Clean & Green 13

Clean & Green 13 challenges people to take a look at their every day lives and realize what kind of impact their actions have on the watersheds that we all share.

It’s a list of some positive steps that you can take right now to improve the health of Muskoka’s watersheds.

Public Service Announcements

Clean & Green 13 PSA #1 – CHAY 93.1 (2005)
Clean & Green 13 PSA #2 – CHAY 93.1 (2005)

Clean & Green 13

I want my watershed to be Clean & Green, therefore I will:

1. Reduce my gasoline consumption

There are several reasons why we should reduce our gasoline consumption. Gasoline itself is toxic. It contains hundreds of chemical compounds, many of which are known to cause or suspected of causing cancer. As gasoline is burned in your automobile, it produces many compounds that are harmful to both our health and our watershed. Cars create enormous amounts of pollution, harm habitats and air and water quality, and contribute to global warming.

The car you choose, when and how you drive it, and how you take care of it will determine how much your vehicle pollutes. There are a number of simple actions that you can take to reduce the environmental impact of your individual automobile on our watershed.

  • Driving fewer kilometers will help reduce air pollution. Plan ahead, combine several errands into one trip, and try walking or biking for short errands and leisure activities.
  • Get regular tune-ups and replace worn spark plugs and dirty air filters, both of which will increase fuel consumption in your vehicle. When changing the oil, use an energy-conserving grade of motor oil (EC or EC-II rated oil) and dispose of used oil properly.
  • Driving at a steady speed and avoiding traffic helps to increase fuel efficiency and reduces the wear and tear on your vehicle.
  • Stop and start evenly. Gentle acceleration and coasting to a stop reduces your gas consumption.
  • Maintain proper tire pressure and wheel alignment to get improved mileage and fuel efficiency from your vehicle.
  • Don’t idle the engine unnecessarily. Turning off and starting an engine uses less gasoline than letting the engine idle for 30 seconds.
  • Don’t “top off” or overfill the gas tank. Vapours can escape, leading to the creation of smog.
  • When purchasing a vehicle, look for the most fuel-efficient vehicle available in the category that meets your needs. Cars with standard transmissions are more efficient than automatics. If you need an air conditioner, purchase a car that has a CFC-free air conditioner.

Despite better pollution control devices and more stringent emissions standards, driving practices themselves will determine how much a vehicle pollutes. These fuel-efficient driving practices are simple examples of how we can reduce harmful emissions into our watershed everyday.

2. Buy fuel-efficient engines (in vehicles, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, etc)

When buying a new vehicle, lawnmower, snowmobile, boat or other road or nonroad machine, place priority on purchasing one that contains a fuel-efficient engine.

Pollution from passenger cars and trucks accounts for about one-third of all air pollution and one-fifth of all carbon dioxide emissions. For every litre of gasoline a vehicle burns, approximately 2.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere (EPA, 2001).

Some vehicles are cleaner and more efficient than others are. The choices that we as car buyers make when purchasing new vehicles affects the quality of air we breathe and the amount of greenhouse gases we create.

When purchasing a new vehicle, there are features that you can look for that will reduce the impact the vehicle will have on the environment. Vehicle weight, size, engine characteristics, accessories and fuel consumption rating are all factors to be considered when choosing a vehicle.

There are many resources available for consumers to help them buy the cleanest, most efficient vehicle that meets their needs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed the Green Vehicle Guide ( to help consumers make more environmentally informed choices when purchasing a vehicle. As well, the Government of Canada publishes a Fuel Consumption Guide every autumn which can be picked up at participating new car dealers and most vehicle license offices.

Fuel efficiency is also an important factor to consider when purchasing a nonroad machine (i.e. lawnmowers, snowmobiles, ATVs, and boats). Nonroad machines are responsible for ten percent of total hydrocarbon emissions, a component of ground level ozone and one cause of respiratory system irritation.

The most common type of engine found in nonroad machines is a two-stroke engine. As they are currently designed, two-stroke engines release significant amounts of pollution into the environment. As 20-33% of the fuel goes right through the engine unburned and is released into the environment, fuel efficiency is low and potential harm to the environment is high.

