On a night the township announced its own greening initiative – a tree giveaway program called Planting Roots – Wellesley councillors heard about a tree stewardship program that’s the latest ecological effort from Reep Green Solutions.
“That is our newest way to help people live sustainably. For many communities, the majority of their urban forest is on private property rather than municipal property, and if they want to increase the urban tree cover, they have to work with homeowners. That’s where we come in,” explained Mary Jane Patterson, the organization’s executive director. “We’re working right now in the cities of Cambridge and Kitchener, and we just finished our first year supporting residents in planting new trees and learning how to care for the existing trees on their property.”
She said the pandemic held up their efforts earlier in the spring, but like many other community groups, they have started their plantings for this year.
An overview of the tree stewardship initiative was part of an overall update presented via videoconferencing to councillors meeting Tuesday night.
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Reep Green Solution is involved in a variety of environmental programs, from home energy audits to water conservation.
On behalf of the Region of Waterloo, Reep provides free audits for high water-use homes. Patterson said that over the past four years they have come to 25 homes in Wellesley Township, and installed free water-saving measures in 13 of them. She continued by moving to water savings outside the house by explaining how Reep helps residents manage stormwater so it restores groundwater by soaking back into the soil rather than becoming a pollutant.
“What I think is cool about this work is that it helps people also have a beautiful garden. At the same time, make their yard healthy and beautiful. And often, it’ll solve the flooding problems,” she added.
The Depave Paradise was the next topic she touched on, explaining about the project that not only adds beauty to the surrounding area, but also restores groundwater, prevents flooding and reduces runoff.
“We love the depave projects we’ve been able to do in the Region of Waterloo… [What we do is] rip up pavement and put in plants and trees that bring beauty and shade to the area. So far we’ve worked with two schools, and the Board of Trade in one township, and we’ve been able to bring the funding that supports our side of that work, organizing and coordinating the project. And I think that’s an important thing that Reep tries to do in our work with our municipalities is bring funding and projects to you also.”
Another key facet of Reep’s work from the beginning is energy audits and the installation of energy-saving technologies.
Patterson said that more than 17,000 homes have been evaluated in the past 21 years, including 215 in Wellesley. More than half of those homes followed through on the advice of Reep and because of that, 27,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were eliminated.
To boost emission-reduction efforts, Reep is introducing the Zero Waste Challenge, a way to help people reduce the waste that would go to the landfill by putting anything that cannot go into the blue box or green bin into a one-litre mason jar.
“So the goal is put everything you can recycle or compost in a mason jar, for one week and see what that is and how you can shop differently to reduce that waste that we’re sending to landfill.”
There are two versions of the challenge – seven-day and 30-day. Patterson says the 30-day challenge already started two weeks ago, but people are able to start the seven day challenge on October 19, which marks the beginning of Waste Reduction Week in Canada.