Going from blue to green, sans furnace

Locals find ways to remain warm and eco-friendly in the winter

Winter is the most tempting time to abandon ethics about sustainability: it’s easier to turn up the heat and drive to the supermarket than it is to find alternate sources. Yet some Winnipeggers claim there are ways to stay green in the cold.

“It’s more expensive to be sustainable in the winter,” said Jason Andrich, co-ordinator of the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative. “But people in the winter have more time to sit and think about this stuff.”

Harvest Moon is a network of farmers using sustainable ways of raising animals and gardens. In the winter, members grow fewer vegetables due to their reluctance to use greenhouses.

“We stay clear of year-round growing,” said Clint Cavers, farmer and member of Harvest Moon. “It’s not sustainable because you have to use fossil fuels to keep it heated.”

Cavers promotes smarter food storage as an answer to getting vegetables in the winter. Freezing and canning are the best ways to keep food year round.

Being sustainable in your kitchen is just one part of it.

Building eco-friendly houses is a growing trend. Manitoba is home to an eco-village called Prairie’s Edge, located in River Hills near the Whiteshell Provincial Park.

In Prairie’s Edge, people have built their houses from the ground up, using solar power as the main source of heat. Village resident Daniel Brown lives there year round, and says that if you stick to hearty vegetables like kale and spinach, a greenhouse isn’t hard to keep up. Brown said that being sustainable in the winter means growing a good garden in the summer, and storing most of it. During infrequent trips to the city, Brown will dumpster dive to supplement his protein.

“Meat keeps better in the winter,” he said.

Green initiatives are also seen in the University of Winnipeg.

Campus sustainability is setting up an audit to see where they can improve current energy usage, said Mark Burch, director of campus sustainability.

A significant chunk of the $7.9 million the province recently contributed to U of W will go towards window replacements, Burch said.

The future Richardson College for the Environment will be constructed according to silver LEED standards. This means excellent insulation, passive solar heating and a significant cut in emissions.

Burch’s long-term goal is to see the university become a “zero-net energy institution,” with no emissions—for example, energy surplus generated in the summer would be used to heat in the winter.

In the meantime, Cavers said individuals should live as sustainably as possible without getting discouraged in the cold months.

“It just takes a little bit of looking and you can find what you need,” said Cavers.

Published in Volume 63, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 22, 2009)

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