Tree Ottawa

Written by Denise Deby.

Ottawa Arboretum - D. Deby photo

A new initiative is taking root in Ottawa. Its goal: protecting and enhancing the city’s tree cover.

Tree Ottawa is a citizen-created program to plant, protect and promote trees and the places where trees grow. Housed at Ecology Ottawa, the program connects people to initiatives and resources for planting and caring for trees and tree habitats.

Tree Ottawa recognizes that trees are important. Trees mitigate climate change, reduce runoff and pollution, promote biodiversity, improve human health and well-being, and provide shade, recreation and food. Tree Ottawa also arises from concerns about threats to the city’s trees from extreme weather and climate change, damage from infill and development and the emerald ash borer.

Tree Ottawa’s plan includes:

  • a goal of planting 1 million trees by 2017;
  • an Adopt-a-Tree program to encourage people to sign up to protect existing trees;
  • Tree Map where people can mark and locate trees;
  • guides to tree planting, tree care and native trees;
  • links to information on existing tree initiatives and resources, including city programs and organizations such as Scouts Canada and Hidden Harvest Ottawa that are working to plant and protect trees;
  • a Tree Ottawa Ambassador program, in which volunteers promote tree planting and Tree Ottawa.

Check the Tree Ottawa website for other ways to get involved.

Tree Ottawa’s official launch is on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. in Champlain Park. The Champlain Oaks group will plant a bur oak sapling in the park during the event.


Call for Jane’s Walk Ottawa Volunteers

Posted by Denise Deby. Thanks to Laura Mueller, Jane’s Walk Ottawa organizing committee, for the information.

Nanny Goat Hill Community Garden Mural by Anastaz1a on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Nanny Goat Hill Community Garden Mural by Anastaz1a on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Jane’s Walk celebrates cities as places created by and for people. For one weekend every May, individuals lead walking tours of their favourite urban places, sharing their knowledge, interests and stories.

Jane’s Walk Ottawa is looking for volunteer walk leaders for walks that will take place on Saturday, May 3 and Sunday, May 4, 2014.

If there’s a spot you know of in Ottawa or Gatineau—an intriguing section of your neighbourhood, an area with a lot of character or history, a green or wild space, a place where residents are doing something interesting—consider helping others get to know it by leading a Jane’s Walk.

Last year in Ottawa there were over 50 walks (and a few biking events). You can see a list at the Jane’s Walk Ottawa website.

Jane’s Walk Ottawa also needs volunteer marshals to help with walking groups. See for information.

If you’d just like to walk, keep an eye on the Jane’s Walk Ottawa website later this month for a list of planned walks.

Jane’s Walk is a global event that pays tribute to the work of the influential urban thinker and writer Jane Jacobs. Last year, 800 walks were held in more than 100 cities in 22 countries. It’s a great opportunity for people to get to know their city and each other.

Building Resilience Through a Community Food Centre: The West End Well Co-op

Written by Denise Deby.

IMG_3661 (3)

What if you had a place in your neighbourhood where you could stop in for a fresh, local meal, stock up on organic groceries, pick up your Community Shared Agriculture order, hear some live music, attend a yoga or cooking class, borrow a book on permaculture or meet up with friends for a coffee or tea?

Now, what if you and other people in your community actually owned that place, and decided what it would offer?

That’s the West End Well Co-op, opening at 969 Wellington St. West in Hintonburg this spring.

The West End Well is part café, part organic grocery store and part meeting and learning space. The café, to be operated by Jacqueline Jolliffe of the popular food truck Stone Soup Foodworks, will offer freshly-prepared meals using seasonal, local ingredients. The grocery will sell produce, eggs, meat, dairy and dried goods from local farmers and producers, and there’ll be a coffee house space, a teaching kitchen, workshop rooms, and offices for sustainability-minded businesses and organizations.

The West End Well Co-op’s motto is “nourishment for a change.” Its purpose is to enhance people’s access to local, healthy food, but also to nourish mind and spirit as well as body.

“It’s a gathering place for people to support each other in the transition to a more sustainable and socially just society,” explains West End Well co-founder Bill Shields. Recognizing that we’re all going through this transition, the Co-op offers “unconditional welcome” to everyone.

