Archive for the ‘Landscaping’ category

Recycled Granite Has Lots of Design Possiblities

April 12th, 2013

Granite Scraps, normally sent to landfill

In keeping with my theme of writing about products made from waste material, I was contacted by a company called Green Stone Granite, based in Guelph, Ontario. Green Stone Granite is a new enterprise that takes leftover granite from building jobs and turns it into new products. Dana Laferriere, my contact at Green Stone explained to me that after counters or flooring or tiles have been made from granite, the off-cuts are usually sent to landfill. According to Green Stone’s estimate, 30-40% of granite is “waste”, as in off-cuts and scrap, and is sent directly to landfill. Green Stone has asked local granite manufacturers  (Guelph and surrounding area) to send their scraps to them instead of landfill.

Green Stone Granite’s goal is to become a zero waste facility. Dana said,

We need to get our name out there to educate the public that there are different uses for granite, and now the option for recycled granite. Once we do that and our business grows, we will be able to put the money into achieving a zero waste facility. Currently we are able to re-purpose on average 70% of the granite that comes to our facility. Our goals for the future is to start producing landscaping material with the remainder including aggregate which would bring that to 100%.

Split Stone granite tiles for kitchen

Feature Wall made from split stone granite scrap

Their most popular product is the split stone. It is rough, like any natural stone in its finished form.  The split stone has many applications from kitchen backsplashes, fireplace surrounds to outdoor uses such as pavers and for outdoor kitchens. They also create cutting boards/cheese trays and are in the process of developing granite ice cubes (whiskey stones).

Cost: The cost is comparable to a marble or glass backsplash.

Delivery: They are able to deliver the product to the Toronto area, and are currently speaking with eco building stores about carrying it directly in Toronto.

Installation: Installation is similar to installing traditional tile, however the stones are dry stacked so no grout is required. The benefit to our product is every project is unique and there are endless possibilities of colour combinations.

For more information on Green Stone Granite, visit their website.

Gifts for the Green Builder in Your Life

December 14th, 2010

I’ve been browsing through old posts to see if I could come up with any “gift suggestions” for all the green builders out there. There is a definite slant towards practical materials in these posts. I don’t think anyone would be thrilled to see SIPs panels, a bag of insulation or a 3 litre toilet under the tree. But I do think a bucket of all natural iQ cleaners would make a nice house warming gift!

Anyway, I did manage to collect a few products and services out there that might actually appeal to the green building enthusiast in your life. Here are a few of my suggestions:

Kill A Watt EZ

1. The Kill-A-Watt. Are you really surprised by this one? It’s one of my all-time favourite measuring tools. I’ve used it on almost every appliance and gadget we have in our house. It’s straightforward and easy to use and measures the number of watts your computer, TV, iron, toaster, basically whatever you plug into a wall, uses. It’s a great gadget to identify the biggest and smallest energy users in your house.

Available through and other retailers.


Digital Timer Controlled Power Centre: A power bar with 8 grounded outlets, four on a timer and four independent. This power bar has 7 program opportunities and can be set to auto or random. Great for using with lights if you are away. We have our computer and wireless system hooked up to this, so it all turns off at night. (In addition to saving energy, it also stops our teenagers from staying on social web pages until the wee hours of the night.)

Available through Canadian Tire for $24.95

Energy-Wise Landscape Design

Energy-Wise Landscape Design: This is a wonderful and thorough book for the avid gardener in your life. It is not a picture book but rather a comprehensive look at how to landscape your property to lower your energy bills (cooling in summer and heating in winter), and save water. It is meant for any climate zone. The appendices help you with calculating tree height and latitude, as well as plant selection.

Available through $29.95 plus shipping.

A Milk Paint Painting Course: Milk paint is an all natural product that contains no petrochemicals consisting of a mixture of limestone, clay, casein, and natural pigments. It’s a zero VOC product that soaks into surfaces so it never peals or chips. Learning how to mix and apply isn’t difficult, but sometimes it helps to watch someone else do it first, so Homestead House, the only Canadian Milk Paint manufacturer, offers courses in learning how to paint with its product. What a great gift for the do-it-yourselfer! See their Services Page for more information on painting classes.