Some of the approaches taken to improve upon the two-stroke engine design and produce more environmentally friendly machines include:

  • Replacing two-stroke engines with four-stroke engines to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions;
  • Replacing carburetors in new two-stroke engines with direct fuel injection systems;
  • Improving fuel atomization in two-stroke engines for leaner burning mixtures; and
  • Treating exhaust to reduce emissions from two-stroke engines.

Machines powered by electricity are becoming more common as they produce essentially no pollution from exhaust emissions or through fuel evaporation. Hybrid powered vehicles are being produced in greater quantity, and there are electric alternatives for almost all types of lawn and garden equipment. Electric snowmobiles and ATVs are also being developed.

If you are not in the market for a new engine, then using reformulated gasoline or oxygenated fuels such as 10 percent ethanol blend and using synthetic biodegradable lube oils can reduce potential impacts to health and the environment. Also, be sure to keep your engine tuned and follow a regular maintenance schedule in order to keep your engine working in peak condition and to reduce the pollutants being released into your watershed.

3. Inspect my septic tank every 2 to 3 years and have it pumped regularly

Given the number of shoreline residences in Muskoka (more than 24,000) and the associated wastes, it’s not surprising that the first “Clean & Green 13” action that you can take around your house or cottage has to do with your septic system.

Often-overlooked aspects of home life, septic systems have the potential to be major factors influencing the condition and quality of our lakes and rivers. From the findings of the septic system inspections being carried out by the different towns and townships, there is reason to be concerned.

The way you treat your septic system will influence how long the system lasts and how well it will function. The periodic expenses you incur over the years to have your system checked and pumped out are nothing compared to the expense of replacing a system damaged by years of neglect.

  • How your septic system works
  • When things go wrong with your system

In simplified terms, your septic system consists of a tank, a network of pipes and billions of microscopic organisms. The tank treats sewage by letting the heavy solid materials settle and allowing time for lighter materials (called scum) to float to the top. The partially treated wastewater then flows into perforated pipes (the leaching bed) where it filters into the ground and is further treated. Bacteria and microorganisms in the soil digest and remove impurities such as suspended solids, organic chemicals, viruses and bacteria. The treated wastewater eventually finds its way to the groundwater.

Here are many simple things that you can do to ensure that your septic system functions properly:

  • Ensure your tank is inspected every two to three years by a qualified person and is pumped out every three to five years depending on use. Summer or early fall is the best time for this.
  • Conserve water and reduce waste flow into your system – too much water will overload your septic system and cause wastewater to be released untreated.
  • Reduce your use of phosphate-based detergents and cleaners, which can impair water quality and fish habitat.
  • Avoid construction and activities in the area over your leaching bed – extra weight can crush the pipes or compact the soil.
  • Don’t plant trees and shrubs on top of your leaching bed – the roots can damage your pipes. Instead, plant a wildflower meadow that can help filter wastewater and absorb excess nutrients.
  • Minimize grass watering around the leaching bed area – extra water can reduce the bed’s ability to absorb and treat wastewater from the buildings.
  • Don’t pour out or flush harmful chemicals and substances into your system as they can kill beneficial bacteria and render your system useless.

There are several signs that you can look for that tell you your septic system may not be functioning properly. The ground over your leaching bed may be wet and spongy or the grass may be unnaturally lush and green. You may notice unpleasant odors in your house or drinking water, or your toilets and drains run more slowly than usual. You may notice significant algae growth in or around nearby lakes and streams, or there may be high levels of nitrates, bacteria or other contaminants in your well water.

Any one of these signs is cause for concern. A malfunctioning septic system can result in harm to the natural environment or public health by polluting lakes or contaminating drinking water supplies.

If you would like to have your septic system inspected, contact you local town or township office for information about their septic system inspection program. If you need to upgrade or replace your system, look for a licensed installer in the yellow pages or ask your township to recommend some names.

4. Use phosphate-free soaps and alternative cleaners such as baking soda and vinegar

Many of the cleaning products we use at home and often pour down our drains are toxic to us and to those downstream from us. Sewage treatment cannot remove all of these harmful chemicals before releasing them into the environment.

  • Phosphates and nutrient enrichment
  • Household cleaning products

Phosphorous and nitrogen are nutrients that do not get treated in our septic systems or waste treatment facilities. They are found in fertilizers and laundry detergents, and when they find their way into our lakes and streams, they can cause major problems.

