Thanks to Katherine Forster at Friends of Petrie Island for the River Day information.

Petrie Island River Day Poster

River Day is from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Check the Friends of Petrie Island’s Facebook page for updates.

Thanks to Joshua Dyer at Harvest Noir for the post suggestion.

Wicker Picnic Basket Grass 6-1-09 1 by Steven Depolo on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Wicker Picnic Basket Grass 6-1-09 1 by Steven Depolo on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Harvest Noir is part evening out, part urban gathering and part celebration of local food. The dress-up, pop-up picnic and dance party (in a surprise location every year) happens in September, but the people behind Harvest Noir are holding a few events between now and then.

The first is a Summer Picnic at the Main Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday July 12, 2014. The “Parisian-style,” casual event is from noon to 3 p.m., and it’s free. Bring your own food (and blanket), or pick up picnic fare at the Market.

There’ll be another Summer Picnic on August 23 (location to be announced).

Harvest Noir raises funds for BioRegional North America, an Ottawa-based environmental organization.

Check out other upcoming Harvest Noir events on their website.

Written by Denise Deby.

School Gardens, Broadview School - D. Deby photo

The Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa – St. Lawrence – Outaouais Chapter (COG OSO) runs programs that support children, seniors, gardeners, farmers and educators in their efforts to produce and promote food that’s grown sustainably and organically.

Through the Growing Up Organic program, COG OSO assists schools, parents and students to create school gardens. They also offer workshops and help arrange farm field trips.

Growing Up Organic enables kids to learn about organic, local food production and discover or strengthen their gardening skills. I’ve seen kids in my own neighbourhood experiencing the joy and wonder of planting, growing and sampling their own vegetables at school.

Unfortunately, Growing Up Organic’s core funding, through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is ending. COG OSO, a charitable organization, is trying to raise at least $25,000 to continue the program for another year.

You can visit COG OSO’s website at to learn more about Growing Up Organic and how to help their good work continue.


Written by Denise Deby.

Photovoltalk by Pink Dispatcher (Bernd Siekeron) - Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Photovoltalk by Pink Dispatcher (Bernd Siekeron) – Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Canadians have a “tremendous opportunity” right now to change the way we think about and invest in our country’s energy future—that’s the perspective offered by David Suzuki in a recent Vancouver Sun op-ed.

That view resonates with me. Rather than continuing to support tar sands and other unsustainable energy sources, or debating pipelines versus rail oil transport, we need to be working towards renewable energy systems.

David Suzuki’s op-ed includes some examples of “solutions-oriented thinking” about alternative energy, such as the energy transition underway in Germany and Tesla’s announcement about making its patents publicly available.

Other groups are calling for an end to unsustainable energy production and a switch to better options:

Ecology Ottawa and the Council of Canadians are among the organizations that are speaking out about the proposed TransCanada oil pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick (through Ottawa). By facilitating tar sands expansion, the Energy East project would exacerbate environmental degradation and climate change. Ecology Ottawa is hosting a meeting about the pipeline  and what can be done on Thursday, July 3, 2014, 7-8:30 p.m. at Kitchissippi United Church (630 Island Park Dr.).  Ecology Ottawa’s website has further information on the proposed pipeline, why it’s an issue and what people can do to help.

A group of cyclists have set off on what they’re calling The Energy East Resistance Ride. They’re biking from Sydney, NS to Ottawa to collect and share stories of people’s resilience along the proposed Energy East pipeline route, and to express their rejection of the pipeline project. Watch for their arrival in Ottawa in late July/early August.

Another initiative, Our Horizon, is proposing that warning labels be put on gas pump nozzles to raise awareness about the real costs of producing and using fossil fuels. Their #facethechange campaign is a step towards redirecting thinking towards more sustainable alternatives.

Also across Canada, universities and other institutions are considering divesting from fossil fuel companies.

There’s a long road ahead towards sustainable energy, but change is in the wind.

Written by Denise Deby.


On Thursday, June 19, 2014, the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa with Ecology Ottawa, the Peoples Social Forum, Council of Canadians, and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society-Ottawa Valley are hosting Indigenous Resistance & Solidarity: Against Pipelines, For the Land. The evening of short films, at the Mayfair Theatre, starts at 6:30 p.m. with an opening by Albert Dumont. There’s a gathering afterwards from 8:45-10 p.m. at Southminster United Church (15 Aylmer at Bank).

The annual Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival and Competition Powwow is happening Friday, June 20-Sunday, June 22, 2014. It’s always a great event, with music, dancing, theatre, comedy and other performances by Indigenous artists. There are workshops for musicians, and kids’ activities (including free pony rides). It’s at Vincent Massey Park, so good outdoors time, too.

A group of people have been walking from Cacouna and Kanehsatà/:ke in Quebec to Ottawa to draw attention to the routes of proposed pipelines (TransCanada’s Energy East and Enbridge Line 9). A Walk for Mother Earth is expected to arrive on Parliament Hill on Sunday, June 22 at 2:00 p.m. Check or for more information.

Update: Glow Fair, which takes place June 20-21, 2014 along Bank St., includes a National Aboriginal Day screening of WELCOME TO KANATA, a program of animated films by First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists. Curated by Ariel Smith, it’s presented by ASINABKA Aboriginal Film and Media Arts Festival in partnership with the Ottawa International Animation Festival, and runs 8:30-10 p.m. on Saturday, June 21, 2014.

Written by Denise Deby.

Great spangled fritillary on common milkweed butterfly speyeria cybele. Credit: Dr. Thomas G. Barnes/USFWS

Great spangled fritillary on common milkweed butterfly speyeria cybele. Credit: Dr Thomas G Barnes/USFWS. Via Wikimedia Commons.

If you have a garden, you can create a space that nurtures pollinators and other earth-friendly insects. If you don’t have a garden but have a bit of outdoor space, you can still offer habitat to butterflies, bees, birds and other important species.

Where to start? Well, the Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a great resource. Located just south of the Arboretum off Prince of Wales Drive (across from the Experimental Farm), the Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a wonderful place to walk around. With several habitats including a meadow, wooded areas, fields and a ravine, the six-hectare site also has an interpretive centre and a demonstration backyard garden where you can learn about native plants and find out which will suit your garden. (It’s open Sunday afternoons from May through October.) There’s also lots of information, and inspiring photos, on FWG’s website.

Even better, this Saturday, June 7, 2014, Fletcher is holding its Annual Native Plant Sale from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They’ll be selling a variety of wildflowers and offering information on gardening for butterflies, building a backyard pond and other neat stuff. (Among the plants for sale is milkweed, a hard-to-source native plant that’s an essential food for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies, whose numbers were in decline last year.)

For inspiration, people are also welcome at the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s demonstration garden in Kanata. Various sections of the garden–a Bird Bed, a Pond Bed, Shade Beds, a Pollinator Bed and a Bog Bed, for example–are home to specific trees, shrubs, perennials and other plant species. You can pop by for a visit, call in advance or check out the garden maps and plant lists on CWF’s website, which has other great resources for wildlife-friendly gardening (e.g. planting tips, a database of native species, a native plants suppliers’ list and links to other gardeners).

It’s important that we preserve large areas of natural habitat in the city, but planting even a few native plants can make a difference to local wildlife and ecosystems, too.

Written by Denise Deby.

D. Deby photo

In my quest to find healthier and more sustainable personal care and household products, I’ve come across a few that I’d like to tell you about.

As you know, many of the soaps, shampoos and cosmetics available on store shelves contain substances that have been documented as harmful to human health and the environment. According to Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith, authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health and Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World, synthetic chemicals such as phthalates and parabens are among the toxins that find their way from consumer products into our bodies and our ecosystems.

Fortunately, healthier alternatives are becoming more widely available. Here are three that I’ve discovered recently:

Oneka shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. By happy circumstance, I received an Oneka gift pack after entering a contest on the website of local writer Tudor Robins. (Tudor blogs on writing and occasionally on environmental and community issues–check out her website here. She’s a wonderful writer, with an engaging young adult novel called Objects in Mirror, and a second novel, Appaloosa Summer, out this spring.) Thanks to Tudor and Oneka, I’ve tried out Oneka’s angelica and lavender shampoo, unscented conditioner and goldenseal and citrus shower gel–all great.

Oneka’s products are organic plant-based, paraben-free and sulfate-free, vegan, biodegradable and not tested on animals. Some are unscented, a must for those of us with scent sensitivities. The company, located southeast of Montreal in Frelighsburg, was founded by Philippe Choiniere and Stacey Lecuyer, who’ve had sensitivities themselves. You can find their products at Market Organics and sometimes Rainbow Foods, or order online.

Purple Urchin soap. Purple Urchin is based right here in Ottawa, and makes handmade natural, biodegradable and vegetarian–some vegan–products, also not tested on animals. I picked up some of their soap at terra20. Purple Urchin bar soaps come in a variety of ingredient combinations (think “Luscious Lemongrass” or “Coffee Bitters,” for example) but I went for the unscented Goat’s Milk bar, which is nice and creamy without being oily. Purple Urchin’s soaps, shampoos, facial and other products are available at their shop (884 Somerset St. W.) and quite a few other spots around town.

Purelygreat deodorant. I have to say this is an amazing discovery. Many “green” deodorants aren’t very effective, but this one works really well. It was recommended by a customer service staff person at terra20 in Wellington West, who told me it works even for her hockey-playing brother. It’s an unscented, cream deodorant, containing only sodium bicarbonate, zea mays (corn) starch and glycerin. You have to stir it on opening, and you apply it with a finger—but don’t let that stop you; you get used to that quickly, and it’s not much different than applying some other cosmetics. Purelygreat is located in Toronto; several Ottawa shops sell their deodorants.

You can even make deodorant yourself, if you’re so inclined—check out the recipes on the A\J blog.

Have you found any other great personal care products? Please let us know in the comments section.


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