Gifts That Give Twice

Written by Denise Deby.

Spruce needles by AKuptsova on Pixabay CC0 Public Domain
Spruce needles by AKuptsova on Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

In this busy season, we often worry about doing enough—seeing everyone we want to see, making enough food for holiday meals, finding just the right gifts for family and friends.

Of course, the most important gift this time of year—or anytime—is time.

Sometimes, though, you do want to give a little something to people. If you’re still looking for those last few gifts, why not consider thingless giving, or other ways of giving sustainably?

Or how about a sustainable gift that gives twice? A few examples:

Gifts that donate: Through USC Canada’s Gifts That Grow, you can send your loved one a card while supporting a farmer or school gardens. UNICEF Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and many other organizations have similar arrangements for contributing to sustainability on behalf of someone else.

Gifts that reuse: Recycled gifts, chosen with care, can be a great option. Right now, when you purchase used clothes, toys, Christmas decorations or other items from Ottawa Neighbourhood Services, you’re contributing to their work to make needed goods available to low-income, refugee and other people in Ottawa. Ten Thousand Villages has good fair trade items, like ornaments made from recycled paper, or jewellery made from reclaimed materials. Ottawa has lots of other places to find art and crafts made from upcycled materials.

Gifts that support local: When you buy local, sustainable products, you’re substituting earth-friendly for mass-produced “stuff,” while supporting local businesses. How about terra20’s suggestions of Winter Hand Balm from Purple Urchin, vegan soap from saaboon or recycled glassware from Out of Ruins or Artech Studios? Check out Planet Botanix, Rainbow Foods, the Natural Food Pantry, Whole Foods, Green Tree Eco-Fashion, Twiss and Weber and other shops for eco-friendly local goods.

Buying someone a CSA share—i.e., a weekly delivery of local produce from an area farm—is also an investment in the sustainability of our food system.

Gifts that support sustainable causes: Ottawa has quite a few social enterprises that support social and environmental good. For example, when you buy jewellery, toys or other items through Operation Come Home’s Repurpose store, you’re buying upcycled as well as supporting artists who are youth at-risk or homeless. When you buy Beau’s beer, which is sustainably made from organic ingredients, you’re also contributing to the causes they support with their profits. A purchase of greeting cards of Ottawa scenes from Causeway supports employment programs for people who are disadvantaged. (I picked some up at the Westboro Pharmasave.)

Keep an eye out for companies that donate to environmental causes. For example, when you purchase art at Studio Sixty-Six during December, 10% of the proceeds will go to the Ottawa Riverkeeper.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Peoples’ Social Forum

Written by Denise Deby.


Amazing, transformative, hopeful–these are some of the ways people are describing the Peoples’ Social Forum, taking place in Ottawa Thursday, August 21-Sunday, August 24, 2014.

The Peoples’ Social Forum is a gathering of individuals and organizations working towards social, environmental and political justice. It’s been described as the largest ever forum in Canada of social movements, with thousands of people and more than 200 groups attending. They’re coming together to work through issues, find common ground and propose changes to the unsustainable, unjust and inequitable way things are done now.

Participants can choose from hundreds of workshops on themes that include the earth, food, the economy, governance and more. Here’s just a tiny sample:

  • The Vision for the National Historic Site at the Sacred Chaudiere Falls, with architect Douglas Cardinal (Thurs., 9 a.m.)
  • Learning from Andean Indigenous Peoples on Living in Harmony with Mother Earth, with KAIROS (Fri., 9 a.m.)
  • Documentary Activism: Political Filmmaking, Screening and Social Movements, with Cinema Politica (Fri., 9 a.m.)
  • Extreme Heat Events: Working Together to Address Poverty and Climate Change, with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
  • Food as a Catalyst for Change: Mapping Levers and Opportunities, with Food Secure Canada (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
  • Resisting Water Privatization with CUPE, Polaris Institute and Municipal Services Project (Fri., 10:45 a.m.)
  • DIY Community Gardening with Brock DIG (a campus community garden) (Fri., 1 p.m.)
  • Sharing My Treaty at Niagara Wampum Bundle – A Traditional Teaching, with Dr. Lynn Gehl (Fri., 2:45 p.m.)
  • Beyond Extraction – How Will We Greet the Future? With MiningWatch Canada (Fri., 4:30 p.m.)

Also included is a “People’s University” with workshops on topics such as poverty, capitalism and pipelines; Assemblies on Indigenous solidarity, water, social economy, climate change, mining justice and more; a children’s forum; and a range of other events.

Following an Algonquin ceremony at sunrise on Thursday, Aug. 21, the Forum launches with a Unity March on Thursday, Aug. 21, starting at 2 p.m. at Jacques Cartier Park and the War Museum, arriving on Parliament Hill around 4 p.m. with speakers, music and cultural activities.

