Inter Pares 2015 Film Nights Series

Written by Denise Deby.

Bidonville poster

Ottawa-based non-profit Inter Pares is starting up a Film Nights series to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Inter Pares (which means “among equals”) is an impressive organization that works with groups around the world, including in Canada, to advocate for and bring about food security, women’s equality, health, peace and justice.

The intention behind the film series is to “showcase thought-provoking documentaries for free to inspire, inform and galvanize action for more equal societies” (from Inter Pares February 2015 E-News).

The first in the series is Slums: Cities of Tomorrow. The film, by Quebec filmmaker Jean-Nicolas Orhon, takes us to several informal settlements around the world to meet people who’ve created housing and homes for themselves.

The film challenges stereotypes about “slums,” and shows residents’ creativity and resilience as well as the difficulties they face.

The screening takes place on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 at 7 p.m. at Inter Pares (221 Laurier Ave. East). (The film will be subtitled in English.) RSVP before Monday, Feb. 9.

People-Centred Planning: The Human Scale

Written by Denise Deby.

Copenhagen Square photo from The Human Scale
Copenhagen Square photo from The Human Scale

Several organizations and individuals in Ottawa have come together to form the Healthy Transportation Coalition. They’re combining their efforts to bring about improvements in policies and infrastructure for healthy, sustainable and accessible transportation.

Coalition members are sponsoring a screening of The Human Scale at the ByTowne Cinema on Thursday, January 29, 2015.

The Human Scale is a Danish documentary focusing on cities that encourage people to interact with each other. It’s based on the ideas of architect Jan Gehl about people-centred planning and inclusion.

From the film synopsis:

…What is a good city? Is it made of highways, gated communities and highrise structures? Or is it made of bikeways, parks and walking streets? Can architecture meet our human needs in the face of future challenges?”

After the film, there will be a panel discussion about what’s happening in Ottawa. Speakers are Catherine McKenney, Somerset Ward city councillor; Alain Miguelez, City of Ottawa planner; David Sweanor, law professor and active transportation advocate; and Inge Roosendaal, Ottawa Public Health program development officer.

The event runs 6-8:45 p.m. and is free, thanks to support from the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, Action Sandy Hill, the Healthy Transportation Coalition, EnviroCentre, Ecology Ottawa, Sustainable Living Ottawa East, Ottawa East Community Association, Lowertown Community Association, RightBike, Green Communities Canada – Active & Safe Routes to School, and Citizens Academy.

See for more information about the event, as well as the Healthy Transportation Coalition and its work.

EnviroCentre’s Green Homes Tour 2014

Written by Denise Deby. Thanks to Sarah Lowe, Green Homes Showcase Tour Coordinator at EnviroCentre for the suggestion and information.

Solar panels on house - photo courtesy of EnviroCentre
Solar panels on house – photo courtesy of EnviroCentre

EnviroCentre is hosting its annual Green Homes Showcase Tour on September 27, 2014. The tour gives people a glimpse into homes that have incorporated green renovations such as solar energy, geothermal systems, eco-friendly flooring, insulation, finishing, lighting and more, and the chance to speak with homeowners and building professionals.

Last year the tour welcomed people to about a dozen homes, including houses, a cohousing unit, condominiums and country homes. This year EnviroCentre is looking for additional homes to showcase. If you’re interested in having your home included, you can email or call 613-656-0110 ext. 108 by August 8, 2014.

You can find more information on the Green Homes Showcase Tour at



Green Homes Showcase

Written by Denise Deby. Thanks to Rabita Sharfuddin at EnviroCentre for information.

From EnviroCentre Green Homes Showcase poster, courtesy of EnviroCentre
From EnviroCentre Green Homes Showcase poster, courtesy of EnviroCentre

If you’re interested in making your home greener, or would like to see energy efficiency and sustainability in action, you’re in luck: EnviroCentre and the Social Planning Council of Ottawa are hosting a Green Homes Showcase on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.

The doors of 10 homes that use sustainable technologies will open up to the public from noon to 4 p.m. They include upgraded older homes, infill houses, a new condo, a co-housing community, a housing co-operative, a carbon-neutral home and even a 160-year-old farmhouse on a 120-acre organic farm.

You’ll be able to see and ask questions about passive solar designs, geothermal systems, sustainable flooring and other features, heat recovery ventilation systems, insulation and more. Homeowners, contractors and other professionals will be on hand to provide information.

There’s more information including a map with locations of the homes at The tour is free.

In addition to the Green Homes Showcase, EnviroCentre is also offering free workshops in collaboration with local businesses to help people learn about green building materials, financing options and sustainable landscaping, starting October 3, 2013. Check their website for details on this and other EnviroCentre programs.

