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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/

Written by Denise Deby.

Long weekend - D. Deby

Back to school, back to work, new activities, changing weather—this time of year is often a time of transition.

Here, we savoured the last day of the August long weekend with a bike ride along the Ottawa River and a picnic at Britannia Beach. New routines start today, but I’m hoping we can continue to relive the good parts of summer as we head into a new month.

Some ideas for extending the green of summer:

Go outside

As summer holidays wind down, getting outdoors can be challenging. Spending time in nature has great physical and mental health benefits, though. Walk or bike to work or school. Balance screen and structured activity time with outdoor pursuits. Go for a walk, fly a kite, stop at the park or by the river.

Go recycled

If you’re stocking up on school or office supplies, look for eco-friendly notebooks, paper and other gear. Go for 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and avoid plastic and vinyl. For paper products that are a little special, check out Ecojot, sold in many shops around town. You can also find wonderful pencil cases, backpacks and bags made from recycled materials; try terra20EcoEquitable or EnviroCentre.

Go green

For lunches, single-serving packaged foods can seem convenient, but they produce a lot of garbage. Buy in bulk, prepare portions at home and use reusable containers–many stores carry stainless steel and cloth options. Use a reusable mug for coffee or tea. When it comes to clothing, shop vintage or used when possible, or organize a clothing swap. This time of year is a great time to (re)discover drying laundry on a clothesline–another way to get outdoors.

Laundry - D. Deby

 

Written by Denise Deby.

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Mud Lake trail, Britannia, Ottawa – Denise Deby photo

For most of us, living more sustainably is a work in progress. If the new year has inspired you to think about making eco-friendly lifestyle changes, or you’re seeking encouragement to continue and deepen what you’re already doing, here are a few ideas:

1. Go outside. Studies show that spending time in nature makes us happier, healthier and more engaged in protecting the world around us. Go for a walk around your neighbourhood, try out a recreational path or nature trail, run errands on foot or on your bike.

2. Find out what’s happening in your community. Get involved with a community garden, sign up with a group or organization working on environmental issues, stay informed about what’s happening locally, provincially and nationally.

3. Take sustainable transportation more often: walk, bike, bus or carpool. Remember that most of us use more than one of these modes of transportation in our lives; variety is okay.

4. Buy local food. Look for local producers. Invest in area farmers through a Community-Supported Agriculture share. Participate in a garden-sharing or tree-food program. In the spring, find a local farmers’ market. Grow some of your own food if you’re able. Join Just Food to help create a vibrant, just, sustainable food system in Ottawa.

5. Support clean energy. Contribute to green energy through Bullfrog Power—when you use electricity or natural gas, they’ll replace it with energy from clean sources. Invest in solar and renewable energy systems through the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-opReduce the energy you do use.

6. Conserve and protect water. Start with the Ottawa Riverkeeper’s “10 things you can do to protect your river,” and “10 reasons to say No to bottled water.”

7. Put fewer chemicals into the environment. Check the City of Ottawa’s list of more sustainable alternatives to common household cleaning products.

8. Get toxins out of your system. Download Environmental Defence’s guide to top 10 ingredients to avoid in personal care products, and the David Suzuki Foundation’s “Dirty Dozen” cosmetic chemicals to avoid.

9. Reduce the plastic in your life. Plastics are made with non-renewable resources, and they get into our landfills, waterways and oceans. To reduce your dependence on plastic, get inspiration from Beth Terry at “My Plastic-Free Life”—she has a good list of practical suggestions on her website.

10. Compost and recycle. Many of us still don’t! Use your green bin; according to the City of Ottawa, almost half of the city’s garbage by weight can be put into green bins. Check the city’s website for information on where to take your electronic waste for reuse or recycling.

11. Consume less and still get what you need by contributing to the collaborative economy. If you have a library card, you’re already participating; we get books from the common pool so we don’t all need to buy and own the same books. Curb your buying and expand your sharing with services such as Ottawa Freecycle or Swapsity. Join a bikeshare or carshare. Organize tool-sharing or a clothing exchange with neighbours and friends.

12. Take responsibility for the land we inhabit and the water we share by taking some time to find out what Idle No More is all about. Check out the local initiative Niigaan In Conversation, which is bringing people together to try to build a positive relationship between Indigenous peoples and non-native Canadians, in order “to create a future that is just and peaceful and beneficial to everyone living on this land.”

13. Keep learning. Find out what’s going on, for example, with Canada’s environmental laws and capacity to protect our environment through science, research, programs and facilities, and what we’re doing–or not—about climate change.

14. Make your voice heard. Write letters to decision-makers, sign petitions, take a stand on things that are important to you. Vote. Positive change happens when people take action themselves and when they demand action from their leaders and representatives.

Feel free to give one or more of these ideas a try, and please share other suggestions you have.