There are lots of associated activities that are open to anyone to attend. The Art Sparks Change Festival is happening along Sparks Street, with live music, art and performance (see the schedule here). Some highlights: The Winter We Danced concert, book launch and round-dancing on Thurs. at 7 p.m.; a “Breaking Good” break dancer jam on Fri. 12-2 p.m.; “Poetic Justice” spoken word, hip-hop and slam poetry on Fri. 6-10 p.m.; and a Traditional Pow-Wow on Saturday from noon-6 p.m.

Events at other venues include (for example): “A celebration of activism and independent media” on Thurs., 5 p.m. at 25One Community; “Material Witness: Art, Activism & Fibre” on Fri., 7 p.m. at Gallery 101; Asinabka Best Of 2014 and “Upping The Anti” journal Launch Party on Sat., 7 p.m. at Club SAW; an open stage on Sun., 7 p.m. at Celtic Cross Pub; and tons of music, poetry, performance art, film and video, art exhibits and more. Many of the events are free or pay-what-you-can.

I also recommend checking out the themed walking tours of downtown Ottawa on topics such as money, labour and local food solutions, led by Ottawa (de)Tours and on Indigenous social, political, cultural and artistic spaces, led by Indigenous Walks.

Running such a huge, multifaceted and diverse gathering that aims to give everyone a voice while respecting differences will be challenging, but the Peoples’ Social Forum holds much potential. Sharing of good ideas, respect for Indigenous lands and rights, action towards positive social, political and environmental change and continued collaboration after the Forum are some of the possible positive outcomes. Above all, it’s a place to meet people, listen to perspectives that aren’t heard often enough and learn about and negotiate creative paths forward.

You can download the full program, find out more and get registration information at Follow on Twitter at #PSF2014 and @forumsocial2014. Some events will be livestreamed at


Bird Walk, Kids’ Festival, Fair Trade Soirée, Spur Festival, Science Rendezvous and More

Written by Denise Deby.

Chickadee - Beaver Trail - NCC - Ottawa, Ontario by Catherine Bulinksi on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
Chickadee – Beaver Trail – NCC – Ottawa, Ontario by Catherine Bulinksi on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

The Ottawa Bird Count is hosting a wonderful opportunity to find out about local birds and explore the South March Highlands. “Counting Birds for Science in Ottawa and the South March Highlands” is part presentation, part nature walk (weather permitting) to learn about the chickadees, blue jays, warbling vireos and other birds in the area and their ecosystem, as well as a new project called “Ecological Monitoring of the South March Highlands.” It’s on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at Vitesse, 359 Terry Fox Drive in Kanata, starting at 1:30 p.m. The event is free; see the Ottawa Bird Count website for details and to register.

The Ottawa International Children’s Festival brings wonderful talent and well-crafted, often hilarious shows to Ottawa kids and families every year. This year, check out the Junkyard Symphony, which makes music out of recycled objects, and the Festival’s environment-focused activities that include the 100 Watt Earth Stage, where children and youth can express their ideas and hopes through theatre, music, art and spoken word poetry, and Let’s Talk Science, featuring activities that engage kids in science. The Festival runs May 9-14, 2014 at LeBreton Flats outside the Canadian War Museum.

Fair Trade Ottawa Équitable is celebrating World Fair Trade Day with a Fair Trade Soirée Équitable on Saturday, May 10, 2014. They’re offering food and drink, guest speakers and musicians, and the chance to connect with people and groups working towards sustainability and equity. The event includes tours of Bridgehead’s Roastery and a silent auction. At 130 Anderson St., 7-10 p.m.

Head outside for Phil Jenkinswalking tour of historical and coffee spots in Ottawa on Saturday, May 10 and catch some of the other artistic, political and humorous events at the Spur Festival May 8-10.

Added: Science Rendezvous brings science out of the lab at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University on Saturday, May 10 for hands-on discoveries about birds, “magic” chemistry and more.

Don’t forget Citizens for Safe Cycling’s Tulips on Two Wheels on Saturday, May 10, and MEC’s Bikefest on Sunday, May 11. (Mentioned in a previous post here.)

Saturday, May 10 is also Defend Our Climate Day, with a gathering at Rideau Falls starting at 1 p.m.

Greening the Season 1: Green Gift-Giving

Written by Denise Deby.

"Gifted" by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
“Gifted” by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)

This is a lovely time of year to slow down, enjoy being with family and friends, and give meaningful gifts. Too often, though, it’s a time when many people find themselves buying too much, trying to accomplish too much and feeling like they can’t cope.

