Eco-Events in Ottawa Area, end of July 2011

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:, and

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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: and

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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:


Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues, when she’s not out in the real world (ok, sometimes even then).

What inspires people to do something about the environment? Often, it’s knowing what we can do to make a difference, and that we’re not alone in our efforts.

This past Saturday I attended Social Capital Ottawa, a conference bringing together people using social media in Ottawa. It was a great opportunity to meet other Ottawa bloggers and Twitterers “in real life,” and to learn more about using social media effectively. (Sessions covered everything from writing to selecting social media tools, using social media for social change, making sense of social media metrics and more.)

One of the main observations I came away with is that with Ottawa’s social media users, the whole really is more than the sum of the parts. That is, bloggers, Tweeters and Facebook users – although using social media for different purposes – aren’t just putting stuff out there for others to read; they’re creating conversations, connecting people – and building community.

Glen Gower of Ottawa Start, who gave the conference’s keynote address, said a couple of things that stuck with me. One is that blogging and Tweeting enable people to channel “collective community energy,” which Ottawans have been doing for a long time, just in other ways. Another is that people in Ottawa, through their use of social media, are building our city.

This got me thinking about the people who are helping connect those of us who are concerned about Ottawa’s environment – using blogs and Tweets to share ideas and challenges, and to encourage us to inspire each other:

(These examples are the tip of the iceberg, so to speak – please share others you know of.)

Building Ottawa as a community of people living sustainably takes more than a few social media tools. But people using these tools help us learn and share what’s possible.

Green Events this Weekend in Ottawa (June 4-5 2011)

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

This weekend, June 4 and 5, 2011, you’ll find lots of activities with an environmental twist taking place in Ottawa.

For family-friendly activities, you can’t beat the Ottawa International Children’s Festival. It always offers a variety of amazing live performances but this year it includes an initiative to help children envision ways to address climate change. The Climate Change Project: Children’s Forests of the Future allows visitors to experience drama and music performances, create their own art, and see creations by Ottawa students in collaboration with professional artists and climate change scientists. The Festival takes place June 1-5 at Lebreton Flats Park on the grounds of the Canadian War Museum.

If you’re gardening, or hankering to, then the Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s Annual Plant Sale is for you. You can learn which native plants will attract birds and butterflies to your yard while eliminating the need for sprinklers, fertilizers and pesticides. The sale is Saturday June 4 from 9:30 am-12:30 pm at Fletcher Wildlife Garden on the east side of Prince of Wales Drive south of the Arboretum (take a stroll around the Garden while you’re there).

If you prefer to do spring cleaning, you can participate in Ottawa’s Give Away Weekend on Saturday June 4 and Sunday June 5. Check the City’s website for suggestions on what kinds of household items to set out at the curb for people to take away for free. Or, donate your stuff to the South March Highlands-Carp River Conservation Inc. group which is taking part in the Island Park Drive Yard Sale on Saturday; contact Andrea Prazmowski at to donate items. If you haven’t had your fill of garage sales following last week’s Great Glebe Garage Sale, you can find other opportunities to reuse and recycle stuff by checking Ottawa Start’s garage sale postings at!/ott_garage_sale or other recycling suggestions at

If you’re hooked on cycling after Bike to Work month in May, you can keep up the momentum with the first ever Capital Velofest. Established by Capital Vélo Fest Inc., a non-profit corporation that hopes to inspire people to ride their bikes more, the Velofest will include a “bicycle rodeo” at Ottawa City Hall on Saturday June 4 from 11 am-4 pm offering a bike display and demonstrations, bicycle polo, bike parts jewellery making, seminars on bike safety and maintenance, and more. The Velofest includes a Tour la Nuit from 7-11 pm.

Last but not least, this weekend’s Doors Open Ottawa offers a chance to visit private and public buildings that are not normally open to the public. It includes several sites that are environmentally noteworthy, like the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre (800 Green Creek Dr.) that treats Ottawa’s wastewater, or the green-roofed CD Howe Building at 235 Queen St. New to Doors Open Ottawa this year is the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation’s Beaver Barracks at 464 Metcalfe St., billed as “the greenest rental building in Ottawa” with “the largest residential geothermal exchange system in Canada” as well as low-flow fixtures, a green roof and secure bike parking. You can also visit several LEED-certified buildings including the Huron Early Learning Centre at 24 Capilano Dr., Ottawa’s first LEED-certified child care centre, the new OC Transpo Industrial Garage at 745 Industrial Ave., and the Ottawa Paramedic Service Headquarters at 2465 Don Reid Dr.
Let us know if you have any other suggestions for the weekend!

Environment Week and Beyond…

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who tries to ride her bike even though she doesn’t have much of a commute some days.

Environment Week 2010 is May 30-June 5. It’s scheduled to coincide with the UN’s World Environment Day on June 5. In Ottawa, Environment Week is quickly followed by Bike to Work Week, so it might be a good time to get a tune-up if your bike needs one.

Here are some of the events coming up in Ottawa:

May 30-June 5: Commuter Challenge

Commuter Challenge is a Canada-wide program to get people walking, running, rollerblading, cycling, taking public transit, carpooling or teleworking instead of using their cars. Individuals and workplaces can register online. The site will also track which cities and workplaces have the highest participation over the week (last year Ottawa was 4th in Canada).

June 2-6: Environment Week Film Festival
An impressive array of films – some twenty documentaries in all — will be shown at the Canadian Museum of Nature’s new theatre, in partnership with the Planet in Focus International Film & Video Festival. Schedule at Call 613-566-4791 or visit the Museum reception desk for tickets.

June 2: Clean Air Day

You can find information and suggestions for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions at the Clean Air Day website. At Ottawa City Hall from 12 noon-1 pm, Councillor Clive Doucet and the Netherlands Embassy will present speakers, cycling groups and a “best dressed” bike commuter contest (see

June 7-11: Bike to Work Week
Sign up or get information at EnviroCentre, or join the Celebration Station on the Ottawa River Pathway by the War Museum on June 8, a free cycling lunch and learn at City Hall on June 9 at noon, or the BBQ on Bank Street between Laurier and Slater on June 10 from 11:30-1:30.

Also coming up soon:

June 5-6: Doors Open Ottawa

Intended to promote heritage, architecture and design, Doors Open Ottawa is also a great way to learn more about how we live in our environment. The 119 buildings that will open their doors to the public include the C.D. Howe Building, the first federal building in downtown Ottawa with a “green roof”; the Fleet Street Pumping Station and Aqueduct, Ottawa’s first waterworks, the Lemieux Island Purification Plant, one of the city’s two water purification plants, and the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre for wastewater treatment; and the Rideau Valley Conservation Centre and Minto EcoHome. Not all buildings are open both days, so check the website for sites and hours.

June 11: Sustainability Summit
Choosing our Future is hosting a Sustainability Summit at City Hall for citizens and community leaders to discuss how we can become a more sustainable, resilient and livable community. More information online or call 613-580-2424, ext. 14686 or e-mail

Handkerchief Season

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.

I’m glad it’s spring.

I don’t know what it was these past few months, but my family went through two kinds of stomach flu, two bouts with low fevers and coughs, and a nasty cold. Nothing serious, thankfully, but low-grade annoying.

I’m grateful that we have (1) a ready supply of water (and an energy-efficient washing machine); (2) a green bin that allows for composting tissues; and (3) Hankettes.

Hankettes are these soft organic cotton cloth handkerchiefs that are great for wiping noses as well as cleaning washable marker off 4-year-olds’ stomachs (don’t ask), and numerous other uses. I picked up a pocket pack of them a few years ago at Arbour Environmental Shoppe in the Glebe. They still look and feel almost new.

I must admit to a deeper connection with those small off-white squares of cloth. After I’d first purchased some, I was visiting my dad in BC a year or two after my mom passed away. I found out that Hankettes is a small family-run business near where my parents lived in Sechelt on BC’s Sunshine Coast. My dad and I found their trailer on a wooded lot near a small house. The proprieter, Lesley, was friendly and we laughed about me coming all the way from Ottawa seeking Hankettes. I bought a few more, along with a colourful box to fold them into so they pull out like tissues. I also ended up with two organic cotton towels, and my dad, a long-time handkerchief user, bought a few of the larger Hankettes.

