Written by Denise Deby.

School garden and seed saving - D. Deby

Ottawa is rich in biodiversity–the variety of life that surrounds and sustains us. It’s not something we can take for granted; as everywhere, human activity often adversely affects species and their habitats.

The International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22 is a reminder that we humans need to honour and extend our commitments to the genetic, species and ecosystem diversity that enables us and everything else to survive.

Here are a few interesting local takes on biodiversity and the international day:

– This year, May 22 is also School Garden Day. What better way to celebrate and strengthen biodiversity than by helping kids understand what growing local, healthy food and native plants in their neighbourhoods is all about? Imagine a Garden in Every School and USC Canada are inviting school communities to hold activities in and around their gardens. (For tips on setting up school gardens, check here or here.)

– For USC Canada, protecting biodiversity means protecting seed diversity. The Ottawa-based organization explains that in the last 100 years, with industrialized and large-scale agriculture, global seed diversity has declined by 75 per cent. Ninety per cent of fruit and vegetable varieties in North America are gone, and three companies control 53 per cent of the global commercial seed market. This loss of diversity is bad news for the environment, our food system and our health.

How to increase food security through biodiversity? Buy food that’s local, fresh and sustainably produced whenever possible. Check out USC Canada’s seed diversity work and their I am a seed saver” initiative. Support their Run for Biodiversity during Ottawa Race Weekend May 23-24.

– The Canadian Museum of Nature is marking International Biodiversity Day by lighting its tower up in green on May 21 and 22. At a special event, Science by Night, on Thursday, May 21, people can visit the museum for free, speak with scientists and take part in activities. On Friday evening, May 22, there’s a Nature Nocturne dance party at the museum celebrating all the colours of nature.

– The State of Ontario’s Biodiversity Report 2015 will be released at the first-ever Ontario Biodiversity Summit happening May 19-22 in Niagara Falls. It will outline how biodiversity has changed in the last five years, and what needs to be done.

Written by Denise Deby.

photo 3

I’m a gardener-in-progress—meaning I’m learning something new every year about growing my own vegetables. My garden so far has been pretty small, my planting area shady, so I’m often researching what to grow.

This year I’ve been on the hunt for healthy seeds and seedlings—those adapted to local conditions, free of pesticides, grown in an environmentally-friendly way and (ideally) organic. While I haven’t started my own seeds, it’s not too late to find seedlings that others have kindly started growing for me.

The Gloucester Horticultural Society holds its East End Plant Sale on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at North Gloucester Public Library (2036 Ogilvie Rd.) from 9 a.m.-noon. They’ll be selling shrubs, perennials, organic and heritage seedling vegetable plants.

Greta’s Organic Gardens (399 River Rd., Gloucester) is a great source of organic seeds. She’s selling heirloom tomatoes, peppers and much more from her greenhouse between May 15 and June 24 (9 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Weds.).

Added: Beat Greens Garden will be selling organic and heirloom seedlings at Ravenswing Arts and Music Fair on Sunday, May 24.

For other kinds of plants as well, the Ottawa Horticultural Society holds its annual plant auction and sale on Tuesday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. at the Tom Brown Arena.

At Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s Annual Native Plant Sale, experts will be on hand to advise on what flowering plants will attract birds, butterflies and other pollinators. It’s on Saturday, June 6, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Vegetable seedlings (some local and organic) can be purchased from local farmers directly or at Ottawa farmers’ markets: the ByWard Market, the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, the Main Farmers’ Market, the Parkdale Market, the Ottawa Organic Farmers’ Market and others (check OttawaStart’s list of markets for links).

Ottawa has quite a few local nurseries; the Canadian Wildlife Federation has a list of nurseries that sell native plants. Hardware and grocery stores have garden centres, too. But check first that the plants they carry haven’t been treated with neonicotinoids—pesticides that are systemic (i.e., absorbed by all parts of a plant) and associated with killing bee populations. Friends of the Earth Canada has a chart outlining which retailers have stopped carrying plants with neonics.

Did I miss any good plant sources? Please let me know in the comments.

Guest post submitted by Ecology Ottawa.

From 2012 Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale photo courtesy Ecology Ottawa https://www.facebook.com/ecologyottawa/photos_stream?tab=photos_albums

From 2012 Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale photo courtesy Ecology Ottawa https://www.facebook.com/ecologyottawa/photos_stream?tab=photos_albums

The Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale is back!

