Naturalization with Trees, Dandelions and Composting Using the New Cart Rollout

Volunteer Tree Planting with Root for Trees

At the start of our blog, back in the fall of 2019, Lucy had read about Root For Trees, and made a plan and registered to volunteer with them to plant trees in Edmonton. Finally, after a year of COVID restrictions, she received an email that small groups are again planting trees. Strong winds cancelled the original group outing planned with Janet, Brenna and Russ so Lucy grabbed the next available date for planting in the south area near the Blackmud Creek.

With Root for Trees the city is focused on naturalization, an ecologically-based landscape management approach, where highly-maintained land is transformed into a more natural condition.

The Roots for Trees program started in 2012 with a goal of planting 16,000 trees a year and now the new goal is to plant 45,000 trees each year. As well Edmonton will continue with the program of giving 15,000 trees to school children each year and mandates that all new homes plant two trees in the front yard, two other ways it is increasing the urban forest canopy. The river valley of Edmonton has the status of having the longest continuous green space in all North America. 

The Root for Trees program is very well organized. Businesses, individuals, and community groups can register online, during the first week of March. The only weakness we found was that on the website it is challenging to see at a glance all the possible planting dates and locations. There are opportunities to plant all summer and early fall, and more dates are being added including some Saturdays. As the province opens up, larger groups can meet, as the current limit is 10, but in past years they have had up to 200 planting at one time.

The organizers send out detailed information on how to dress (long pants and closed toe shoes), as well as specific directions on finding the “field” you are planting. It seems everyone found the site. We plant either in the morning or afternoon for two and a half hours. Luckily it was perfect weather on the day we planted, but we are sure it can get hot. A hat, sunscreen, bug repellent, water, are all a good idea. Root for Trees provides the fitted gloves, tiny spades and trees/bushes to plant. The site is already mapped out, with a perimeter, and each tree is planted a metre apart, pairing the birch trees, and bushes need to be half a metre apart.

After discussing safety issues, there is a complete demonstration on how best to plant the trees. These trees were 2-5 feet tall and have about a 9 inch root, so a narrow round hole that is deep enough for the plant must be dug. Next the root ball has to be well loosened so the roots are aiming down, and then the plant must be packed in with no air pockets, using the same dirt, un-crumbled in layers, packed down with the final test being, the tug to ensure it does not come out. Later that day a truck will come to water the trees. Prior to planting the area has let the grass grow long, and that is why the trees need to be large enough to compete and increase their survival rate. The survival rate of these trees is 80 percent. Not bad! We each planted about a dozen trees while there.

The coordinators took time to discuss the types of trees we were planting and photos of them are included here in this blog. As an unexpected bonus, when we were finished we each could bring one plant home and were given a Root For Trees t-shirt. Lucy was thrilled to plant in her back yard her chosen Highbush Cranberry which attracts birds.

So if you want to do a bit of volunteering in Edmonton that gives you a feeling of satisfaction, helps naturalize the city, gives you a little exercise and lots of fresh air as well, check it out. Lucy looks forward to more tree planting as well as going back over the years to look at how well these trees have grown over time.

Benefits of the Edmonton Cart Roll Out

Finally Edmonton has a new system for managing waste. It feels like most other cities are ahead of us in this regard, but hopefully it means this is well planned out. Last week we received our new garbage cart and food scrap cart (with food scrap pail). The city wants all citizens to participate in using these containers as intended to ensure a sustainable future for our city. If together we adjust our approach to waste processing the city can keep waste from going into the landfill with a goal of a near zero waste future. This is ambitious!

Our new Food Scrap Pail and Cart in Edmonton encourages composting and the waste will be sent to the new High Solids Anaerobic Digestion Facility where the methane produced (biofuel) from our waste will generate heat and electricity for the facility and is part of the plan for Edmonton to divert 90% of waste from landfills. It is a benefit that we can put paper napkins and paper towels into the scrap container now, rather than in the garbage. This is a bagless container so that removes the plastic from the garbage. We personally are going to use the food scrap pail to compost at home in the summer. For more information on composting please check out our April 30, 2020 blog. (Friends4Trees4Life:

Photo credit Lucy

Citizens of Edmonton are receiving one of the two garbage container choices. The smaller 120L garbage container (shown above) is cheaper by $5.00 a month than the larger 240L one as an incentive to pay less if you put out less garbage. One can always request a different size bin over the next few months, by calling 311, so if you are not filling your large bin more than half, you might want to downsize. Maybe this is a welcome challenge to keep one’s garbage to a minimum. Packaging from products we buy is bulky so it might require assessing and changing the way we shop. We can try to purchase food with less packaging, and do less online shopping which has been shown to create more packaging waste.