95 Niagara Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5V 1C3
(King St W. & Bathurst click for map)


Cork gifts and accessories: Cork is an amazing product with so many different uses. It grows on the cork oak tree in the Mediterranean. The bark can be harvested every 9 years for up to 200 years. At the Cork House in Oakville, the store is overflowing with accessories made from cork. In addition to the flooring I wrote about, there are handmade decorative cushions, cork furniture, both upholstered and wood/cork combinations, cork pads of all kinds, watch staps, cork-bound journals, purses, toilet kits….you get the idea. The store is located in Oakville in the oldest building in Halton Region.


Address: 2441 Neyagawa Blvd. Oakville, ON. L6H 6Y3
Phone: (905) 257-5588
Fax: (905) 257-5589

Energy-Wise Landscape Design — Book Review

September 13th, 2010

My oldest son’s elementary school undertook a garden restoration project about 10 years ago. The design focused on seating areas under a grove of maple trees. Now the garden is a wonderful oasis on a hot day. The tall maples keep the ground under it significantly cooler than the hot sun-exposed asphalt parking lot located right beside it. In fact, it feels like you’ve gone into an air-conditioned space when you step from full sun to the densely treed garden; the air is cooler and moister under the heavily treed canopy. When my son went there, on hot days in May and June, teachers often brought the students to this garden because it was so much cooler than their classrooms.

In the centuries before the invention of electricity and air conditioning, societies used trees, plants and building techniques to help keep their dwellings cool in summer and protect them from the harsh elements in winter. The power of trees to ward off the heat of mid-summer’s day is one of the main issues that Sue Reed addresses in her new book Energy-Wise Landscape Design. Sue, a registered landscape architect, has her own landscape design firm and taught at the Conway School of Landscape Design in Western Massachusetts for 13 years. Sue not only understands effective landscaping she knows how to explain it so that novices like me will understand it.

The book is divided into seven sections ranging from how to design your landscape to cool your house in summer and warm your house in winter, right up to generating your own electricity and energy efficient lighting.

This is a very detailed book but it’s not a difficult read. In fact while it is an excellent guide for the lay-person interested in achieving some basic energy efficient landscaping techniques, it’s also good for a landscaping professional interested in maximizing cooling and warming potential a landscape can offer.

Engergy-Wise Landscape Design is not a book filled with pretty garden photos and bucolic settings. Rather it is a reference guide to help you understand and achieve effective landscaping while minimizing your carbon footprint — both in respect to where and what types of plants to use, as well as how to lower your carbon footprint during construction of your home and/or garden.

In order to have a successful energy-wise landscape it’s important to consider the land in conjunction with home design. If you’re building a new home, careful orientation of your home can help maximize solar absorption in the winter and minimize it in the summer.

Highlights of this book include:

  • Explanations of  plant/tree placement to maximize shade in summer, solar absorption in winter.
  • Wind barriers for winter and cool breezes for summer.
  • Developing your own small ecosystem on your land.
  • If building a new home, both placement on land (if the property is large enough to have this option), orientation, and window/door placement.
  • There is even an overview of different kinds of renewable energy including geothermal and small-scale hydro.

As mentioned, trees can provide an effective shade canopy to make your air-conditioning work better in summer — if needed at all. The problem is, they need to be planted in the right spot if they’re going to do their job. That means you need to take into account not just your home’s orientation, but where in the world you’re located and the sun’s path. Sue addresses this situation and tells you how you can track the sun’s path at your own location.

This is a practical book with lots of clear sketches and diagrams to demonstrate Sue’s suggestions. If you want to maximize your landscaping dollars, consider using your plants and exterior structures to help reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs while providing a functional, low-maintenance outdoor living space at the same time.

Envirobond joint compounds for interlocking pavers and flagstone patios

May 11th, 2010

In my quest to find outdoor products that help alleviate rainwater run-off problems, I asked landscaper Connie Cadotte of Garden Retreats to recommend some products for eco-friendly landscaping. Her preferred for a joint compound is Envirobond.


