Posted by: Vicki Burns | May 7, 2014

Cattails for Clean Waterways – Creating Economic Opportunity and Helping Our Lakes

Cattails in Marsh

Cattails in Marsh

Recently I attended a demonstration of an end product of IISD’s Bioeconomy project, the harvesting of cattails and  native grasses to make pellets for producing heat energy in a pellet burning stove. The burning of these pellets has been used this past winter to heat the Living Prairie Museum in Winnipeg and on the day of the presentation, the heat produced was very comforting and more than adequate!
This project is a great example of turning biomass into a usable and sustainable energy source. It is an area that is particularly close to my heart as my father, Ernie Robertson, started the Biomass Energy Institute back in 1970 to encourage research and development in the use of alternative energy sources. The goal was to allow us to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels. At the time many people called him “crazy Ernie” but now his ideas are being well recognized as we realize that there is no time to waste in diversifying our energy sources.

Pellet Stove Burning photo courtesy of IISD

Pellet Stove Burning photo courtesy of IISD

In addition, there are other important benefits to the harvesting of cattails and other native grasses, and those relate to the ability of cattails to take in phosphorus, thereby preventing it from getting into our waterways and feeding blue-green algae blooms. The threats of blue-green algae blooms are increasing in lakes all across North America and elsewhere in the world so projects like the Cattails for Clean Waterways can have benefits in multiple locations. The economic opportunities of creating a new heating source at the same time as helping to clean our lakes, is really exciting. Personally, I would love to get a pellet stove and warm myself on our cold winter nights, all the while knowing that this is helping to clean our waterways at the same time. Check out this video from IISD if you want to know more about this project.


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