The West End Well is a co-operative, and a social enterprise. That means it’s owned by its members, and run using a business model where profits are reinvested in meeting the Co-op’s social and environmental objectives. For a $50 lifetime membership fee, members can vote, run for the co-op board, and set policies. (Non-members can still shop there, and the Co-op will accommodate people who can’t afford the fee.)

The Co-op has raised enough community financing, managed through a holding company, to buy and renovate its own building. It’s also selling preference shares to raise funds for setup and operations for the first couple of years. It’s tapping into the wisdom of other food-centred co-operatives in Ontario through the Local Organic Food Co-ops network, and lots of people are volunteering their time and expertise to get the Co-op up and running.

The West End Well was created by a group of residents, many of whom have been active in the community network Sustainable Living Ottawa West (SLOWest). In order to make the building and operations as sustainable as possible, the West End Well is being designed using permaculture principles, with energy efficiency, minimal waste, affordability and fair wages for producers in mind.

If you’d like more information on the West End Well Co-op, or are interested in becoming a member, buying shares or volunteering, you can contact them through their website, or attend an information session. The next one is on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at the Hintonburg Community Centre, 1064 Wellington St. West from 7-9 pm.; RSVP to info [at] westendwell [dot] ca. Another session is planned for Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 7-9 p.m.


Greening the Season 2: Trees and People

Written by Denise Deby.

Tiny tree by Sandra Regina on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
Tiny tree by Sandra Regina on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

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


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.” 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!

Rally for the Rideau River

Written by Denise Deby.

Poster courtesy Ecology Ottawa on Facebook
Poster courtesy Ecology Ottawa on Facebook

Ecology Ottawa is organizing a rally to raise awareness about the proposed Energy East pipeline through Ottawa and to call on governments to protect the Rideau River and the city from the pipeline’s potential adverse effects. They’re inviting people to walk or canoe with them to City Hall on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013.

The rally will start at 1 p.m. at City Hall. People who’d like to walk there together can meet at 9:30 a.m. at Vincent Massey Park and those paddling will gather at 9:45 a.m. at Brewer Park.

Scheduled to be at the rally are Ben Powless of Ecology Ottawa, Clayton Thomas Muller of Idle No More, Algonquin elder Albert Dumont, the Sierra Club of Canada’s John Bennett, John Stone of Carleton University, Frances Deverell of ClimateFast and other speakers, artists and musicians.

According to Ecology Ottawa, TransCanada Corp. plans to convert a gas pipeline into a route for tar sands oil through Ottawa and across the Rideau River. Ecology Ottawa is asking the city and the public to reject the proposed pipeline because of the risks it poses to the water and food supply, ecosystems, climate and public health.

You can find out more from them at There’s also a petition on their website at along with other suggestions about how to get involved.

Swapsity Spreads the Benefits of Swapping

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

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

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup in Ottawa

Written by Denise Deby; thanks to Ashley Brasfield for information and links.

Image courtesy Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
Image courtesy Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

Plastic bags, food wrappers, bottles, cigarettes—and bathtubs, bowling balls and kitchen sinks: these are all items that have been retrieved from beside rivers and lakes during the annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

At the Shoreline Cleanup, volunteers come together to clean up the garbage that collects next to waterways. And there’s a lot of it. Last year, participants across Canada removed over 136,000 kilograms of litter from over 20,000 kilometres of shoreline.

This year, the Shoreline Cleanup is celebrating its 20th anniversary, with cleanups running from September 21 to 29, 2013.

There are quite a few cleanups planned for the Ottawa-Gatineau area—you can see a list and map at Many events are still looking for volunteers, so check it out if you can.

The launch of the Shoreline Cleanup in Ottawa is on Saturday, September 21 on the Ottawa River by the Rideau Canal, below Parliament Hill (meet starting at 8:15 a.m. behind the Bytown Museum). Everyone is welcome and there’ll be refreshments and a chance to win prizes.

The organizations behind the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, WWF and the Vancouver Aquarium, say that shoreline litter is a serious environmental issue, harming wildlife, ecosystems and the quality and health of our water.

Removing that litter is part of the effort needed to protect our waterways, along with measures such as reducing the waste we produce, preventing pollutants from entering the ecosystem and ensuring that waterways are monitored and protected.