A Visit to Poland for Poleko 2014, Environmental Protection trade fair

October 28th, 2014 by Cathy Rust No comments »
Royal Palace

An exact replica of the original palace (leveled during the Warsaw Uprising), The Royal Palace was rebuilt between 1971-1984.

In mid-October I was invited along with other Canadian entrepreneurs and journalists to Warsaw and Poznan, Poland. The trip was sponsored by the Polish government and we were treated to sightseeing and a museum tour (Warsaw Uprising Museum) of Warsaw as well as seeing some of the work that’s being done in Poland in the area of environmental protection.

The trip was planned around Poleko, Poland’s largest environmental fair, now in its 26th year. We landed in Warsaw, where we spent two days before heading to Poznan, 350 km northwest of Warsaw. It’s an interesting country with a long and rich history. For instance, I didn’t know that Poland was the second country in the world to develop a constitution (1791), creating the first constitutional monarchy; also important is that its King was elected. I also didn’t know that it has a highly educated population, and I was told that 70% of the population has a Master’s degree (I haven’t been able to confirm this information however). However, the OECD better living index indicates that 89% of the population has a high school diploma or equivalent, which is second highest in the OECD.

Some more facts:

  • Poland’s population is 38 million. About 2 million less than before World War 2.
  • Gross Domestic Product is $517.5 billion (USD) (2013). GDP (purchasing power parity): $815 billion (USD)
  • Gross Domestic Product per person:$13,431.95 (estimate for 2013); $20,600 USD (ppp)(estimated for 2011).
  • Average household net disposable income: $16,294 (USD)
  • Unemployment rate (as of July, 2014): 9%
  • Currency: the Zloty. current exchange rate $1 CDN=$2.96 PLN (Zloty).
  • GDP by sector: Agriculture: 4%, Industry: 33.3%; Services: 62.7%
  • Energy mix: 92% of electricity production is coal based. 55% of all energy production is from coal. 6.75% is from renewable energy.
  • As part of the national energy strategy, Poland is developing two nuclear plants, the first of which is to come online in 2022.
  • Air quality: level of PM10 (a small particulate pollution) 32.9 µg/m3.
  • Total Greenhouse gas emissions including land change and use (2011): 329.7 MtCO2e (megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases)

In comparison with Canada:

  • Canada’s population is 35 million.
  • Gross Domestic Product is $1.85 trillion (USD). GDP (purchasing ower parity): $1.518 trillion (2013) USD. (approx. double Poland’s)
  • Gross Domestic Product per person: $51,958 USD; GDP (ppp): $43,100 USD.
  • Average household  net disposable income: $30,212 USD
  • Unemployment rate (as of Sept, 2014): 6.8%
  • GDP by sector: Agriculture: 1.7%, Industry: 28.4%, Services: 69.9%
  •  Energy mix: 63% of electricity production is hydro based (although if broken down by province the number varies widely), 15% nuclear, 13% coal, natural gas 6%, wind and other sources make up the difference.
  • In August, 2014, there was agreement between the provinces for the need for a new national energy strategy. Currently, energy policy is managed at the provincial level.
  • Air quality: level of 14.5 µg/m3.
  • Total Greenhouse gas emissions including land change and use (2011): 847.08 MtCO2e (megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases)


While I’m writing up a few posts about specific aspects of the trip, I thought I’d put up a few of the photos I took while there. I wanted to put some music to the photos for added benefit, however, I’m not that tech savvy and I worry about copyright. I always think of the elevator music from Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightening Aren’t So Frightening!” (Yes, I’m dating myself, I know).

Old Town Warsaw.

Old Town Warsaw.

Warsaw Old town

Warsaw Old town



A Must See Museum in Warsaw.

The Warsaw Uprising Museum: A “Must See”

Warsaw's Bike Share Program

Warsaw’s Bike Share Program


Manufaktura — an old textile factory refurbished into a shopping mall. Lodz, Poland

Refurbished Textile Factory, "Manufaktura", Lodes, Poland

Refurbished Textile Factory, “Manufaktura”, Lodz, Poland

Polka Restaurant at Manufaktura

Polka Restaurant at Manufaktura

Who can resist a teacup chandelier?

Who can resist a teacup chandelier?

Stary Browar, Poznan, converted brewery into shopping mall.The philoshophy is that “art is supplemented by business.”

