Paint my house green, please

Lancaster Duplex_4

By Melany Hallam

What do you think of when you hear that someone is “building green”? Do you think that the house will be made of unusual materials and that it’ll end up being really expensive?

This is a common belief in the Powell River housing market today but change is coming, albeit slowly.

“In Powell River, cost is really a factor in green building. So if I can show a customer that the cost of one type of material is about the same as another that can be recycled, then they’ll consider it,” says CaroleAnn Leishman, an architectural designer and project manager who has been with Agius Builders Ltd. since 2001.

Agius is the only building company in Powell River that offers to build and certify houses to Built Green Canada standards. According to Built Green, “building green” just means building homes with greater energy efficiency and reduced pollution and waste, healthier indoor air and reduced water usage. As a result, natural resources are conserved, while improving home durability and reducing home maintenance. Common sense stuff, really.

“We’ve only registered a handful of houses Built Green in Powell River,” says LeishmanCaroleAnn Feb 23 2014, who has been certified with Built Green Canada to assess and register homes since 2006. BUILT GREEN® registration involves a checklist of features as well as a blower fan door test of a home, which will show how air tight a home is and will also show how to fix leaks, making a building more energy efficient.

But it isn’t necessary to register a house to build in an environmentally conscious way. Leishman says that greener building in general is gaining ground thanks in part to education in the industry, although more so in larger urban areas than in markets like Powell River.

One good example of a green building material that has become mainstream locally is fibre cement siding. “Compared to wood siding, fibre cement siding has greater longevity and less maintenance, so it’s cheaper and easier. When you tell people that, they’re good with that,” says Leishman.

Another resource saving building choice that has been around for a long time is low flow plumbing fixtures, originally brought in as water metering became more pervasive.

Educating customers about these types of green building choices is something that builders and trades people can only do if they educate themselves first. The reason for doing this can come from personal interest in environmental issues, but there are also new financial incentives available as well as government regulatory changes. And these incentives and regulatory changes are being prompted by the strongest driver of green building—rising energy costs.

“I’ve seen the number of home owners building more energy efficient double in the last ten years,” says Leishman.

“We need to realize that we are using a lot of energy and because of this we are creating enormous amounts of greenhouse gases which causes climate change,” says Leishman. “So, yes, we need to be penalized for how much energy we’re using because that’s the only way we can curb our habits.”

“The tools are starting to come where I can show people, for example, that if you get a heat pump instead of electric baseboards, your hydro costs every month are going to be half,” says Leishman. “Along with an air tight building envelope (read, “no little holes in your walls and roof”), your initial investment could be paid off within a few years.”

The provincial government is encouraging home owners to create buildings that use less energy through incentives now offered by BC Hydro ( and FortisBC ( Leishman says that the Province is also looking at making it mandatory for new homes to get an EnerGuide Rating, a Natural Resources Canada standard measure of your home’s energy performance.

Lancaster Fourplex_3There are also local government green building recommendations in the works. Leishman`s other hat is as a representative on the Sustainability Steering Committee for the City of Powell River.

“The committee is in the very early stages of making some recommendations to Council for “green” or energy efficiency requirements for new housing,” says Leishman. The upgrades suggested initially will probably be things like:

  • making a house “solar-ready”;
  • requiring an EnerGuide Rating; and,
  • installing an electric car charging plug outside the home for a future electric car.

“These things might not be mandated at this point but encouraged with rebates if they are adopted,” adds Leishman.

All of these levels of regulatory change mean that local builders and trades people will need to include more green building practices in the future—whether they are mandated by local, provincial or federal governments, or encouraged with financial incentives.

Across the water in Comox, the town has already put a program in place offering strong financial incentives for new residential building projects and renovations to build green (

“As a result, we`ve done an entire subdivision in Comox that meets BUILT GREEN® Gold standards,” says Leishman. This standard includes such things as low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and finishes, better quality indoor ventilation and advanced framing techniques using less lumber.

The building scene is definitely shifting, says Leishman. She advises that, for someone just starting out in the construction industry, showing an interest in green building (and having a course or workshop on your résumé to show this) might give you an extra edge with some employers.

“There`s tons of information (and even training) available online, specific to roofing, framing, plumbing, refrigeration, and more,” says Leishman. “If you’re interested and you really want to wow a potential employer, do some research and be able to, for example, speak about better insulation properties and these sorts of things.”