Sustainability in Action, September 2013

Mud Lake by Bram Cymet (bcymet) on Flickr Creative Commons
Mud Lake by Bram Cymet (bcymet) on Flickr Creative Commons

From wild spaces to innovative green technologies to events that bring people together, Ottawa has a lot going on these days. Here are a few things to check out:

One of my favourite natural places in Ottawa is Mud Lake, near Britannia. It has walking trails, water and wildlife, with an impressive range of species. You can discover the area AND contribute to cataloguing its biodiversity at Nature Canada’s BioBlitz on Friday, Sept. 13 and Saturday, Sept. 14. Everyone is welcome to join the nature walks led by local naturalists to look for birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles. Check the schedule for details.

If you want to see some cool sustainability initiatives in the city, take in the Ottawa Sustainability Tour on Saturday, Sept. 14. It’s self-guided and encompasses several environmentally-significant sites, including the Richelieu Park forest, Fletcher Wildlife Garden, the Children’s Garden, Major’s Hill Park, the playground at Brewer Park, the University of Ottawa’s FSS building (with North America’s tallest “green wall”), Algonquin College’s Centre for Construction Excellence, Mooney’s Bay, the Corktown footbridge and terra20. There’ll be information and resource people at each location, and you can download or pick up a guide to the sites. The tour is organized by The Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City Council, Tucker House and The Otesha Project with other collaborating partners.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, you can also take part in Capital Vélo Fest’s fun bicycle rally from 8 Locks’ Flat by the Corktown Bridge.

Tucker House is holding its fifth annual Green Gala on Saturday, Sept. 14. It’s a fundraiser for Tucker House’s environmental education, retreat and leadership programs. The masquerade ball includes live music, locally-sourced refreshments, an “eco-auction” and tours of the organization’s historic building. Tucker House is in Rockland, but there’s a free return shuttle leaving from Ottawa. See the website for details, and the Tucker House website for more information on its programs.

Holistic design: Hendrick Farm

Guest post written by Valerie Ward. Valerie blogs about sustainable local food at Earthward: Ottawa Seed to Table and is a graduate of the Sustainable Local Food program at St. Lawrence College. She is also a freelance writer and editor whose articles have appeared in national newspapers, industry journals, lifestyle magazines and online publications.

Photo courtesy Hendrick Farm
Photo courtesy Hendrick Farm

Just minutes from Ottawa on a 150-year-old farm next door to Gatineau Park, Québec, a new community development is taking shape that is unique in Canada and a rarity in North America*.

Called Hendrick Farm, the development offers an alternative to the cookie-cutter suburbs that dominate residential living today. Instead, it has been designed as a walkable, conservation community that integrates eco-friendly housing, greenspace and village-scale commercial use. More unusual still, it contains an organic vegetable farm whose goal is to connect residents with healthy food and with the land’s agricultural past.

Here’s an overview of Hendrick Farm, and the people and philosophy behind it.

New ruralism: uniting urban life and farming

From the get-go, co-founders Sean McAdam and Carrie Wallace wanted to make growing food central to what they were doing. For one thing, the land the development is being built on had been farmed by the local Hendrick family for more than a century. For another, farming is part of the area’s heritage and that’s key to McAdam and Wallace’s “new ruralism” philosophy of development. (New ruralism is defined as respecting the history, ecology and culture of a place, while bridging the divide between urban life and sustainable farming.)  As Sean McAdam puts it: “Good community planning means listening to the land.”

Cars take a back seat

Since World War II, most housing developments have been designed around the automobile, says Christopher Moise, an architect at FOTENN Consulting who worked on the Hendrick Farm land use plan. As a result, housing, business and recreation areas tend to be physically isolated from each other, forcing people to rely on cars.

Instead of keeping live-work-play elements separate, Moise says, Hendrick Farm brings them together. In addition to homes, the development includes parks, the vegetable farm, and small-scale shops and businesses, all of which will be linked to Gatineau Park and the neighbouring village of Old Chelsea through trails and paths. Nothing in Hendrick Farm will be more than a 10-minute walk from anything else.

Promoting walkability

Roads in the development will be narrower and more winding than the norm to make walking more enjoyable and reduce hard surfaces and run-off. Neighbourhood car use will be de-emphasized further by modifying the typical suburban house layout–eliminating the front driveway, moving the garage behind the house and adding a rear-access laneway. These changes will open up street views and encourage neighbours to interact, Moise says.

Balancing privacy, community

Phase I of Hendrick Farm’s housing offers three neighbourhood types:

  1. park–backing onto parks and greenspace
  2. farm–fronting the farm
  3. village–next to the development’s small commercial village of artisans, boutiques and restaurants

Homes will be clustered to avoid sprawl but laid out to balance privacy and community. Each home has been designed exclusively for Hendrick Farm, and features eco-friendly materials and systems. Prices for the Phase I homes range from $400K to $650K, including land.