One example of this is eutrophication – a natural process by which a lake turns into a bog and eventually into land. Under ordinary circumstances, this process takes decades. However, high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrogen in our lakes accelerate the eutrophication process by enriching the water with nutrients, causing aquatic plants and algae to bloom.

As this plant growth explodes, it chokes off the oxygen supply normally shared with other organisms living in the water. When the plants die, their decomposition uses up even more oxygen. As a result, fish suffocate and die, and bacterial activity decreases.

Such was the case in Lake Erie in the late 1960s. The phosphates present in laundry detergents was the main cause, and when a law was passed in 1972 to cut the phosphate content in these detergents by about 90%, the lake made a remarkable recovery. This situation can be avoided in Muskoka if we choose to use products that do not contain nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen.

Cleaning products are among the most toxic substances that can be found in our homes. It is estimated that Canadians pour 3 million pounds of household cleaners down the drain everyday. That adds up to more than a billion pounds a year – and a major problem for our environment.

When purchasing commercial cleaners, there are several things to keep in mind. Look for biodegradable cleaners and cleaners that have the federal government’s Environmental Choice EcoLogo. Buy only those environmentally hazardous products you really need, and buy them in quantities you will be able to completely use up. If you do have leftovers, dispose of them properly and promptly.

Many people choose to make their own non-toxic household cleaners out of products found in their kitchen. Here are some of the most common ingredients and what their properties are.

  • Baking Soda: An all-purpose, non-toxic cleaner. It cleans, deodorizes, removes stains and softens fabrics.
  • Borax: A natural mineral that is an alternative to bleach. It deodorizes, removes stains and boosts the cleaning power of soap.
  • Castile and Vegetable Oil-based Soaps: Cleans everything.
  • Cornstarch: Starches clothing and absorbs oil and grease.
  • Lemon Juice: Cuts through grease and removes perspiration and other stains from clothing. It can be used as a bleach alternative.
  • Vinegar: Cuts grease, removes stains and reduces microbial contamination.

Combinations of these and other products will allow you to achieve better results than just using one. Products such as baking soda or borax are effective soil removers, while other products such as vinegar are effective at reducing microbial contamination. Therefore, a solution containing baking soda or borax and vinegar makes an effective all-purpose cleaner. There are other such natural alternatives for almost everything you need to clean.

However, when mixing your own cleaning solutions, it is important to remember to never mix chlorine bleach with other chemicals, especially ammonia, as poisonous gases are formed.

Making the switch to natural, less toxic household cleaners not only benefits our watershed, but can also lead to improved indoor air quality in your home, decreased exposure to chemicals, fewer waste disposal concerns, convenience, and lower costs. So why not try it for a while?

5. Take paint, batteries, aerosol cans and petroleum products to hazardous waste depots for disposal

Few people consider the harm they are doing to the environment and drinking water supplies by pouring leftover hazardous wastes down their drain. Many of the products found in your kitchen, garage, bathroom, or workshop are classified as hazardous because they can poison, corrode, explode, or burst into flames if not handled properly.

Proper household hazardous waste management practices include using non-hazardous alternative products; purchasing hazardous products only in amounts that you will need and use up; participating in waste exchange programs; recycling and composting; and preparing household hazardous waste products for landfilling.

The most common household hazardous wastes that present disposal problems are motor oil, paint, pesticides, and batteries. These materials can poison our water if they are not used correctly, stored carefully, and disposed of properly. It is important to read the label, follow all of the directions, and never mix products together as this can create a violent reaction.

If you do need to dispose of excess hazardous material, there are a few things you can do to prepare it for the landfill and decrease the chance for contamination.

When disposing of used motor oil, drain the oil through a funnel into a clean container that can be tightly sealed. Then take the container to a local used oil collection site. Many service stations that do oil changes will accept used motor oil for recycling.

When discarding paint, you should solidify it with an absorbent material such as kitty litter or sawdust and then allow it to dry. It should then be double wrapped in plastic and taken to a hazardous waste depot site. An alternative to discarding extra paint is to donate it to a youth, community or service group that can make further use of it.

