drinks whenever possible. Better yet, make your coffee and tea at home and use a reusable thermos; you’ll save money and the environment all in one go!
Another part of the City of Edmonton’s zero waste plan is the banning of single-use plastics. With pressure from citizens to address climate change, you can expect this change to roll out soon.
If you’re done with something but it’s still good, bring it to the Good Will or put it up on Kijiji or Craigslist so someone else can use it. Similarly, if you need something, check Kijiji first; often, you can find perfectly good things with little to no wear for a fraction of the price when purchased new. We live in a throw-away culture, but we don’t have to. There are more ways than ever to conveniently find used items or donate used things for others. Every time an object is re-used, it cuts down not only on the energy and materials used in manufacturing but also on the transportation emissions associated with bringing it to the store or your doorstep.
- What else can I do to become more sustainable?
There are many ways we can lead more sustainable lives. The biggest area in which we can increase our sustainability is transportation. Edmonton is considered a “driving city,” but it doesn’t have to be. The introduction of separated bike lanes has made cycling easier and safer than ever here in Edmonton. The city even plows the bike lanes so the hardiest among us can bike throughout the winter! Using public transportation, walking, and cycling are all great ways to reduce your carbon footprint and lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Also, check out this link to find information about the new addition of E-scooters to Edmonton’s transportation scene.
Another sustainable activity is home gardening. Tending a vegetable garden reduces the environmental toll of transporting produce to the grocery store. As an added benefit, growing produce at home eliminates the risk of consuming pesticides and encourages healthy eating. After the initial investment, it also saves money! Don’t have a backyard for composting and gardening? Check out our “Gardening in a Box” guidebook for information about Community Gardens.
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