Converted Brewery - Stary Browar, half art, half shopping mall

Converted Brewery – Stary Browar, half art, half shopping mall


Interior birdseye view of Stary Browar street entrance

Interior birdseye view of Stary Browar street entrance

Exterior view Stary Browar

Exterior view Stary Browar

Stary Browar Exterior

Stary Browar Exterior

Guide to Cleaning a Lawn Mower and Preparing it for Winter

October 27th, 2014 by Contributor No comments »



This is a guest post by Hally Bertram

Lawn mowers are useful tools for cutting grass around your garden. They are powerful and easy to use. Just like any other machine, lawn mowers need to be maintained. If you want your machine to last longer, you just take care of it.

So, here is a guide to cleaning a grass trimmer. Just make sure you follow the steps of Deluxe Gardeners London and you’ll be fine.

Here is a guide to cleaning and preparing a lawn mower for winter. Just make sure you follow the steps and you’ll be fine.

First things first, clean the machine thoroughly, following the steps from below. Remember to remove all the debris and grass that have built up in the mower. After you finish cleaning, use a light oil on the metal surfaces. This will keep them from rusting.

Step 1: Clean your  lawn mower

Things you’ll need:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Damp cloth
  • Soft brush
  • Stiff brush


  1. Before you begin, be sure to unplug the machine. If you’ve used it just recently, let it cool.
  2. Avoiding the motor areas and switch, start by wiping down the machine. Use a slightly damp cloth.
  3. Ventilation slots: grass, dirt or debris might clog the ventilation slots of the machine. To rid of blockages, either vacuum the slots or use a really soft brush that won’t damage the surface. If the ventilation slots don’t work properly, the motor will get overheated due to poor ventilation. For this reason, it’s important that you pay attention to this particular part of your lawn mower.
  4. You should also remove debris from the guard plate and feed area. Use a stiff brush.
  5. Remove grass off your machine: it’s not only about cleaning your lawn mower, you also need to remove all the grass that remains in it. It’s very easy actually. You may use a putty knife. Just be careful not to cut yourself. This is the fastest way to get rid of grass. Another way to do it is by using a power washer.

Step 2: Fuel

Fuel and oil reservoirs need to be drained before you put away your lawn mower. To do this, remove the cap of the machine then using a bucket just pour the liquid inside. Of course, there will be some fuel left. To get rid of it, simply put a paper towel into the tank. It will absorb the remaining fuel.

Step 3: Air filters and engine inspection

Remove the spark plug and replace with new one if it is too dirty. If you’ve been using it for less than a year, then there is no need to replace it. Use a carburetor cleaner to rid of any dirt. Brush the surface with a stiff brush, then let dry. Before you put it back were it belongs, you need to make sure the cylinder is free of dirt. Sprinkle with WD-40 and start the machine a few times to help the oil get to all the sides of the gap.

Clean the air filter by spraying  WD-40. Wipe down with a clean rag.

When you put away your lawn mower, you should always keep in mind that the place should be dry and sheltered. It is advisable that you cover the machine with a cloth to keep dirt and dust away.

Additional tips and advice

  • Always read the manual that comes with your lawn mowers. You’ll find useful information such as required routine maintenance, type of maintenance it needs, ways to properly take care of it, etc. The biggest problem is that many people don’t know how to maintain their machines, that’s why they fail to work properly at some point. But if you perform routine checks of your machine, you’ll be able to avoid a variety of problems that may occur because of poor maintenance. If this information is not available in the user’s manual, check out the repair manual.
  • What does a routine check include? Usually it should involve inspecting the spark plug, air filter, controls and line.
  • Things you should check every season:

–After each use: mower line (see if it’s low); air intake (remove any debris or grass);  trimmer (damage repair, look for loose parts)

–10 hours after use: air filter (blow dust from filter or wash with water)

–25 hours after use: spark plug (inspect for damage or wear)

–40 hours after use: follow up with a complete inspection of the machine (check for missing, loose or damaged parts, repair or replace parts where necessary)


Green Building Illustrated: Book Review

September 24th, 2014 by Cathy Rust 2 comments »
Green Building Illustrated

Green Building Illustrated

Francis Ching is a well-known author and illustrator of books on design and construction, perhaps within the building sector his most well-known book is Building Construction Illustrated. Collaborating with Ian Shapiro on this latest book, the pair have developed a good introduction to green building for those just becoming familiar with the field, but it also serves as a good reference guide to green building for those of us with more experience.