Here are some places to start:


Want to Plant Trees for a Living?

By Maureen Latta

Sure, it takes a strong back to be a tree planter, but there’s more to the job than physical endurance. Those in the know say anyone interested in planting trees as a career also needs to be determined and have a strong work ethic.

That’s because tree planting is piecework. You are paid by the tree, so the more trees you plant in a day, the more money you earn. If you can’t learn the ropes and get up to speed quickly, you risk going home with little casTreeplantingh.

Chris Akehurst, one of the owners of A+G Reforestation, says he looks for highly motivated people with some idea of what they are getting into. And it helps to know a tree planter who can recommend you.

“Our most successful hires are referrals from people who are already doing the job,” says Akehurst, who planted his first tree in 1975. “It’s very good if you know someone.”

As any recruiter will tell you, it’s hard to judge how motivated someone is during a job interview. And although some aspects of tree planting—like working outdoors amid some of the province’s most spectacular scenery—sound appealing, it is challenging work, and not just physically.

“You have to have a basic physical ability, but I would say the challenges are more mental,” says Akehurst. “The work is hard, and if you don’t get into it, you can find it kind of pointless and silly. And if you’re not making any money and you’re planting in the rain and then, the next day, there are bugs, and you’ve got long hours and you’re tired and you’re on a piece of ground that’s not very good, there’s a lot frustration. But people who work through it, do well at it. You have to motivated, you have to be prepared to be uncomfortable physically, and you have to be prepared to do hard physical labour. The people who succeed are the people who mentally decide that’s what they’re going to do.”

Those in the industry say tree planters need to be adaptable. Conditions can range from steep mountain slopes to flat plateaus, and weather, particularly in the high country, can be unpredictable. Tree planters deal with rain, snow, hail, wind, and blistering sun.

You also need to get along well with other people. Tree planters come from all walks of life and may be living in isolated camps. So it’s good to be cooperative and have a positive outlook to minimize the tensions that can occur in small groups.

Still, if you can hack it, there is money to be made.

Akehurst says an experienced tree planter can make more than $300 a day. “There are people who average over $500—not many of them, but there are people like that,” he says.

But for beginners, the returns are considerably lower—perhaps $100 to $200 per day, once you start getting the hang of the job.

“We always say it takes a season to learn how to make money, so that’s probably eight weeks of work to learn how to be successful at it,” says Akehurst.

Tree planters should apply as early as December or January for the coming season, as there are many more applicants than jobs. At A+G Reforestation, one of BC’s oldest forest service companies, hundreds of novice planters who apply are turned away each season.

It’s a business reality that in an industry based on the number of trees planted, an experienced planter makes more money for the company than a rookie.

The demand for tree planters has been fairly constant, although hiring levels can fluctuate. “The last couple of years have been pretty steady and projections are, for the next couple, it will be pretty steady, but after that there may be a decline,” says Akehurst.

That’s because the logging industry has geared up to handle vast swathes of BC Interior timberland hit by the pine beetle in recent years. Once loggers have dealt with the beetle kill, the industry expects a slowdown. Fewer trees cut means fewer trees need to be planted.

If you’re considering a career in tree planting, it’s a good idea to talk to any planters you know and also do some research online.

One good resource is the Fit to Plant program at Selkirk College, which helps planters get in shape and prevent injuries,such as tendonitis in the wrist. The program, at, says people who follow the eight-week, pre-season program plant about 12 per cent more trees and suffer 40 per cent fewer injuries and illnesses than those who don’t.

Another good resource is It has information about getting into the career, along with links to companies that hire tree planters.

The website even has its own hall of fame, where people nominate each other for awesome planting feats. Bravado is part of the culture, but the reality is that keeping track of numbers and feeling good about your physical prowess can make tough, dirty work go more easily.

Another way to learn more is to check out blogs written by tree planters. Jeremy Cohen, at has posted lots of photos, along with practical advice about gear.

Tree planters love their war stories, whether it’s fighting exhaustion, getting caught in storms, or encountering bears. But even sunny days with temperatures over 30 Celsius have their perils, according to Cohen, a seven-year veteran. “It makes you contemplate spitting against whatever little wind there is in the hopes that it will come back and hit you in your face,” he writes. “The snow-capped mountains in the distance become objects of hatred and jealousy. We do not like the heat.”

