In Our Power

In Our Power is a series of stories produced by the Ecology Action Centre of ordinary people and diverse communities in Atlantic Canada working to create a just transition to a green economy. The people in these stories — artists, students, businesspeople, civil servants, activists, people in faith communities and more — have not shied away from the realities of climate change. Instead, they are stepping up to change how we get our energy, and reduce how much we need, while maintaining a world in which people can thrive. We hope you enjoy learning from these communities as they work to switch to renewable and more efficient energy sources — and ensure their communities are strong and resilient.

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Recent posts


People crowded around a booth about Electric Vehicles.

Seniors College Association of Nova Scotia Wraps Up Energy Efficiency Seminar Series

By Molly Foster

The Seniors College Association of Nova Scotia (SCAN) recently celebrated the completion of the final two workshops in their Energy Efficiency seminar series. These last sessions taught attendees about Zero Carbon Building Standards, Electric Vehicles, and HalifACT.

WATCH: Building Standards, Electric Vehicles, and HaliFACT | December 20, 2023

SCANS has completed their final workshops in their course on Energy Efficiency for Active Citizens. The series introduced energy efficiency as a key element of climate action and the clean energy transition.

The fourth installment of the SCANS workshop series featured a captivating presentation on GBC Zero Carbon Building Standards by William Marshall, a Professional Engineer with expertise in process and project management within commercial, residential, and industrial sectors.

William has been a driving force in the design and implementation of sustainable buildings, energy efficiency initiatives, and high-performance mechanical systems. His valuable experience includes serving as the Environmental Manager for Michelin North America and as the lead Faculty in the Nova Scotia Community College's Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology Program (ESET). Currently, Marshall is an active faculty member with both the Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET) and the Canada Green Building Council (CAGBC).

During the presentation, Marshall delved into the intricacies of GBC Zero Carbon Building Standards. Representatives from Clean Foundation's Next Ride program also joined the session to give a 101 on Electric Vehicles, and even came prepared with a Chevy Bolt for people to test drive.

The fifth and final seminar featured Kevin Boutilier, Manager of Community Energy with the Halifax Regional Municipality. Kevin’s journey in the renewable energy industry began in 2013 when he received his Bachelor of Engineering degree. Over the years, he became involved with solar energy system design, feasibility, installation, and operation. In his current role, Boutilier oversees the successful delivery of the Solar City program, a new Retrofit Pilot program, and the Municipal Electric Vehicle Strategy.

At the heart of his responsibilities is his technical support in implementating HalifACT, the Halifax Regional Municipality’s ambitious climate action plan. HalifACT aims to reduce community-wide emissions by 75% over 2016 levels, be fully net-zero by 2050, and achieve net-zero municipal operations (e.g. community centres, fire stations, transit.) by 2030.

The success of this seminar series underscores the Seniors College Association of Nova Scotia's commitment to fostering a culture of continuous learning and promoting sustainable practices. As SCANS continues to organize workshops and seminars, it remains a pillar of educational excellence for seniors in Nova Scotia, empowering them to navigate the complexities of our ever-evolving community.

Watch William Marshall's presentation on Zero Carbon Building Standards:

Watch Kevin Boutilier's presentation on HalifACT:

Molly Foster is a Building Efficiency Intern for Ecology Action Centre's Energy & Climate team.


An interior heat pump unit on a navy blue wall.

The Heat Pump Advantage: Efficiency, Savings, and Sustainability | December 19, 2023

By Molly Foster

As we wrap up 2023 and steadily approach the snowy season, it’s time to rethink how we heat and cool our homes. Traditional systems like furnaces and air conditioners are being taken over by a more efficient, eco-friendly, and cost-effective alternative that’s taking Atlantic Canada by storm: heat pumps.

What is a Heat Pump? | December 19, 2023

Heat pumps do just that – pump heat from one place to another. This means they can transfer heat into your living space on cold days and remove heat from your home on warm summer days to cool you off.

Charles Bull, whose three-storey home was previously heated solely via wood pellet stove, says he’s a “happy customer.” Like many homeowners, his family struggled with higher floors being much cooler than lower floors near the woodstove.

“We just love it!” says Bull. “A woodstove gives an intense amount of heat coming out of this small thing which has to dissipate, but the heat pump has a large volume of nice, warm air, not too hot, just warm.”

“I would definitely recommend heat pumps to anyone. You’re going to save a lot of energy, they’re quiet, and it’s no longer a new, untested technology. They’ve been around for quite a while, and I’d say get a top-quality one.”

To demystify the science behind heat pumps, here is a step-by-step guide on how these champions of efficiency actually work:

A typical heat pump consists of two parts: an indoor unit, and an outdoor unit. These systems are connected by a ‘refrigerant line,’ holding fluid that can quickly absorb heat.

  1. During the heating season, the outdoor heat pump unit extracts heat from outside (yes, there’s still heat in chilly air!)
  2. The liquid refrigerant inside your heat pump absorbs this heat, turning it from a liquid to a gas. The heat pump compresses this gas, squishing it to increase its temperature.
  3. This hot gas is then sent to your indoor heat pump, where it moves through a series of coils or pipes to warm up the air in your living space.
  4. On hot days, the process reverses. The indoor heat pump extracts heat from your living space and releases it outside, effectively cooling your building.

It’s important to note that proper insulation and air sealing are essential for optimizing the efficiency of your heat pump. A well-insulated and tightly sealed home minimizes heat loss in winter and prevents cool air escaping in the summer.

If you’re considering switching to a heat pump, keep in mind that regular preventative maintenance increases the lifespan of your system and ensures that it continues to operate at peak performance. Here are some maintenance tips:

  1. Clean or replace your air filters every few months: Rinse air filters off under lukewarm water, then pat them down to dry before reinserting them into the heat pump. Check your owner’s guide to determine how to properly remove and reinsert your air filters. You may want to increase the frequency of your cleaning if you have allergies, or if you have a pet that sheds.
  2. Check your outdoor unit for debris: Regularly inspect the outdoor unit for leaves, dirt, or debris that may obstruct airflow.
  3. Contact a Professional: If you have any questions, or if your heat pump just isn’t working right, it’s always best to consult a professional HVAC technician. To do so, take a look at Efficiency Nova Scotia’s Preferred Partners list.

Watch Efficiency Nova Scotia’s ‘How to Maintain Your Heat Pump’ below.

One of the most exciting aspects of heat pumps is their ability to put money back in your wallet while also reducing your carbon footprint. Heat pumps use a small amount of electricity, consuming about 1 unit of electricity per 4 units of heat moved. Their energy-efficiency makes them cheaper to run compared to traditional heating and cooling systems. By relying on the natural heat exchange process rather than burning fossil fuels, heat pumps also significantly cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

There are rebates available that may help you cover the cost of switching to a heat pump. Visit the Efficiency Nova Scotia Heat Pump Rebate website to find detailed information about available rebates and eligibility criteria.

Embracing the benefits of heat pumps isn’t just good for your home and wallet – it’s a responsible choice for our environment. In Charles’s words, “People should know everything we do makes a difference… If you’re still on oil, think about it. Don’t wait.”

Molly Foster is a Building Efficiency Intern with Ecology Action Centre's Energy & Climate Team.