Nature preserve

Fewer than half of Hendrick Farm’s 107 acres will be developed, leaving ample room for a 35-acre nature preserve, a variety of parks and the seven-acre organic vegetable farm launched in 2012.

Food and farming

The farm will provide residents with a direct connection to food production, so they can buy fresh local vegetables at the farm gate rather than having to drive to an Ottawa farmers’ market. This year, the farm is growing 60 varieties of organic vegetables, to be distributed through a small CSA, but mostly sold at the farm gate and the Old Chelsea Farmers Market.

There are also plans to bring local school children to the farm to teach them about food and sustainable farming. In the longer term, the farm could be part of a local food hub including a commercial kitchen and other resources to connect local farmers, food sellers and eaters.

Support from the community

“Hendrick Farm is a groundbreaking development that’s been a real work of love for Sean and Carrie,” Christopher Moise says. “They’ve put in a huge effort over the years to make this happen.”

Their hard work and commitment have also won widespread support from the surrounding community. “That’s not something you can say about many developments,” Wallace notes.

Contact Hendrick Farm for more information.

* Similar developments in the U.S. include Serenbe in Georgia and Prairie Crossing near Chicago.

Photo courtesy Hendrick Farm
Photo courtesy Hendrick Farm

Cycle, Recycle and Discover June 1-2, 2013

Written by Denise Deby.

Wild Bergamot, Ottawa photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson, Wikimedia Commons
Wild Bergamot, Ottawa photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson, Wikimedia Commons,_Ottawa.jpg

This weekend, June 1-2 2013, is jam-packed with fun events that also have an environmental angle:

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is holding its Annual Native Plant Sale on Saturday from 9:30-12:30. As well as wildflowers for sale, they have lots of advice about what to grow to attract birds, butterflies and other creatures to your garden. For more information, click on the poster at

The City of Ottawa’s designated Give Away Weekend is on Saturday and Sunday. You can put used items marked “free” out at the curb, and let other people who can use them take them away. Check the City’s website for information on how it works and what to include and not include.

Several neighbourhoods are holding multi-family garage sales on Saturday. There’s the Riverview Park Community Wide Garage Sale,  the Manor Park Garage Sale, the Hintonburg Garage Sale, the Island Park Garage Sale and the Wild Wild Westboro Garage Sale. (OttawaStart posts a helpful list of sales and suggestions on where to find used stuff at

This weekend is the annual Doors Open Ottawa. It’s a wonderful opportunity to visit buildings that are normally closed to the public, including heritage homes, artists’ studios, embassies, city and museum archives, churches and more. On the environment side, you can see how Ottawa’s water is purified and how our wastewater is treated, explore the University of Ottawa’s newest green building, tour an historic garden or learn about Canadian energy research, for example. The full list of buildings, and schedules, are at

The Ottawa International Children’s Festival is delightful for all ages. As well as fun and funny performances, the Festival offers Let’s Talk Science learning programs, Otesha Project workshops, a Dynamic Maze and other activities that allow participants to explore their environment and themselves. The 100 Watt Earth Stage schedule includes short plays about animal rights written by Ottawa kids. There’s lots more, so check it out at

Capital Vélo Fest runs this weekend. This annual celebration of cycling offers a Bike Rodeo, workshops, vendor and art displays, games like bike polo and bike jousting, a bike-powered smoothie machine and a Tour La Nuit “for riders of all ages and abilities” on Saturday. On Sunday, several communities will offer their own cycling events as part of Community Spokes. See the Capital Vélo Fest website for more details.

Happy first weekend in June!


Also on Saturday evening is the Ottawa Velo Vogue bicycle fashion show. Ottawa Velo Vogue’s aim is to promote cycling by demonstrating that you don’t need fancy clothing or equipment to ride. The show will feature bike-friendly clothes, accessories and bikes, and is a fundraiser for Cycle Salvation. It’s at 7 p.m. at Kichesippi Brewery. Details at or

On Sunday, there’s an open house at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre in anticipation of GatineauPark’s 75th anniversary coming up in July. There’ll be nature walks, interactive displays on biodiversity, wildlife management and wilderness survival, birds of prey demonstrations, and food samples from local restaurants. It’s 9:30-4 at the Visitor Centre in Chelsea. Details at

Also on Sunday, the Brewer Park Community Garden is holding a community consultation on its plans for a Biodome Garden. The project, supported by the City of Ottawa’s Neighbourhood Connection Office, is to extend the growing season by creating a greenhouse-like space for producing food sustainably. The consultation is 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Brewer Park Pool meeting room. Details at