Written by Denise Deby.

Tiny tree by Sandra Regina on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandraregina/379661136/

Tiny tree by Sandra Regina on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandraregina/379661136/

Here are more ideas for making this time of year merrier and brighter.

Greenery

Still thinking about whether or not to get a Christmas tree? Here’s a great idea: you can buy a Norfolk Island Pine tree from Beau’s Brewery and they’ll deliver it through their Buy Your Beau’s Online program. The delivery fee goes to Operation Come Home, and Beau’s will also arrange for a tree to be planted for each one it sells. The tree comes in a recycled, reusable ceramic bottle, too.

If you buy a tree from The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, the funds all go to support patient and family services. (The trees are balsam firs from Nova Scotia.)

OttawaStart has a helpful list of Ottawa-area Christmas tree farms.

If you’re not sure whether to go real or artificial with your tree, check out the David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green post about the options. (Spoiler: real wins out.)

Wrap it up

Go usable, re-usable or recyclable with gift wrap. Cloth gift bags are a great choice (I used to buy them from Arbour Environmental Shoppe, but you can make your own). Other options are old newspapers, comic books or kids’ art, scarves or tea towels, cloth grocery bags, or last year’s paper remnants. You can even make your own plantable wrapping paper using seeds and old paper.

Give and take time

There are many organizations and causes around that could use your support. Check out Volunteer Ottawa for a variety of different ways that you can get involved. Charity Village has a directory of non-profit organizations.

Remember that this is a tough time of year for people who’ve lost loved ones, are dealing with a difficult situation, or don’t have access to adequate resources. Give them–or yourself–support and breathing space.

Don’t forget to slow down and take time to reflect, re-energize and spend time with family and friends if you can. Try heading outdoors!

More inspiration

Have a look back at Alette’s December 2007 posts on simplifying the season and “thingless giving.” UsedEverywhere.com has Christmas greening suggestions, from do-it-yourself gifts to clearing clutter, and The Centre for a New American Dream has plenty of ideas on its Pinterest page.

Finally, see Christopher Zumski Finke’s thoughts on “Less Stuff, More Heart” in YES! Magazine.

Happy holidays!

Written by Denise Deby.

Photo courtesy of Swapsity (via Facebook)

Photo courtesy of Swapsity (via Facebook)

It’s not easy to be a green consumer. Even though environmentally-friendly products are becoming more widely available, many of the things we use in our daily lives are produced in unsustainable ways, and too often, when we’re done with them, they end up as garbage, or as clutter that causes us stress.

There’s another way to buy less stuff, produce less waste and save money while still getting things we need: swapping. Swapping is an ages-old tradition that’s gaining new ground as people realize they can exchange what they no longer want for things they can use.

There’s now an online community that’s making it easier for people to swap: Swapsity.

Swapsity allows you to exchange things like clothes or toys your kids have outgrown for bikes or a tool set, for example, or turn that fancy juicer you never use into a weekend cottage get-away. Past swappers have traded wine glasses for a bookcraft supplies for a DVD set, planter and notebook, and even kitchen renovations for a car.

As well as stuff, you can swap skills and services on Swapsity. If you’re a savvy gardener or know another language, you can share your knowledge with someone else, and in return get those guitar lessons or that e-bike you’ve been dreaming of. If you run a small business, you can trade goods or services, such as your excess organic produce for web consulting, or personal training for marketing advice.

Marta Nowinska created Swapsity about five years ago, leaving her Bay Street investment banking job to launch an online swapping service for Canadians. When I spoke to her by phone, she summarized the benefits of swapping:

  • Financial: “Swapping essentially saves you money. Instead of using your hard-earned cash, you’re trading your skills, your time, your clutter. …Considering that an average Canadian is $27,000 in debt,…it’s just financially smart to integrate barter into your budget.”
  • Environmental: “It’s green. You’re trading your pre-loved items, you’re extending the lifecycle of products, you’re keeping useful items in circulation and out of landfills.”
  • Social: “You’re sharing with people, you’re building new connections. A number of people report making new friends through swapping.”

You can browse or view available items on Swapsity’s website. To participate, you sign up on the site (it’s free), list the things you own that you’d like to trade, and add the things you’d like to find, and Swapsity will generate swap matches based on your location. You can send messages to others through the site, and after you’ve reached agreement, you exchange items (usually in person or by mail).

Swapsity has a feature you can use to keep track of what friends and other trusted swappers are swapping, and the site provides information and safety tips. You can find out more and get started at http://www.swapsity.ca/barter101.

Swapsity also organizes swap events. So far, these successful events have been focused in Toronto, but Marta tells me they are open to organizing more events in other cities, including Ottawa, if there’s enough interest and some volunteers to help out.