For a more literary take on the subject, read Eating Dirt, a tree-planting memoir by local Sunshine Coast author Charlotte Gill. The book was the 2012 winner of the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and was nominated for the Hilary Weston Writers’Trust Prize, the Charles Taylor Prize, and two BC Book Prizes.

Career Link Covers The “Green” Economy

Earth Week in Powell River is April 22-27

Earth Week events are set to take place in Powell River, BC from April 22-27, 2014 (with a main event at Willingdon Beach on Saturday April 26), and Career Link is gearing up for a series of Career Sense blog posts on the Green Economy.

Most of us think of “green jobs” as having to do with:

  • Agriculture and Aquaculture (using organic and sustainable methods to produce food as locally as possible; this could include sustainable practices in tree-planting, and more)
  • Green Building (using renewable, recycled or re-purposed materials carefully, and avoiding waste, but also using site selection to minimize energy usage and to conserve water, etc.). We can also include green renovation and retrofitting (often to save energy for heating or cooling homes, and/or water). We can include “greener” urban planning  here as well (in-fill development, reducing urban sprawl, highway and street design to reduce traffic, etc.)
  • Green and Clean Energy (solar, wind, some hydro-electric, passive solar, geothermal, alternative fuels such as biodieselbioalcohol (methanolethanolbutanol), chemically stored electricity (batteries and fuel cells), hydrogen, non-fossil methane, non-fossil natural gasvegetable oilpropane, and other biomass sources.

    Passive Solar home design
  • Greener Infrastructure and Design that enables and encourages sustainable transportation choices (alternatively-fueled buses and special bus lanes, bicycles, subways, sky trains/monorails, light rail,  ride-share)
  • Eco-Tourism: sustainable tourism that treads lightly on the earth, and highlights the beauty of the natural environment and the need to preserve areas of interest
  •  Remediation services (reversing or stopping environmental damage), including environmental clean-ups and the building of infrastructure preventing environmental damage (innovative products like multi-hulled ships, industrial pipes with sensors to detect spills, etc.)
  •  Recycling services (including delivery/pick up, customer service, processing, and manufacturing new products from recycled materials)
  • Education, activism, environmental law, advocacy, (including governmental and non-profit jobs in conservation, and media jobs like writing, film/video-making, photography, design and other content production). Many organizations and governments at all levels employ people for whom addressing the environment and sustainability forms at least some of their tasks.

While all of the above are definitely valid, the websites and Good Work Canada (and others; see below) remind us that “green” jobs are also to be found in other areas that we don’t often consider, like for example, the financial sector (through sustainable stocks or bonds that support  businesses that produce “green” products or provide services of development and remediation), and in the sciences as new methods and products are emerging daily to both deal with the effects of pollution and unsustainable practices, as well as to find alternatives.

We hope you enjoy the series and let us know what you think. Drop by Career Link to view our Earth Week display, including some of these interesting facts below! Also, take a look at Powell River’s own Sustainability Charter and see how the City has supported many “green” ideas.

Did You Know…

Over 1.7 million workers in Canada spend some portion of their time on environmental activities, representing 10.3% of the total Canadian labour force.

Environmental employment has grown rapidly from 70,000 green workers in 1992 to over 730,000 professionals in 2013 who spend at least 50% of their work time on environment-related activities.
More businesses are looking for professionals who can link environment-related expertise with business planning. These are the top two competencies that companies are looking for:
• Corporate Environmental Program Planning & Implementation (mentioned in 32% of green job postings) and
• Environmental Business, Technology and Product Development (listed in 31% of green job ads).


The Environmental Protection sector currently has the greatest demand for workers with environmental competencies – it accounts for 38% of recent green job vacancies. Demand is also high for environmental professionals in Resource Conservation (21% of green job vacancies) and Renewable/Green Energy (11%).

78% of environmental professionals are engaged in their work, compared to just 64% of the total Canadian workforce.

This means that green workers are more likely to do more than is normally required on the job, believe that their contribution is valued by their employer, and recommend their company as a great place to work.

– See more at:

Green Job websites

Extension on Get Youth Working!
Click on the banner to visit their website

New Funding Now Available
Apply NOW

Get Youth Working! Program

We are pleased to announce that the Get Youth Working! Program is extended and
that they are now accepting applications for new hires with a start date on or after April 1st, 2014. The Get Youth Working! Program offers employers a $2,800 hiring incentive (up to 3 employees at $2,800 each) to hire eligible youth between the ages of 15-29. Additionally, employers may request up to $1,000 to purchase training for the newly-hired youth.

