News and Events

What you can do about Climate Change: 10 Steps

Step 1: Tell your municipal councillor, MPP and MP what concerns you about climate change. Elected officials must know they have your support for urgent action on climate change. Consider this – your city councillor makes decisions for the 1 million people of Ottawa. Your own actions add up but decisions made by elected officials are orders of magnitude more significant. Click on the template below for ideas.

Step 2: Learn as much as you can about climate change. Knowledge will prepare you for the changes ahead and allow you to help others become informed. has flood awareness tips. The Guardian has an excellent global climate news section. Locally, Carleton University-based Efficiency Canada runs weekly DiscoverEE episodes on a wide range of climate actions on their website and on YouTube. Go to A Matter of Degrees for some cool stories about people taking action.

Step 3: Join a local environmental organization. Such organizations can connect you with people in your community working to make our city more sustainable. Being part of a group can achieve more and have more influence than one individual.

Step 4: Prepare your home for unexpected weather. Prepare for power outages, flooding, drought, fires, tornados, and freezing rain. The website archived information on Safeguarding your home.

Step 5: Mitigate climate change by reducing your combustion of fossil fuels. Transportation (air, road, train, ship) and space heating are the two big sources of green house gases in Ottawa. This means 1. reducing the use of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by using alternative forms of transportation or battery electric vehicles, and 2. replacing fossil fuel burning appliances (furnace, hot water heaters and gas ranges) with electric alternatives. Also, you can source your electricity from alternative energy providers, like BullFrog Power, which feeds equivalent electricity into the grid from wind, solar, and run of the river hydro for every kWh you use.

Step 6: Have your home assessed for energy efficiency. An energy audit shows, for example, where heat is lost, where additional insulation could be added, which windows and doors need replacing. You can also borrow an infrared camera from the Ottawa Public Library to see the areas of your home that are hot and cold.

You can also do your own assessment by keeping track of the amount of natural gas, gasoline, oil, etc. you purchase using utility bills and fuel receipts.

Step 7: Make the switch from gas powered lawn and yard equipment and recreational vehicles to electric. This includes: lawnmowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, boats, all terrain vehicles, snow mobiles. Leaf blowers and other 2-stroke engines are notoriously heavy GHG emitters.

Step 8: Make your home more energy efficient. Once you have the results of your energy audit, you can focus on those areas that will make the most impact on household energy consumption. Making the home more air tight and insulating attics, walls, and basements are often needed. Homeowners often upgrade to Energy Star Most Efficient windows and doors at the same time. These actions may require a fair amount of money depending on the level of energy retrofit. Ottawa now has a Better Homes Loan Program to help you financially.

Step 9: Offset your electrical costs with solar electricity generation. As you add more electrical appliances like electric vehicle chargers, electric water heaters, heat pumps and electric ranges, your electrical usage will increase. Solar systems are not cheap. The payback period can be 6-20 years depending on a number of factors. Your solar installer should provide you with this information.

Step 10: Reduce your general consumption and “buy local.” All the things we buy are transported, using fossil fuels and much of it is made from plastic, sourced from petroleum. Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, redesign, recover, rethink, repair, rot and more!

Don’t forget to talk to your friends and neighbours about the climate actions you are taking. You never know what will inspire people to take action! – saving money, reducing fossil fuel consumption, or just that you are making the future better for their children. You can show others what is possible and help put them on their road to climate action.

Pumpkins for Pigs 2021!

Thanks to All of You who took the time to drop off your pumpkins! We collected well over 1000 pumpkins this year. So many happy pigs! Given the great support for this event, we are looking forward to our fourth year of Pumpkins for Pigs next fall! [Any extra pumpkins, please put them in your green bin or compost.]

CBC and CTV kindly highlighted Pumpkins for Pigs this year. Check out their video and audio clips here:

This year, intact pumpkins were also delivered to Food for Thought Cafe to help combat food insecurity. Pumpkins were transformed into a nutritious fall-inspired meal for their clients. You can link to their website here:

How Can I Help?

How Can I Help? is an occasional blog to give people ideas about ways to help build a sustainable community.

Spring cleaning? Be sure to check out the City of Ottawa’s Waste Explorer (

Renovating? Consider taking your lumber waste or discarded working appliances to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore (  

Want to do more? 

Call, or contact your city councillor, MPP or MP and share your concerns. 