With the new cart roll out the city of Edmonton will save on fuel as the trucks pick up the garbage only every other week. It is interesting that the blue bag recycling system has not changed but we did read that pizza boxes can be recycled now as they used to be considered garbage. You can download the Wastewise app onto your phone to help with sorting your waste.

Can We Learn to Love Dandelions?

If discussing changing our garbage habits is not distasteful enough, let’s discuss dandelions. First up, did you know a dandelion is a flower not a weed? As such, can we start to view them with a different lens, and maybe consider them to be pretty, just as children do? Did you know all parts of a dandelion are edible, including the root, and it is a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin K. Unknowingly you may already be eating dandelion leaves as they are found in mesclun, a mix of tender, young salad green leaves sold in the grocery store.

When Did We Learn to Despise Dandelions?

“Paula Noel, the New Brunswick program director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, is not sure when dandelions became the outcast of the landscaping world but figures it probably started in the 1950s. “During the Depression and war years, people ate dandelion greens because they were free and available and are in fact very nutritious,” she said. “After the Second World War, dandelions were associated with the poverty and hardship of those years, so this is part of the reason they became reviled. Campaigns by herbicide companies [in the 1950s and ’60s] probably played a big part, too.”At around the same time, the rise of suburban communities spawned a cultural tradition of having a well-kept front lawn, and peer pressure took it from there.”

“But in recent years, several factors have begun shifting that thinking. Mounting evidence of climate change has heightened our concern for the environment. Reports of an alarming decline in the world’s bee colonies — with disease, loss of habitat and pesticides all taking some of the blame — have put a laser focus on anything that can harm them. Meanwhile, anything that provides sustenance to bees is suddenly being encouraged, and that includes dandelions. “They’re one of the first foods of the season for pollinators,” Noël said. “They’re not damaging in any way to the environment, and the insect that we see most on them in May is the honeybee.””

Photo credit Carrie

No Mow May

“And over the past few years, No Mow May, a campaign created by U.K.-based Plantlife and adopted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, has sought to convince Canadians it’s OK to let their lawns grow wild. Residents are asked not to mow their lawns for the entire month in an effort to help pollinating insects, including butterflies and bees, whose food is in scarce supply in May. The general consensus is this-it’s gaining ground, and life is certainly a lot simpler when you don’t try to fight nature. “People are looking for things they can do to make a difference to protect wildlife, to protect the environment,” Noël said. “And this is an easy thing that people can [do] to help in their own little corner of the world. No Mow May is really about retraining our way of thinking,” Noël said. “I think it’s teaching people that it’s OK to have some of those yellow flowers adding some colour to the landscape.””

Being surrounded by untreated public spaces makes keeping your own residential patch of grass dandelion-free a lot more challenging, especially considering the dandelion’s prodigious seeding capacity. That fluffy white dandelion seed head can contain up to 172 seeds. But that’s just a start: The plant blooms repeatedly through summer, and each plant can produce as many as 5,000 seeds in a single year. Pulling dandelions the wrong way will turn one plant into a many-headed hydra. It fractures the root system underground, and each piece of those fractures will now turn into a dandelion — with multiple leaves and four or five different stems, all of them with flowers. This invasive nature of dandelions is what many despise.

Some Like it Green

People still want their lawns to look good. If you’re one of those people, here are some tips on how to get and keep your lawn (mostly) weed-free. The first and most important thing is to get that grass thick and healthy. If the dandelion seed can’t touch the soil, it can’t grow. That means applying fertilizer and lime liberally, overseeding often, watering frequently and using a blend of grasses. Once you’ve got your lawn thick and green, get ready to accept the fact that you will occasionally see a few dandelions and other weeds on your lawn.

Photo credit Lucy

Article by Marie Sutherland of CBC News based out of Saint John (CBC:

Reflection, Regeneration, Soil Food and Soul Food

We are of mixed emotions as we contemplate what lies ahead as the world, and we, begin to “re-enter” after such a long (never ending?) pandemic-imposed “pause” (upending?) from life as we once knew it.

