The Challenge: to spend at least 30 minutes a day outside in nature, for 30 days.
The purpose: to reconnect with nature and reap the benefits—including better health, lower stress, more energy, increased happiness and connections with other people.
It might sound difficult to fit in, but it doesn’t have to be. Options include going for a walk, having lunch in a park, holding a walking meeting, sitting by the river, birdwatching, stargazing, or checking out a recreational path or any of Ottawa’s wonderful greenspaces. The 30×30 Nature Challenge website has daily tips and other suggestions. (One suggestion is not to worry if you can’t get out every day; every little bit helps.)
You can register on the site; workplaces and schools can also register to participate.
Here’s a way to try out some health and wellness products, hear some excellent music and support a good cause: The Babes4Breasts and Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre’s silent auction, concert and CDs.
The silent auction runs October 1-31, 2015. You can bid online for any of the items, which include:
An organic fruit and vegetable box from Goodfood2u, delivered to you;
Personal care product baskets from Bee Real, Lilou Organics and Green Beaver;
Passes to Empower Me Yoga;
A studio d yoga tunic;
A basket of goods from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company;
A glass art frame and drinking glasses made of recycled materials from Out of Ruins;
A “Babes4Breasts Superfan Package” that includes five Babes4Breasts CDs, two T-shirts a concert poster and more.
Other offerings include yoga CDs, sport and therapy passes, grocery and restaurant gift certificates, culinary lessons, health products, spa packages, family portrait sessions, vintage art, framed photos, handmade quilts, Ottawa Grassroots Festival passes, Ottawa 67’s tickets, a signed hockey jersey, ski lift tickets, hotel stays and more. Check out the auction items here: http://oicc2015.eflea.ca/view.
The Babes4Breasts Annual Benefit Concert is Saturday, October 24, 2015 at St. Albans Church (King Edward at Daly). It features Ana Miura, Oh Susanna, Amanda Rheaume, Jeremy Fisher and Sarah MacDougall. Tickets have sold quickly, so check out availability here. Even if you can’t get to the concert, you can buy the CDshere.
The Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre, a non-profit centre of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, provides research, education and complementary therapies (such as nutrition counselling, massage, exercise and yoga therapy) that work alongside conventional treatments (such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery) in an integrated approach to wellness. The OICC’s Head Start Program, supported by Babes4Breasts, helps women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer—a scary, overwhelming time—and helping ease anxiety and treatment side effects.
Babes4Breasts are Canadian recording artists who use music to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer prevention, education and support. Since 2007, they’ve made lot of good music and donated more than $125,000 to breast cancer charities. That’s music to the ears!
The course covers sustainable practices for growing food or ornamental plants. Topics include botany and adaptations within ecosystems, soil ecosystem, soil testing, mulches and compost teas/brews, garden bed installation, soil fertility management, waterwise gardening, pruning, turf, landscape health, permaculture design and organic standards.
The course is for urban growers, community gardeners, landscapers, environmental advocates, naturalists and others, including people who’d like to improve their skills and/or start a practice or business.
It runs over three weekends: October 17-18, November 7-8 and November 28-29, 2015 at COG’s National Office at 1145 Carling. The course fee includes a text, online resources and a one year e-subscription to The Canadian Organic Grower magazine and library.
Find more information here and here; register here by October 9.
There are plenty of other ways to get fresh, local produce on your plate. Here are a few:
Savour Ottawa Online
Savour Ottawa Online is a weekly service that lets you select and order food from local producers and pick it up at the Parkdale Field House. With Savour Ottawa, you visit the online marketplace, choose whichever products you’d like, and your order will be ready for pickup on the designated day a few days later. There’s everything from vegetables and meats to baked goods, prepared meals and personal care products.
Ottawa Good Food Box
A group of Ottawa organizations got together a few years ago and decided to create a way for people to obtain groceries closer to home and at affordable prices. They launched the Ottawa Good Food Box, which buys in bulk so members can get fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices. Not all of the food is locally sourced, but organizers strive to obtain produce as locally and affordably as possible. Anyone can participate in the monthly service, which offers a range of box sizes and types (including an organic box). Check the map to find the closest distribution site near you.
Good Food Markets
Good Food Markets bring food to communities that are underserved by regular grocery stores. At the markets, you’ll find a variety of fruits, vegetables and dry goods, as well as music and other community activities. Check the website for locations and dates.
The same group that brought about the Good Food Markets has launched Market Mobile, kind of a grocery store on wheels that brings healthy, affordable food to even more neighbourhoods. Find the schedule and locations on their website.
More local food sources
Ottawa’s numerous farmers’ markets offer fresh produce and other foods as well as a sense of community. Sometimes area farmers have farm gate stands where you can buy local, too. Check out Just Food’s Buy Local Grow Local Food Guide for more options.
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.
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!
You’ve probably heard–pollinators including bees, butterflies, moths and birds are being harmed by pesticides, loss of habitat, climate change and other negative influences on their health and numbers.
Healthy pollinators mean healthy food. It’s estimated that more than a third of what we eat and many plant-derived medicines need pollinators to grow.
The Ontario government is proposing a plan to enhance pollinator health and reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.
The plan, which would come into effect this year, would decrease the amount of land where neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds are planted by 80 per cent by 2017.
The proposal is open to public comment until January 25, 2015. For more details and to comment, see the website.
The David Suzuki Foundation has created a letter you can adapt and sign here.
The Ontario Beekeepers Association supports the direction of the plan and calls for additional steps to protect pollinators. See their example letterhere.