Celebrate our vast, complex, interconnected, beautiful environment

For the past 45 years, Canadians have marked the week of June 5 as Environment Week and taken the opportunity to talk about being green – but why do we do it?

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Our environment isn’t just the air we breathe and the water we drink, it’s the plankton that provide oxygen, it’s the bats that reduce pest species, and it’s the worms that make the soil more fertile. It’s a complex web of relationships between all the life with which we share the planet Continue reading

A dozen mini-ministers make their marks with environment and parks

It was a day filled with fun, learning and lots of responsibility for some environmentally minded Alberta students. The group headed to the province’s capital knowing that they were in for a whirlwind adventure as the winners of the 2015 Environment and Parks Minister for the Day Program.

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12 mini-Ministers make their mark during Environment Week

This week is Environment Week – and we’re taking it pretty seriously. So seriously, in fact, that on Monday, we went from having just one ESRD minister to having thirteen.

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These new ‘mini-ministers’ were promoted from the classroom to the legislature as part of Alberta’s Minister for the Day program. This program challenges fifth grade students to share ideas for how Albertans can become better environmental stewards. Those with the best ideas win the chance to visit the legislature and see how ideas like theirs are translated into action.

Selected from over 560 entries, this year’s 12 finalists were great representatives for their schools and communities of Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Fort McMurray, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Leduc, Cochrane, Drayton Valley and Teepee Creek.

These ‘mini-ministers’ toured the legislature, participated in a mock legislative session, and discussed environmental protection and sustainable development with Minister Campbell during a media panel – where they shared some of their great ideas:

 

Check out more photos from the day: 

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Grade 5 students become environment ministers

2013 Ministers for the Day

12 exceptional students were promoted from the classroom to the Legislature to become Alberta’s environment ministers for the day.

These ‘mini-ministers’ toured the legislature, participated in a mock legislative session, and discussed environmental protection and sustainable development with Minister Diana McQueen during a media panel.

Minister for the Day is an environmental education program to support grade-five curriculum in Alberta schools. Students are challenged to share their ideas on how Albertans can become better stewards of the environment.

Selected from 1,570 entries, the 12 finalists proudly represented their schools and communities of Ardrossan, Banff, Calgary, Edmonton, Leduc, Spruce Grove, and St. Albert during the day-long event.

Held annually during Environment Week, more than 160 students have acted as Ministers for the Day since the program began in 2000.

The students had outstanding ideas, including putting compost bins in schools so food scraps don’t go to waste.

The slideshow below shares some of their most memorable quotes.

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During the media panel, the students shared their ideas on how the government should balance environmental protection and resource development, actions we can take at home, and how to encourage biodiversity in our community.

Open data leads to environmental innovation

Last week, the government launched the Open Data Portal to provide the public with access to more raw data. In today’s digital landscape, data is a powerful resource that can spur innovation and improve decision-making.

As we celebrate Environment Week, we’d like to share an example of how sharing data positions Alberta to become a leader in environmental innovation, stewardship and development.

Since 2008, we’ve used LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology to map 14.2 million hectares of wet areas across the province as part of a research project with the University of New Brunswick.

LiDAR produces functional, high-resolution GIS data sets of water and soil features with amazing accuracy.

Photo_ForestWetland_FtMcMurray_smallBy using the technology, we can identify soils and wet areas that are sensitive to disturbance and small water channels that are missed by traditional mapping methods.

This mapping data was released to the public in January. Since then, it’s been used by 23 forest and energy companies and 14 consulting companies to inform their planning and operation decisions.

Albertans now have access to some of the most comprehensive and detailed GIS datasets of sensitive aquatic habitats and soils within forested landscapes, of any jurisdiction in North America. Our plan is to continue mapping and have data for 24 million hectares of forested land collected by the end of 2016.

Access to this kind of information greatly enhances the environmental performance and accountability of industry and resource planners, and spurs new innovations in reclamation, growth and yield, biodiversity, site production and wildlife research. This knowledge has also led to:

  • improved road design and construction;
  • improved placement of well pads;
  • enhanced oil spill response and mitigation efforts; and
  • reduced footprint of industrial and recreational activities.

Photo of the boreal forest in northern Alberta As leaders in the use of this technology, we shared our successes at the SilviLaser Conference in Vancouver last year.