Ecology Ottawa’s 8th Annual Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale | Saturday, May 23, 8am-4pm | 680 & 690 Bank Street (at Glebe Avenue, in the Rogers Plus and Kunstadt Sports parking lots)

It’s your favourite time of year again… Soon the entire Glebe will be abuzz with lawn-hawking like you’ve never seen. It’s this annual mecca of bargain-hunters from near and far that gave birth to Ecology Ottawa’s Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale!

Ecology Ottawa is working to make Ottawa the green capital of Canada, and the Great Glebe GREEN Garage Sale has become one of the organization’s flagship annual events. What started as a humble fundraiser in 2008 has become a carnival unto itself that community members look forward to each year.

This isn’t your average garage sale – this massive event also features a vegetarian BBQ (join us for lunch), a bake sale (including hot coffee at the crack of dawn), and live musical performances. We will also have representatives from Ecology Ottawa on site to tell you more about the organization, as well as massage therapists (to help you relax after a long day of shopping), fun activities for kids of all ages, a water bottle refilling station on site, portable public washrooms for the community’s use (when nature calls), and much, much more!

In the past 7 years, this event has helped divert countless tonnes of potential waste from Ottawa landfills and raised nearly $50,000. All items sold at the event are collected from over 200 supporters from across the city, and all proceeds raised go to charity (90% to Ecology Ottawa, 10% to The Ottawa Food Bank). Best of all, everything is coordinated by an amazing team of over 100 volunteers each year, and we have had a blast doing it!

There are many ways to get involved in this fun community event – you can donate your unwanted items, volunteer and/or bake for the event, and of course, come and do some bargain shopping on May 23rd. For more information on how to get involved, please click on the links below:

For more information on how to get involved, click on the following links:

Please help us to spread the word about this event to family, friends, colleagues, teammates, and the people you sit next to on the bus. We look forward to seeing you there!

For more info, please visit our web site at http://ecologyottawa.ca/garage-sale/.

Ecology Ottawa 2G4S 2

Written by Denise Deby.

30X30 Biking - D. Deby

I’ve signed up!

In May, I’ll be taking on two challenges, both designed to get me outside.

David Suzuki Foundation’s 30X30 Nature Challenge

In the 30X30 Nature Challenge, you pledge to get out into nature for at least 30 minutes every day, for 30 days in May. “Nature” can mean a park, a yard, a path—anywhere there’s a bit of greenspace and some flora, fauna or natural elements to observe.

It might sound like a big commitment in our busy lives, but research shows that taking time in the outdoors can improve health, happiness and community life, and give us a better appreciation of our environment. (This 30X30 Nature Challenge infographic presents some of the benefits.)

If you need ideas for spending time outside, the David Suzuki Foundation has some “daily tips” on their website: think outdoor sports, cloud watching, having a barbecue or digging in the dirt.

I’m looking forward to participating. When I signed up last year, I was going through some health challenges, and I’m pretty sure getting outside helped me feel better and stay centred. Plus, I discovered that while I do spend a fair bit of time outside, making the commitment helped me justify the time I spent—providing a great reason to take a walking break from work, sit on a park bench and read or discover nearby food trucks on my bike. I’m hoping to stay just as motivated this year.

Bike to Work Ottawa

May is also Bike to Work month. In this challenge, you commit to cycling to and from work, whether it’s every day, or a day or two a week. You can join as an individual or as part of a workplace team. (If you don’t have a workplace team you can set one up–the campaign has information to help.) Organized by EnviroCentre and the City of Ottawa, Bike to Work includes a chance to win bikes and other prizes. Stay tuned for events as well. On Thursday, Apr. 30, there’s a Cycle Commuting Forum with advice from EnviroCentre, Ottawa Velo Outaouais and the Ottawa Bike Lanes Project (at MEC Ottawa, 6:30-8 p.m.)

I’ve signed up for Bike to Work, too. Last year I didn’t let working from a home office stop me—I participate by recording my bike trips for meetings and errands on my Bike to Work page.

You can sign up for both challenges any time during May. Hope to see you outside!

Written by Denise Deby.

JW2013_JMakin_OttawasGreatForest

Jane’s Walk 2013 with Martha Webber through Ottawa’s Great Forest – J Makin (via Jane’s Walk Ottawa)

It’s one of my favourite times of the year—Jane’s Walk time!