Aerosol cans should be empty before taking them to a hazardous waste depot site. When discarding batteries, check to see if local retailers have recycling programs in their stores. If not, take your used batteries to the hazardous waste depot.

The District of Muskoka operates a Household Hazardous Waste Program. Visit the Waste Management in Muskoka webpage for locations and hours of operation, or download the Muskoka Recycles app.

Nearly all households generate hazardous wastes. It is our responsibility to ensure that these wastes do not contaminate our watershed and groundwater resources. The best way to accomplish this is to make use of the hazardous waste disposal programs already in place in Muskoka to safely dispose of your unwanted and outdated hazardous materials.

6. Recycle and compost in order to reduce my household garbage to 1 bag per week

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you to read that Canadians produce more garbage per person than just about any other country in the world. In fact, it is estimated that the average person in Ontario generates a whole tonne of trash a year!

In Muskoka, this garbage is taken to dumps and landfills where it can contribute to various environmental problems such as atmospheric pollution in the form of greenhouse gases, leaching into groundwater and surface water, and poor water quality.

So why should you try to reduce your household garbage to one bag per week? Because our landfills are getting full. And when a landfill is full, a new one needs to be made. How are you going to feel when the new landfill is in your backyard? Are you going to think then that you did enough to reduce your garbage output?

Even though almost 85% of Canadians recycle, we still need to do more. We are fortunate in Muskoka to have a comprehensive recycling program. As much as 80% of everyday waste materials can be recycled, and much of what is not recyclable can be composted. Visit the District of Muskoka’s Waste Management in Muskoka webpage or download the Muskoka Recycles app for more information on what you can and cannot recycle.

  • The four R’s
  • The benefits of composting

We all need to practice the four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. And it should be in that order because it’s better to reduce wastes at the source when possible.

We should work on reducing the number and amount of goods we consume. Then, we need to see if waste materials can be reused. The next step is to recycle and compost as much as possible. We then need to recover energy and valuable materials from waste that is properly burned or treated.

Buying products with recycled materials in them, avoiding over-packaged items (such as individually wrapped hot dogs) and using your own cloth bags when shopping are just some of the ways we can reduce waste.

If each of us makes an effort to reduce our own wastes through the principles of the four R’s, then together we can make a big difference.

Like recycling, composting can also prevent a significant amount of waste from going to the landfill. As an added bonus, composting also produces a valuable soil amendment that can improve the texture and fertility of your soil.

Whether you choose to build or buy a composter, there are a few features you should look for. Your composter should have a lid that protects the pile from rain and snow and allows you to control how much moisture gets in. It should have holes or vents to allow air circulation, as well as a means of removing the final product.

You should place your composter in a well-drained area and where it is convenient to use. You want to locate it where it can get as much sun as possible in order to have high microbial activity.

The finished product of your composting efforts should be a dark, rich, soil-like substance with a good earthy smell. Once you have collected enough compost, you can mix it into your soil and spread it evenly throughout your garden.

By composting, not only are you reducing the amount of waste going into your landfill, but you are also decreasing the need for chemical fertilizers on your lawn and garden.

7. Reduce my use of chemical fertilizers and eliminate my use of pesticides

There are several reasons to wean your lawn off drugs. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers contaminate surface and groundwater resources, diminishing the quality of our drinking water, aquatic habitats, and health of aquatic organisms. Many fish and aquatic insect species are highly sensitive to substances such as pesticides and fertilizers.

Not only do these chemicals affect aquatic organisms, but also terrestrial species such as robins, geese, squirrels, pets and humans can become ill when coming into contact with pesticides and fertilizers. Children are most affected by these chemicals, mainly due to their elevated chances of exposure from playing outdoors on contaminated grass.

Another reason to stop using chemical fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn is that chemicals actually degrade the over-all long-term health of your lawn. Long-term use of chemicals on your property can lead to pesticide-tolerant pests and fertilizer-dependent grasses, both of which require ever-increasing amounts of chemicals to remain effective.

So how do you maintain a beautiful lawn without resorting to chemicals? It’s easy! And the result will be a more healthy, beautiful and lush looking lawn than you ever thought possible, and with less time and effort, too!