Here are a few suggestions for giving sustainably while giving back:

1. Consider buying your loved one a food-bearing tree (or a gift card for one) from Hidden Harvest Ottawa. Alternatively, you can donate a tree to a community group, such as Ottawa Community Housing, in someone’s name.

2. Buy a South March Highlands 2014 calendar, with beautiful photos of the landscapes, flora and fauna of this special place in Ottawa’s west end.

3. Offer to teach someone something, or give them the gift of learning. Many art, music and other places offer gift certificates. Check out the Westboro Brainery, a community initiative that has short (around 2 hour) courses on a wide variety of subjects, including vegan cooking, solar power for the home, beginner salsa dancing and indoor plant care, for starters.

4. Give the gift of fun, fitness and social interaction with a gift certificate for the City of Ottawa’s recreation and culture programs. You’ll find everything from skating lessons to yoga to playgroups for preschoolers.

5. Consider a book or e-book on environmental issues from your favourite independent bookstore, or a digital or paper subscription to an environmental magazine. A\J Alternatives Journal is one of my favourites. Browse for others at Magazine Canada’s website; search under “Science and Nature” or another category of interest, and check out their Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale.

6. Give a no-waste, renewable, recyclable gift: give a library book! See guest blogger Eloise Collison’s 2007 post on how this works.

7. Search Swapsity for a gift that you can obtain by swapping something you no longer need—you’ll save cash and keep things out of the landfill.

8. Give a gift of seeds, trees or clean water for someone who can use it through USC CanadaUNICEF CanadaKiva and many other organizations offer global gifts as well.

9. For the person who wants to live more sustainably, EnviroCentre’s enviroBoutique may have something, like a Fireplace Package with Eco-Logs or a Water Wise kit with a low-flow showerhead and aerators.

10. Check out eco-store terra20’s gift suggestions, or their gift cards (made out of birch!) You’ll find terra20 in the Pinecrest Shopping Centre, Wellington St. W. and online.

11. Buy local and send a gift to someone in Ottawa or elsewhere in Canada through SMAKK, which stands for “Share Meaningful Acts of Kindness and Karma.” You browse their website for what’s on offer from participating shops and services, choose a gift and they’ll send a gift card to your family member or friend. Offerings include yoga from PranaShanti Yoga Centre, jewellry from TUBEDJewelry made out of old bike inner tubes and Bôhten’s designer eyeglasses made from recycled materials.

12. Shop locally through Givopoly: you choose a gift from their website—like soap from Purple Urchin or local foodie gift boxes—and they’ll deliver it the next day.

13. Look for a merchant that pays as much attention to the environment and the community as to profits. The Ottawa-based Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED) has a holiday gift guide to buying from socially and environmentally-conscious companies, such as Camino which makes fair trade, organic chocolate, or Cycle Salvation where you can find used, reconditioned bikes and parts.

14. If you know a local food aficionado, you may find something appropriate at a local food producer or retailer who’s a Savour Ottawa member. You’ll find more suggestions on the Earthward blog. Don’t forget that the Ottawa Farmers’ Market is holding its Christmas Market on Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22, 2013, and the Ottawa Specialty Food Association has a Flavours of Ottawa Stocking Stuffer Specialty Food Fair on Saturday, December 21, 2013.

15. With a donation to Ecology Ottawa, you get a free subscription to EcoParent Magazine.

Please share any other suggestions you have in the comments section below!

Living Green Expo in Ottawa April 27-28, 2013

Guest post written by Jill Sturdy, Coordinator, Living Green Expo.

Banner courtesy Living Green Expo
Image courtesy Living Green Expo

Join us for an exciting new event coming to Ottawa!

Discover Sustainable Healthy Living

Living Green Expo
April 27 & 28, 2013, 10am – 4pm
Ottawa Convention Centre
Downtown at 55 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa

Living Green Expo will provide an exciting opportunity for residents of the National Capital Region to discover sustainable healthy living through local companies offering products and services offering environmental stewardship and health and wellness.

Features over 125 exhibitors, thought-provoking presentations, an eco-fashion show, a children’s fun zone, and the announcement of the winners of the Home Sweet Home Student Challenge, a competition to design Rick Mercer’s green “granny flat”.

It’s easy to get to Ottawa Convention Centre, located in the heart of downtown–take a bus, bicycle, walk or drive (or even canoe down the canal!).

Admission is by donation and proceeds collected will be donated to Ecology Ottawa and Canadian Organic Growers (Ottawa–   St.Lawrence – Outaouais Chapter).

For more information visit

Living Green Expo is presented by the Ottawa Convention Centre, and has a number of generous sponsors that helped make the event possible including terra20, the City of Ottawa, Mediaplus, St. Joseph Communications, Ottawa Business Journal, Metro News and AVW-Telav. The event will also be Bullfrog powered, using 100% green electricity.