LEED Building on Dal Campus

Dalhousie University LEEDS by example | December 19, 2023

By Jon Tattrie, Climate Story Network

With two LEED Platinum certified buildings, Dalhousie University hopes to teach a new environmental lesson about saving energy.  

Dalhousie's second LEED Platinum Building | December 19, 2023

Dalhousie University is celebrating the certification of its second LEED Platinum building as a key step toward sustainability, and experts say developers can learn from the school to save both money and energy.

Rochelle Owens, director of Dalhousie’s Office of Sustainability, led the way through a tour of its Emera IDEA Building near Spring Garden Road – from the water-saving tanks in the basement to the solar panels on the roof.

“This was a former parking lot. There were a couple of trees in the back. Those trees were cut down and made into cabinetry, including this green building sign,” she says, indicating the large wood panel at the entrance that explains what makes the building special.

Rochelle OwensOwens says the building actually opened in 2018, was finished in 2020, and now three years later has been certified as LEED Platinum, a globally recognized standard. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and functions as an international 100-point rating system to express how efficiently a building is designed and operated. Platinum is the highest category, scoring 80 and over. Dalhousie’s Richard Murray Design building also reached platinum.

There are only four LEED Platinum buildings at universities across all of Canada – and Dalhousie has two of them.

The newly certified building was also the venue for the recent launch of the Building to Zero Exchange, an initiative bringing stakeholders together to build the capacity needed to grow the number of greener buildings in Nova Scotia. [See CSN’s story Building up the green builders.]

Owens says the most beneficial step was the building envelope, with tighter walls and windows cutting energy use by about 10 per cent. The smarter lighting and HVAC systems use only the energy needed, rather than keeping every room ready all the time.

“It just has more brains to control the systems,” she says.

She points to a soccer field, where a few years ago they drilled 60 boreholes 500-feet deep. “Ironically, it’s the same type of drilling you’d do for oil and gas,” she says.

Once the boreholes were dug, workers then installed pipes that carry cold water down deep, to where the soil is always 10 C, then brings that heat back up to warm the building. The geothermal wells reverse the process in summer to cool the building.

She heads to the roof next but doesn’t start with the solar panels. Instead, she points to a small spout that catches rainwater and collects it to flush the toilets.

The solar installation is Halifax’s second biggest, after IKEA, and creates about 25 per cent of the electricity used by the IDEA building.

She notes that not every building has a roof big enough, and accessible enough, to install solar panels, but it can further reduce the need to burn fuel for the buildings that can do it.

Chris Benjamin, the senior energy coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, agrees that LEED status has limitations.

“LEEDs buildings are great. I will say that they are not for everyone and that’s because they’re very specific – it’s an internationally developed standard,” he says. “It’s not a made-in-Nova Scotia solution. And more importantly, they only work at a certain scale.”

LEED tends to focus on newbuilds, rather than developing existing properties.

“Compare it to the Ecology Action Centre. No way we’re ever going to get a LEED-certified building for the EAC. The scale’s too big, the type of building wouldn’t work,” Benjamin says. The EAC operates out of a 100-year-old “salt-box” house in Halifax’s North End, yet it’s still “one of the most efficient offices in Canada.”

The group focused on donations and salvaging material from the demolished Roy Building, while also repurposing Metro Transit shelters into stylish glass walls. That cut down the environmental and economic cost of new materials.

“I work a lot with churches. We get calls from them saying we pay a $3,000-a-month oil bill and we want to get solar panels. I say, whoa, hold on. Let’s think about your building first,” he says.

Like Owens, the first advice he gives them is to seal up the building’s envelope.

“There’s a lot you can do with properly insulating the attic, the steeple, these odd shapes where lots of heat tends to be lost,” Benjamin says. [See CSN’s story A renovation and a prayer.]

Better doors and windows further cut the bills. He then makes sure they are reversing the ceiling fans so they blow down cool air in the summer and pull up cold air in the winter. Only then does he suggest they look at installing solar panels.

Benjamin says with Canada needing millions of new housing units, developers are soundly motivated to learn from Dalhousie, retrofits like those done at the EAC, and even old churches.

“I do think developers are definitely thinking about energy because they realize there is a huge savings over the life cycle of the building,” he says.

Owens says that’s one of the many benefits of building with climate change in mind.

Dalhousie plans to further develop the backup battery system so that one day the Emera IDEA Building could provide its own power during peak hours to reduce the overall load on the system.

“Battery technology is rapidly increasing in its ability to provide services with a smaller footprint,” she says. “Kind of like the old computer of yesteryear versus today’s mobile phones.”

This story appears courtesy of the Climate Story Network, an initiative of Climate Focus, a non-profit organization dedicated to covering stories about community climate solutions.


Upward facing image of a church window and turret.

A Renovation and a Prayer | November 20, 2023

By Zack Metcalfe, Climate Story Network

United Churches in HRM are on a carbon-cutting mission thanks to Faithful Footprints, a funding stream that helps churches cut their GHG emissions through retrofits.

Faithful Footprints | November 20, 2023

For the first time in over a century, the chimneys of Grace United Church in downtown Dartmouth are cold and smokeless, yet its 18,000 square feet remain as warm and welcoming as the day it was built, in 1920.  

It began with a routine inspection of the building’s three furnaces in the fall of 2017, which revealed a fatal crack in the newest unit. Grace United’s board of volunteers bit the bullet and bought a new one – winter was coming, after all – but the expense sparked a conversation which never quite went away about finances, sustainability, and especially values.

“We decided this wasn’t the way we wanted to go in the long term,” said Board chair Robert Picco.

“A lot of our congregation was interested in becoming a more carbon neutral operation, so, as a board, we asked how we could lower both our carbon footprint and operational costs.”

They considered renovating – everything from new lighting fixtures to a rooftop solar array – but their three furnaces, and $12,000 annual oil bill, remained to-of-mind. After some soul searching, and a thorough energy audit, they decided the furnaces were out, and heat pumps were in.

“At first we were a bit wary,” said Picco, “because we weren’t sure heat pumps would work in a building this old, but we went through the process, evaluated different alternatives, and at the end it looked like heat pumps would work.”

The renovation began in November 2022. Three furnaces and two oil tanks were removed, four Fujitsu heat pumps were incorporated with existing ductwork, and the church’s electrical capacity underwent a sorely needed upgrade. The tubing, connecting interior heat pumps to their rooftop fans, was fed through Grace United’s now retired chimneys.

The new setup performs well, said Picco. Financial savings and reduced carbon numbers haven’t yet been calculated, but he expects the final tally will be significant. The church remained warm through winter and the reduced humidity – courtesy of the heat pumps – turned out to be a godsend.

“Our music director said the church organ sounds a lot better in the dry air,” said Picco. “It’s a benefit we weren’t expecting.”

This renovation was no anomaly. United Churches across Canada have been cutting carbon with thoughtful renovations since 2018, reducing annual emissions by 824 metric tonnes of CO2 overall, equivalent to removing 252 cars from the road every single year, or leaving 351,029 litres of gasoline unburned. In HRM alone, Bethany United Church and the Brunswick Street Mission each cut emissions by a quarter, the former with new windows, insulation, lighting, and a smart thermometer, the latter with heat pumps.