  • Fertilize
  • Aerate
  • Overseed
  • Mow
  • Water

The primary principle behind maintaining a healthy lawn without chemicals is that you need to nourish the soil. Natural fertilizers that accomplish this include compost, manure, grass clippings, and slow-release organic fertilizers.

To fertilize with compost, simply sprinkle or rake it evenly over your lawn. To fertilize your lawn with grass clippings, simply spread them out on your lawn after mowing or use a mulching lawnmower. Grass clippings are an ideal fertilizer because they are full of nutrients and organic matter that can help to boost soil fertility by up to 30%. Grass clippings will also return moisture to your soil and shade it from the sun’s drying rays.

Aerating your soil relieves compaction and cultivates the soil. Natural aerators such as earthworms perform an important job by increasing air and water penetration and movement in the soil, keeping your lawn healthy. In addition to attracting and maintaining natural aerators, you can manually aerate your soil in the spring or fall prior to fertilization.

Overseeding your lawn once a year with a mixture of grass species will help keep your lawn thick and healthy. A lawn composed of many different grass species is better able to deal with and recover from stresses such as drought and disease. A dense lawn will crowd out weeds, and overseeding allows bare spots to become covered and prevents weed species from becoming established. If do you notice weeds starting to sprout up, sprinkling corn-gluten meal on them will kill new seedlings and provide nitrogen for your lawn.

The way you mow your lawn is an important factor in determining its health. It is necessary to keep you mower blades sharp. Dull blades tear at grass, giving it a frayed look and making it more susceptible to disease. You should never cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blade at once, as this will send the plant into shock and result in longer grass clippings that will take longer to decompose.

When you do cut your grass, you should set your mower on the highest setting. Leaving your grass at least three inches long will encourage strong roots, shade out weeds, shade the soil to reduce water loss, and make your lawn appear thicker.

One final tip that will help you maintain a healthy lawn naturally is to water wisely. Your lawn needs no more than one inch of water a week. This requirement can usually be fulfilled with rain. However, in drier seasons, it may be necessary for you to provide the water. You should deeply water your lawn once a week during the early morning or early evening. Watering your lawn more often will promote shallow roots and unhealthy soil.

8. Preserve the natural vegetation and trees on my property

The basis of a natural ecosystem is a complex combination of vegetation that forms canopy, understory, and herbaceous layers. It is easier to maintain this complexity than to restore it after most of the vegetation has been removed.

The native species present on your property have many benefits over the horticultural or exotic species you may wish to replace them with, including traditional non-native turf species.

Plant species native to the Muskoka area are adapted to the diverse weather and soil conditions found here. They are more resistant to pests and diseases, and are more likely able to tolerate droughts.

In addition, native vegetation requires little maintenance, provides excellent wildlife habitat, and allows us to reconnect with our natural heritage.

The best thing to do is to not remove the native vegetation from your property in the first place. However, if it is too late to preserve this vegetation, it is not too late to restore it.

Fall is an excellent time to plant native trees and shrubs on your property. During their dormant period when the weather turns cold, they grow vigorously to establish roots in their new location before spring rains and warm weather stimulate top growth.

Trees and shrubs offer many benefits for our environment and for us. As few as three trees around your home can reduce air conditioning bills by half, and offer protection from wind, snow, rain and solar rays. They contribute to clean ground water by trapping nutrients and pollutants in their hair-like root fibres, and their roots and leaves help clean the air and water by removing particulate matter.

Trees and shrubs are important in retaining and cycling nutrients and minerals. They tie up mineral and nutrients from the air, water and soil through growth and transpiration, and upon death they return nutrients to the soil through decomposition. They are also important for erosion control by anchoring soil in place so it cannot easily be washed away by wind or water, and runoff is slowed, allowing more time for absorption into the soil.

The beauty and usefulness of trees and shrubs make them an important part of our watershed, and they should be an important part of your property.

9. Handle fuel, oil and other chemicals with great care and have an action plan to deal with any spills that occur

Some products are more toxic than others are, and some products pose a greater threat than others, due to their use and possibility for contamination due to spills. Some of the chemicals found around your property that have a high possibility of contaminating your water sources include fuel, oil, and pesticides. These products are generally used outdoors and are easily spilled.