“What is green building?”

The point of the question is to highlight the reality that it is really an evolving definition. Some buildings built to a high standard, have, upon evaluation, turned out to be less green than their standard counterparts because they use more energy than the comparative standard, whereas some net-zero or close to net zero buildings aren’t classified as green because the owner has decided not to go through the hoops necessary to become classified.

Further,  the authors address why building greener buildings is important, referring to climate change effects as well as resource depletion. They also delve into the different green classification systems that are available.What I like about this book is that after reading it you gain a basic understanding of all the elements involved in building a better, more resilient, lower impact building.

Hosting a Design Charette

Shapiro and Ching emphasize that with the development, design and construction of any building, there are thousands of decisions that are made. One decision affects another, so it means that there are trade-offs for every decision. Getting the design done right at the beginning can save time and money down the road and one of the best ways to do that is to have a design charette. A charette is like a round table discussion where every involved party can have a say in how the design will affect their portion of the building from plumbing, electrical, HVAC concerns, material selection, and occupant use post construction. Ideally charettes include the architect, general contractor, sub-trades, building owner and manager, in other words, all stakeholders.

The book is clearly illustrated and dedicates a good section to design and design issues. Getting the design right is one of the best ways to have the most significant impact on constructing a lower impact building. Again the book is thought-provoking: the authors ask “green buildings are lower impact than what?” In fact Shapiro gently takes LEED to task because the system fails to give points for designing a building that has a smaller surface area (therefore less exposure to the elements), than its standard counterpart. In other words, no points are given for designing a more efficiently shaped building than might otherwise be built. The authors explain the differences between the different green building rating systems out there, including LEED, Passivhaus, Living Building Challenge, and Green Globes.

Another perspective of the book is that it teaches readers to design buildings from the outside in, in layers. So, it looks at landscaping, site and orientation and how those factors affect the design of the building. Further, Shapiro and Ching highlight with detailed drawings, the importance of surface area on the energy efficiency of a building. In general terms, the smaller the surface area, the greater the energy efficiency of the building.

It takes only one brief glance at the chapter on windows to confirm that all those glass condos going up all over Toronto and Montreal are  an energy efficiency nightmare. Windows, in addition to having terrible insulation values, also pose potential leak problems between their frames and the building. If not sealed properly there is an extra source of potential drafts and water infiltration.

The chapter on building materials emphasizes the need to consider local, recycled and other materials with a low embodied energy. There is a handy table that shows the different embodied energy of different types of wall constructions.

One of the best features of this book is that it is an all in one reference guide for looking at how to build better buildings from design through to commissioning (evaluating a building’s systems to make sure they are all functioning properly). Once read cover to cover, it can be used as a reference guide to greener building and the different factors that need to be taken into account. While the book does not delve deep into any one area, it does provide a readable and approachable overview that’s easily understood by laypersons as well as professionals familiarizing themselves with green building practices. If I have one complaint, it is that for old people like myself, the spidery, handwritten style font is difficult to read.

Green Building Illustrated is available through John Wiley and Sons, or Amazon.

Four Eco-Building Materials of the Future

September 12th, 2014 by Contributor No comments »


As the world is changing, many things about technology, science, health system, etc. are improved. New machines and gadgets are invented, the purpose of which is to make our lives better and easier. In recent years, a vast majority of different organisations and businesses have called for a more environment-friendly approach when it comes to developing new technologies, products, goods and other stuff. We should start changing ourselves first and the way we perceive things; then we should start changing our homes and our habits, making them less hazardous for nature.


With this said, there already are many ways to help protect nature that the average person can do, from using natural cleaning solutions to buying eco-friendly furniture. Everybody knows that standard cleaning products contain dangerous chemicals, that’s why many people use their environment-friendly alternatives. Another way is using eco building materials.


In the article below we have shown four eco building materials of the future. What do you think about that? Wouldn’t it be great if these materials are also durable and easy to clean? Personally, we would love it! Get reading and find out more about these materials.