Rockingham United, serving the Bedford Basin area since the 1960s, is an A-framed church whose broad roof was ideal for solar. They installed a 225-panel array in 2020, selling their $20,000 of annual electricity to the grid, while only buying $9,000 back. To date, their array has displaced 114 tonnes of CO2 emissions equivalent to a 457,000-kilometre road trip.

All these renovations were made possible by Faithful Footprints, a funding stream created by the United Church of Canada and administered by the third-party organization Faith and the Common Good.

Through it, each United Church congregation can apply for up to $30,000 toward carbon cutting infrastructural upgrades, whether it be a church, office space, or health centre.

“We’re not going to build our way out of the climate crisis,” said Stephen Collette, building scientist with Faith and the Common Good. “We’re going to renovate our way out.”

This is because of “embodied carbon” – the carbon emitted during a building’s construction, which includes emissions from the mining of stone, cutting of wood, making of bricks, plaster and insulation, and simple transportation of people and materials to and from construction sites.

“It’s all the carbon required to get you to day one of ownership,” said Collette. “And in many cases, embodied carbon exceeds operational carbon (heat and electricity) for the lifetime of the building.”

This means that maintaining the efficiency and vitality of existing infrastructure will almost always be more carbon efficient than knocking down old buildings for the sake of new ones. Even if new buildings are enormously efficient, said Collette, their construction will require another heavy investment of embodied carbon, often taking decades to pay off. Climatically, renovations almost always make more sense than new construction.

This is especially true of churches, said Collette, not just because of their exceptional longevity, but because there are so many of them. Faith communities are the second largest property holders in Canada, surpassed only by the federal government. Renovating their 27,000 buildings, to keep them operational and efficient, is an enormous opportunity to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions in the near and long term, whether those buildings remain churches, or find new life as community centres or apartment buildings.

“We need to think about how to make it easier for these renovations to happen,” said Collette.

Faithful Footprints does exactly that. Through it, the United Church of Canada has awarded several million dollars across 209 grants, with hundreds more working through the application process. For the time being, Faithful Footprints has no end date.

The Climate Story Network is an initiative of Climate Focus, a non-profit organization dedicated to covering stories about community climate solutions.

An A-frame church.

Adam Read and Connor Wallace standing in front of a blue presentation screen with white text that says Interpreting & Implementing Complex Planning Regulations

SCANS Seminar: Building Codes and Energy Efficiency | November 13, 2023

By Astrid Zhang

The Seniors College Association of Nova Scotia (SCANS) continued their weekly energy efficiency series for active citizens on October 24th. Led by energy professionals from EAC and Zzap Architecture & Planning, this session introduced the relationship between energy efficiency and building codes, giving attendees a better understanding of how the built environment contributes to the energy efficiency landscape.

WATCH: Energy and the Built Environment | November 13, 2023

During the latest SCANS session on energy efficiency, Chris Benjamin, Energy Coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, talked about recent changes to Nova Scotia building codes and why they matter when it comes to securing long-term energy efficiency. He also covered the meaning of Net-Zero Energy Ready construction and how this new building standard could influence individual homeowners.

In addition, guest presenters Adam Read and Connor Wallace from Zzap Architecture and Planning delved into HRM’s planning policies and discussed the regulations and challenges when designing energy-efficient buildings.

For those who are interested in learning more, a recording is available on the official SCANS YouTube channel. Watch the video below.

Astrid Zhang is a Volunteer with Ecology Action Centre’s Energy & Climate team.


 People sitting down in a large semi circle in a pink and white room. They are facing a presentation screen.

Interfaith Roundtable Discussion on Climate Change | November 8, 2023

By Molly Foster

On September 27th, the Ecology Action Centre collaborated with Faith & the Common Good and the Tatamagouche Centre to host an Interfaith Roundtable Discussion on Climate Change. The event brought individuals of various faiths and spiritualities together to discuss climate action.

Connecting Faith and Land | November 8, 2023

The Interfaith Roundtable Discussion on Climate Change aimed to create an inclusive platform for individuals of diverse faith backgrounds to engage in meaningful discussions about climate action, build connections, and inspire collective efforts to address the pressing issue of climate change.

The event began with a prayer from Elder Albert Marshall, reminding attendees of the deep connection between land and faith. He emphasized the power of faith in driving positive change and motivating people to care for the Earth. Attendees later participated in a guided tour of the land around the Tatamagouche Centre, encouraging participants to connect with the beauty of the natural world and reflect on the importance of preserving it.

 People walking in a line underneath a tree canopy. There is water in the distance.

The theme of interconnectedness continued throughout the day, as participants discussed how their respective communities were already working to combat climate change, and shared stories of how their beliefs inspired them to become environmental stewards. Through a combination of small group sessions and larger roundtable discussions, the event allowed for open and honest conversations about the challenges that each community faced, and offered space to contemplate solutions together.

Recognizing that their collective efforts could lead to a more significant impact, the event concluded with the formation of a network of faith leaders. This Interfaith Coalition for Climate Change is actively seeking the participation of more faith leaders who share their commitment to protecting the environment. For more information on how to join, please email molly.foster@ecologyaction.ca.

The Interfaith Roundtable Discussion on climate change was a remarkable event that showcased the unifying power of faith and spirituality in the face of environmental challenges. By bringing together people of different faiths, this gathering set the stage for a cooperative and compassionate approach to fighting climate change. As the Interfaith Coalition for Climate Change grows and takes shape, it offers a glimpse of a future where faith communities join forces to support climate action initiatives.

Molly Foster is a Building Efficiency Intern with Ecology Action Centre's Energy & Climate team. 


 Barry Walker speaking in front of a blue presentation screen.

SCANS Seminar Showcases Efficiency NS Programs and Rebates | October 24, 2023

By Molly Foster

In continuation with their energy efficiency teaching series, the Seniors College Association of Nova Scotia (SCANS) invited guest speaker, Barry Walker, to discuss potential programs and rebates for homeowners and businesses in Nova Scotia.

WATCH: Sparking Sustainability and Savings | October 24, 2023

On October 27th, the Seniors College Association of Nova Scotia hosted the second seminar in their weekly course on Energy Efficiency for Active Citizens. Led by expert speakers, these classes introduce energy efficiency as a key element of climate action and offer insight on the clean energy transition.

In last week's seminar, guest speaker, Barry Walker, talked about where Nova Scotian energy comes from and how our energy landscape is changing. He also highlighted various Efficiency NS programs and rebates available to home and business owners. This information not only benefits seniors, but also contributes to the broader goal of forging a more sustainable and energy-efficient Nova Scotia.

Growing up near Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Barry began his education at Acadia University in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, graduating in 1977, subsequently attending the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute and graduating in 1979. Barry's energy career began in 1980 at the Nova Scotia Power Commission, where he worked as an Energy Advisor. In 1982, he joined Efficiency Nova Scotia as a Public Outreach and Education Coordinator, working his way to his current position as Manager of Business Development for the Residential Sector. Barry also served with the Canadian Armed Forces from 1982 until his retirement in 2015.

For those keen on learning about potential energy savings, a recording of Barry's talk is available on the official SCANS YouTube channel. Watch the video below.

Molly Foster is a Building Efficiency Intern with Ecology Action Centre's Energy & Climate team. 


 Energy professional, Brian Gifford, standing in front of a presentation screen.

