100 mile diet

Cold Room

IMG_4044

 Last summer’s garden potatoes and garlic.

The Mill Creek Net Zero Home has a cold room built under the front porch.

The cold room, or root cellar, has long been a friend to those living in northern climates. It takes advantage of the fact that the temperature six feet underground remains a relatively constant temperature year-round.  Therefore, it keeps the room cool in summer, and warm enough not to freeze in winter.

Our cold room has been working perfectly since it was built. During the winter it is about as cold as a fridge. Our potatoes and garlic are still in perfect condition four months after harvest! Plus I only need to buy beer a couple of times a year.

The room is about 6’ x 10’. It is thermally separated from the rest of the house, and we don’t actively heat or cool it. Its concrete floor was poured directly onto the earth because we actually want the heat/cold from the earth to enter the room.

IMG_4047

Cold room, Mill Creek Net Zero Home

We insulated the interior of the walls with two inches of polyisocyanurate board (about R7 per inch), and added R28 worth of pink insulation in the ceiling. There are also two vents to the space (see above picture), but we’ve kept them plugged with rags so far. The idea is that we could attach a fan to one of them that runs during the Fall and Spring nights to further cool the space. The concrete floor acts as a heater (in winter) or a heat sink (in summer).

Some construction details: when you are standing on the front porch, there is 5” concrete on a reinforced 8” grid, a layer of plywood, 7.25” of pink insulation, and then another finishing layer of plywood under you.

IMG_4041 

The room is thermally separated from the heated space.

 IMG_4048

A reused interior door was insulated by gluing a spare piece of foam to it.

Our cold room provides us with a free way to store food from the garden long-term. It would easily act as a fridge for milk and such during the winter if we ever needed it to.

It saves us energy in today's world, and it provides us a hedge against future disruptions to our energy supply. I suspect that we will be very grateful for this cold room at some point along the way.

Local Organic Milk

IMG_3991

Local organic milk, available from Earth’s General Store

By far, the best way to reduce the environmental impact of your diet is to reduce your meat and dairy intake. It’s a fact, and it was a bit surprising to me, given how much emphasis is placed on eating local organic food.

In the same way that the three Rs, reduce, reuse and recycle, illustrate the order of importance that your actions have, I would describe the choices about food as reduce meat and dairy, eat local, eat organic. Okay, it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it’s probably close to the truth.

I was raised within a food culture that puts meat and dairy front and centre, and while my family has made significant changes for the better, we still eat our share of dairy products.

That’s why I was happy to discover that Earth’s General Store is carrying organic milk from an Edmonton-area dairy. Milk from Saxby’s Creamery is organic and local, making it a significantly better choice than the other milk out there. And at under $5 per two litres, the price is right.

My appreciation goes out to Michael Kalmanovitch and his crew at Earth's for continuing to push the envelope on good, green, local choices.

Garlic

IMG_3485

I used to think that garlic was an exotic food. I thought it was like the mango - something so full of flavour couldn't possibly come from nearby, could it?

I couldn't have been more wrong. Garlic is in fact easy to grow in Edmonton and impossible to grow in the tropics. Ha! Suck on that year-round-luscious-food-having tropical countries!

Since it also stores very well, Edmonton could be self-sufficient in the stinking herb if it wanted to be.

It's time to plant your garlic for next year. Here's how:  read more... »

Greater Edmonton Alliance

image

The Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA) is the most exciting thing to happen to Edmonton, sustainability-wise, in forever.

The alliance, composed mostly of churches and unions, has taken on local food and energy efficiency retrofits for existing houses as its two main initiatives.

They have produced some amazing results so far. Among other things,  they packed a city hall meeting with almost 700 people to help save some of Edmonton’s priceless agricultural land last year, and they also organized the very high-profile potato giveaway last summer.

Sustainable Works Launch on Wednesday

If you’ve wondered how to go about retrofitting of your older home, the Sustainable Works program is for you. GEA plans to help retrofit thousands (thousands!) of homes in Edmonton over the coming years. The big launch is on Wednesday . I’ll be there, and I hope that you’ll consider showing your support.

image

The Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA) invites you to the launch of  read more... »