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UPDATE : Hurricane Irma is now a post-tropical cyclone

To the people in the Leeward Islands and the state of Florida, Hurricane Irma will be remembered as one of the deadliest storms. Irma is actually still going strong, however, the storm is now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone in the south-eastern United States. With 40km/h winds, Irma is causing moderate rainfall as it tracks its way to the Tennessee valley.

This is nothing compared to the force Irma carried as it hit the Caribbean islands. It left countries completely devastated, nearly wiped off the map. So far, there have been 40 deaths as a result of Irma, with the toll sure to rise in the coming weeks.

Many island countries are struggling to rebuild and various international organizations and governments are contributing to the need. Virgin Atlantic CEO, Richard Branson, has already started raising money for Irma relief. Branson chose to ride out the storm by hunkering down in a wine cellar in his private home in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Many people in BVI are now homeless, with their houses reduced to complete rubble. As Branson said, short term aid and long-term recovery are important for the Caribbean communities to rebuild. The islands are not like metropolitan cities, but are small communities with less resources and disaster preparedness.

In Puerto Rico, over 1 million residents are slowly regaining power in an effort to recover from Hurricane Irma last weekend. Seventy per cent of the homes have their electricity restored, however, the last 30 per cent have to wait between two weeks and a month. Leading up to the storm, the island’s sole electricity provider, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, was left in a fragile state and authorities had even warned residents that they could face power outages for up to six months in some parts of the island. Thankfully, due to a change in the storm path this did not happen.

Hurricane Irma did, however, show the fragility of the Puerto Rican economy and the public– sector debt. The island is an unincorporated US territory and the US has offered federal assistance to help rebuild following the destruction caused by Irma. Many Puerto Ricans are now pushing for a rise in privatization and entrepreneurship to help strengthen the economy.

In Florida, there are approximately 15 million residents left without power and many people are left cleaning up the debris in the streets. It was reported that five residents of a South Florida nursing home died after losing power. Irma hit South Florida as a category three storm and immediately battered areas such as Miami and Venice Florida.

The storm featured a rare phenomenon known as a reverse storm surge. This sucked the water from coastal areas, resulting in an eerily desert looking landscape as the winds blew in reverse directions causing flooding in other parts. This affected even the Bahamas and the Key Largo and Tampa areas.

 

 

Many celebrities have already started raising relief for Hurricane Irma and Harvey. The Hand in Hand telethon was a star studded event, including performances that helped raise approximately $44 million . In Texas, the estimated loss from hurricane Harvey and Irma is an average $200 billion. As many communities rebuild and raise funds, Hurricane Jose is looming in the southwest Atlantic near the Bahamas and Bermuda. Jose is a category one storm, but is tracking an uncertain and unusual path. The storm may cause effects to the Atlantic Canada region.

Canada has sent $160K of relief for caribbean countries and continues to send disaster teams.

Ontario Throne Speech promises childcare and electricity rebates

The vacation is over and it’s back to the daily grind for provincial government officials. Parliament officially kicked off Thursday, with a throne speech given by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor.

The throne speech was meant to help reset the Liberal government agenda and help ministers focus on new legislation. Premier Kathleen Wynne surprised Ontarians last week when she decided to prorogue the government so that the ceremony could take place. The speech outlined a lot of the Liberal government’s successes and achievements, and presented some of the new legislation that will be introduced later this year. However, it also means that all government legislation that was on the order paper prior to the prorogation will have to be reintroduced. Our Members of Provincial Parliament are in for a busy session, that’s for sure.

The liberal government has promised to re-introduce all pieces of legislation as they were, with amendments attached only to election finance reform. This week, the government will move to prohibit MPPs from all parties to attend fundraising events.

Here are a few highlights from the throne speech:

  • Over the next five years, the Ontario government wants to create another 100,000 childcare spaces for kids up to the age of four.
  • As of Jan. 1, 2017, residential homeowners will see an eight per cent rebate on their electricity bills, equalling the provincial HST. This equals about $130 in savings for a typical Ontario household. Small businesses may be eligible for the benefit.
  • The Cap and Trade and Climate Change legislation will be introduced to the House in January.
  • Ontario will continue to invest in road infrastructure and transit via the $160 billion commitment over the next 12 years.
  • The next provincial budget will be balanced.

The rest of the 30-minute speech reinforced the Liberal’s commitment to growing the economy, reducing the province’s carbon footprint, and investing in healthcare.

With an election set for Spring 2018, this is the perfect opportunity to the Liberals to remind the public of what the government has been up to these last three years. Public support for a politician can waver after a few years — when people realize that their promises are taking longer to fulfill than originally expected. A throne speech and a new session of Parliament may be exactly what this government needs to refocus and get on track.

Either way, everyone is watching now. Premier Wynne made the bold choice to make this new vision known to the scrutinizing eye of both the public and the media. It’s a brave and democratic choice — let’s just hope they are able to hold on to that vision without faltering.

Eco-friendly solutions for the workplace

Have you ever seen lights on at night in a building downtown? It’s easy to forget to turn the switch when you leave work at night — you may be tired, nearly blind from staring at a computer all day, and it simply slips your mind. It’s a small thing, but these type of acts can waste a lot of energy.