The Power of Seniors: SCANS Leads Seminar on Energy Efficiency | October 18, 2023

By Molly Foster

Last week, the Seniors College Association of Nova Scotia (SCANS) hosted its first seminar on energy efficiency, led by energy professionals Chris Benjamin and Brian Gifford. The seminar's goal was to equip seniors with the tools they need to make informed choices about their energy use.

WATCH: Seniors Embrace Sustainable Energy | October 18, 2023

On October 10th, the Ecology Action Centre and SCANS partnered to develop an energy efficiency workshop for seniors. The event attracted an impressive turnout, with 110 attendees participating both in-person and online.

Presenters covered various topics, from understanding the energy landscape to navigating potential savings and rebates, and shedding light on the challenges builders face when striving for better energy efficiency.

For those who missed the seminar or wish to revisit the insightful discussions, a recording is available on the official SCANS YouTube channel. Watch the video below.

SCANS is a community-driven organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities for seniors. They believe in lifelong learning, personal growth, and community engagement. This event was funded with the help of Efficiency Nova Scotia, an organization committed to helping Nova Scotians save energy, money, and the environment.

As we navigate an ever-changing energy landscape, events like this are crucial in paving the way for a more sustainable future. We applaud SCANS for their commitment to seniors' education and thank Efficiency Nova Scotia for their support in making the event possible.

Molly Foster is a Building Efficiency Intern with Ecology Action Centre's Energy & Climate team. 


Your new EV

Electric Avenue 2023: Powering Up for an Electric Future | September 13, 2023

By Nikita Popli

On September 9th, Next Ride and its partners hosted an electric vehicle (EV) test drive event, held at the Canada Games Centre in Halifax.

Powering Up for an Electric Future | September 13, 2023

Industry experts were on hand to demystify Electric Vehicle (EV) technology and answer questions from members of the public. This proved to be an informative experience for all attendees. overhead

For those who've been contemplating  switching to an electric vehicle, Electric Avenue offered the perfect opportunity to learn more. Diverse EVs, including the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Mazda MX-30, Tesla and even e-bikes, were on display and available for free test drives. Attendees had the chance to experience the quiet power and eco-friendliness of electric transportation firsthand.

Nearly 250 people participated in more than 200 test drives, including current EV owners, prospective buyers, and skeptics, all discovering the allure of electric mobility. I was there too, talking about EAC's electric school bus initiative. I spoke with parents and the public, rallying support for this crucial initiative to replace old diesel, gasoline and propane-fueled school buses with electric, highlighting the importance of sustainable transportation not only for today but for future generations.

Electric Avenue 2023 left attendees charged with enthusiasm for electric vehicles, showcasing the potential for a sustainable driving future in Atlantic Canada.

Nikita Popli is a Community Engagement Officer with Ecology Action Centre's Energy & Climate team. 


A person installs solar panels with a sunset in the background

Empowering Newcomers for a Green Transition: Astrid Zhang on Her Experience as an Energy Efficiency Intern | August 9, 2023

By Astrid (Xinyi) Zhang

With an estimated 15,000 new jobs per year emerging from Nova Scotia’s decarbonization, international students and other newcomers will play essential roles as part of the green workforce for a new economy. That is why employers and governments need to ensure newcomers have a positive experience in the environmental sector and receive the supports they need to contribute to this collective mission.

Newcomers must navigate many challenges | August 9, 2023

The Ecology Action Centre and Nova Scotia Community College International partnered to hold four Green Jobs for All program sessions in 2022 and 2023. These gatherings of employers and job seekers from around the worl provided valuable information and supports.  

MuyideenAs an international student myself, my primary aspiration at these events was to connect with individuals who were also navigating the green sector. Students engaged in small group discussions, sharing their observations and experiences in job seeking with peers facing similar challenges. These interactions provided insights and brought the community closer together. 

The gatherings attracted a diverse group. Attendees included business students ready to explore green sector. We learned that green jobs focus on any work contributing to sustainability and equality, making it rich in opportunities across various fields. 

Participants told stories of experiencing biased hiring practices they felt prevent newcomers from reaching their full potential in Canada. Structural and systematic changes promoting inclusivity and equal opportunities are needed.  

Students found solace in having their barriers acknowledged by influential organizations, and peers validating their struggles. The sense of understanding and acceptance eased the anxiety of participants.  

The impact of these workshops was evident in the follow-up survey results, which I compiled as an intern with Ecology Action Centre, via Dalhousie University. Most attendees recognized the essential role networking plays in the green sector.  

They also recognized the importance of gaining insights from people already working in the environmental sector. For example, someone noted at Session 2 in February that the green sector is undeniably fast paced. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, they emphasized the importance of maintaining a realistic outlook and focusing on achievable goals. A positive mentality goes a long way. This is sound advice for those approaching environmental work in Nova Scotia for the first time. 

Another takeaway from the discussions is the significance of not being intimidated by hiring criteria. Candidates often disqualify themselves before applying for a position, feeling they don’t have a chance. But the reality is that there is rarely a perfect candidate for a job, and the key is to show how your skills will enable you to provide value to the organization in a given role.  

As we look towards the future, experiences of event like Green Jobs for All can help shape an inclusive and sustainable workforce in Nova Scotia. By connecting with like-minded individuals and discovering valuable resources and mentorship, we can take meaningful steps toward a greener future.  

Astrid Zhang is a recent Environmental Science graduate from Dalhousie University, and an energy efficiency intern at Ecology Action Centre. 


David Neira with colleagues and international students

Building an inclusive green workforce | July 31, 2023

By Astrid (Xinyi) Zhang

Nova Scotia, as a province with a significant immigrant workforce, needs new principles and policies to guide us through an inclusive transition. This is the conclusion of the Ecology Action Centre’s Green Jobs for All program, launched in 2021 by Noreen Mabiza, a newcomer from Zimbabwe herself, who now works for the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Toward a More Inclusive, Accessible, and Sustainable Workforce | July 31, 2023

“[There are] countless challenges for a newcomer, including language skills, understanding policies, projects, and [various people involved with the] green transition” says David Neira, a newcomer and an energy coordinator at Ecology Action Centre.  

Nova Scotia, as a province with a significant immigrant workforce, needs new principles and policies to guide us through an inclusive transition. This is the conclusion of the Ecology Action Centre’s Green Jobs for All program, launched in 2021 by Noreen Mabiza, a newcomer from Zimbabwe herself, who now works for the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change.  

The first Green Jobs event for Nova Scotia Community College international students was held online in February of 2022, and it was followed by three well-attended events at Ivany Campus in 2023. The project identified considerable barriers faced by newcomers, offered support in the form of information, networking opportunities, and guidance.  

NSCC international volunteer squadThe goal of these events was to work toward a more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable workforce where no one is left behind. A key learning has been how essential collaboration is in the green transition, bringing individuals together with diverse insights on the challenges we face.  

Neira says that the ‘green sector’ is fast paced and can easily overwhelm even the most experienced professionals. “But newcomers can be overcome this by attending events, researching on resources, and inquiring about supports from institutions.” 

Environmental employers (including nonprofits, government departments, and private companies) have a crucial part to play in accommodating and supporting newcomers as their need for workers grows. That means proactively equipping job seekers with knowledge about their work, thus cultivating a skilled workforce, and introducing more accessibility to opportunities and training programs. 