Donate your time or your money to an environmental advocacy group like Ecology Ottawa, Ottawa Riverkeepers, Environmental Defense, Nature Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund. Local groups are many and diverse and they are looking for your support and ideas.

Call your favourite stores, ask to speak with their sustainability management and tell them you are concerned about the carbon footprint of its products. Share ideas you have with them. Ask them about their sustainability plans. 

Buy better products and reuse, recycle, resell them after. Take your old clothes and fabrics to Value Village or hold a clothing exchange. 

Shop at stores that are committed to reducing waste, improving product lifetime and repair, or that participate in recycling or Take it Back! programs. 

Send us your ideas!

Heat Pump Update – Success!!

This is an update on the previous heat pump blog from last year. If you remember, I had a heat pump installed in December 2019 and I was worried that the heat pump was using a lot of electricity. It turns out that, yes, I did use more electricity but not as much as I thought. So, 3 key take aways:

  1. I saved (a tiny bit of) money year over year with the heat pump!
  2. Less carbon was emitted. YEAH!
  3. I should have put the heat pump in a sunny sheltered location instead of in the shade.

I saved money in 2020 compared with 2019 with the heat pump but not very much ($46.44). Compared with 2018, I spent $92.22 more in 2020 with the heat pump. But more importantly, I consumed over 500 m3 less natural gas in 2020 with the heat pump than in either 2018 or 2019.

  • 2018 electricity 4782 kwh used, 1802 m3 NG consumed
  • 2019 electricity 5380 kwh used, 1837 m3 NG consumed
  • 2020 electricity 6442 kwh used, 1284 m3 NG consumed

Most HVAC installers will advise you to put your heat pump in a shaded location because they are accustomed to installing air conditioners which take warm air and make it colder. To create cool air in summer from hot air is less efficient than starting with not quite so hot air. Seems to me, the same should hold true when taking cold air and making it warmer in winter.

As I am using the heat pump primarily for heating, I want it to function as efficiently as possible in winter to reduce the electricity load. Most heat pumps have an efficiency curve that you can (and should) ask the manufacturer for. It will show you the Temperature vs COP (Coefficient of performance) and kWh used. In other words, it shows how efficiently your heat pump will work over a temperature range. Unsurprisingly, it works more efficiently at the warmer temperatures because it doesn’t take as much energy to heat air when it is, say, 5 ºC compared with -5 ºC. My heat pump, for instance, at temperatures above 10 ºC, is rarely on.

I realized (too late!) that the temperature on the breezy shaded side of my house in winter is often 5 to 10 degrees colder than the south facing sheltered side of my house. That’s on a cloudy day. On a sunny day, the difference can be as much as 20 degrees or more. My heat pump is set to be off at an outdoor temperature below 0 ºC and the auxiliary heat comes on as needed. If the outdoor temperature were 5-10 degrees warmer, then the heat pump would be heating the house more of the time than currently which would save more money and use even less natural gas.

It would be nice if someone (maybe NRCan?) would test this “sunny location” hypothesis and publish their results. My heat pump seems to blow out an enormous amount of cold air when it is on. Perhaps the amount of warm air in the sunny location would be displaced by the cold air blown out and the resulting effect on efficiency would be negligible.

Nevertheless, my plan is to eventually get a cold temperature mini-split inverter type heat pump and put it in the cozy sheltered location.

If anyone has actual (as opposed to theoretical) experience with placing heat pumps in sunny locations, please let us know about it in the comments.

Invasive Species

Here are some invasive species in Ottawa that you may find in your garden. Be on the lookout for these:

This is known as Common Buckthorn or Rhamnus cathartica. Don’t be fooled by a lack of berries as only the female plants have them.
Wild Parsnip, can look like Queen’s Anne’s Lace but has yellow flowers, is more robust and can be taller. Often seen growing along roadways. Its milky fluid can cause severe rashes.
Dog Strangling Vine en masse
Dog Strangling Vine seed pods. The seed pods are narrower but look similar to Milkweed pods.

January Meet and Mingle

Let’s start 2021 together. Join us virtually on Tuesday January 12 for a discussion about personal and group goals in 2021. If you live in River Ward, Alta Vista, or Gloucester South, join us! Email to get the meeting link:

And if you can’t, consider signing up to our monthly newsletter by emailing: or join our Facebook Group Forces of Nature In Ottawa South – OSEAN

Urban biodiversity: Mulching 101

Patrick Hamel

As many of us spend more time watching our yards grow greener, the temptation to mulch can become unbearable for the unsuspecting homeowner. Adding organic matter to the ground can help to provide nutrients to plants by breaking down over time, preventing weed growth, and retaining humidity. However, adding too much, especially in the shape of a mulch volcano, (thick layer of mulch or dirt laid around a tree and up against the trunk), is detrimental and likely to lead to the slow death of the tree.