Offices are wasting a lot of energy by not implementing sustainable practices, and there is no reason for it. It’s relatively easy to save energy within the workplace. The first step is to use electricity more responsibly. Changing the way office buildings uses this type of energy could have a substantial effect on climate change.

A report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2012 says that electricity has doubled in use over the last 30 years, from 2,200 trillion Btu of electricity in 1979 to 4,421 Btu in 2012 in commercial buildings in North America. Commercial buildings that use the most electricity include office spaces, education buildings, warehouse and storage and mercantile buildings. Space heating is cited as the primary user of electricity in the buildings.

Using eco-equipment that automatically shuts off overnight, on weekends, and on holidays is an can reduce usage dramatically. Or try motion sensor lighting in areas that aren’t occupied most of the time. There are several eco-friendly companies popping up that offer automatic shut-off plug-ins and lighting systems. By making these small changes it can also save companies money on their wasted electricity bills, not to mention it will reduce the number of carbon credits in the upcoming cap and trade arrangement.

Employing green standards in the construction of the building can help eliminate the need to make changes later.  LEED Green buildings and other certification systems are expensive initially, but have substantial savings over time in energy savings and water savings. Solar and geothermal energy usage are common forms of renewable energy that eradicate the need for electricity, helping the planet and your pockets.

Sustainable practices in the office itself include recycling. Make sure to have recycling boxes in all areas of the office, and if you work in an office that doesn’t recycle, take initiative! Go paperless in the workplace if possible as well. Use electronic receipts and invest in online cloud storage to keep files safe instead of printing documents. Cloud storage is a secure online data system that stores files through safe internet programs. Additionally, upcycling old computers by donating them is a good way to contribute positively to society and be eco-friendly.

In the office kitchen, use a compost and create a local rooftop garden with the left-over goodies if you are feeling creative. It is also a fun way to give employees access to fresh and local food and a place to relax during lunch breaks. Green walls are becoming popular in LEED buildings and can help air quality in the office. Eradicate plastic from the kitchen and put reusable cups and forks in the area. Passing out re-usable bags to co-workers helps create an incentive to stay eco-positive and send a green message in the workplace.

If every office space, education facility, warehouse and mercantile area went green, it could change the world. Starting small and leading a recycling campaign or doing something larger like funding geothermal heating could start a green workplace revolution. Go to work and give it a try! Isn’t it worth trying to save the planet one step at a time?

5 ways to make your home more energy efficient

With the Ontario government pushing energy-efficient retrofits in homes, you may be thinking: what can I do? Despite the incentive programs being offered, it’s still a bit expensive to incorporate solar, wind, and water into your home.

It’s time to think about the future. Electricity is just going to get more expensive and with climate change being what it is, well, let’s just say it’s better to start thinking about our carbon footprint. Luckily, there are a few environmentally-safe tricks that can help save energy and leave you paying off your power bills without having a heart attack.

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Use LED Bulbs

Using Light Emitting Diodes (LED) bulbs instead of incandescent light bulbs is an easy way to lessen your electricity bill. LED lights are becoming the new norm and if you don’t have them in your house, it is recommended to switch as soon as possible. The light bulbs begin at $20 and are an affordable investment for energy saving in the home.  LED lights have an average life span of 50,000 hours compared to incandescent light bulbs that can only be used for 1200 hours.  They use 6-8 watts of energy instead of 60 watts used by regular light bulbs. Overall, that brings the cost of electricity used to $32.85 per year for LEDs instead of $328.59 per year for incandescent bulbs.

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Smart Power Strip Bars

Power bars consume more energy than most people assume because items are left plugged in and standby electricity is used overnight. It is estimated that five to 10 per cent of household energy consumption is standby energy — unused energy that is wasted just by being plugged in. This accounts for one per cent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. The Smart Strip LGC3 from Bits Limited is a smart power bar that controls the power the other items receive, according to what the TV is doing. If the TV is off, the plugs for speakers, the DVD player and other items connected to the TV switch off as well.

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Shade Producing Landscaping

Having trees and shrubs in your yard is not only good for producing quality air, it can help regulate heating and cooling in your home. In the winter, trees help to protect the heat source inside the home and provide wind blockage. In the summer, the foliage offers shade and cools the house down. Maple trees have very high tolerance for heat and are a great option in the summer months. On the other hand, pine and fir trees will keep their needles in the winter months. Additionally, laurel and yew shrubs have high heat tolerance and produce heavy shade.

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High Efficiency Shower Heads

Shower heads waste water because they often have outdated or slower flow rates. Most shower heads produce a 2.5 gallons per minute flow rate, but high efficiency shower valves can lower that by half and help save water. The newer shower heads maintain much needed water pressure while lowering water flow for a greener showering solution.

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Energy Efficiency for Dryers

Dryers use a lot of energy in the home and are often wasteful. In the summer months, it is much better to air dry clothes instead. If you are worried about your clothes being crunchy and stiff, pouring a cup of vinegar into the washer acts as a natural fabric softener. In the winter, ways to make your dryer more efficient include keeping the lint trap and vent clean and using auto-dry settings only. Purchasing an energy star certified dryer will save energy and money as well with better low heat settings and sensor drying that automatically turns off when clothes are dry.

What are your favourite energy saving devices to put in your home? Let us know in the comments below!