When spilled, gasoline quickly evaporates and pollutes the air. The only action to take is to prevent spilling the gasoline in the first place. When pouring gasoline, pour slowly and smoothly and avoid overfilling the tank. It is important to keep the spout and the vent hole on gasoline containers closed tightly in order to minimize air pollution due to evaporation.

Oil is another chemical frequently spilled and not cleaned up properly. Oil is toxic to plants, fish and other animals. A very small amount of oil is capable of contaminating thousands of litres of water.

Work on vehicles and machinery should be confined to a paved area where drips and spills can be quickly cleaned up without contaminating the soil. If soil is contaminated, then it should be collected and delivered to a hazardous waste depot for disposal.

It is wise to have an action plan in place to quickly deal with any chemical spills that may occur. If you spill a hazardous chemical on yourself, you should immediately wash well with water (no soap) and change your clothes immediately. The clothes should then be washed separately.

If you get a chemical in your eye, you should immediately rinse the injured eye from the nose outward with lukewarm water, taking care to keep the good eye above the injured eye. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

If you spill a chemical on the ground, contain and cover the spill with an absorbent material such as kitty litter or sawdust, sweep and scoop the absorbent material and chemical into a plastic bag, and take to a hazardous waste depot for disposal.

By taking quick action in the event of a spill, you can minimize any impacts on your health and on your watershed.

10. Ensure that my docks, boathouse and other structures do not occupy more than 25% of my shoreline

If you own a waterfront property, chances are you have a shoreline structure of some sort. Now, any changes to a natural shoreline will have some negative impacts; however, you can reduce these impacts by limiting your shoreline development to no more that 25% of your shoreline.

The first step in reducing the impact of your shoreline structures on the health of your lake or river is to pick an area no larger than 25% of the frontage where there is little or no vegetation and to set it aside for your dock, boathouse, swimming area, etc.

Before you begin altering the shoreline, it is important to remember to obtain all the necessary permits. At least six federal and provincial laws affect shore work in Ontario. According to the federal Fisheries Act, the responsibility is on the landowner to ensure that shoreline work does not “harmfully alter, disrupt, or destroy” fish habitat. Failure to obtain approval before beginning shoreline alterations can lead to hefty fines and even jail time.

When developing your shoreline, there are a few environmentally friendly practices you can follow to help ensure that your activities do not affect fish or fish habitat.

The first is to select structures that minimize disturbance to the river or lake bottom. Cantilever, floating and post-supported docks and boathouses are recommended because they only disturb river or lake bottoms minimally, and they do not restrict the movement of water near the shore.

If you need to use cribs in your structures, it is best if you use an open-faced design. Open-faced cribs without solid planking provide fish and aquatic organisms with spaces to hide from predators. Cribs should be placed at least six feet out from the high-water mark.

Vertical planking should not be used along the sides of your dock because it can restrict the movement of water. Instead, you should use bridging between cribs or poles that allows the water to circulate.

The safest materials to use in shoreline structures are untreated woods such as cedar, fir, hemlock and tamarack. When submerged, these timbers will not decompose. Plastic wood can also last a long time if it is installed properly.

You want to avoid projects that require in-water dredging. Dredging may be harmful to fish and their habitat, and permits will be needed to carry out this work.

You need to ensure that your in-water activities do not occur during local fish spawning and nursery periods as the work can disturb spawning behaviour, smother eggs and kill young fish.

Even within the 25% of shoreline that you have set aside for development, you should still minimize the amount of shoreline vegetation removed. This vegetation will prevent the shoreline from eroding and causing sedimentation problems in your lake or river. Building a small walkway from your cottage to the dock or boathouse will help maintain the shoreline vegetation by keeping people from trampling it.

Do you want to have a boat launch on your property? Avoid constructing it out of cement as this destroys the fish habitat it is placed on. Alternatives such as gravel or a marine railway will have less impact.

By incorporating these environmentally friendly practices into your shoreline developments, your projects will more likely be approved and you will be reducing your impact on your watershed.

11. Leave the remaining 75% or more of my shoreline in its natural state

Natural shorelines have long been recognized as an important component of healthy and productive waterbodies. Unfortunately, it is still all too common to see landowners clear away the “messy” vegetation in their shoreline area and replace it with lawns and retaining walls.