“Offering good benefits is also essential,” Neira adds. “Green employers must evolve to find the best ways. EAC offers the 4-day work week for example.” Creating a better work-life balance for employees, so they can do the difficult work of changing the world with energy and joy, also creates a more mutually supportive environmental community. 

Employers in the green sector also face their own barriers when it comes to integrating newcomers from diverse backgrounds. It’s important for employers to build inclusive hiring practices, recognize skills (acquired locally or outside Canada), and create supportive working environments.  

It’s also important to foster co-supports and collaboration among newcomers. Haruka Aoyama, a newcomer and clean energy strategist working for the province, took the initiative to create a LinkedIn group where newcomers in Nova Scotia can connect and share valuable resources and opportunities.  

This resource encourages newcomers to seek help from those immigrants who have more experience in navigating barriers and job-hunting challenges. By networking and advocating, newcomers have a more powerful voice for policy changes with provincial and federal governments.  

Astrid Zhang is a recent Environmental Science graduate from Dalhousie University, and an energy efficiency intern at Ecology Action Centre. 


view of nswa centre through tree line

Netukulimk and the new NSNWA Centre | July 13, 2023

On May 30th, Ecology Action Centre hosted the Better Building Speaker Series webinar, which works to spotlight buildings that are more resilient, healthier and better for the environment. The Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSNWA) is working to achieve all of this and more as the construction of the organization’s new centre for Healing nears completion. Check out the webinar recording and learn about what the new NSNWA centre has to offer.

Netukulimk and the new NSNWA Centre | July 13, 2023

The new Mi'kmaq Centre for Healing and Resilience serves as an example of how we can prioritize intersectional sustainability to build safe spaces for our communities. Indigenous consultation, landscape design and green architecture all play a role in making it happen. Zabrina Whitman is the founder of Young Soaring Eagle Consulting and works with Jordan Willet of Solterre Design and Sue Sirrs of Outside! Landscape Architects to provide an overview of the new centre and explain the values that drive the initiative. The concept of Netukulimk is unpacked and presenters showcase how the centre goes beyond sustainability to deliver valuable services to its visitors. 

To find out more about upcoming webinars and view past presentations, visit the Better Buildings Speaker Series webpage, and subscribe to the Culture of Efficiency Newsletter to get notified about upcoming events.

The Better Buildings Speaker Series is sponsored by Efficiency Nova Scotia.


Riding the Electric School Bus

Highlighting the Future of Sustainable Transportation: Electric School Bus Showcase in Halifax | July 5, 2023

By Nikita Popli, Community Engagement Officer

On June 28, the Ecology Action Centre hosted an event highlighting the future of sustainable transportation. With no electric school buses currently operating in Nova Scotia, this showcase aimed to demonstrate the remarkable environmental, health, and economic benefits these buses can offer.

Electric School Buses in Nova Scotia | July 5, 2023

It's Electric

Prominent attendees at our Electric School Bus showcase included provincial and municipal decision makers, transportation managers from various school boards, and eager drivers who got the opportunity to take these eco-friendly buses for a test drive. The unanimous consensus was that the electric school buses were not only quiet, but also remarkably comfortable to ride in.

The star of the show was a Lion Electric Type C Electric School Bus brought all the way from Prince Edward Island, a province which already boasts an impressive fleet of 82 ESBs. Attendees had a chance to inspect the bus's battery and engage in insightful discussions regarding charging, operations, and maintenance. It was heartening to witness the enthusiasm of the drivers, who expressed a strong desire to operate these buses if they were deployed in the province.ESB

This showcase not only shed light on the untapped potential of electric school buses but also provided valuable insights to decision-makers and transportation managers. The event served as a significant stepping stone towards creating a greener and more sustainable future for the students and communities of Nova Scotia.

Stay tuned for more updates on the progress of electrifying school transportation in our region!


Parents Talk Climate

Halifax-area Parents Want to Make a More Sustainable Future in the Face of Climate Change | June 22, 2023

By Thomas Arnason McNeil, Climate Policy Coordinator

On Saturday, June 10th, Ecology Action Centre hosted the event Parents Talk Climate in partnership with For Our Kids—a national network of parents connecting across the country to organize collective action on climate change. In the wake of devastating wildfires and the politicization of federal climate policy in Nova Scotia, parents and grandparents gathered at the EAC office in North-end Halifax to discuss their concerns about climate change and how to take action to create a more sustainable future for the next generation.

Talking Climate for Our Kids | June 22, 2023

For Our KidsThe event provided a forum to unpack climate anxieties, connect and empower parents concerned about a changing climate and discuss where parents could have the biggest impact. Participants had the opportunity to enjoy snack and a free meal, with access to childcare provided by a registered nurse (RN). Local organizer Darius Mirshahi helped to facilitate, drawing out key insights on how to take action in conversation with 16 participants.  

Regular meetings of this group will continue, with additional support provided by For Our Kids. Those interested in participating in monthly meetings should reach out to Sakura at sakura.saunders@gmail.com 


Clean Electricity for All

Ecology Action Centre & Friends Visit the Minister of Environment and Climate Change in support of Clean Electricity | June 20, 2023

By Brenna Walsh, Senior Energy Coordinator

On June 5, 2023, I had the pleasure to represent the Ecology Action Centre at a rally held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to show support for strong Clean Electricity Regulations. The Clean Electricity Regulations are being developed by the federal government to provide a pathway for getting to net zero in the electricity sector by 2035. 

Supporting a Strong Clean Electricity Regulation | June 20, 2023

This is something that can be done, and that Canada must do to meet its climate commitments, do its fair share to reduce emissions and remain competitive in a decarbonizing world. Global leaders are calling on all developing countries to make and stick to this commitment. 

Citizens Support Clean Electricity We had a fun rally. There were great chants, posters, and empowering speeches. However, there were also sombre moments, such as the spoken-word poem delivered by Olivia Onuk, an Ottawa-based artist and storyteller.  
 
The Ecology Action Centre, together with eight other organizations, supported 40,000 Canadians in sending letters to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault showing their support for the Clean Electricity Recommendation. Minister Guilbeault addressed the crowd, highlighting the government’s commitment to getting to net-zero in the electricity sector by 2035.  
 
"We committed during last election campaign to have a carbon-neutral grid by 2035 because it is the backbone of fighting climate change in Canada,” he said. "If you want to decarbonize the transportation sector, if you want to decarbonize our buildings, if you want to decarbonize our industry it has to start with electricity!”  
 
Guilbeault was excited to receive the letters from across Canada, including many from Nova Scotians.  The Minister came directly from a press conference about wildfires, which were burning across Canada, already the worst wildfire season Canada has ever seen in only the first week of June.Brenna and Thomas

I arrived from Halifax the day before, where the wildfire smoke had finally started to lift. In Ottawa the streetlights came on at noon because the sky was so hazy.  
 
Now is the time to put strong climate policies like the Clean Electricity Regulation in place. There is no time left to waste. This regulation can send a strong and lasting signal to phase out coal and gas on our electricity grids, transitioning to clean, affordable and reliable electricity for all.  
 
The Clean Electricity Regulation will be tabled within months. It is important to let your representatives know you support a strong Clean Electricity Regulation as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for further opportunities throughout this summer to take action!  


