Sustainable Living

Energy Efficient Housing

Building and Renovating to a Higher Standard

According to Natural Resources Canada, "Canadians spent $30.5 billion on residential energy in 2018, and most of the energy (81%) was used for space and water heating". The good news is that "energy efficiency in the residential sector improved 28% over the 2000 to 2018 period".

To start, Building Science Corporation is a great place to get detailed information on how and why to build energy efficient houses. It's also a good spot to get details on how to prevent radon gas entry into your home.

Net Zero Energy Homes take houses to the next level of sustainability. Houses can be built with thermal envelopes, windows that provide a net heat benefit, which considerably reduces energy needs. Since a home doesn't require much energy (including energy for lighting as the windows provide natural light), it becomes feasible for the home to use alternative energy sources to generate and sell back to the grid. If the home can generate as much energy as it uses it is a Net Zero Energy home. The ideas used to design Net Zero Energy Homes are applicable to renovations of existing houses.

Taking sustainable houses to the next level

PassivHaus is an approach to house design that uses extremely efficient building envelopes and passive solar heat gain to heat a home. These houses can potentially be heated solely by the sun's low angled rays in wintertime shining directly into the house.

Resource Saving Technologies

Thermotech Windows are locally designed and built by people who understand passive solar heat gain, and build windows based on the direction they are oriented.

Caroma Toilets, an Australian company, set the standard for 6L/3L dual flush toilets. It's not yet in Canada but they have 4.5L/3L dual flush toilets available in Australia ( Not only do these toilets save water, but you'll use less electricity to pump the water you need to flush your toilet.

It's possible to recover up to fifty per cent of the hot water going down your shower drain. Please see RenewABILITY Energy for more details.

Make sure the appliances and electronics you buy are the most energy efficient. Natural Resources Canada's Energy Star site helps you select the most energy efficient products. One thing to note is that many electronics continue to draw power after you have turned them off, stand-by power or phantom loads have to be the worst example of energy waste, hook your electronics up to a power bar and turn the power bar off when you are done.

Bringing it all together at the design phase

The Integrated Design Process (IDP) is a building design process that realizes that to achieve a building design that maximizes resource efficiency and occupant comfort all parties involved in the design must work together and in parallel from the start of the design. The IDP is essential if large buildings are to meet Green Building standards, but the ideas are also applicable to residential homes.

Tap the Sun, Passive Solar Techniques and Home Designs is Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) essential guide to incorporating Passive solar design into a new home or renovation.

Renewable Energy Site for Do-It-Yourselfers

white electric windmills during daytimewhite electric windmills during daytime
a house with a solar panel on the roofa house with a solar panel on the roof
white couch near brown wooden doorwhite couch near brown wooden door
Healthy Homes

What you build your house with, the material and finishes you use to complete the interior, and the furniture and household products you bring into your home can have an impact on your health and wellness.

The Healthy Home page of the Government of Canada provides an overview of common household chemicals and pollutants and their health effects. It is important to know this information to minimize exposure and keep safe.

The Guide to Less Toxic Products is an online guide put together by the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia to help people select household cleaning and personal care products. It also provides information on ingredients that really shouldn't be in these products.

The Healthy Building Network is a site that advocates for the use of sustainable and safe building materials.

person cutting vegetables with knife
person cutting vegetables with knife
Eat Local & Eat Well

Chelsea has a great farmers market. All the vendors are local and many of them are certified organic. Here is one more website with a map of local farmers around.

It doesn't make much sense to buy vegetables from California at your grocery store when a local producer picked it fresh for market day. The produce local farmers grow tastes a whole lot better than what you find in the grocery store because it was selected to taste good, instead of being selected to ship well. A good book to get you thinking about where your food comes from is The Omnivore's Dilemma.

bundle of assorted vegetable lot
bundle of assorted vegetable lot
Ecological Footprint

The ecological footprint measures human impact on the Earth. .

The ecological footprint of a person or given population is an estimate of the total area of productive land and water required to produce all the resources consumed and to take in all the waste, including carbon dioxide emissions, generated by that person or population.

Ecological Footprint CALCULATOR

Our Big Footprint

The average Canadian requires 20 acres of productive space to provide his or her current level of consumption: 17 acres of land and 2.5 acres of sea.
The average American uses 30 acres to support his or her current lifestyle while the average Italian requires 10 acres and the average Afghan only 1.

Ecological Footprint of Chelsea
Approximate Population: 6500*
Assumed Individual Footprint: 20 acres
Area required by the community: 130,000 acres
Total area of the Municipality: 27,429 acres

*To accomodate our current population with our current lifestyle, our community uses a productive space more than 4 times larger than the available area!


