Friday, April 19, 2013

It's all in the preparation...But is it?

It's all in the preparation...But is it?

Interestingly enough, we can tell you how to craft a good speech, a little humour, no politically incorrect topics or phrases, then oh my...the person who doesn't do any of the aforementioned places first.
So, as a seasoned Toastmaster, I can only recommend that you speak on what's near and dear to your heart and soul. Always ask yourself "If I only had one chance to share with an audience, what would I want them to know?"

Think about the message you want to share, there has to be a point.

Getting ready for a contest means being prepared to move on. You just never know what will happen. For a lot of us, the first time winning is purely accidental...but from then on
it hardly is.

So will you be prepared for the next contest?

It has been an exhilarating experience for me and one I wish to continue experience, heck it's legal and much cheaper than drugs!

Annette Lavigne
A member since 1995
Owner/Creator of Shy Busters!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Guest Post - Off Grid Housing in Southwestern Ontario

Though he has been unable to officially join our group (for awhile at least), we were quite pleased to have Carl Bottema join us for a couple meetings as a guest.  Wanting to be engaged with our group, he oferred at one point to write a blog entry on something he was truly interested in and I happily agreed.  It's our hope that he will join us a little later...perhaps the fall?  Carl?  -- Tim Norton (President)
Off Grid Housing in Southwestern Ontario
The age old saying has never seemed so true; A penny saved is a penny earned. Although this saying is applied to a variety of applications it can also be situated in the sentence of off grid housing. When a person has decided to go off the grid, they are taking a large step in decreasing their dependency of being on the grid as well as being free from the monthly costs of energy to operate the home.

When deciding upon going off the grid, analyzing the current loads within the home are required to understand these demands.  The energy saved within your home results in little need to generate fossil fuel or renewable energy.   Even if you are connected to the grid, having these conservative and efficient strategies will equate to lower energy bills. By creating a home with energy efficient appliances and strategic building design will reduce renewable energy system expenses or eliminate the need for backup power.

Those that are aware of the appliances in which they are using and what needs to be used and when, can help you adjust habits to minimize household energy use.  In order to determine which appliances is most energy efficient, it’s those that require no energy input.  This may seem too easy but by simply hanging clothes to dry on a clothesline instead of using a dryer saves energy. The next strategy is to use energy efficient appliances.  Evaluating the key energy losses within a home are crucial for reducing the loads with these are the Electronics, HVAC equipment, and well-sealed home.

Once an understanding of the loads within the home have been determined it can be reduce by consciously knowing that their using a great amount of energy and detrimental for an off grid house.   By making this little bit of effort throughout the entire house ensures that there is little energy used for living inside the home.  Incorporating structurally insulated panels, passive solar design, energy efficient appliances and heat recovery ventilators significantly reduce your dependence on the grid.

For an off grid house to operate effectively and consistently it must be supported by a consistent renewable energy supply for the system to be seamless.  The energy supply needs to be strong enough to support the loads within the home.  There are the typical ways of generating electricity which include photovoltaic, wind energy and wood power yet the uncommon sources such as micro hydro, solar hot water and geothermal are very useful dependent on your situation.

In order for an off grid house to operate effectively there must be strategy for storing the energy until it is needed or required. In a home this can be difficult because of the inconsistency of the energy use throughout the day.  For a family household, everybody wakes up around 7 and there is a large energy use of the shower, cooking devices, lights, etc. Than they go to school or to work throughout the day when there is little to no energy use. When everybody comes home around 4 the hydro peaks until 9 in which everybody goes to bed.  Preparing a consistent energy supply for this is very difficult due to the irregularly use of the time in which energy is used. That is why it is important to have energy storage in order to store the energy when there is abundance and save it for times when it is required.  These include thermal storage, batteries and elevated water supply.

                                                                                                                                              By Carl Bottema

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Toastmasters and the Environment

Toastmasters and the Environment.

The environment is one of today's hot topics. As well it should be. There are very few things in this world that have an impact on every single person on the planet. The environment and what happens to it will effect everyone from the Arctic to the Amazon, from the carrot farmer in the Holland Marsh to the sheep herder in New Zealand.

There are two ways we can look at the environment from a Toastmasters perspective. What we say and how we react to environmental ideas in our speeches and table topics comments can have a profound impact. But I think we should talk first about the environment on a more personal and immediate level.

Next time you go to your local meeting take a look around the room. One of the things you will notice is that a lot of people will have a beverage at hand. This is not surprising since Toastmasters meetings usually involve talking and speeches. Most people will need some type of liquid to keep from becoming too parched or to dislodge that frog that sometimes sets up in our throats.

Beverages are a good and necessary thing when talking is involved but the containers that these beverages come in needs some consideration. Did you know that plastic water bottles contribute up to 2 million tons of plastic waste ever year in the US. That plastic requires around 47 million gallons of oil every year to produce. The producers of bottled water will tell us that the water bottles can be recycled – true. But the fact is that over 80% of plastic water bottles simply get thrown out eventually making their way to the landfill where they can take up to 1,000 years to bio-degrade.

Instead of grabbing that bottle of water, consider a metal water bottle filled from home. Not only will this save money, but it is also a healthier alternative.  Many plastic water bottles contain the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA), that has been shown to be harmful to our health (Canada and US have recently banned BPA use in baby bottles). There is very little regulatory oversight concerning bottled water. Municipal tap water on the other hand is regularly inspected for bacteria and toxic chemicals. There is very little empirical evidence that suggests bottled water is any cleaner or better for you than the water that comes out of your tap at home.

Let's take a look at paper coffee and tea cups. Although made of paper a lot of coffee cups are not recyclable. The problem is most paper cups for hot beverages are laminated with a plastic resin. This process helps keep the contents hot and may stop leaking but it also prevents them from being recyclable. The average coffee drinker will throw away around 250 cups per year. In the US that works out to 58 billion cups a year. That is a lot of trash. In addition it takes 20 million trees and over 12 billion gallons of water to make those disposable cups.

There is an answer. It is not all doom and gloom. There is a way we can enjoy our favourite beverage and at the same time have a positive impact on the environment. It is called the travel mug. Travel mugs are a simple way we can bring a hot drink to a meeting and not contribute to the landfill. Available at most coffee shops, hardware and department stores, travel mugs are also insulated so they do a better job of keeping your beverage hot. So you can enjoy that tea without burning your hands.

So if you want to make a personal impact on the environment, consider bringing your travel mug or perhaps a metal water bottle to the next Toastmasters meeting. Using a metal water bottle or a travel mug is not only safer and healthier you will be making a positive, more sustainable choice for the environment.

Rick Nesbitt