* * *

Green Living Ottawa also received a guest post on the Living Green Expo from Barbara Moore, a local green activist, a small sustainable business owner ( will be an exhibitor at the show) and a member of Ottawa Local Motives, which contributes to several sustainable events in Ottawa, including The Living Green Expo. Thanks, Barbara.

Earth Month April 2013 at terra20

Written by Denise Deby.

terra20 books photo by Denise Deby

Living green, for many of us, means trying to do the best we can as consumers, by reducing, reusing, recycling, and choosing environmentally-friendly goods and services over harmful ones, when options and information exist.

Bringing a wide range of sustainable products to the Ottawa market is the approach of eco-store terra20, which opened last year. Billed as North America’s largest eco-store, Ottawa-based terra20 sells an array of items, from household goods and cleaning products to office supplies, clothing and more. In one visit, you could pick up non-toxic shampoo, bamboo and organic cotton bed sheets, a backpack made of recycled soda bottles with a solar cell phone recharger, a copy of Adria Vasil’s Ecoholic, and fair-trade chocolate.

Terra20 posts the ingredients of the products it sells, and adds its own labels to let customers know what eco-principles it considers those products to be consistent with—for example, “organic,” “made in Canada” or “waste-reducing.” Few products do everything, but terra20’s overall message is upbeat: its name comes from the idea that “the year 20-something will be the year we achieve sustainability.”

Sustainability may be more of an ongoing process, but one interesting thing about terra20 is that—like smaller stores in Ottawa that sell environmentally-friendly products, but on a bigger scale—it’s working to build a community where people think about and share ideas about green living.

Terra20 is continuing to do that this month in a big way, through social media and in-store promotions. Its Earth Month celebration focuses on a new theme each week. Last week’s was cloth and alternative diapering.

This week’s topic is litterless lunches, and on Saturday, April 13 from noon-4 p.m. at the store, there’ll be presentations on products as well as a litterless lunch food prep demonstration (with samples) by the amazing Judi Varga-Toth of Credible Edibles.

The third week is about reducing waste, and includes an Earth Day celebration on Saturday April 20 from noon-4 p.m. Several companies will present products that use recycled materials or help you reuse your own, including EcoJot, which makes stationery from recycled paper, and local business naCoille which produces hand-crafted cutting boards and furniture from reclaimed wood. The afternoon will be hosted by the always-impressive Ian Capstick of MediaStyle.

Week 4 will be all about terra20’s ecobar, where customers can purchase household cleaning solutions in refillable bottles. Further details on all the Earth Month events are at

Terra20 is located at 2685 Iris St. in the mall beside Ikea, on bus routes 96, 101 and 172 (or bike along Iris), and offers online browsing and shopping as well.

Green gatherings in Ottawa-Gatineau December 2012

Written by Denise Deby.

Christmas Candle Lights by Dave Patrick on Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Dave Patrick on Flickr (Creative Commons)

December’s a great month for getting to know the city’s environmental groups and the people behind them. Many have seasonal get-togethers—and what better place than a relaxed, convivial setting to meet others, find out more and get involved?

The Sustainable Enterprise Alliance (SEA) is a group of businesses in Ottawa and Gatineau working toward sustainable practices and a resilient economy. It’s holding one of its regular networking pub nights, called “SEA and Be SEEN,” on Monday, Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at Brasseurs du Temps, 170 Rue Montcalm in Gatineau.

Meet Fair Trade Ottawa Équitable (FTOÉ) volunteers at Shop and Share at Ten Thousand Villages on Wednesday, Dec. 12 from 5-9 p.m. There’ll be music, food samples and shopping, with a portion of proceeds supporting FTOÉ. You can drop by either of Ten Thousand Villages’ locations, 371 Richmond Road or 1174 Bank Street.

Transition Ottawa is hosting a Community Pubnight on Thursday, Dec. 13 from 6:30-10 p.m. at the Lieutenant’s Pump, 361 Elgin St. Members of Transition Ottawa, Permaculture Ottawa, the Ottawa Community Currency Network, and Resilient Kitchen will be there, so expect some creative and lively discussions.

Also on Thursday, Dec. 13, Sustainable Living Ottawa West (SLOWest) is holding its Winter Solstice Gathering at RightBike Headquarters, 1A McCormick St. from 7-9 p.m. They’re offering good company as well as a potluck (finger foods) and beverages.

Green Drinks Ottawa is a monthly event that brings together people interested in the environment. The next one is Thursday, Dec. 13 after 5:30 at the Fox and Feather Pub, 283 Elgin St.

Please add a comment if you know of other events!