On the one hand, we are giddy at the prospect of soon being able to put lockdowns behind us and to resume socializing and enjoying simply “being” together with others, in person. Oh joy!

Catherine is eager for Lucy’s summer visit to Toronto. Yippee!

It is when we turn our thoughts to the bigger picture and what does re-entry mean in terms of the health and well being of people and the planet that we become more circumspect and contemplative.

We wonder if the newfound connections with nature that many of us have embraced in our pandemic lockdown routines (e.g., daily walks/runs, hiking, biking, gardening, birding) will endure once life’s busyness and commuting return?

Will we continue to value and privilege time for slowing down, noticing and wondering? Being present. Receiving and appreciating nature’s generosity that is on offer if only we stop for a moment to take it in – sounds of birdsong and buzzing bees, gentle breezes carrying scents of forest pine needles or blossoming lilacs,  roses and herbs, fresh life-giving clean air and sheltering shade silently given by our tree canopies, sunshine, rainfall, moonlight, glistening dew drops on a spider’s web, the poetic motion of a gliding hawk or cloud floating by overhead, the might and majesty of a water fall, a gentle burbling brook, the rustle of wavy wheat, the marvel of no two snowflakes alike, nature’s riotous bounty of colour, transformational energy and nourishment to feed imaginations, stomachs, enterprises, to warm bodies, hearts and souls, to name but a few….

Will we make the time? Will we notice and be inspired, awed, humbled, energized, renewed? Will we “see” with appreciative eyes and keep bringing mindfulness to our daily life’s activities and choices, post-pandemic? We wonder…

There is lots of talk these days in the business and political news about ‘building back better,’ ‘clean/green renewal,’ and ‘carbon zero,’ and among individuals about the time given while alone with our thoughts during lockdown to reflecting on what’s important in life.  Are we in for an era of positive transformational change ahead? Might this be one silver lining from the pandemic – momentum at every level (personal, local, national, global) to take better care of our shared humanity and home on this beautiful planet earth? Let’s be optimistic, and inspired!

Soul Food

Friends4Trees4Life is a blog that is inspired by our commitment to take personal action on climate change, through tree planting.

As we have learned and grown, so too has the focus of our blogging expanded and evolved over time.

Trees, however, continue to be an important touchstone and central theme, in all aspects.

Photo credit Lucy

We take a moment to share a tree-inspired poem by Mary Oliver, as our ‘soul food’ first, before turning attention to the climate action topic of regeneration, the ‘soil food’ part of this blog post. Thank you to Audrey for sharing this poem and reminding us of the beauty of Mary Oliver’s poetry.

“When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, ‘It’s simple,’ they say,

‘and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine.’ ”


“To save the world, start with a potato”

Photo credit Shanthi

This catchy headline in the business section of the Toronto Star caught Catherine’s eye and drew her into reading a recent opinion piece by Max Koeune. She pursued a link mentioned and before she knew it, she was learning about Regeneration Canada, Potato News (a website dedicated to all things potato) and “Sport Spuds”! Who knew?.

Potato News is a self-described source for ‘a no frills, no nonsense daily account of breaking global potato news stories’. (That brought a smile) Its website profiled the Max Koeune piece as well, which spotlights McCain Foods and why it is making “a global commitment to the principles and practices of regenerative agriculture”. (Toronto Star:

In the article we learned more about the link between food growing and processing practices and carbon emissions, and why change needs to happen in terms of the long-term viability of farming as a career path for future generations, and in terms of climate action.

Koeune presents the compelling case for change, from his vantage point as president and chief executive officer of McCain Foods  – “Globally, more than a quarter of the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change come from the growing and processing of food – and a global population boom is only going to exacerbate that problem. If we don’t change the way we farm, feeding the world in 30 years will require an 87 per cent increase in carbon emissions.”

Even as the potato is a low-carbon crop, Koeune explains how more can be done and why, “[b]y the end of the decade, McCain is committed to implementing regenerative agricultural practices on every acre of farm that grows a potato for (its) French fries.” The focus is on changing practice in its considerable acreage world-wide in order to restore soil health, biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions.