Jane’s Walk is an international celebration of cities and the people who live in and shape them. It’s a weekend of free walking tours led by volunteers who know something interesting about their city and are willing to share it.

In Ottawa, more than 50 walks will take place in neighbourhoods, historic places and natural spaces on May 2 and 3, 2015.

Here are a few examples:

Check out these and other walks at http://janeswalk.herokuapp.com/sessions/7. All walks are free, take about an hour, and run in English or French.

Jane’s Walk organizers welcome volunteers, too.

There’s a “Jane’s Talk” on New Directions for Urban Infill with Ottawa city planner Alain Miguelez on Wednesday, Apr. 29, 7 p.m. at the NCC’s Urbanism Lab, 40 Elgin St. The weekend wraps up with a party on Sunday, May 3 at 4 p.m. at the Lieutenant’s Pump on Elgin.

Jane’s Walk is a great way to get to know your city, meet other people and get outdoors. Check it out!

From Jane’s Walk Ottawa:

The weekend-long festival of free walking tours is held to celebrate the work of urban thinker Jane Jacobs, who promoted livable cities, street-life vitality and attractive, uplifting places where people feel safe. It’s is a pedestrian-focused event that improves urban literacy by offering insights into planning, design, local history, and civic engagement through the simple acts of walking, observing, and discussing.”

Written by Denise Deby.

John McConnell's Earth Day flag by John McConnell (flag designer) NASA (Earth photograph) SiBr4 (flag image) via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth_Day_Flag.png

John McConnell’s Earth Day flag by John McConnell (flag designer) NASA (Earth photograph) SiBr4 (flag image) via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth_Day_Flag.png

April 22 is Earth Day. Of course, it’s just one day. Nonetheless, for 45 years now, the designation of a day for the earth has prompted people to reflect and act on how to live more sustainably. (The Earth Day Network says more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities around the world.)

Here are a few ways to mark Earth Day 2015:

Take part in an event

How about a feast, a film and a thought-provoking discussion? The Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa holds their annual celebration of the Defence of Mother Earth on Wednesday, Apr. 22 from 6-9:30 p.m. The film, Karistatsi Onienre: The Iron Snake, looks at Indigenous resistance to pipelines carrying tar sands oil. A panel with Jocelyn Iahtail (Cree mother, survivor and cultural teacher), Gabrielle Fayant (Metis and co-founder of the youth-led Assembly of Seven Generations) and Lynn Gehl (Algonquin learner-researcher, writer and rights advocate) will focus on Indigenous women. The event is a fundraiser for Shawnejeagamik, the 510 Rideau Indigenous Drop-In Centre. Check here for event details.

Want to talk trees? Tree Ottawa is holding a workshop with Master Gardener Ed Lawrence and other tree experts on Wednesday, Apr. 22 from 7-9:30 p.m. Details here.

Join the river cleanup

Interested in lending a hand for river health? The Ottawa Riverkeeper is organizing shoreline cleanups on Wednesday, Apr. 22 from 10 a.m.-noon at Parc Moussette and from 1-3 p.m. at Lemieux Island and Bate Island. Details and RSVP here. (See other upcoming shoreline cleanup events here or here.)

Green your transportation

Inspired to ride your bike, walk or take the bus more often? “Clean Your Commute” is Earth Day Canada’s theme for 2015, so check their website for green options. Earth Day Canada is also launching “Earth Day Every Day” on Earth Day this year. It’s a campaign to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint by 20% by 2020. Check here for information. Why not sign up for Ottawa’s Bike to Work Month in May, too? Information and registration here.

For some background on Earth Day and additional suggestions of what you can do, from ordering CSA food shares to supporting renewable energy, see this previous post.

Written by Denise Deby.

Ottawa’s new tool library is taking shape!

The non-profit Ottawa Tool Library will be a place that people can go to borrow household, garden and kitchen tools, attend workshops, use the workspace and more.

It makes economic and environmental sense to borrow tools you only need once in a while, rather than buying.

The Ottawa Tool Library’s founders have been working hard over the last few months to get the word out about the library, gather tools, sign up volunteers, find a location for the library and all the things that go in to creating what promises to be a wonderful sharing space.

You can sign up for a membership, or support the Ottawa Tool Library’s Indiegogo campaign. The funds raised will help pay for operating costs and purchase of tools.

You can also donate tools to the library, or volunteer.

Check here for more information: http://ottawatoollibrary.com/

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