I know. Hard to imagine! My last posting talked about the Celebration of Lake Simcoe. The event highlighted our responsibility to be stewards of Lake Simcoe because of our proximity to it as residents and as the primary beneficiaries of its waters. Let’s hope that we will do a better job protecting this watershed than the millions who surround Lake Ontario.
I was reminded of the time I encountered a group of touring cyclists one summer who had traveled from Newmarket and had stopped in Innisfil Beach Park for a rest. One of them approached me and asked if it was safe to drink from the water fountain. I assured them it was but I was thinking, incredulously, that these people normally drink water from Lake Ontario … and they’re concerned about Lake Simcoe’s water?!
A Toronto paper just featured a story about an ‘Eco Home’ that will be built by a developer in Richmond Hill, not coincidentally, near the Oak Ridges Morraine. (Eco Home Serves as Experiment) The house is intended to be a demonstration of ‘green’ technologies. Data will be collected from the house for a period of two years to measure energy consumption and efficiency. It will be compared with two other houses – built to Energy Star standard and one at current building code standard. The eco home is described as “living laboratory for the latest green techniques, technologies and products”. Among the water-related features mentioned are dual-flush toilets, low-flow shower heads, rain barrels and xeriscaping.
I was surprised not to see any mention of solar water heating. It’s hardly experimental after all (On Rooftops Worldwide, a Solar Water Heating Revolution, Celsias.com):
“China, for example, is now home to 27 million rooftop solar water heaters. .. In Austria, 15 percent of all households now rely on them for hot water… Europe’s solar collectors are concentrated in Germany, Austria, and Greece, with France and Spain also beginning to mobilize. Spain’s initiative was boosted by a March 2006 mandate requiring installation of collectors on all new or renovated buildings. Portugal followed quickly with its own mandate… The U.S. rooftop solar water heating industry … was poised to mass-market residential solar water and space heating systems when federal tax credits were introduced in 2006. Led by Hawaii, California, and Florida, U.S. installation of these systems tripled in 2006 and has continued at a rapid pace since then.”
And Europe has moved way beyond rain barrels. In the UK, a Code for Sustainable Homes requires that “minimum mandatory levels” now apply to both the public and private housing sectors. Their current technology is called rainwater harvesting and uses a cistern to collect rain water and recirculate it for household use. A press release from a UK company (WPL Ltd.) says “Rainwater harvesting can achieve great savings on water consumption, by up to 50%, reducing the mains water consumption in the home to approximately 80 litres per person, per day.” (For comparison, in 1999, the average Canadian used 343 litres a day for domestic water use according to watergovernance.ca) The company’s product range includes “a Premium system for home or garden including a specifically designed tank for areas in a high water table, and comes in a wide range of sizes from 2,700 litres to 13,000 litres.”
In Innisfil, hundreds of new households are in the planning stages. None of them will likely be built to the “leading edge” standards of the Richmond Hill eco home and won’t come close to the higher standards being adopted overseas. Rather than wait and watch while developers control the pace of innovations over the next 3 years, could Innisfil become a Canadian innovation leader by adopting its own more stringent zoning and code for sustainable homes? What are the implications? Innisfil is anxious for new industrial development. Could it become a hub for suppliers of sustainable technologies potentially supplying all of Central Ontario and the GTA? What’s the harm in trying?