Apply online now or visit them at

The Hiring Incentive Application is Easy!

Conduct  your own recruiting.  At any time during your recruiting process
complete and submit an online application.  The approval process is
quick and easy and if you and your proposed new hire meet the program
criteria, you are eligible for the funding.

See if you qualify at or reach them at

Have you used the GYW Program previously?

Existing employers who have hired through the Get Youth Working! (GYW) program previously, may qualify for 3 hires from April 1st, 2014 – September 30th, 2014.  If you have used the program previously or applied and have been approved, please click here if you’re ready to hire a youth or email

Career Link is not affiliated with the Get Youth Working! program, but provides this information as an aid to job seekers and employers.

Coastal Postings March 2014: A monthly look back at our job postings


Accommodations 9
Administration & Business Support 3
Agriculture, Animals, Aquaculture 4
Construction 10
Education 3
Finance 4
Food Services 18
Health Care 14
Manufacturing 1
Other Services (non government) 3
Public Administration 3
Recreation & Sports 1
Retail Trade 13
Social Assistance 8
Transportation 3
Waste Management/Remediation 2

Want to trade that business suit for Birkenstocks and adopt the remote worker lifestyle?

Emma Larocque manages a Google Plus page for a US-based company from her home in Powell River.
Emma Larocque manages a Google Plus page for a US-based company from her home in Powell River.

By Maureen Latta

From small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, a growing number of forward-thinking

employers understand that workers don’t necessarily have to be physically present in the company office to get the job done. Remote work (also called telecommuting or telework) is a growing trend partly due to an increasing shift to contract work and partly due to apps that make meeting online easy.

Career Sense interviewed three remote workers based in Powell River who work in the Writing/Design and Information Technology sectors. These are a few of the sectors in which telecommuting is common because most work is computer-related and can be done from any location with a good Internet connection.

We asked Melany Hallam, Aaron Pinch, and Emma Larocque about the benefits and challenges of working remotely. They shared their experiences and their advice for anyone thinking about working remotely from Powell River.

Melany Hallam works from home in desktop publishing.
Melany Hallam works from home in desktop publishing.

Why Work Remotely?
Anyone who lives in Powell River knows what “the Powell River lifestyle” means. The phrase evokes mountain hikes, ocean adventures, beach picnics, affordable living, and the relative tranquility of a small haven far from the madding crowd. Many people want to live in Powell River and yet not be limited by the local job market. Working remotely is a viable option.

“The good thing about it is that you can go off for a walk in the middle of the day and no one can look at you and say, where are you going?” says Melany Hallam, who has been working remotely in the desktop publishing field for the past few years.

“It allows me to be in Powell River, plain and simple,” says Aaron Pinch, who works for a Vancouver-based IT company ( “It allows me to have the Powell River lifestyle, to be able to afford a home, and be able to go into the outdoors and backwoods.”

How to Get Remote Work
Generally, people who are successful at transitioning to remote work already have in-demand skills and solid experience in their field. The number-one piece of advice: network.

“It sounds really cliche, but networking is huge,” says Pinch. Nearly four years ago, while Pinch was operating Powell River Microsystems, a mutual friend introduced him to the founder of a small IT start-up. Pinch ended up becoming a senior employee of Clio, which now has more than 100 employees, including 70 in its Vancouver head office and four working remotely from Powell River.

“All of the jobs that I’ve gotten remotely, with the exception of Vegan Mainstream, have come from contacts that I have personally,” says freelance writer Emma Larocque. Working for Vegan Mainstream has become her main job, and her connection with the US-based company was the result of a “cold call.” Larocque wanted to do some writing related to her personal interest in a plant-based diet. She started writing blogs and the work evolved into managing the company’s cookbook club Google Plus page and producing training materials.

Hallam landed her first remote client after a friend forwarded her a Craigslist ad in 2008. But she notes that most of her jobs come from personal referrals. “You can’t be a stay-at-home shut-in. You have to talk to people to get work,” says Hallam, who in 2009 started Maywood Design, a desktop publishing and design business.

[Beware of answering work-at-home ads. Most such ads are actually scams. Learn more here:]

Aaron Pinch works remotely to maintain his Powell River lifestyle.
Aaron Pinch works remotely to maintain his Powell River lifestyle.