Envirobond makes two types of permeable organic joint compounds (for putting between paving stones) and one permeable pavement. EnviroSand and EnviroStone are  used just as any sand or polymeric joint compound would be between paver blocks or stones. (The difference between EnviroSand and EnviroStone is in the aggregate. EnviroSand is finer than EnviroStone and is specifically developed for putting between pavers.)

When regular sand is used as a joint compound it will erode with one or two heavy  downpours. Sand also promotes weed growth as organic matter settles and rests in between the stones. It requires a fair amount of maintenance in order to keep the paver/stone area clean and looking good.

EnviroSand and EnviroStone are blends of sand or stone with an organic plant product similar to psyllium fiber. As water meets the material, the EnviroSand or Stone absorbs the water and swells, not only reducing the amount of erosion but also preventing weed growth. Further, because the product is completely organic, it is also permeable, meaning that rainwater is absorbed back into the ground reducing run-off.


EnviroSand is used for setting between pavers (such as Interlock products)

EnviroStone is used for setting between stone such as flagstone

EnviroPave is used for trails and walkways.

A few things to keep in mind regarding EnviroBond:

  • It’s best used in sunny areas where the area is able to dry out on a regular basis. Staying in water for too long will affect the compound’s stability.
  • It cannot be used over top of a non-porous surface such as cement as it would prevent proper drainage.
  • It needs a certain amount of maintenance and care after 2-3 years (touch-ups and some minor refilling in spots)
  • While it can be used with sealers, sealing it will block its permeability (however, sealing around a pool area will help the product last longer).

Dealers: There are several landscaping companies in the GTA that carry Envirobond products. Go to the dealer page on their website to find the one nearest you.

Rainwater run-off and hardscaping your home with permeable pavers

May 5th, 2010

Toronto is one of the densest cities in North America which has both negative and positive consequences. One of the negative consequences to all of the concrete, glass and steel is the lack of porous or permeable land to absorb rainwater which means it runs off into the sewer system. In older areas of Toronto the sewers are combined, meaning they carry both water run off from the streets and untreated sewage.  In torrential downpours the sewers and treatment plants can’t always handle the heavy loads and untreated water can back up and end up in the local streams and watersheds, Lake Ontario or even your basement. In addition to sewage, the water picks up any contaminants that have been left on the ground when it’s not raining and these contaminants also end up polluting local watersheds. Contaminants could be things like motor oil leaked onto the road, effluents from electronics left outside for garbage pickup, and hazardous liquid waste such as paint thinners that have been poured down the sewer instead of being disposed properly.

If more water could be diverted away from the sewer system less contaminated water would enter lakes and streams better protecting local wildlife and watersheds.

In certain wards in Toronto, mandatory downspout disconnection was passed as a by-law in 2007. Residents in the affected wards have been given three years to disconnect their downspouts. Click here to find out if you’re in one of the affected wards. There are instructions (with pictures) showing how to disconnect the downspout here.

As water issues have come to the forefront, methods and materials for diverting rainwater from sewers and to help replenish groundwater systems have become more popular. When it comes to landscaping there are many opportunities to help keep water on your land and avoid sending it into the sewer.

Driveways, pathways and patios all tend to be  hard surfaces and they typically are the areas that increase water run-off.  These areas are part of the “hardscaping” side of landscaping. However, there are materials that can be used to help prevent water from entering the sewer system.

Unilock Heritage Brown Eco-Prioria Permeable Pavers

Permeable pavers: Permeable pavers are specifically designed interlocking concrete blocks that are set farther apart than regular pavers. The pavers are specifically designed to maintain space between them so that water can drain between them. Unilock makes several different styles of permeable pavers. They are meant to be used with Unilock’s crushed stone aggregate (filler between the pavers) to promote maximum absorption of rainwater under the heaviest of conditions. The blocks themselves are designed so that there is a distinct gap between each block, while the porous aggregate fills in between the blocks. They can be used for patios and walkways too. Making sure as much water as possible stays on your property promotes ground water replenishment, keeps your lawn and plants healthy and will ease pressure on our aging sewer system.  See the list of  Unilock dealers here. 

One note about using permeable pavers. There is a certain amount of maintenance involved. They should be swept on a regular basis or organic matter will build up in the crevasses. Eventually seeds can settle and germinate causing plant growth between the blocks.

%d bloggers like this: