Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category


The Age of Plastic

By: Fariha Husain

With the large amounts of plastic found in our homes, landfills and the natural environment, this post discusses some of the large-scale issues surrounding ‘The Age of Plastic’.

Does plastic biodegrade?

Most plastics are derived from petroleum, the end-product of decaying ancient organisms. If petroleum-based plastics are derived from biomaterials, why aren’t they biodegradable? To answer this question, it is important to understand a fundamental step in plastic production. Petroleum-based plastics are derived from a unit chemical component of petroleum that bond and form long chains when heated. These bonds require a large amount of heat energy to form, making this very unlikely to occur in nature. Subsequently, the organisms that are responsible for the biodegradation of organic materials generally do not possess the metabolic capabilities to break down these strong bonds. Earlier this year, however, a breakthrough discovery revealed that 100 Galleria mellonella worms can consume 92 milligrams of polyethylene—the most common type of plastic – in approximately 12 hours. Although results from this study are not conclusive, these worms have the potential to reverse much of the damage caused by plastic pollution in our environment. (more…)


Passive Design Architecture: A Sustainable Choice

By: Fariha Husain

Sustainable.TO is a Toronto-based design and architecture firm that specializes in delivering architectural design, building science consulting, and construction administration services to their clients. They provide passive and active building strategies, on a residential and commercial scale, that is both comfortable and sustainable. Their many passive design solutions demonstrate how the natural processes of the Earth can be utilized to create a more sustainable future!



Principal Architect Sheena Sharp: On Net Zero Homes

By: Adriana

In your experience, what are the largest flaws that you will typically encounter in traditional building plans that make them unsustainable or energy inefficient?

In my experience, nobody cares which way south is (the optimal direction for windows to be facing in order to maximize natural light usage). Many sustainable features are found in the details and from a consumer point of view, they don’t tend to care about insulation or thicker windows. There needs to be a general consumer understanding that it is often the things you cannot see that make the largest difference. One example would be air-tightness, we’ve been working on this for so long but not many people take the time to perform air-tightness tests in their homes. A typical 1970s house will lose 1/3 of all air through air leakage. (more…)


The Revolutionary WindEEE Dome: Wind Tunnel Simulates Real Weather Events

By: Adriana Rezai-Stevens

The Wind Engineering, Energy and Environment Research Institute, or WindEEE, is a located in London, Ontario and is affiliated with Western University. Their aim is to be a “global leader in wind research and innovation”, and they have done just that with their WindEEE Dome. This dome is the world’s first wind tunnel in the shape of a hexagon, differing from the traditional tube-shaped domes, and is the world’s first test chamber specialized in three-dimensional flow simulations. A wind tunnel is used in aerodynamic research, where engineers study the effects of air moving past solid objects. According to NASA, wind tunnels are typically used to move air over a vehicle to simulate environmental conditions during flight. (more…)


Mountain Equipment Co-op®: Canadian Company Sets Green Building Standards

By: Adriana Rezai-Stevens

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC®) was founded in 1971 by six Canadian mountain climbers and has grown to become the largest outdoors store in Canada with over 4 million members.

There are many physical impacts of human settlement and urbanization on natural ecosystems. The world is unfortunately headed towards a very urbanized state, and in order to prevent this from being majorly destructive, we need to plan and alter our cities and towns in ways that prevent the destruction of our planet. With MEC®’s “Green Buildings” initiative, many issues that traditional buildings pose to the natural environment are addressed. (more…)


SMARTpreneur of the year

By: Craig Stephens (York Sustainable Enterprise Consultants)

Ryan Duffy, Founder and CEO of Blackstone Energy Services Inc., was awarded as the 2017 SMARTpreneur of the year at the 7th annual Powering Prosperity Awards ceremony hosted by OSEA. Ryan was recognized for his creativity and ambition in founding and growing the successful company in the energy management sector. Founding Blackstone Energy Services Inc. in 2003, Ryan’s company now manages over $2 billion in energy commodities on behalf of their clients in the municipal, industrial, hospital, real estate, telecommunications, food manufacturing, retail/entertainment, and biofuels industries.

Blackstone’s mission is to help their customers protect themselves against rising energy costs, as well as to provide the most relevant and advanced energy solutions to ensure that clients save, sustain and thrive at the crossroads of environmental responsibility. Over the past 14 years the company has helped clients benefit of approximately $175 million in avoided cost all while providing the most sustainable options.

While starting as a 2-person operation in 2003, Blackstone now provides many high-quality jobs to over 45 employees from various backgrounds. From these professionals Ryan has handpicked a team in order to carry out Blackstone’s mission of “creating good energy” called the Energy Solutions team. The Energy Solutions team specifically helps hospitals, universities and condominiums minimize their energy consumption and carbon footprint by providing research, education and information, auditing and performing on-site retrofits based on their needs and goals.

Ryan has been acknowledged in the sector for his hard work and dedication building his company, but not losing focus on the goals of a more sustainable future. He is a well-respected leader by his peers and colleagues, and is a person to follow seeing as he always has an interesting new project or idea in the works.

ysec-logo  combines the skills of current and former students in York University’s MBA and MES programs to provide research and advisory services in the area of sustainable business. The group’s collective experience spans environmental consulting, strategic planning, finance, planning, waste management, sustainable/renewable energy, project management, and industrial design. Spanning these diverse professional backgrounds, YSEC’s consultants share a common aim: to advance social, environmental and economic sustainability by promoting responsible business strategies and practices. Follow them @YSEC_CA


Silfab Solar – Winner of the Manufacturer of the Year Award

By: Mike Skirzynski (York Sustainable Enterprise Consultants)

OSEA was very pleased to award Silfab Solar as this year’s manufacturer of the year at the Powering Prosperity Awards Gala for their technologically advanced manufacturing processes, which produce high-efficiency and high-reliability modules on an international scale. At their Ontario-based fully automated facility, Silfab is able to produce 300 megawatts of solar modules per year which is equivalent to over 550 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. One of Silfab’s technological innovations has been bifacial modules which offers ultra-high efficiency, and competitively priced Ontario-made modules. (more…)


WaterFarmers Aquaponics providing a Sustainable Alternative to Conventional Agriculture

By: Nayel Halim (York Sustainable Enterprise Consultants)

With food security becoming a pressing issue with the onset of climate change, WaterFarmers Aquaponics is exploring innovative, and out-of the-box solutions.

What is aquaponics you might say? It is a system of aquaculture that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. In this closed-loop system, the waste produced by farmed fish provides nutrients for plant growth. In return, the plants purify the water, which is recycled.

WaterFarmers Aquaponics is a professional aquaponics-consulting group that provides these technology-based food security solutions. They specialize in designing aquaponic systems that are highly scalable and provides valuable and diverse plant crops, as well as freshwater fish.

With increasing demand for local, sustainable, and high-quality food, aquaponic technology offers a feasible and practical solution.

WaterFarmers has an extensive portfolio of unique projects, with active ventures in Canada, the Middle East, and Asia. Their systems are highly customizable and can be adapted for a variety of site-specific conditions.

Toronto’s Fresh City Farms at Downsview Park for instance, is the largest operating aquaponic system in all of the Greater Toronto Area. It is situated within a 3000 square foot greenhouse! Not only does it produce fresh, organic vegetables, it also has a significant social impact. They also run workshops for member farmers and the public, where people come together to process the harvest and learn about the science behind this ingenious method of food production.

Another project taking advantage of this sustainable method of urban agriculture is at the Scadding Court Community Centre (SCCC). SCCC participated in last years Green Energy Doors Open (GEDO), where they showcased their aquaponics system that can produce various plants such as lettuce, kale, bok choy, and basil. This produce all goes towards local programs and are sold at reasonable prices, with the income generated supporting the upkeep of the system. In addition, the community centre also contributes towards socio economic development by providing valuable education and training for youth who will maintain the system.

Such systems may just pave the path towards revolutionizing the conventional agriculture industry into one that is more sustainable, practical, and eco-conscious. Learn more at:

ysec-logo  combines the skills of current and former students in York University’s MBA and MES programs to provide research and advisory services in the area of sustainable business. The group’s collective experience spans environmental consulting, strategic planning, finance, planning, waste management, sustainable/renewable energy, project management, and industrial design. Spanning these diverse professional backgrounds, YSEC’s consultants share a common aim: to advance social, environmental and economic sustainability by promoting responsible business strategies and practices. Follow them @YSEC_CA


Southbrook Vineyards at the Forefront of Sustainable Wineries – LEED® Gold Certified

By: Adriana Rezai-Stevens

The wine industry and the natural environment are closely connected, making sustainable winegrowing ecologically important. The Niagara Peninsula houses multiple wineries that make up a fraction of the total 17,102 acres of winery property in Ontario. Southbrook Vineyards is Canada’s first biodynamic winery, and is a great exemplar for sustainable agriculture in Ontario. This was the first winery building to achieve LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification by the Canada Green Building Council in 2008. This rating scheme sets the global standard and encourages the adoption of green building systems.  (more…)


Lazaridis Hall Building: Innovation on Campus

By: Adriana Rezai-Stevens

The Lazaridis Hall building at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, is brand new and full of innovative technologies making it LEED® Gold certified. This building is beautifully designed and fosters a creative learning environment for students in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics.

Many environmental features have given this building LEED® certification, one of which being the rare and progressive cooling and heating technology. A chilled beam system, a type of convection HVAC system for larger buildings will turn off the heating and cooling system when no one is in the area so that air may be recycled and not wastes when there is no one around. These beams are suspended from the ceiling and contain water pipes, when the pipes pass cold water through, the beams will cool the air around it, allowing it to become dense and fall to the ground. As the cool air falls, warmer air rises and cools the room. This is not only a cost efficient way of cooling and heating an entire building, but is energy efficient as well.

A complete Grey Water Recycling System involves collecting lightly used water from sinks, showers, fountains and washing machines to flush toilets or irrigate surrounding landscape. An underground cistern is used in the Lazaridis Hall building to collect rainwater instead, being a larger commercial building – however the idea is similar. This helps conserve precious water and can relieve nearby wastewater treatment plants.

LED lights are used throughout the building, and light sensors are in place in order to turn the lights on or off depending on whether or not someone is in the room. This combination saves on electricity (especially in large buildings where many areas are not always occupied), and reduces the amount of light pollution.

The Lazaridis Hall building is a great example of how we can use multiple energy saving technologies to create an all around energy efficient commercial building. With University symbolizing innovation, technological advancement, and creativity – there is no reason why others shouldn’t follow suit and get their campus buildings LEED® certified.