(Potato News:

Photo credit Lucy

Regenerative Agriculture

A Globe and Mail piece added to our understanding of the complexities of regenerative agriculture and why it matters. In David Israelson’s piece on “Regenerative agriculture a game-changer for farmers,” a quote by Gabrielle Bastien, founder and co-director of Regeneration Canada gets to the heart of the change in practice. ‘In essence it means working with nature as opposed to working against it,’ she says. ‘It’s a set of farming principles and practices that regenerates the health of the soil.’ “ (Globe and Mail:

Checking out the website for Regeneration Canada, “a national not-for-profit organization that champions regenerative farming practices,” we learned more details, including ‘why soil matters’.

“The term “regenerative” refers to a process – the process of improving one’s state. With regenerative agriculture, the journey improves the state of the soil, of the ecosystem overall, of the climate, and of human health.

Regenerative agriculture is based on principles of land management which reverse current trends of degradation in soil, water and air quality by enhancing the soil ecosystem and restoring its biology. Principles of regenerative agriculture aim to draw down atmospheric carbon into soil and the aboveground biomass, helping to reverse climate change.

At the same time, they increase climate resilience in the face of drought, floods, and extreme weather events. Rebuilding soil organic matter reduces dependence on chemicals and pesticides, results in more nutrient dense food, and generates greater economic viability for farmers.”

(Regeneration Canada

From these articles and websites we learned that some of the farming practices that promote healthy soil and reduce carbon emissions are:

  • Reducing tillage
  • Cover cropping
  • Promoting crop diversity
  • Protecting watersheds
  • Minimizing pesticides
  • Agroforestry and perennials (planted in farmed areas)
  • Integrating livestock into farming operations rather than grazing them in separate fields.

To learn more details about regenerative agriculture, the importance of soil health and specific farming practices such as cover cropping, what farmers can do to enhance CO2 sinks, ways that farmers can reduce methane, see our May 13 blog post on Vertical Hydroponics and Regenerative Farms, Regeneration Canada’s website at , and/or the Organic Council of Ontario’s (OCO’s) website, which also offers information on incentives for regenerative farming at:

Why Trees (Still) Matter?

Photo credit Lucy

Our first blog post almost two years ago was on Why Trees Matter?

It is a question we continue to explore and return to in our blogging, even as we expand our learning horizons about climate action beyond the critical role trees play in carbon capture.

We end today’s post with some inspirational tree-themed quotes found on the tree planting/donation website (not an endorsement), and by encouraging our Readers to take two minutes to watch this informative and engaging BBC videoclip called, “What if Everyone in the World Planted a Tree?” (2020) –

“People who will not sustain trees will soon live in a world that will not sustain people.” (Bryce Nelson)

“Ancient trees are precious. There is little else on Earth that plays host to such a rich community of life within a single living organism.” (Sir David Attenborough)

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”  (Chinese proverb)

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” (Nelson Henderson)

“We’re merely one tree with various types, shapes and sizes of leaves that all wave differently in the breeze.” (Rasheed Ogunlaru)  []

Photo credit Lucy

Three Solar Panel Innovations and Practical Considerations for “Going Solar”

Building-Integrated PhotoVoltaics (BIPV)

from Emily Chung, CBC News June 2, 2021

While traditional solar panels are attached to buildings, BIPVs are built into the exterior as key elements. They can be anything exposed to the sun: shingles, windows, cladding, skylights, pergolas, balcony railings. One company, Toronto-based Mitrex, is even planning to use them to build greenhouses and highway noise barriers.

“BIPV systems are like other solar panels in that they generate clean energy that can be used for backup power or sold to the grid. But they need to be designed differently in order to serve other functions, such as keeping out the wind and rain or letting natural light shine in. Because of that, BIPV panels come in a much wider variety of shapes, sizes, colours and transparencies.”

“Canadian companies are starting to make transparent, coloured panels designed to protect the building. The sun-filled atrium of the Edmonton Convention Centre and the dramatic sloped roof of the Varennes Library in suburban Montreal, are both buildings that  as they are made of solar panels (BIVP)are generating power. It’s a solution touted by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, which started selling solar roof tiles in the USA in 2017. Since then, a range of made-in-Canada options for different parts of buildings have hit the market — and installations have sprung up across the country showcasing what’s possible.”

