More Watershed Ways

Members and friends of the Ottawa River Institute have written and published almost two hundred entertaining and informative Watershed Ways articles over the past ten years. Some of the most popular articles are listed below, and even more can be found on our Archived Watershed Ways page.

Economic Advantages of Local Food

by Lynn Jones

Interest in eating local food has skyrocketed in recent years. There are dozens of new books on the subject and there is even a new word in the English language – “locavore”- to describe folks who deliberately choose to eat locally as much as possible. Local harvest festivals and local food tasting events have also taken off recently as have restaurants featuring local food in-season on menus year round.

There are so many advantages to eating locally, one wonders why we ever stopped. The food is fresher and the environmental impact of consuming it is far smaller than when we eat foods that travel thousands of miles to get to our dinner plate. Shopping locally forges connections between producers and consumers and contributes to a wonderful spirit of community and place that is missing when everyone eats food from far away.

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Hardy Fruit Trees

by Robbie Anderman

Fruit trees are generally a long term agricultural investment, so pick your site well, and pick your tree even more carefully.

When I first moved to this area in 1969, there were apple, and some plum, orchards on every farm, even on most abandoned farms. The wide selection of varieties was awesome and all were hardy enough to endure the coldest weather this area could dish out.

Sadly, most of these orchards have succumbed to neglect, overgrowth of the forest, and clearing of the land for other crops. Still, they amply prove that this area can provide good habitat for hardy fruit trees.

The first criteria one needs to consider when choosing a tree to plant, is whether it is sufficiently hardy to thrive in its intended location, not just survive. A handy reference is the Plant Hardiness Zone map of Agriculture Canada. The Arctic is Zone 0, while Windsor's banana belt is Zone 7a. Renfrew town is about 4b, Pembroke town is Zone 4a, Perth and Ottawa are in Zone 5, and western Renfrew County is Zone 3b or even 3a.

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A million ways to conserve energy? So why don't we?

11 May 2009 Lynn Jones

"There must be a million ways to save energy, but let's start with a hundred." So says a poster for the Second Annual Energy Conservation Week being held in Ontario May 17 to 23.

Ho hum. Haven't we been hearing about and promoting energy conservation on and off for years now? And while it is true that there are many ways to save energy (and reasons to do so) here in Ontario we seem to have been going in the opposite direction for the last few decades - acquiring new ways to "spend" electricity with electric garage door openers, rice cookers, wine coolers, patio heaters, leaf blowers, paper shredders, pencil sharpeners, cell phone and iPod chargers, large flat screen televisions, computers, printers and so on.

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Using Manure to Generate Electricity

01 March 2009 Janet McNeill

In working to make our world "cleaner and greener," qualities such as intelligence, innovation, boldness, persistence, common sense, ingenuity - and a regard for small rather than grandiose projects - are needed. Brothers Fritz and Paul Klaesi of Fepro Farms near Cobden have demonstrated all these qualities in spades.

I first learned about their unique operation in the CBC Fifth Estate episode "The Gospel of Green," and was fascinated to learn about this innovative project in our area. The day I visited the farm to chat with Paul Klaesi was the very one that their Hydro hook-up finally went "live" - so now Fepro farm is selling energy created on-site, to Hydro One.

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The Argument in Favour of Wood Heating

21 April 2007 John Gulland

Almost 3.2 million Canadian households burn wood in fireplaces, stoves and furnaces. This number represents 26 percent of all households. In Ontario, the popularity of wood burning is well below the national average, with only 21 percent, or about 940,000 households burning wood. Still, millions of Ontarians and millions more people across Canada build wood fires for heat and enjoyment each winter. By any measure, wood is an important residential energy resource, especially in rural areas.

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Our Food Choices Affect the Environment

31 March 2007

Choosing wisely what we eat can protect water quality, fight climate change, save family farms and rural communities and support the humane treatment of animals. For a sustainable future, buy local food as much as possible. Support food co-ops, farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture. Eat organic food whenever possible - not only to reduce your exposure to residual hormones, antibiotics and pesticides but because organic methods are better for the larger ecosystems that support all life.

Cows, pigs and chickens that are allowed to range freely, fed on natural pasture as much of the year as possible, and raised without hormones and antibiotics are better for you and for the environment.

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Leading the List of Energy Innovators in the Ottawa Valley

04 September 2005 Lynn Jones

With this article the Ottawa River Institute begins a series on energy innovators in the Ottawa Valley. As everyone knows, oil and gas are finite resources. The supply of both is expected to begin to decline soon and prices to rise sharply as a result. Burning of fossil fuels also contributes to climate change. Therefore it behooves us all to learn more about conservation and alternatives. Fortunately here in the Ottawa Valley there are many pioneers that are leading the way.

It may surprise some readers to learn that one of the most inspiring energy innovators in the Ottawa Valley is a large institution that is central to the lives of many Valley families. In the past couple of years, the Renfrew County District School Board (RCDSB) has made a series of breath-taking innovations that have saved large amounts of energy and placed it on the leading edge of energy innovation, not just in the Ottawa Valley, but in the province and country as well.

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How Well Do You Know This Place?

01 July 2005 Barb Davy

One way of defining a bioregion is a place big enough to support communities sustainably, and small enough to be considered home. Part of living bioregionally is knowing the place we live in intimately -- knowing the flora and fauna, the seasons, the moods of a place, the people in our neighbourhoods. These are the things that make a place feel like home. In 1981 a magazine called CoEvolution Quarterly (now known as Whole Earth Review) published a list of questions aimed at bioregional knowledge titled "Where You At?" Inspired by those questions, I've developed the following bioregional quiz. It's unlikely any individual can answer all the questions, but they are good questions for getting to know a place. Even though I've lived most of my life in this bioregion, and consider myself something of an environmentalist, I can't answer all the questions.

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Celebrating the Art of the Ottawa River Watershed

17 December 2004 Lynn Jones

The Ottawa River watershed is a place of great natural beauty. The majestic Ottawa itself flows over 1000 km from its source in the wilderness of north-western Quebec, with at least 10 major tributaries: wild and beautiful rivers such as the Madawaska, Petawawa, Dumoine, Coulonge, Black, Gatineau, and Lievre; and less wild but still beautiful rivers such as the Bonnechere, Rideau and South Nation. There are vast, wild expanses of forest as well, including large swaths of boreal spruces and many wonderful pine and hardwood forests and glades. Countless are the places in the watershed where a connection to the great mystery lies very close indeed.

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Support Growing for Idle-free Schools

25 September 2004 Lynn Jones

The Ottawa River Institute, with support from Environment Canada's EcoAction program and the Ontario Trillium Foundation is distributing information about the benefits of idle-free zones outside of Renfrew County elementary schools.

Schools and school boards in many other places in Canada and the United States are considering or have already established idle-free zones outside of schools because of the many benefits of doing so. These benefits include:

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