You can still enjoy your waterfront property while preserving water quality and wildlife habitat by limiting your shoreline development to a small area and leaving the remaining 75% or more of your shoreline in its natural state.

It is important to maintain the scenic beauty and natural character of Muskoka’s lakes and rivers, not only for aesthetic reasons, but for practical ones as well.

Shoreline vegetation benefits water quality by reducing the amount of sediment, nutrients, organic matter and pesticides that enter our rivers and lakes.

There is no better way to prevent soil erosion that to leave your shoreline in its natural state. Plant roots anchor the soil, preventing it from being washed away by currents, waves and rain. This preserves fish spawning beds, which can become destroyed by sediment accumulation due to erosion.

Overhanging branches from trees and shrubs shade the waters to prevent overheating and provide cover for small fish and other aquatic organisms. Debris such as logs and boulders also provide cover for many species, spawning areas for fish, and will serve to reduce the impact of waves on your shoreline.

There are several ways to go about protecting or restoring your shoreline.

  • Preservation – a natural shoreline is retained and access to the lake is designed in such a way as to avoid shoreline damage.
  • Naturalization – degraded shorelines are left alone to return to their natural state.
  • Enhancement – native species are planted and non-native species are removed.
  • Restoration – cleared areas are planted with native species.

The simplest way to get your altered shoreline back on the right track is through naturalization. Simply mark out an area reaching at least 10 feet back from your shoreline and stop mowing it. Native grasses, shrubs and trees will colonize the area.

The process is an interesting one, with wildflowers and grasses moving in the first year, and trees and shrubs following a year or two later. Non-desirable species can be selectively cut or hand pulled. You can gradually increase the naturalized area each year.

Many native plant species are extremely attractive. You can create an aesthetically pleasing property while providing food and habitat for wildlife, preventing erosion, and maintaining water quality. Take the time to enjoy the view, instead of mowing the lawn.

12. Prevent erosion by reducing boat wake effects on shorelines

Watch Your Wake BrochureMany people don’t think that boat wake has a harmful effect on shorelines. After all, haven’t waves been around since before people came to the area? Waves are a part of nature and so shorelines should be adapted to them, shouldn’t they?

Yes, they should be, but when waves (and wake) are coupled with extensively altered shorelines, degradation results. And in many cases, wakes caused by boats are much higher than waves naturally caused by wind.

The law in Ontario states that power-boaters must slow down to 10 kilometres an hour within 30 metres of a shoreline, and ignoring this law can result in fines of up to $500.00. There is good reason for this law being in place. Not only are large wakes harmful to the environment, but to people and property as well.

  • Environmental Impacts
  • Personal Impacts
  • Reducing Your Wake

Large waves and wakes can impact upon the environment in several ways. The most obvious result is erosion. Sediment from riverbanks and shorelines are washed into the water, along with trees and other plants whose roots have lost their support.

Sediment washed into the water can cloud it, affecting swimming, boating, and fishing, while trees that have fallen into the water can be pushed up against docks or other structures and damage them.

Creating wake in shallow areas causes water to drag along the bottom and disturb plants, animals and eggs in the area. Churned up mud can cause silting of fish spawning habitat and will stick to fish, insect and frog eggs, depleting them of oxygen and causing them to die. Large wakes also affect the environment by swamping the nests of loons and other waterfowl.

Wake can also have a negative impact on people. A large wave can cause an undertow where the water is very shallow. Young swimmers can be pulled under by the undertow, or be forced underwater by a large wave crashing over them.

Wakes can rock, swamp or capsize other boats. Passengers can be thrown off balance or overboard when another boat passes too fast and too close. Wakes may also damage docked boats by thrusting them against their moorings.

The size of a boat’s wake depends on the hull size, boat speed, distance from shore, and depth of water the boat is operating in. Being aware of these factors while boating is the first step in reducing your wake. Other steps to reduce your wake include:

  • Always being aware of your wake, especially when changing speeds or boating in shallow waters.
  • Slowing down enough to eliminate your wake when required.
  • Installing trim tabs to get up on a plane quickly and keep your boat level.
  • Boating in deeper waters and not getting too close to other boats or the shore.
  • Positioning your passengers throughout the boat, instead of just at the stern.
  • Slowing down well before you come across another boat or structure, as your wake will move out at right angles from your boat.