BIPVs Can Be Heat Generating As Well

BIVPs can potentially generate heat as well as electricity. At the Varennes Library, outdoor air pulled into the ventilation system is preheated by the solar panels before entering the building (which also has a geothermal heating system). That also cools the panels, which don’t generate as much power when they’re too hot. A heat pump can potentially be added to increase the amount of space and water heating the panels can do, and the amount of energy per surface area that the system can provide overall.”

The Varennes Library, in a suburb of Montreal, is a net-zero building. The BIPV panels in its roof provide both power and some heating. (Concordia University)

Challenges to Overcome

There are still much to do in terms of regulating BIPVs and educating the trades people including architects who need to create unique building designs that can maximize benefits of the BIPVs so this becomes mainstream. As well the up front cost for BIPVs is quite high, so there needs to be ways to make them more affordable, with incentives, mass production and better understanding of their cost savings over time. Mitrex’s plan is to bring its products to the point that they can be offered at no up-front cost to customers — instead, customers would pay for the electricity generated over the panels’ lifetime, (similar to the way geothermal projects are often funded in condos). That sounds fantastic.

Some of the Canadian companies making BIPVs are:

  1. PV Technical Services-offers access to solar shingles

This Ontario house has solar shingles developed by PV Technical Services, based in St. George-Brant County, Ont. (PV Technical Services)

2. Mitrex-opening a factory in July in Toronto Mitrex makes solar windows, and roofing. It makes cladding and plans to make highway sound barriers. Those are two things that are often made of concrete, which has a higher carbon footprint than glass and silicon BIPV panels.

The company also worked on a five-storey residence at Red Deer College that’s covered with solar glass cladding on three sides — 545 panels in all.

3. Kuby Energy-created the glass skylights of the sun-filled atrium of the Edmonton Convention Centre, which represents the largest BIPV installation in Canada. (Kuby Renewable Energy); will sell Tesla solar roof and sells Tesla Powerwalls.

This is the unique Edmonton Convention Centre Atrium from the outside. (Kuby Renewable Energy)

“Building Integrated Photovolataics will definitely take off as more people realize it’s a viable technology,” said Yereniuk, Director of Operations for Kuby Renewable Energy. “The industry is changing very fast and technology is rapidly growing and advancing, and costs are rapidly coming down.”

Floating Solar Panels

Here is another way solar panels are becoming remarkably versatile. In locations that have little space to put solar panels, like Japan, panels can sit on the surface of bodies of water as floating panels. Once you get past the idea of water and electricity in close proximity, the concept has a number of added benefits, like blocking sunlight on the water to reduce algae blooms, reducing evaporation of water, and possibly even offsetting climate change. It is estimated that placing solar panels on 1% of Africa’s reservoirs could double the continent’s annual hydropower capacity. To date India, China and South Korea boast the biggest, most impressive, floating solar panel installations.

CBC What on Earth May 27, 2021

Peel and Stick Solar Panels

Singapore-based Maxeon Solar Technologies has announced that it will commercially release its MAXEON AIR SOLAR PANELS this summer. The company says these panels are frameless, thin, lightweight, and conformable, with efficiency and performance the same as standard solar panels.

“Basically, the Air is a solar panel sticker, or, as Maxeon describes it, “peel and stick,” so the panels can be installed directly on a roof’s surface without racking, anchors, or ballast and are engineered to conform to uneven roof surfaces. No metal frame or heavy glass are used in the panel. The installed weight is around 6 kg (13 pounds) per square meter, which is less than half of conventional systems. As well they are certified for fire resistance.”

“The cells within the panels include a solid metal foundation and stress-relieved cell interconnects. That protects against corrosion and enables fault-tolerant circuits that allow energy flow, even with cracked cells. The Air panels feature an efficiency rating of 20.9%, a low power-temperature coefficient, shade tolerance, wide spectral response, and hot-spot resistance. Maxeon Air panels will be used in selected projects in Europe in the second half of 2021 and general product availability is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2022.”

This article was by Michelle Lewis on May 19, 2021 –

We hope that reading about these options makes you excited about a future with solar panels in it.

Our Guest Blogger’s Practical Considerations for Going Solar

Thank you and welcome to Guest Blogger, Edmund, for these “insider” insights on practical considerations for going solar. While he does not have an installation of his own, we asked Edmund if he would be willing to share his expertise and insights with us, offered below, from the perspective of his background as an electrical engineer who now does communications work for a Canadian solar company. We thank him for his generosity and hope this informative and insightful piece will help many more of us ‘go solar,’ and with greater knowledge and confidence!

“Interest in solar is on the upswing, with the growing green energy movement and an
increased interest in relocating to remote areas. There’s also been a general downward
trend in the costs of solar systems over the years (2021 is an exception, however, as
prices of some basic materials like copper have increased, along with a general shortage
of silicon chips which has also increased prices).

If you are thinking about going solar, with many different ways to incorporate solar in
your home, cottage or cabin, trailer or even RV or boat, how do you choose from all of
the available solutions

Having a green source of energy may be foremost in your mind,
but there are other things to consider, such as how exactly do you want to use the power,
the up front costs, your need to have reliable power, your ultimate carbon footprint, and
the payback period (if any).

The following diagram shows the elements of a solar system. There are many things
beyond the basic solar panels to capture energy from the sun. Many are optional:

  • It may or may not have a grid connection.
  • A back-up power source is optional (such as a generator or wind turbine).
  • Having battery energy storage may be optional, and there are
    different types of batteries that you may use.
  • The number of solar panels you use is variable. And the circuitry (inverter) for converting your energy source(s) to 120 V AC for your devices depends on the energy sources employed.

Your options are tied mainly to whether or not a grid connection is available, as well as
what you want to do with your system. It’s easiest to break them down into three broad

On-Grid System

If you have a grid connection, your aim may be to replace some or all grid power with
solar power. The simplest configuration is a set of solar panels, plus circuitry that
enables you to sell your solar-generated power back to the grid. You don’t have to rewire
your home electrical panel (which in turn supplies your outlets) because you are
maintaining your grid connection to power it. The simplicity comes at the cost of
function: if the grid goes down, you lose power despite having solar panels, and
furthermore your circuitry must ensure that it stops delivering power back to the grid
during the outage. On-grid systems are among the earliest and most common; however
lately their limitations have become evident in areas affected by outages caused by the
increasing incidences of wildfires and/or floods.

Off-Grid System

There are times where a grid connection is not available – such as a new construction in a
remote location where getting power from the grid is difficult or costly. Or maybe you
simply want to become independent of the grid. In this case you would connect solar
panels to charging circuitry which transfers energy to a set of batteries; the batteries are
in turn connected to your home devices via inverter circuitry that transforms the battery
power to 120 V AC needed by your home devices. The addition of batteries, charger, and
inverter are significant extra components but they are necessary for an off-grid system.
You will have to calculate how much energy you require every day and match it with the
amount of energy your solar panels can supply and that your batteries can store. Plus,
you have to add additional battery capacity to keep your home running on days when
there is no sun. If you need sustained power during the winter months, then you will
need to further increase the number of solar panels so to capture sufficient energy from
the shortened daylight hours.

An off-grid system can be supplemented with a back-up energy source. This can be
replace the additional solar panels and/or battery capacity for providing energy during the
dark days. This is of course an additional expense; and typically this takes the form of a
generator which in addition burns diesel and creates noise. So while this may be a
necessity if you want to guarantee that you always have power when you need it, it may
not be something that you want to add to your system. Other options for back-up energy
include adding a wind turbine and dedicated charger to feed the batteries in parallel with
the solar panels, but this quite an expensive and not as common option.
If you are constructing a remote home from scratch, it’s a good idea to install your off-
grid system as soon as possible. This way you can use it to power-up some of the
equipment used to build the home itself!

Hybrid System

A hybrid system is a basic off-grid system (with solar panels and batteries), but with a
grid connection available to charge the batteries for the times when there isn’t sufficient
sunlight available to meet your energy needs. This is a relatively simple way to go off-
grid while still being backed up by the grid, so no need for a noisy back-up generator. Some
hybrid systems also give you the option of selling your solar power back to the grid.
A hybrid system is a good way to get started with solar energy and retrofit an existing
building – you can initially depend on the grid, but then gradually decrease that
dependence by adding panels and battery capacity as you wish. Just make sure that you
have a system which is expandable, and/or a plan in place for it.