Nature provides an average of 5.1 acres of bioproductive space for every person in the world.

If everyone on Earth lived like the average Canadian, we'd need at least three Earths to provide all the material and energy essentials we currently use.

Humanity consumes more than what nature can regenerate With a global population of 10 billion for the year 2050, the available space will be reduced to 3 acres per person.

We can reduce our ecological footprint!

We can:

  • Improve bioproductivity of nature reforestation, habitat and soil restauration

    Tip - eat organic

  • Increase efficient use of resources

    Tip - use energy efficient lights & means of transport

  • Live with less by reducing:

  • what we buy

  • what we waste

  • our energy consumption at home, for food, for transport

sand formation close-up photography
sand formation close-up photography
Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle, Rethink


Reduce what you buy

Ask yourself: Do I really need this? How long will I use it? How long will it last? Choose items with the least packaging. Use the local library or start a toy library instead of buying new books and toys. Buy used clothes, give away clothes we don't need, or host a clothes exchange party. Shop for secondhand appliances, furniture e.t.c. Take your own reusable bags shopping. Avoid disposable items.

Reduce your energy consumption at home

Hang clothes to dry instead of using the electric dryer. Turn the thermostat down on our hot water tank. Take shorter showers and use an energy efficient shower head. Turn off lights. Choose energy efficient appliances. Select a small R3000 or R2000 house with solar passive heat and a root cellar (cold room). Build toilet dams by placing plastic bottles in the tank and save water every time we flush!

Reduce in the winter

Wear an extra layer of warm clothing inside so you can turn down your thermostat. Heat only the room you are in. Insulate and seal your home properly Avoid idling your car when stopped and waiting

Reduce in the summer

Find creative ways to cool off without air conditioning. Plant deciduous trees around the house. Replace all or part of our lawn with a more natural environment like a meadow. For a lawn, use a 4 stroke engine mower or even better a hand push mower.

Reduce your energy consumption for transport

Car pool, use public transit, bike or walk If possible, and choose employment close to home. Strategically plan our driving to reduce the distance you drive. Buy locally and choose locally made products. Choose a smaller and more efficient car; hybrid cars may be possible to lease. Avoid air travel.

Reduce your energy consumption for food

Eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat. Become a vegetarian. Buy organic, unpackaged, and locally produced food. Join a natural food coop. Grow our own vegetable garden. Produce your own greens sprouts at home during winter. Avoid restaurants which use disposable dishes.


Before recycling or throwing out an item, see if you can repair or reuse it. Write on both sides of paper before recycling it. Reuse envelopes, wrapping paper and ribbons. Bring your own cup or glass to work and parties. Reuse plastic containers for storage. Find creative ways of reusing newspaper, for example, to mulch the garden. Use cloth towels and handkerchiefs instead of paper. Reuse milk bags to store maps, seeds, freeze vegetables, e.t.c.


Participate fully in recycling programs offered in your community. Organize your household to make recycling easy. Compost organic materials: kitchen & garden waste. Encourage producers to recycle by selecting recycled and recyclable products.


Once in a while declare family special-free days: a purchase-free day , a car-free day, a TV-free day, an electric lights-free evening etc. Slowly increase the frequency.


Buy natural, naked and near and if you have not found the perfect gift ...

  • Give "special day with mom or dad" tokens to your children

  • Give coupons to aunts and babysit their children

  • Give a donation in a friend's name

  • Sponsor an endangered animal at

  • Give "nearly new" clothes or "already loved" toys

  • Involve your kids in donating some of their toys to others in need

  • Give your spouse/partner coupons for a morning of sleep, night out

  • Give your kids music/art/ horse riding lessons instead of "things"

  • Make cards out of paper scraps, old photos, and scrap fabric

  • Make gifts out of recycled material

  • Make notepads as gifts from scraps of paper and ribbon

  • Make homemade jam or cookies as gifts

  • Wrap your gifts in decorated paper shopping bags, your child's paintings, comics, reusable fabric bags or dishtowels

  • Re-use traditional wrapping paper again and again

  • Use paper scraps and extra photographs to make gift tags

Top 10 considerations for green and snowy Christmas

white and black ceramic mug on white and black ceramic mug
white and black ceramic mug on white and black ceramic mug
person holding blue plastic cup
person holding blue plastic cup
red and beige heart-printed cloth
red and beige heart-printed cloth
black and white plant in white background
black and white plant in white background