By being aware of the wake you create, and minimizing it whenever possible, you will be ensuring that the natural environment you enjoy while out boating is sustained for the years to come.

13. Buy a 4-stroke engine in any future boat or other recreational vehicle purchase

Automobiles and other on-highway vehicles have long been subject to strict regulations concerning the amount of emissions they are allowed to produce. Increased fuel efficiency and technological advances such as the development of the catalytic converter have greatly reduced the amount of pollution that these vehicles produce.

As emission controls for on-highway vehicles have become more effective, the relative contribution of small engine emissions to overall environmental pollution has increased. It has only been in the last few years that governments in both Canada and the United States have turned their attention to developing regulations for reducing the amount of pollution created by non-road sources such as snowmobiles, ATVs and PWCs.

As usual, the United States is ahead of Canada and already has legislation in place to ensure that, by 2006, all new outboard engines and PWCs sold in the U.S. will use low-pollution technology. Canada is in the process of aligning its requirements with those of the EPA in the United States.

  • The Two-Stroke Engine: Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Low-Pollution Technology
  • Benefits of Low-Pollution Marine Engines
  • Did You Know?

The two-stroke engine has several advantages that make it an ideal choice for use in tools and recreational vehicles in which the motor is not used very often and a good power-to-weight ratio is important.

Two-stroke engines do not have valves, making their construction fairly simple. They also fire once every revolution giving them a significant power boost. These advantages make two-stroke engines lighter, simpler and less expensive to manufacture than other engines. They also have a great power-to weight ratio.

Yet despite these advantages, the use of the two-stroke engine is under fire. It is easy to understand why when you take a look at the disadvantages of these engines.

In order to keep your two-stroke engine working, it is necessary to mix special oil in with the gasoline. Because there is no dedicated lubrication system, engine parts wear much faster. Oil consumption in these engines is high, and gas efficiency is extremely low.

Two-stroke engines are notorious polluters. The pollution from these engines originates from two sources. Great clouds of black smoke can be emitted when oil is burned along with the gasoline, and the inefficiency of these engines leads to 20-30% of unburned fuel and oil being discharged directly into the environment. This contributes to the formation of smog and contamination of our drinking water sources.

There are over 360,000 two-stroke outboards in Ontario and many more two-stroke engines in snowmobiles, ATVs and PWCs. It is estimated that marine engines discharge up to one billion litres of unburned oil and gas into North American waters each year – a figure more than 15 times greater than the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

The call for more stringent regulations on non-road engine emissions has resulted in more and more new engines being produced with low-pollution technologies, including four-stroke engines and DFI (Direct Fuel Injection) two-stroke engines.

Four-stroke engines are the cleanest outboards available. Unlike two-stroke engines, the exhaust port in four-stroke engines remains closed until the gas has combusted, preventing raw gas from escaping into the environment unburned. Manufacturers have been working at making these engines smaller and lighter so they can be used in more applications.

DFI two-stroke engines use a computer to inject fuel into the cylinder as soon as the piston covers the exhaust port. This prevents raw gas from escaping through the exhaust port unburned.

Both of these types of engines cost a little more to buy than conventional two-stroke engines, but the extra money you spend up front is quickly saved in reduced fuel costs. These engines will actually save you money in the long run.

  • Burn 40-80% less gasoline.
  • Use up to 50% less lubricating oil.
  • Reduce air emissions by up to 90%.
  • Reduce water pollution by reducing the amount of gasoline released into surface waters.
  • Are significantly quieter, and reduce smoke and fumes.
  • Provide easier starting, faster acceleration and quicker throttle response.
  • Are less disruptive to wildlife and are better for Muskoka’s watersheds.
  • Two-stroke marine engines emit an estimated 100,000 tonnes of hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide into Ontario’s environment each year.
  • The EPA estimates that using a two-stroke 70 horsepower motor for one hour emits the same amount of hydrocarbons as driving over 8,000 kilometres in a new automobile.
  • Conventional two-stroke engines exhaust 25-30% of unburned fuel and oil directly into the environment.
  • Four-stroke engines use 40-80% less fuel, consume up to 50% less lubricating oil and reduce hydrocarbon emissions by up to 90%!