Communicating with Clients and Colleagues
One of the biggest differences between working remotely and working in a company office is the way colleagues communicate with each other.

“One benefit and challenge, all at once, is the fact that you do have the disconnect from the rest of the staff,” says Pinch, who works primarily from a small office on Marine Avenue shared with three other Clio employees. “So that’s really good if you need to put your head down and put your nose to the grindstone and work without interruptions. It’s a heck of a lot easier to do it when you’re in a small office where you can close the door than in an office with 70 people. The flip side to that is when you’re looking for people to move projects along, you don’t have the ability to walk around the office and find them or walk to the meeting rooms and wave at them from the door.”

Telephone and Internet-based meeting tools are a must-have for remote workers. Telemeeting tools range from free services, such as Skype and Google Hangout, to more elaborate applications, such as GoToMeeting, that charge a monthly fee and allow large group interactions.

Hallam says it’s important to her to meet with her main client, the Potters Guild of BC, in Vancouver at least once or twice a year. “It’s a better working relationship if you have personal contact,” she says.

If you work for a company in another country, in-person contact might be impossible; but lack of physical meetings is not necessarily a drawback. Larocque says she’s never met anyone from Vegan Mainstream in person, yet she considers her employer to be a good friend.

Pinch points out that commuting by air for the occasional Vancouver meeting is easy. He can leave home at 6:30 am to catch a flight, and arrive at head office before a coworker who left home at the same time from Langley or Surrey.

Lifestyle Benefits and Challenges
Want to trade in those office pumps for Birkenstocks? People attracted to the remote worker lifestyle typically want greater freedom in their lives. Remote work is generally associated with flexibility. Many remote workers can indeed set their own schedules, although it depends on the type of work and your employer’s needs. There’s little requirement for business apparel, and working in sweatpants (or even pyjamas) is kosher.

Hallam says, “It makes it a lot easier to do the things you want to do in your life.”

For Hallam, the lifestyle benefits and challenges are the same. “You can work whatever hours you want, which is a benefit, but it’s also a challenge.” For example, she’s not a morning person and prefers to work later in the day, but on the other hand she doesn’t like being out of sync with friends who work more normal hours.

And while the freedom to take walks during the workday is possible, deadlines still have to be met, and that can mean very long hours tied to the computer. “That’s the thing with contract work,” Hallam says. “You have to do the work when you get it.”

Check out this blog for productivity tips: The Best Six Tips for Being Super Productive While Working Remotely

Workplace Considerations
The costs of equipping oneself for remote work are modest. A good computer, a telephone and/or teleconferencing application, and Internet access are sufficient.

“The Internet is critical for any business, but it’s that much more critical when your entire business is online,” says Pinch, whose employer pays the office expenses because there are multiple remote employees in the Marine Avenue office.

Both Larocque and Hallam work from dedicated office space in their homes. Larocque points out that there are telephone, Internet, and power bills associated with working remotely, but typically these are bills she’d have to pay anyway. “It’s fairly low cost because it just kind of melts in with your home expenses.”

Personal Qualities
Self-discipline is probably the number-one personal quality needed to be a successful remote worker. Hallam sums it up: “Are you going to be disciplined enough to do the work when there’s nobody looking over your shoulder?”

Attitude is a close second. “Your attitude when you’re working on your own remotely makes a huge difference in whether clients want to work with you,” Hallam says, “You have to be someone who’s reliable and easy to work with.”

Here’s some final advice for those who are tempted by the benefits of remote work.

“I think the biggest thing is to not sell yourself short,” Larocque cautions. Aspiring remote workers who search the Internet will find that a lot of places advertising for people to work remotely are not interested in paying very well, she says. In an effort to build a portfolio, it’s easy to get snared by companies promising that their poorly paid gigs will lead to better opportunities. “Don’t do anything for free,” Larocque says. “Find your experience some other way. Find it by working where you live.”

Keep track of your time and money, Hallam advises. “Make sure you have a method of determining whether [a job] is worth your time. Don’t spend a lot of time on things that don’t make you a lot of money, unless it’s something you are passionate about.”

Be tenacious, says Pinch. “Companies are embracing the work-remotely, work-at-home model…Try to identify some companies that do support remote workers.” Pinch added that Clio is continuing to hire skilled staff, some of whom may be remote workers. Visit

Blog at

Up ↑