My dad passed away a couple of years later, and I haven’t been back to Sechelt or the trailer. But when my sisters and I cleared out my parents’ house, I found a couple of my dad’s Hankettes — somehow comforting, in more ways than one.

When I checked recently, Arbour was still carrying Hankettes, which can also be found online.

After all, allergy season is coming soon.

Sick of Your Wardrobe? Make a Swap April 2nd

By guest blogger Marilyn Champagne

Do you have too many clothes that don’t fit anymore?  Do you sometimes buy things on impulse but never end up wearing them?  Would you like to declutter your house but dont`t want to all your things to go to waste?  Would you like to get new clothes but don’t have money to spend?

Then our clothing swaps might be for you! 🙂

I started a clothing swap club in Montréal which became very popular, with over 250 members.  Last year, when I moved to Ottawa, I started one here too; it’s called the Garde-robe collectif and we have around 70 members so far.

Clothing swaps are events where people bring used clothing and other items that they don’t want anymore and can take things that other people brought, so it’s a win-win situation; you can get rid of things that are wasting valuable space in your home without creating more waste since your things will either go home with someone else or be given to a charity if nobody wants them, and get new things in an environmentally friendly way by reusing items, without having to spend any money!

The Garde-robe collectif meets once every two months at one of our members’ place.  Usually, 5-10 people attend each swap.  People can bring any clothes, accessories, shoes as well as books, CDs, DVDs, and other small household items that they don’t want anymore.  We put everything together and people take what they like; there is no minimum or maximum of items to bring or take. Whatever is left at the end goes to the Salvation Army.  Sometimes we get local designers to give us samples or items from their older collections for the swap as well.  There is usually food prepared by the host or brought by attendees 🙂  It’s a fun way to meet people who are also into a greener and more frugal lifestyle in Ottawa-Gatineau!

It’s free for people to join our club.  You can either join the mailing list by sending an email to, or look for le Garde-robe collectif group on Facebook:

Here is an interview about my club that aired on the CBC Ottawa (Frugalista) if you want more info:

Our next swap will be Friday, April 2nd at 10 AM in the ByWard Market area and there is still room for people to participate! 🙂  Feel free to email me if you have any questions or would like to attend our current or future events!

Founder, president
Garde-robe collectif

Buy Nothing Day, Here and Gone

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is currently trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.

November 27 was Buy Nothing Day in North America. It passed by without much attention in Ottawa. But at least I can say I didn’t buy anything.

Or can I?

I didn’t spend any cash that day. No paper, coins or credit cards came out of my wallet. But my financial transactions continued.

On Buy Nothing Day, I still consumed electricity, water and heat, and was charged for them. I used bus tickets, purchased a couple of months ago. I ate food that I bought earlier in the week. I used my phone, cell phone and internet connections, all of which I’m paying for monthly.

Buy Nothing Day definitely made me think about how tied in I am to a financial system that doesn’t even need my active involvement. Maybe that’s the point. Adbusters would say I should also be turning off my computer and lights – the only way to draw attention to our default mode, consumption.

Still, Buy Nothing Day’s message is largely negative – don’t buy, don’t consume. Good to think about, but hard to engage people. What if it were about Doing Something as well? Are there alternatives to purchasing and consuming that we can participate in, to remind ourselves that there are other aspects to life? What about:

  • Spending time with friends and family, taking a walk in the woods or neighbourhood, reading a book, talking to our kids and to each other about having less stuff?
  • Trading or giving away something (e.g. on Ottawa Freecycle / Ottawa Full Circles), or finding a reuse for something no longer useful?
  • Volunteering — for a favourite organisation, or through Volunteer Ottawa (click on “I want to volunteer”)?
  • Writing a letter to an MP on climate change or another issue (for tips see David Suzuki’s website)?

I’ve been impressed by the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s campaign called “A Dare To Remember,” in which people commit to doing something brave or crazy or fun, to raise attention and funds for addressing HIV/AIDS in Africa. It’s a great way to capture people’s imaginations, and to prompt lots of people to do something, in their own way, to generate awareness about an issue. Maybe some lessons here?

Then, hopefully, we could sustain some momentum from Buy Nothing Day as we head into the December holiday and shopping season.