Central Trinity

Prince Edward Island Helps Churches and Community Centres Help the Island to Net Zero | June 7, 2023

One might assume a church as old as that might be set in its ways, but MacKay says the tradition here is progressive, meaning as farmers they understand that their own survival — feeding their families — is linked to that of “Mother Earth.”

And in the case of an old church building, that meant decarbonizing. It all made perfect sense and was an easy sell, as it turned out.
 

How PEI Helps Faith and Community Centres Move to Net Zero | June 7, 2023


Alexander Sandy MacKay is the chair of trustees for Breadelbane Central Trinity United Church, which is located in an agrarian community of 170 souls in central Prince Edward Island. A very small community in Canada’s smallest province, Breadelbane and its United Church have a long history together.

“The church has been there over a hundred years,” MacKay says.

It is not only a place of worship. Central Trinity hosts a number of community groups, including the 4H Club. It is home to a soup kitchen. And it regularly hosts gatherings and other events.

One might assume a church as old as that might be set in its ways, but MacKay says the tradition here is progressive, meaning as farmers they understand that their own survival—feeding their families—is linked to that of “Mother Earth.”

And in the case of an old church building, that meant decarbonizing. It all made perfect sense and was an easy sell, as it turned out.

The work started, as it often does, with a bad oil furnace needing replaced.

"As a person who has converted to solar and electric heat pumps, I was eager to help move our church to becoming carbon neutral," he says. Through word of mouth, via Bedeque United Church twenty minutes west, MacKay learned about the Faithful Footprints program. He filled out some paperwork, talked to staff, and went to his congregation with a proposal and some options.

“Either spend $10,000 and still be on oil; or spend $10,000 and be carbon neutral.”

Easy decision, especially if Faithful Footprints could help, which it could if Central Trinity could find matching funding.

a man on a yellow ladder leaning against a white building

That matching funding was made easy too, thanks to PEI’s new Heat Pump Initiative, via the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action and the Department of Fisheries, Tourism, Sport and Culture. It is part of the province’s Net Zero Initiative and provides places of worship that host community events with free heat-pump installation up to a value of $20,000. 

“The initiative started with residential buildings,” says Derek Ellis, who is the director of sustainability with PEI’s Environment, Energy and Climate Action Department. “Community centres and communities told us they also needed support, and less than a year later we extended the program to revitalize rural community centres, including faith buildings.”  

That extension included a ramping up of sorts, recognizing that larger heat pumps and more financial support are needed for larger spaces.

“Clients can still do structural upgrades outside of that, which leaves room for envelope upgrades. This is part of our rural community revitalization program.” It recognizes that, just like Central Trinity, faith buildings on PEI are hubs of activity for many rural areas—they are heartbeats of community life.

Ellis says his department has tried to keep the process as straightforward as possible. There is an application form requiring basic information. An energy audit is encouraged, but not required. He says this program is a result of “strong political will” to move the province to net zero.

a heat pump on the wall in a basement

“Our minister, Steven Myers, travelled to Samsø, which is a net- zero island of 1,500 people in Denmark, much smaller than us. After that, I think he had a renewed confidence in our ability to get to that point. And Prince Edward Islanders understand the impact of climate change, we see the impact happening here. We saw it with Hurricane Fiona, for example.”

For program end users like Alexander Sandy MacKay of Central Trinity, that means more focus on creating a good plan for their old church building, with technical assistance from experts. Central Trinity decided to replace old lighting with high-efficiency LED, install a new commercial fan (which makes for more efficient climate control in all seasons), new EnerStar appliances, motion-sensor lights, a new hot water heater, and a new heat pump in the basement.

The total cost of the retrofit project was $60,000. Most of that is be covered by the provincial grant and Faithful Footprints funding.

"The impacts are easy to see," MacKay says. "We no longer have to worry about oil prices." 

The heat pumps are connected to wifi. That means he also saves gas driving to and from the church to warm it up for community groups.

But Central Trinity isn’t finished yet. They are soon to sign a contract for solar panel installation, which they hope will eliminate the electrical bill altogether. 

MacKay encourages other congregations to follow their Faithful Footprints path. He says that “many people in our congregation have already switched to heat pumps” as a result of the work done. “They see the benefits.”


Walking Together

Elder Albert Marshall Launches Book Introducing Two-Eyed Seeing to Children | May 25, 2023

Elder Albert Marshall from Eskasoni First Nation, who is a leading environmental voice in Unama’ki Cape Breton, has co-written with Louise Zimanyi a new children’s book. It is called Walking Together and presents in poetic sentences and gorgeous illustrations (by Anishnaabe artist Emily Kewageshig) a piece of visual storytelling, showing young readers the notion of Two-Eyed Seeing.

Elder Marshall was the first to apply this concept, from the teachings of Chief Charles Labrador (1932-2002) of Acadia First Nation, in a Western setting. Two-Eyed seeing is the powerful and reconciliatory idea that we can better understand, and care for the world, if we can see with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing and from Western knowledges and ways of knowing.  

In this interview with Chris Benjamin of the Ecology Action Centre (co-published by Atlantic Books Today), Elder Marshall explains why, at 83 years old and after decades of work toward a strong vision for the future, he decided to write a children’s book.
 

Read Albert Marshall's Interview | May 25, 2023

Chris Benjamin: This book is poetic, beautiful and powerful. Can you tell me a bit about how it came to be? 

Elder Albert Marshall: Apparently this is the reason why it was written: How much Aboriginal students have been disconnected from nature. How much we are connected with nature. How much we are dependent on nature. Without that connection, you can’t feel something for it.  

Hopefully this book will make that connection at a younger age. We have a lot of land-based training in the curriculum; this will be an introduction. Showing not just appreciation, respect, but protection of nature. Looking at the current state of our environment, in which cleansing capacity has been exhausted. Nature needs humans now for some form of intervention, using science to mitigate the damage. 

At that tender age, how young Aboriginal people learn, you’re much more interested in visuals rather than text. The book has limited text. That allows for visual storytelling. Children are great at extracting story from visuals. And Aboriginal people tend to be visual learners. 

I hope this will trigger something in them. 

Benjamin: Can you talk a bit about Two-Eyed Seeing and this book for children? 

Elder Marshall: The reason the phrase Two-Eyed Seeing was coined is that every creature has two eyes. I see everything from an Aboriginal lens. My culture and customs. With that perception, I know I was never meant to be alone. Two-Eyed Seeing enriches perspective. Now I have another perspective. This is a much more whole-istic way—whole as in w-h-o-l-e.  

One eye limits what we see. Geographically, wherever we may be, we may become intimately connected with the environment. But it’s a global issue. The more connected we become, the better chance we have.  

Benjamin: Ecology Action Centre has been working with Faith and the Common Good, connecting people from different faiths who want to act to protect the environment. People often seem motived by their sense of spiritual love, or even obligation. It seems the ways Indigenous people experience spirituality can be quite different from settlers. Do you have any thoughts on how spirituality relates to Two-Eyed Seeing? 

Elder Marshall: As a Mi’kmaq person, before I feel completely well, my physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual realms all must be well. The spiritual connection has to be there.  

If you are not fulfilling your inherent responsibilities, Great Creator gave us a cognitive mind. If we compromise ecological integrity, we can use the cognitive mind to repair it. We solely depend on Her. Our efforts should benefit all. If she’s not healthy, how can we be?  
 