Piling mulch (or dirt) against the tree decreases the oxygen available for the roots to grow. This leads to the production of upward-growing roots into the mulch. These are called girdling roots and can sometimes be seen as enlarged roots around the base of trees. Most often, they are hidden just below the surface. As they grow, they strangle the base of the tree, impeding the flow of nutrients and water. A sign of the presence of girdling roots is a tree base that is straight, or even narrower, where it touches the ground, instead of flaring out, and can swell above the girdling roots. Symptoms include small leaves, dieback of branches, poor growth, and abnormal openings in the canopy. It is possible to have an arborist remove these superficial roots; however, it is not always practical, and prevention by appropriate planting and mulching is key to tree health and longevity. Other causes of girdling roots include leaving ropes used to secure the root-ball at the nursery during planting, or planting too deeply or close to a paved surface.

Another consequence of mulch volcanoes is to create a moist environment in the bark, ideal for bacterial and fungal diseases and crown-rot development. Once the decaying bark under the mulch has died, the outer lifeline (cambium) of the tree is exposed, effectively discontinuing the supply of water and nutrients. Pathogens, including borer insects, thrive in humid conditions, accelerating the decline of the tree. Also, above-ground stems need to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide freely. Mulch volcanoes impede these processes (in addition to making it harder for water to reach the roots), leading to tree-tissue stress and weakening.

Another risk of mulch volcanoes is harboring rodents. These are great habitats for these small animals, who may chew at the bark for food, leading to similar issues as discussed above.

Save yourself some time and money, and as a rule, do not apply more than 2 or 3 inches depth (2-in for poorly drained soil) of mulch around your tree, leaving at least an inch gap between the trunk and the mulch. Reapply only when most of the mulch has already decomposed. Remember that these problems do not occur overnight, but may take 3 to 5 years to appear, depending on the extent of the damage, and are very difficult to reverse. It is recommended to consult with an arborist for solutions to these issues.


Example of over-mulching

By Patrick Hamel, June 19th 2020

Webmaster’s note: To a question about leaves as mulch, the author reminded us that “leaves or compost can be good mulch option, in moderation. A layer of compost (decomposed organic matter, as stated at the beginning of the article) or leaves is generally beneficial for the tree, as this is what is found in the forest. I’d just make sure it’s not too thick.

Meet and Greet with OSEAN about Eco Actions

On Saturday November 14th at 7 PM, come and meet your neighbours (virtually of course!) who are working to make our local communities even greener.  With all the COVID snacking, let’s do it together!

Ottawa South Eco Action Network (OSEAN) is a group of neighbours from River Ward, Alta Vista and Gloucester South who are dedicated to making our communities more environmentally friendly through local projects and conversations with our councillors and MPPs. The same people who brought you “Pumpkins for Pigs”.

What are ways we as a community can tackle climate change, protect our natural environment, promote sustainable transportation and improve food security?  Grab a beverage or favourite snack and join our Zoom chat to chat about how we can accomplish more, together. 

Please register in advance for this meeting:

Pumpkins for Pigs (Again!)

This year we are hoping to divert even more pumpkins than last year!

Help us rescue pumpkins from the compost this Halloween!

With your help we can divert food waste and bring some tasty, nutritious snacks to some pigs at local farms.

What can you do? 
1) Be a contact-less collection point on Nov 1 for your neighbours (we can send you a sign to print out for your yard or make your own “Pumpkin Drop-off” sign)
2) Deliver pumpkins. If you have a trailer, truck or are willing to use your trunk, offer to deliver pumpkins from these collection points to Mooney’s Bay on Nov 2nd (will message the exact location- but the pumpkins in the front yard will likely be obvious!)
3) Help promote this initiative by sharing, liking, commenting or tweeting it!

And obviously if you are planning to eat the pumpkin yourself, even better!

Email us at

Check out this article in Capital Current showcasing our Pumpkins for Pigs initiative:

Halloween’s pumpkin problem: Anti-waste advocates urge end to doorstep-landfill horror show.

Skip to content