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Grocers, innovators work to save $31B in food from being trashed in Canada each year





Lori Nikkel first discovered how much food gets wasted in Canada when she was a single mother to three hungry boys in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. 

Nikkel and a group of other low-income mothers had convinced their local Loblaws grocery store to donate food to their children’s school for a student nutrition program. 

Often, Nikkel found out, the store was overstocked because it ordered too much of certain items. The excess food went to Nikkel and the school — otherwise, it would have gone to waste. 

“I remember once getting 500 pineapples,” Nikkel said. “It was great.”

Nikkel is now the CEO of Toronto-based charity Second Harvest, which connects suppliers and distributors with non-profit organizations across Ontario to distribute excess food so it doesn’t end up in landfills. This week she was on a panel at the Zero Waste Conference in Vancouver. 

The Toronto charity Second Harvest collects excess food that would otherwise go to waste and delivers it to non-profit organizations across Ontario. (Second Harvest)

Canada wastes an estimated $31 billion worth of food each year — about 40 per cent of all the food produced. More than half of that occurs before it gets to the dinner table, when it’s discarded by farmers, food manufacturers and distributors. 

Nikkel says food gets wasted across the supply chain, from farmers who can’t sell blemished apples to manufacturers that slightly mess up a batch of bread, to grocery stores that end up with too many items about to reach their best-before date. 

“People just consider it the cost of doing business,” she said. ​”Where food is getting made, there is loss across the chain.”

Food waste has become a salient topic, not only because edible food gets tossed out while millions of people go hungry. Organic waste also produces methane when it decomposes in landfills, making it one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions.

But people like Nikkel are trying to change that. And businesses that want to root out inefficiencies to protect their bottom line are listening.

Overproduction of food

Second Harvest collects food that would otherwise go to waste and delivers it to more than 300 non-profit organization across Ontario. The organization focuses on fresh food, like produce, meat and dairy. 

“There is an overproduction of food globally and it actually leapfrogs over people and goes into landfills, creating a huge environmental challenge,” she said during a lunch break at the conference on Thursday.

Other groups at the conference dedicated to preventing waste included Vancouver-based tech start-up FoodMesh, which also connects surplus foods to charities, and Provision Coalition, which works directly with food and drink manufacturers to help them become more efficient. 

One of the other people on the panel with Nikkel was Sam Wankowski, Walmart Canada’s senior vice-president of operations for Western Canada. 

Last April, Walmart committed to have zero food waste across its organization by 2025. 

“It just makes good business sense,” Wankowski said. “If we can … improve the efficiencies of our processes and our infrastructure, that just increases value for everyone.”

‘We can do a lot more’

Walmart came under a lot of criticism in 2016, when a CBC Marketplace investigation found garbage bins full of produce, bottled water, frozen foods, meat and dairy products that appeared to still be fresh and safe for consumption. 

But Wankowski says the company’s new policy didn’t stem from that criticism. He says Walmart’s food waste reduction initiatives were already underway by then, and the company has decreased food waste by 23 per cent over the last few years. 

“We know we can do better and we can do a lot more,” he said. 

Bins full of food behind a Toronto-area Walmart store in 2016. Walmart says it has improved store processes and employee training to keep food out of the bins. (CBC)

Walmart has implemented several tactics to decrease food waste, Wankowski said. First and foremost it’s trying to sell the food it carries — this means more precise tools to forecast demand so it can order accordingly — and dropping the prices of soon-to-be expired items. 

And through its philanthropic arm, the Walmart Foundation, the company is giving away $19 million to organizations that help reduce food waste in Canada. 

‘There’s good food out there’

Some critics say that diverting excess food that would otherwise end up in landfills or elsewhere won’t solve world hunger. 

University of British Columbia professor emeritus Graham Riches explores that issue in his new book, Food Bank Nations: Poverty, Corporate Capture and the Right to Food. He argues that the best way to help people who need access to food is to give them a living wage so they can afford it, instead of receiving charity.

More than half of Canada’s food waste comes from the supply chain. The remaining 47 per cent is wasted by households.

Nikkel​ agrees that a lack of adequate income is one of the main drivers of hunger, but she says there’s work to be done until then.

She adds that the food she distributes doesn’t need to just go to those in need — it’s simply surplus food that shouldn’t be wasted. 

“This doesn’t necessarily have to be about low income,” she said. “There’s good food out there, why aren’t we eating it?”



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Real Estate

The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021





Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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