Netukulimk, in Mi’kmaw. Sustainability. We have the privilege to use gifts of Creator. We don’t have the right to compromise the ecological integrity of the area. We cannot compromise the Earth’s cleansing capacity.  

Benjamin: Walking Together emphasizes the importance of stories. I’ve always liked Leslie Marmon Silko’s statement that stories are “all we have to fight off illness and death.” And I feel that’s true. But in this book you’re showing stories aren’t only a defence mechanism, that through them we “receive gifts of Mother Earth.” Can you talk about those gifts? Stories

Elder Marshall: Bedtime stories Aboriginal children used to hear, in all of those stories, there was never a human form in it. They were always based on other lifeforms. A squirrel or a rabbit or some other creature.  

How much we are interconnected. Everything and anything we are involved with comes from the story.  

If the story is told enough times, it becomes reality. It should guide us to our responsibilities.  

I have to bear in mind, this generation and the next seven must benefit from my efforts. It is time to put our differences aside and start another narrative. Of hope. In which no one is allowed to start a project that damages ecological integrity.  

Benjamin: I love the line in the book, “Sing the Lands and Waters awake after a deep rest.” That spirit of renewal seems really important right now as people become worried about the future of humanity on earth. Does Two-Eyed Seeing also offer us a means of having hope in protecting the nonhuman world? (And therefore humans too?) 

Elder Marshall: It should become a fundamental principle of how we go through life while here. Actions must be in harmony with nature. Any project not ecologically sustainable, we must come up with an alternative.  

Benjamin: A lot of planning right now, by governments, has to do with technological change. And I do think that matters, but what do you think they can learn about “the languages of the Land.” 

Elder Marshall: I don’t believe the government is very much interested in preserving the environment for the future. The onus is on the people to tell them from here on in, we cannot continue with business as usual.   

Benjamin: I so appreciate the reverence in the book. The words are poetic but it’s a very straightforward, teaching kind of poetic. And the artwork is stunning. Have you given much thought to the role of creativity and art in storytelling, in helping humans better care for the Earth? 

Elder Marshall: The more you know about something … somehow it will connect us to this notion of compassion, responsibility, respect, the seeds of knowledge will be planted with as many people as possible, and there is hope.  

“Nature has rights, humans have responsibilities.” Always be mindful and cognizant, every action you take must be sustainable.  

Benjamin: Wela’lin. 


Shift to Electric School Buses

Time for Electric School Buses | May 8, 2023

On April 27th, we celebrated Healthy Environments for Learning Day (HELD) by promoting the transition from diesel-powered to electric school buses across Canada. We're excited to share our latest video showcasing the positive experience of a bus driver and school kids riding an Electric School Bus in New Brunswick! Not only does it provide a sustainable mode of transportation, but it also brings joy and excitement to the kids who ride it.

 

Jayne Loves Her Electric School Bus | May 08, 2023

We love this video about New Brunswick's first Electric School Bus driver, the pride she and her passengers take in being part of the green energy transition, its clean quietness.

But, unlike New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia currently has no electric school buses on the roads! You can help change this by joining our campaign for Electric School Buses in Nova Scotia, to create a cleaner, healthier future for our kids.  


the hall of a church with heat pumps on the walls

How Centennial United in Robert's Arm, NL Reduced Its Carbon Footprint | April 19, 2023

Contributed by Lloyd Colbourne, Chairperson, Board of Management

Windsor United Church is a small congregation in Roberts Arm, in the northern part of Newfoundland  NL. They felt the call to modernize their fuel source and stop burning fossil fuels. But the price tag of about $26,000 for the four heat pumps needed for the space was intimidating. Undeterred, they put their talents to work and raised a third of the money, with the Faithful Footprints program supplying the rest. Here, in his own words, Lloyd Colbourne, Chairperson of the Board of Management for Centennial United, tells the story of how his church made a green transition.  

 

Centennial United Decarbonizes | April 18, 2023

In 2022, the board of management of Centennial United Church in Roberts Arm, Newfoundland and Labrador, discussed how we could reduce our carbon footprint and do our part in saving our planet from climate change disasters. The obvious choice was to stop burning fossil fuel as our heat source and switch to clean electric source by using efficient heat pumps.  

We then discussed how we could accomplish this process and have a warm comfortable building for our church congregation during weekly services and business meetings which were held in the church hall in the basement of the church. It was decided that heat pumps would be the solution to accomplish our goal.  

a person wearing a blue flannel shirt and navy blue pants installs an air conditioner on the side of a building

The next challenge was to get an expert to recommend the number of heat pumps required to heat the building, and estimate the cost of buying and installing them. After doing our research, we learned the most suitable heat pumps for our needs were the Mitsubishi brand. They were a moderately expensive brand but carried a ten-year warranty, and had great reviews.

We consulted experts in selling and installing this brand to give us a quote on the required number to satisfy our heating requirements. They recommended four heat pumps, 18,000 BTUs—three upstairs and one in the church hall, in the basement, at a total cost of $26,841.  

Where could we get this vast amount of money with such a small congregation? We decided to have a Memorial Hymn Sing on the third Sunday in June, which was Father’s Day, to see how well our congregation, their family and friends would support our plan. We were astonished with the response, which was a very important lesson learned. “You never know what you can accomplish unless you try.”  

We raised $8,300, which was a third of the cost. Where could we get the other two-thirds?  

Our minister suggested we contact Faithful Footprints, which gave a grant to his former church in New Brunswick. I made an internet inquiry, followed by a telephone conversation, lasting more than an hour, with Stephen Collette, the building audit manager for Faith and Common Good, which administrates the Faithful Footprints program. He gave me a very positive response and encouraged us to make an application. The final steps were to gather the information required for the application, fill out the forms online, and click send.  

a person installs a heat pump on a brown wall

A short time later we received the astounding news that our application was approved. We ordered the heat pumps and in three weeks they were installed, on April 3, 2023. The heat pumps were dedicated on Earth Sunday, April 16, to let all our supporters know we have accomplished our goal of reducing our carbon footprint, to help the greening of the earth.  

We will use the remaining funds to install LED light bulbs in all light fixtures in the church, new door seals to prevent heat loss, and purchase insulation for the attic, as well as removing and disposing of the old oil furnace.  


the exterior of a church beside a road

Windsor United Kicks the Oil Habit | April 6, 2023

Windsor United Church in Windsor, Nova Scotia is a late-Victorian beauty. Congregants and visitors can gaze upward over ornate wooden walls, 50 feet to the ceiling above. With a 5,600-square-foot sanctuary and a 2,600-square-foot annex and office space, it's also a beast. Last year, the congregation paid $18,000 in heating oil and $8,700 for electricity. But with funding from Faithful Footprints and Efficiency Nova Scotia, Windsor United has made the transition--oil is now a rarely-used backup, only for the coldest days. 

 

How Windsor United is Kicking the Oil Habit | April 6, 2023

Tony Duke, who is on the property committee of Windsor United, recalls a moment when it hit them all, just how much oil they were saving. "One of our property members, " he says, "was there when the oil truck pulled up. The guy puts the nozzle in the pipe, flicks it on. Stops. 

"He pulls it out, looks down, sticks it back in. Did it all again. And finally he said to our member, 'I haven't been able to put any oil in for the last two visits.' 