Giving away your used stuff is one way to recycle it, but what I like about swapping is that it places value on what you’re offering up, and what you have goes to someone who really wants it—you’re not just passing on your trash. Swapping is also a way for individuals to make small changes that can add up.

As Marta explains, Swapsity is building a swapping economy that will coexist with and complement the existing cash economy. “Our recommendation is swap for at least five per cent of your budget, to save money, to be eco-friendly, to build communities and more connected relationships. This is something where once we reach critical mass you will be able to tap into this amazing resource where you can get pretty much anything on barter.”

You can check Swapsity out at their websiteon Facebook and on TwitterSwapsity welcomes volunteers, so if you’d like to see more swapping happening in Ottawa online or through events, you can contact them at volunteers@swapsity.ca.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

by guest blogger  Laura Leet, 3i Summit Project Coordinator

For the first time in Ottawa, leaders and change agents from many different sectors are coming together to collaborate and take action toward realizing Ottawa’s potential to be an environmentally sustainable city.
The “3i Summit on Sustainability: Collaborating for Action” will be held on May 4 & 5 at Dow’s Lake Pavilion. Local leaders and change agents who want to advance sustainability in Ottawa are encouraged to take part.
A goal of the Summit is to expand and tap into the pool of leaders and mentors from different sectors that can support new community greening projects and eco-business ventures. Catalyst leaders such as Moe Garahan, Executive Director of Ottawa’s Just Food, Stephen Guilbeault, Founder of Québec’s Equiterre and Tom Heintzman, Co-founder of  Bullfrog Power will provide inspiration. A cultural celebration of the community’s accomplishments will take place during the Friday evening Sustainability Soirée.
Register on-line now at www.3isummit.com.  Two-day registration is only $75 and includes two lunches and the Sustainability Soirée.   Passes for the Soirée only may be purchased for $25. For more information visit 3isummit.com or contact Laura Leet projectcoordinator@3isummit.com, 613-656-7800.

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues.

Some upcoming events worth checking out:

Support the South March Highlands at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument (in front of City Hall on Elgin St.) on Thursday July 28 at noon. Speakers include Sierra Club of Canada President John Bennett and Kurtis Benedetti, a 23-year-old Ottawa resident who is arriving home after cycling from Cape Breton to Ottawa – 2100 km – to raise awareness about the South March Highlands. Organisers will also read messages from Order of Canada recipient Grandfather William Commanda, Greenpeace and other supporters. After the rally, people are welcome to ride with Kurtis for the last leg of his journey, to the South March Highlands (about 20 km).

From the event press release: “Ottawa is believed to be the only major urban city in the world to have such a biodiverse, old-growth forest harbouring large mammals and endangered species within its urban boundaries. (Vancouver, with Stanley Park, is a distant second.) The forest contains provincially significant wetlands and has two provincial nominations as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI), putting it on a par with Algonquin Park. Archaeological artifacts have been found nearby showing evidence of pre-contact occupation, and the area is believed to have high potential as a

World Heritage Site. Algonquin Nations have been vocal in calling for a new comprehensive archaeological assessment of the area. Despite being officially declared as Environmental Area in 1970 and officially “protected” for more than two decades, only a third of the original South March Highlands remains….In 2011, the International Year of the Forest, with the blessing of the Ontario Municipal Board and Ottawa’s newly elected City Council, developers clear-cut a large portion of the area known at the Beaver Pond Forest. Despite the loss, some 15,000 Canadian citizens, First Nations and organizations vow to continue the fight to save the remaining South March Highlands.” For more information: http://www.union-algonquin-union.com/south-march-highlands/, http://southmarch.wordpress.com/ and http://www.ottawasgreatforest.com.

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The Rideau Canal Festival takes place July 28-August 1 at several spots along the canal including Confederation Park, the Ottawa Locks (at Bytown Museum), and Dows Lake Pavilion. The Festival is a celebration of the Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and features a range of activities. New this year are an art show and world heritage concerts (which include environmental storytelling for children), and a Bicycle Chic fashion show. Admission applies to some events.

As part of the Festival, the Energy Ottawa Ecosphere Environmental Fair takes place starting July 30. This “environmental and green building fair” is organised by Group Ecosphere, a non-profit organization, and includes exhibits from companies and organisations about green building, new technologies, organic farming, alternative medicines and other services. For more information: http://www.rideaucanalfestival.ca/index.html and http://www.projetecosphere.org/en/index-ottawa.php.

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Pinhey’s Point Historic Site has a Campfire and Storytelling event on July 29 at 7:00 p.m. Gather around the campfire, roast marshmallows and listen to First Nations stories and legends. Reservations required; cost is $6 per child, $10 for two or $16 per family. For more information on this and other great local museum programming: http://www.ottawa.ca/residents/heritage/museums/index_en.html.

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