These 3 configurations are a simplification – within each category there are further details
and variations, but hopefully this gives an overall view that you can use as a starting

Once you’ve decided which configuration you want (off-grid, on-grid, hybrid) there are
more things to decide. Do you do it yourself (DIY) or not? These days, there are kits available
which can simplify the number of parts that you need to buy and which reduce the set-up
for the most part to plugging in panels and batteries (as well as mounting solar panels of
course). But, keep in mind that it is still a serious electrical installation where local laws, regulations and guidelines are followed: you may need official approval to do the work, and be required to use certified
components. Especially if you are altering your electrical panel and you are not a DIYer, it may be a
good idea to get help from a certified electrician.

When choosing solar panels, there’s a wide range of prices and capacities. You may want
to consider which ones have the best warranty (some go up to 20 years). There are
increasingly higher power panels available that allow you to generate more power in the
same area if you have limited roof or ground area for them, while also requiring less
racking/mounting equipment. For example 360 Watt panels are now available, whereas at
one time 300 Watts used to be closer to the norm a couple years ago. If you are using the
in a boat or RV, you may have no choice but to use flexible panels which not only fit the
shape of your vehicle but also withstand vibrations better.

If you are using batteries, the selection is a complex calculation. Traditional lead acid
batteries are much cheaper, but their life time can be significantly shorter – they may need
replacing in a few years depending on the number of charges/discharges they are subject
to. Lithium batteries last much longer with deeper charging/discharging cycles and
weight less. The warranties on the cells can go up to 8 years. So lithium is technically
superior in almost every respect, but the up front cost of lithium is at least double that of
lead acid; with the longer lifetime they usually cost less in the long term.

Another thing to calculate, somehow, is the environmental cost in the
mining/manufacturing/disposal of any batteries that you use. These costs are changing
all the time but it is something to be aware of.

So best of luck to you if you are wanting to go solar. While it is a major undertaking, the
positive is that there are more and more options available.”

Keep in mind, for solar roofing there is the potential for $5600 in Greener Home Grants available over the next seven years from the Canadian Government, and for more information on eligibility and applying see our blog post from last week – here’s a quick link to help get you going – Good luck!

Canada Greener Homes Grants, Nobel Prize Summit and More

If you are fortunate to be a homeowner, especially in these times of sheltering in place during successive waves of the pandemic, perhaps you have been looking a little more closely at the walls and windows that surround you, and have decided now is the time to show your home a little (reno) love.

If so, in Canada, the timing just got a boost for benefiting your home, your wallet and Planet Earth in one go. (Well actually, make that a five-step process, with paperwork….)

On May 27, the federal government launched the portal where eligible homeowners may begin registering to access the new Canada Greener Homes Grant.  The goal is to help make Canadian homes more energy-efficient, contributing to Canada’s climate action. “Buildings, including our homes, account for 18% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.” (

Here are highlights of what we learned at the Natural Resources Canada website for the Canada Greener Homes Grant.

Eligible Property Types

  • Single and semi-detached houses
  • Row housing
  • Townhomes
  • All-season cottages
  • Mobile homes on a permanent foundation
  • Permanently-moored floating homes
  • Mixed use buildings (residential portion only)Footnote1
  • Small multi-unit residential building (three storeys or less with a footprint of 600m2 or less)Footnote1


‘Up to 700,000 grants of up to $5,000 to help homeowners make energy efficient retrofits to their homes, such as better insulation

EnerGuide evaluations (worth up to $600) and expert advice to homeowners so they can begin to plan their retrofits

Recruitment and training of EnerGuide energy advisors to meet the increased demand; this will create new jobs across Canada.

Participants are eligible for up to $5,600 total under the initiative.’

Five-Step Process

Step 1 – Learn about the initiative, including eligibility criteria (e.g., proof of ownership)

Step 2 – Register and book your pre-retrofit evaluation

Step 3 – Plan, document and complete your home retrofits

Step 4 – Book your post-retrofit evaluation and apply for re-imbursement

Step 5 – $ – Confirm your grant total in the portal, and receive your re-imbursement

Eligible Retrofits

Solar panels spring to mind when we think about Greener Homes.  It is interesting to see the full range of what is eligible for grants and the category limits:

Home insulation
Update your eligible attic/ceiling, exterior wall, exposed floor, basement or foundation, and crawlspaces. (up to $5,000)

Perform air sealing to improve the air-tightness of your home to achieve the air-change rate target (up to $1,000)

