Here’s an opportunity to celebrate Earth Day while discovering more ways to green your home and energy use: the Old Home Earth Day Event on Saturday, Apr. 21, 2018 brings organizations, businesses and the public together for a free fair on reducing your carbon footprint and living more sustainably.
Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op, the Ottawa Tool Library, Nugrocery and EnviroCentre are among the groups on hand. The day includes free workshops, exhibits and a DIY space. Topics include improving home energy efficiency, renovations, sustainability through transportation and food choices, and more.
This second annual Old Home Earth Day Event is organized by the Glebe Community Association’s Environment Committee along with SMARTNet Alliance, the Peace and Environment Resource Centre, Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op and Bullfrog Power. OHEDE takes place at the Glebe Community Centre (175 Third Ave.) on Saturday, Apr. 21 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Thanks to the Glebe Environment Committee for the information and images.
The Same River Twice: Nature, Media, and Philosophy in the Anthropocene – Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2017
Carleton Climate Commons Working Group presents this talk by Dr. Etienne Turpin on urban ecologies, human understandings of nature and much more (see the website for details). At Carleton University, 132 Azrieli Pavilion from 3-4:30 p.m.
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Zero Waste Talk with Bea Johnson – Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2017
Bea Johnson’s zero waste lifestyle launched a movement on living waste-free. The creator of Zero Waste Home will be speaking at this session hosted by NU Grocery—Ottawa’s first zero waste grocery store—in collaboration with city councillors David Chernushenko, Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper, Mathieu Fleury and Tobi Nussbaum, EnviroCentre and EcoLead. At First Baptist Church, 7-9:30 p.m. See Eventbrite for details.
Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa – St. Lawrence – Outaouais (COG-OSO) presents its spring series of seminars on growing organic vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. Topics include getting started, healthy soils, in-ground and container gardening, pest management, vertical gardening and more–you can sign up for one seminar, or the whole series. At City Hall, 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. See the schedule and registration information on the COG-OSO website.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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-op. Reduce the energy you do use.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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 website, on Facebook and on Twitter. Swapsity welcomes volunteers, so if you’d like to see more swapping happening in Ottawa online or through events, you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.