Polyurethane Rigid Foam

This foam is plant-based. It is made from materials like kelp, hemp and bamboo. This foam material in different types for different applications. Ainacore, AinaFlow and Pacific Biofoam are produced by Malama Composites and the materials are used in furniture, wind turbine blades, surfboards and insulation. In fact this company is a big surfboard maker.

The advantages of this foam are its high heat and moisture resistance, protection against pests and mould, good acoustics. Another great side of the foam is that it insulates better, as it has a good thermal resistance as well.

Insulated Concrete Forms

This technology is approximately 60 years old. Back in the early years of its development people weren’t aware of its energy-saving properties. This is what breathes new life into the technology today. The structure of the concrete forms is sandwich-like. There are two insulation layers, in which concrete is poured. One of the biggest concrete forms makers, ARXX, approve of this idea. According to a study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, constructions made from this kind of concrete forms tend to be energy-saving. The report claims that the forms can save 20% more energy than that consumed in cold climates by wood-frame constructions.

Insulated concrete forms are used in building blocks and freestanding walls.


Econoblock is made from cardboard and waste paper. It has a high thermal insulation and it’s load-bearing and lightweight. It is the same as concrete block and performs to the same standards, only it is much more environment-friendly. The technology was invented during the early years of the 20th century but due to its high cost it couldn’t gain popularity or reach commercialisation. The reason for the high rates was the fact that this construction was originally made from cellulose. However, in 1980s waste paper was used as an alternative and so the idea of the Econoblock was revived. They also experimented with other mixture buildings and materials.


rammed earth home, aercura

Rammed earth home


The advantage of this material, apart from it being environment-friendly, is that it is free and so far abundant. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be transported, as it is available on every job site. A great drawback is that it requires a specialist who knows how to build constructions using this material. It really is difficult to find craftsmen who can work with dirt.


We hope you find this information worthy. If you are environment-aware and you are planning to build a new construction, either a residential property or a commercial one, you can use some of these materials.



This article is a guest post by Hally who writes for PromptCleaners Greenford

Greyhorne Interiors Now Carrying Team 7 Kitchens

August 26th, 2014 by Cathy Rust No comments »
K7 kitchen

K7 kitchen by Team 7, available in Ottawa through Greyhorne Interiors

James Flynn, owner of Greyhorne Interiors in Ottawa, let me know that in addition to representing Team 7’s furniture lines, Greyhorne now carries its kitchen cabinets as well. The cabinets are made with the same care and precision as its furniture, and, like its furniture, all efforts are taken to lighten the company’s environmental footprint.

All their designs have sleek, modern lines. Greyhorne carries four Team 7 lines:

K7, a simple button to adjust counter height

K7, a simple button to adjust counter height


K7 Island and cabinetry

K7: The highlight of this kitchen is the island with an adjustable counter top that goes from 74cm to 114cm at the push of a button. This allows for a worktop, table or bar seating and is seen as ideal for an open concept living area. In the counter top’s lowest position, it covers the sink and retracted fixtures.


Vao: Upper and lower cabinets are framed in contrasting material to show off the wood of the cabinetry. The sleek design avoids the use of handles, drawers are opened from above, and cupboards are opened on the side.



Vao kitchen

Vao Kitchen, yellow

Vao Kitchen, yellow


















Linee: This line of cabinetry is built with the wood grain running horizontally, which makes small spaces appear larger than they really are. This kitchen can be constructed from a wide variety of wood types, glass colours, dimensions and designs.

Linee kitchen

Linee kitchen

Linee, upper cabinets

Linee, upper cabinets











Loft: A modern country kitchen built from a variety of woods, however, oak or wild walnut exhibit the natural qualities of this design the best.

Loft Kitchen

Loft Kitchen

Loft Kitchen with glass cabinet doors

Loft Kitchen with glass cabinet doors










Design: All kitchens are designed with the staff at Greyhorne Interiors. Please contact Greyhorne for more information.

Cost: The cost for design and installation is about the same as other high-end European kitchen company, such as Scavolini or Bulthaup.

Timing: Once the design is finalized it takes approximately 12-16 weeks to make and ship to Canada. Installation will take another few days, assuming the kitchen area is finished to the point of readiness for the cabinetry.

As with all Team 7 furniture, sustainable practices are a priority. The company has received ISO 9001 and 14001 certification as well as the Austrian Ecology mark. You can read Team 7’s  sustainability report here.



Phone: 613.521.6651

Get Adobe Flash player