Windows and doors
Replace your windows or glass doors with ENERGY STAR® certified models (up to $5,000)

Add a smart thermostat to help improve your comfort and save money on your energy bill (must be combined with another retrofit) (up to $50)

Make the switch to more energy-efficient heating equipment to save on your utility bill and reduce your carbon footprint (up to $5,000)

Renewable energy
Install photovoltaic solar panels to convert sunlight energy into electricity (up to $5,000)

Resiliency measures
Incentives to protect your home and your family from environmental damages (must be combined with another retrofit) (up to $2625)”

What qualifies as a resiliency measure we wondered? Answer: Batteries connected to Photovoltaic systems to provide standby power for homes ($1000); Roofing Membrane – self-adhering roofing underlayment applied to entire roof ($150); Foundation water-proofing ($850); and, Moisture proofing crawl space floors, walls and headers 100% ($600)”

Some Finer Points

Readers will want to review the NRC website in detail if considering this grant opportunity.  For example, some of the finer points that caught our eyes include:

  • New homes are not eligible
  • Certain types of retrofits must be installed by a licensed professional
  • All retrofits must be purchased in Canada
  • It is the homeowner’s (and contractor’s) responsibility to ensure necessary building and utility permits are secured and that building codes and standards are being met
  • Detailed documentation is required throughout the process, including e.g., keeping all invoices, receipts, attestations, proof of work, until March 31, 2028
  • Federal grants are not taxable and do not have to be declared as income.

CBC’s article about the Grant program –

Global News’ coverage –

See related 2020 Guest Blog on Solar Panels in February, generously contributed by Randy

For a timely overview of recent developments in solar energy, see this CBC piece on “Solar windows, shingles and cladding. The building itself is now the solar panel” at -

International Climate Action “Urgency and Agency”

Countries begin to meet virtually over the next three weeks, to try to build consensus and sustain momentum for global action on reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, in preparation for the all-important COP26 meeting in November 2021.

We found this Guardian piece offers a timely, compelling case for what’s at stake for the world.

It includes memorable imagery (we thought) by eminent Earth Scientist, Johan Rockstrom, as he characterizes the momentum for change shown in 2021 as being like a ketchup bottle. Continuing causes for concern (including burning of the Amazon rainforests) are profiled in the Guardian interview with him, together with developments which give Rockstrom optimism, such as behind the scenes alignment by big economies (US, China, EU) on carbon zero; unexpected development for the net zero banking alliance; and, the race to decarbonize in the global car industry. He speaks about the importance of engagement and action by all sectors, not just governments, and a message that resonates with us both is that of “urgency and agency,” balancing the prevailing emphasis on risks (very real) with information and positive messages about solutions at hand.

The article and interview with Rockstrom also put on our radar a new series for Netflix by David Attenborough – Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet– in addition to Rockstrom’s latest book, Standing Up for a Sustainable World, both of which we will want to check out.

Johan Rockstrom’s Hothouse Earth discussion paper and videoclip (2018)

Latest book (2020), Standing Up For A Sustainable World, Good Reads review –

10-minute TED talk (2020) –

David Attenborough Netflix series Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet –

In sum, while there are reasons for hope, Johan Rockstrom provides clarity on what’s at stake for us all.

We have only ten years to cut GHG emissions by half.

Here’s hoping this helps keep everyone laser focused, energized and involved to achieve this milestone, which is so essential to ensuring a livable planet Earth in our lifetime and for generations to come.

It is heartening to know 126 Nobel laureates are lending their voices and championing change from across the disciplines.  (Interestingly, Rockstrom played an important role in spearheading this collaborative effort.) Here is the link to their April 2021 Nobel Prize Summit’s urgent call to action – Our Planet, Our Future

Learn more about the Summit, presentations, papers, videoclips and how to get involved at the Nobel Prize Summit website –

We are inspired anew to double down on our personal climate action learning, and doing, paths. We hope our Friends4Trees4Life Blog encourages and supports you, our Readers, in your own journey.

How Trees Grow

It is all about the trees after all here at Friends4Trees4Life!

This timely two minute videoclip by One Tree Planted helped replace Catherine’s annoyance about the required daily sweeping of maple tree droppings at this time of the year, with a shift in perspective and renewed wonder and appreciation for the resilient life cycle of a tree….we hope you enjoy and feel uplifted by it too.  Happy spring!