Environment File: bird counts and reusable bags

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Sack it to trash

Sir George Simpson’s sewing squad is hoping their re-useable gift bags will help St. Albert kick trash and poverty to the curb.

Members of the Sir George Simpson student leadership and social justice teams started selling handmade re-useable gift bags at their school this week. The bags are meant to help families reduce Christmas waste and to raise money for the Kinette Club’s Christmas hamper campaign.

Grade 9 student Jillian Aisenstat said that she and her family had been sewing their own gift bags for the last four years as an alternative to using wrapping paper. This year, she suggested to her schoolmates that they promote re-useable bags as a way to reduce holiday waste and raise money for charity.

Aisenstat and four of her classmates came up with a design for the bag and convinced the St. Albert Fabricland to give them a 50 per cent discount. They’ve spent the last three weeks cutting and sewing some $130 worth of festive fabric into about 120 gift bags that range from paperback to large pizza in size.

“You can use them every single year,” Aisenstat said, and for many different occasions, as not all of the bags are Christmas-themed.

The bags should reduce the amount of waste families have to discard this holiday season and will save people time and money when it comes to wrapping gifts, she added.

Aisenstat said she and many of her teammates didn’t know how to sew before they started this project, and have found sewing to be a great stress reliever.

“It’s kind of a lost talent nowadays because you can just buy anything,” she said.

Teacher Megan Girard said that the bags had even sparked interest in the school starting a sewing club.

The bags cost $2 to $4, depending on the size, and will be available at Sir George Simpson until they sell out. All proceeds go to the Kinette Club’s hamper program. Call the school at 780-459-4456 for details.

Bird count

St. Albert’s ongoing heat wave could make for fewer birds for watchers to spot during this year’s Christmas bird count, says its organizer.

Capital region birders will be out with their checklists and binoculars this weekend as Camrose, Fort Saskatchewan, Lac La Biche, Tofield, and Edmonton hold their annual Christmas bird counts.

Many of those birdwatchers will also take part in the St. Albert count on Dec. 28, said St. Albert count co-ordinator Alan Hingston.

Now in its 27th year, the St. Albert count covers a 24-km diameter region centred on the old St. Albert Airport and includes St. Albert and parts of Sturgeon County. Counters will try to spot, identify and enumerate every bird they can find in this zone in 24 hours. Their results will be sent to the researchers at Bird Studies Canada to analyze population trends.

Hingston said he hoped to get 50 volunteer bush-beaters to prowl the countryside and another 100 feeder watchers to monitor urban areas. Bush-beating is typically an all-day affair, while feeder-watching can take as little as 30 minutes.

It’s hard to say how the recent warm weather will affect the bird count, Hingston said. It’s easier on the counters, but it’s also easier on the birds, meaning  fewer will be driven to bird feeders where they can be spotted.

When asked what might show up on count day, bird count veteran Dan Stoker said that he was seeing the usual robins, nuthatches, and pine grosbeaks in the city, as well as some less common black-backed woodpeckers, boreal chickadees, and a great horned owl around Grey Nuns White Spruce Park. Snowy owls are in short supply, though, as are crossbills, redpolls, pine siskins, and the normally numerous bohemian waxwings.

“I’m thinking it’s going to be a pretty slow count.”

Volunteers should call Hingston at 780-459-6389 or visit sacbc.weebly.com to sign up for the count.

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About Author

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.