In a time where people are becoming more aware about where their food comes from and its impact on the natural world, a group of students from Lacombe Composite High School are doing their part to produce sustainable food while lessening their ecological impact.
Three years ago, the school’s EcoVision Club began its greenhouse project. Today, the project is well underway with the greenhouse producing all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables
As are all the projects EcoVision undertakes, the greenhouse project is to make the school more ecologically-friendly and in the process, make ecological leaders out of its students, said Steven Schultz, the club’s staff supervisor.
Club member Mattie Dewalt said the goal of EcoVision, in addition to building ecological awareness, also includes community building and leadership within the school. She said the zero-energy greenhouse project went a long ways to accomplish that goal as almost everyone in the school was working on the project. Of course, the other benefit of the greenhouse is the food it produces. Club member Jerelle Bristol said the Club is producing corn, , squash, melons, peppers, even tropical fruits like lemons and bananas inside the greenhouse.
Food produced is used in the school kitchen as well as sold outside the school.
What is special about EcoVision’s greenhouse is that it is designed to a zero-energy greenhouse. This means the greenhouse will be self-sufficient. At this point, the greenhouse does require some external power but the Club is working on installing a system to remedy that.
Features that help the greenhouse decrease its energy requirements include the shape of the building itself. Bristol said the dome shape allows for even heating. It also means that wherever the sun is, the building still gets heat, added Schultz.
The greenhouse’s structural features don’t end there either. It contains a wall of reflective material that reflects heat back inside the greenhouse, said Dewalt. The panels of the greenhouse walls are built out of polycarbonate glass that helps hold heat in.
If it gets too hot, vents in the greenhouse will open automatically. The vents use beeswax which opens the vent once heated to a certain degree, said Dewalt. Another heat-regulating feature in the greenhouse is climate batteries which draw warm, moist air down when the greenhouse is too warm and then release back into the greenhouse once it has cooled off, said Bristol.
Heat regulation is an important part of greenhouse gardening, said Schultz. He added that above 20C most plants will thrive and the greenhouse works to maintain a temperature above 20C but below 30C, where plants suffer from the heat.
Recently, a sub-project of the EcoVision zero-energy greenhouse project received BP Petroleum’s A+ for Energy grant.