Since then, Sweden has begun wet areas mapping, and Ontario is currently testing the approach in several pilot projects.  Wet area mapping is now taught as part of the forestry technical program at NAIT.

We are also proud to announce that our wet areas mapping team, lead by Barry White, PhD RPF, has been nominated for a prestigious Emerald Award, which recognizes environmental excellence in Alberta.  We wish them all the best at the upcoming ceremony on June 6.

7 Tips for building backyard biodiversity

Photo of a moose on the cover of the Environment Week 2013 posterThis Environment Week, we’re putting the spotlight on biodiversity and the simple steps we can all take to protect it.

Biodiversity is all of the living things on earth – humans, plants, animals, birds, fish, insects, and even the things we can’t see.

Together, they form ecosystems. The interaction of living and non-living things within the ecosystem is responsible for building our soil, generating oxygen and moisture, recycling nutrients, and purifying our air and water.

All living things – big and small – play an important role in keeping the ecosystem healthy. Human activities such as pollution, land disturbance, and the spread of invasive species, can affect biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

Backyard biodiversity

The good news is that you can help biodiversity flourish in your own backyard!

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  1. Naturalize your lawn: Reduce your lawn size by planting a variety of grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees. This will decrease the amount of mowing and watering required, while attracting insects, butterflies and birds.
  2. Create a habitat: build a pond to create a home for insects, frogs, and fish. If you don’t have the space, put in a bird bath. They will attract birds, pollinating insects and even chipmunks.
  3. Provide a wild food supply: if you live in the city, consider planting perennial fruit and nut trees, nectar-producing flowers, and berry bushes. These trees and bushes also provide natural shelter.
  4. Replace exotic plants with native species: native plants are a natural part of the ecosystem; they require less water and maintenance, fewer chemicals, and provide habitat for other species.
  5. Reduce your use of chemicals – or use eco-friendly alternatives:  fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides can be harmful to soils, water, insects, birds and fish if used improperly or excessively.
  6. Go organic: incorporate natural materials like compost to build healthy soil, which will grow strong plants that are more resistant to disease, weeds, and pest infestations.
  7. Small spaces: Don’t have a yard? Start indoor composting or create an urban garden on your balcony, living space or roof.

Not sure where to start? Check out one of the many Green Stop workshops or events happening across the province during Environment Week.

Every action counts when it comes to reducing our environmental footprint and protecting biodiversity. The choices we make at home, at work, and in the community, all add up to make a big difference.

Get Involved in Environment Week, June 2-8

Our Actions Count: Environment Week, June 2-8, 2013

Come celebrate Environment Week, June 2-8!  There are many ways for you and your family to get involved – because when it comes to reducing our environmental footprint and protecting biodiversity, our actions count.

The choices we make at home, at work, and in the community, all add up, so take some time this Environment Week to learn more about what you can do. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Attend a green stop event

Attend a Green Stop Event

These citizen and community organized events are a great opportunity to have fun and learn more about sustaining our environment.

From festivals to gardening workshops to solar home tours, there are dozens of green stop events held across the province.

Host a Green Stop

Have a great idea, or would like to see your community involved? Host a green stop event.  We have tips and promotional materials to help you get started.

Commuter Challenge

Park the car, bike to work instead Did you know driving 18,000 km per year costs the average Canadian $8,441.25 or 46.9 cents/km?

Leave the car at home and earn bragging rights for your company in this friendly competition between Canadian cities and workplaces.

Here’s how to get involved:

  • Register yourself or your workplace before June 2
  • Walk, cycle, carpool or take transit at lease once between June 2-8
  • Log your commute before June 12 to track emission reduction, calorie consumption, and fuel savings
  • See how your actions add up to make a difference

One Simple Act

Reduce, reuse and recycle Go green year-round by committing to One Simple Act. The online toolkit provides everyday tips to prevent waste, conserve water and reduce energy consumption. Sign up online at www.onesimpleact.ca and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Environment Week has been celebrated in Alberta and across Canada since 1972 as a way to help preserve, protect and restore our environment.

It is held annually during the first week of June to align with the United Nations World Environment Day on June 5.

So get out and try something new during Environment Week – or commit yourself to a new eco-friendly action. Together, we can make a big difference.