"And we had been nervous about heat pumps being able to keep up with winter." 

Admittedly, it's been a mild winter in Nova Scotia. Windsor United uses their heat pumps except on days below -8 degrees Celsius, which has been a rarity. But they were able to replace one furnace and use the other only for backup. 

As is the case with any good energy retrofit, it's not just the source energy. One of the buildings biggest challenges was insulation, foam that had been installed in the 1970s--fifty years ago. It has since dissolved into a powder, Duke says. "So no insulation." 

The formaldehyde foam used to insulate the attic in the 1970s had deteriorated to a powder that the team had to vacuum out before they had the sanctuary ceilings insulated with high density foam. Then, in 2023, they insulated all the exterior walls and the ceiling over the annex with high density cellulose.

The property committee--six people at the time, most of them in their seventies--was dedicated. Each day two or three would show up and help with the work, leading insulators up into the attic, crawling over ancient wooden beams. "I really admire the insulators for hauling hose up there to blow it in," Duke says.

unloading insulationThe price associated with buying and installing enough heat pumps for the space was a larger deterrent, but the church trustees were also committed to the cause. One had installed solar panels on his own house and felt compelled to reduce impact on the environment. But Duke credits funding from Faithful Footprints, a funding program from the United Church Canada aimed at reducing the Church's carbon footprint 80 percent by 2030, and small-business rebates from Efficiency Nova Scotia, for swinging the balance. In all, the church invested $111,000 in energy retrofits. The majority, $69,000, was covered by the two programs. 

The heat pumps have not only been sufficient for the winter, they've created a more comfortable climate in the office--where it used to get far too warm--and in meetings rooms and an assembly room. "Everybody has been amazed with the heat pumps," Duke says. "We're keeping them at a steady, comfortable temperature. Everyone is very pleased."

heat pump in meeting roomThe next step is to replace all the lighting with LEDs, which will further improve efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For Duke, the greatest reward is knowing their impact on the climate has been reduced. That's important for such a pillar of the community.

"The value is sustainability," he says, for the church and the planet. "We do a lot of outreach in community. We help the food bank. We do community activities like theatrical productions. Schools have concerts. A local AA group meets here. We’re not going to close the church."  

Now, he hopes they can inspire other congregations. Windsor United is holding an open house on Earth Day, April 22, from 9:00-11:30 a.m. It is part of the national Faithful Footprints Retrofit Tours Earth Week Series.

"We want to bring congregations in surrounding communities in, and give them some positive reasons for going green.  I strongly encourage other churches to take advantage of FF and other programs to reduce or even eliminate their carbon footprints."


people making home improvements

Culture of Efficiency Newsletter | March 27, 2023

The Ecology Action Centre publishes the Culture of Efficiency Newsletter on a monthly basis to keep subscribers up to date on energy efficiency news and events in Nova Scotia. This work intends to build community and provide Nova Scotians with information and opportunities they need to stay involved in energy efficiency movement. Subscribe here!

 

Culture of Efficiency Newsletter | March 27, 2023

Efficiency Nova Scotia Spring Rebate Campaign

Investing in a larger appliance for your home? From March 31 to May 20, 2023 Efficiency Nova Scotia is running their Spring Instant Savings Campaign. During this time, additional products will be added to a list of instant in-store product rebates that you can access automatically when you visit a participating location. You can save up to $400 at the checkout and collect savings over time with your energy efficient upgrades. Find rebates near you!


Better Building Speaker Series

Join EAC and three organizations collaborating to build the new Mi'kmaq Centre for Healing and Resilience which will be run by the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Women’s Association. Young Soaring Eagle, Outside! Landscape Architects and Solterre Design will discuss how the Resilience Centre prioritizes intersectional sustainability to build a safe space for the community. The webinar will be held on May 30 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Register now!


Tell your MP to Take a Stand for Energy Poverty

The 2023 Federal Budget will be released next week on March 28 in the House of Commons.  We don't know what to expect, but we hope the budget will include the government's plan to invest in and implement a low-income energy efficiency strategy that will extend support to the millions of Canadians who are currently excluded from home energy efficiency programs and who are struggling to meet their home energy needs.  Although the budget is largely crafted at this stage, you can still encourage your MP to take a stand for energy poverty when it is tabled on the 28th.   There is likely still more work to be done to ensure that energy efficiency reaches and benefits all Canadians.  Email your MP now!


Heating Assistance Rebate Program

The Heating Assistance Rebate Program is now open to help low-and moderate-income Nova Scotians with the cost of home heating. Rebates are $1,000 (instead of $100 to $200) for qualified households. Eligibility criteria and certain supporting documents are needed. It should take around 8 weeks to get your rebate. There is no cost to apply for the rebate, you can apply online until March 31, 2023. Check your eligibility.


EV Charging Rebates for Multi-Unit Residential Buildings

Apartment or condo owners can apply for one of two rebates that make electric vehicle chargers more accessible. 

  • The EV Ready Approach  

  • The Standalone EV Charger  

Both rebates are an option for new construction and existing buildings. Learn more about the rebates and how to apply by visiting Efficiency Nova Scotia's website. Learn more about the rebate!


Open Letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Citizens for Public Justice has an open letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and are looking for signatories from the faith community.  

  • The political asks of the letter include 

  • Increasing Canada's greenhouse gas reductions target 

  • Support for climate adaptation 

  • Please sign the letter today and invite others to as well. 

  • Creating a national strategy on Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice (Bill C-226) 

  • Improving Canadian corporate accountability internationally, particularly on resource extraction issues (Bill C-262 and C-263) 

Sign the letter here.


LinkedIn Group for Newcomers

A new LinkedIn group has been created to help Newcomers looking to work in the green jobs sector! The group is intended to help newcomers connect and support one-another with career development. Follow the link below to join! Go to LinkedIn and join.


New Ice Project Accelerator

Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) recently announced the launch of the Bringing It Home Project Accelerator! The Project Accelerator is a new program designed to support the start-up and development of Indigenous energy efficiency housing projects. Applications are open from March 8, to May 19, 2023. Apply today to become a Project Steward! Learn more and apply.


two men, facing away from the camera, install a heat pump

WATCH: Energy efficiency in Millbrook First Nation | March 20, 2023

In February 2023 the Ecology Action Centre's Energy & Climate Team visited Millbrook First Nation to meet with local experts and community members and talk about energy efficiency in the home. Watch this video for information about how to access rebates for new technology and how to maintain equipment for maximum performance and to save money.

WATCH: Energy efficiency in Millbrook First Nation | March 20, 2023

Please watch this video for information about how to access rebates for new technology like heat pumps, HVAC systems and light sensors and timers, and how to maintain equipment for maximum performance and to save money. Thank you to the Millbrook First Nation Housing Department for hosting the event and to our partners: Efficiency Nova Scotia, the Union of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq.  


the exterior of a white church

WATCH: Decarbonization efforts by the United Church of Canada faith communities in Atlantic Canada | March 14, 2023

Created by the Regional Climate Justice Group of the United Church, this video looks at the efforts of congregations in Central Labrador and Nova Scotia to reduce their carbon footprint through energy efficiency initiatives, supporting a just transition and including environmental stewardship as part of everyday spiritual practice.


Supported by:

logo of Faith & the Common Good
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