Switching Gears

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


14 Ways to Green Your 2014

Written by Denise Deby.

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.

Greening the Season 1: Green Gift-Giving

Written by Denise Deby.

"Gifted" by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic http://www.flickr.com/photos/brandsvig/8229019147/
“Gifted” by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic) http://www.flickr.com/photos/brandsvig/8229019147/

This is a lovely time of year to slow down, enjoy being with family and friends, and give meaningful gifts. Too often, though, it’s a time when many people find themselves buying too much, trying to accomplish too much and feeling like they can’t cope.

Here are a few suggestions for giving sustainably while giving back:

1. Consider buying your loved one a food-bearing tree (or a gift card for one) from Hidden Harvest Ottawa. Alternatively, you can donate a tree to a community group, such as Ottawa Community Housing, in someone’s name.

2. Buy a South March Highlands 2014 calendar, with beautiful photos of the landscapes, flora and fauna of this special place in Ottawa’s west end.

3. Offer to teach someone something, or give them the gift of learning. Many art, music and other places offer gift certificates. Check out the Westboro Brainery, a community initiative that has short (around 2 hour) courses on a wide variety of subjects, including vegan cooking, solar power for the home, beginner salsa dancing and indoor plant care, for starters.

4. Give the gift of fun, fitness and social interaction with a gift certificate for the City of Ottawa’s recreation and culture programs. You’ll find everything from skating lessons to yoga to playgroups for preschoolers.

5. Consider a book or e-book on environmental issues from your favourite independent bookstore, or a digital or paper subscription to an environmental magazine. A\J Alternatives Journal is one of my favourites. Browse for others at Magazine Canada’s website; search under “Science and Nature” or another category of interest, and check out their Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale.

6. Give a no-waste, renewable, recyclable gift: give a library book! See guest blogger Eloise Collison’s 2007 post on how this works.

7. Search Swapsity for a gift that you can obtain by swapping something you no longer need—you’ll save cash and keep things out of the landfill.

8. Give a gift of seeds, trees or clean water for someone who can use it through USC CanadaUNICEF CanadaKiva and many other organizations offer global gifts as well.

9. For the person who wants to live more sustainably, EnviroCentre’s enviroBoutique may have something, like a Fireplace Package with Eco-Logs or a Water Wise kit with a low-flow showerhead and aerators.

10. Check out eco-store terra20’s gift suggestions, or their gift cards (made out of birch!) You’ll find terra20 in the Pinecrest Shopping Centre, Wellington St. W. and online.

11. Buy local and send a gift to someone in Ottawa or elsewhere in Canada through SMAKK, which stands for “Share Meaningful Acts of Kindness and Karma.” You browse their website for what’s on offer from participating shops and services, choose a gift and they’ll send a gift card to your family member or friend. Offerings include yoga from PranaShanti Yoga Centre, jewellry from TUBEDJewelry made out of old bike inner tubes and Bôhten’s designer eyeglasses made from recycled materials.

12. Shop locally through Givopoly: you choose a gift from their website—like soap from Purple Urchin or local foodie gift boxes—and they’ll deliver it the next day.

13. Look for a merchant that pays as much attention to the environment and the community as to profits. The Ottawa-based Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED) has a holiday gift guide to buying from socially and environmentally-conscious companies, such as Camino which makes fair trade, organic chocolate, or Cycle Salvation where you can find used, reconditioned bikes and parts.

14. If you know a local food aficionado, you may find something appropriate at a local food producer or retailer who’s a Savour Ottawa member. You’ll find more suggestions on the Earthward blog. Don’t forget that the Ottawa Farmers’ Market is holding its Christmas Market on Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22, 2013, and the Ottawa Specialty Food Association has a Flavours of Ottawa Stocking Stuffer Specialty Food Fair on Saturday, December 21, 2013.

15. With a donation to Ecology Ottawa, you get a free subscription to EcoParent Magazine.

Please share any other suggestions you have in the comments section below!

Sustainability in Action, September 2013

Mud Lake by Bram Cymet (bcymet) on Flickr Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcymet/3612946699/
Mud Lake by Bram Cymet (bcymet) on Flickr Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcymet/3612946699/

From wild spaces to innovative green technologies to events that bring people together, Ottawa has a lot going on these days. Here are a few things to check out:

One of my favourite natural places in Ottawa is Mud Lake, near Britannia. It has walking trails, water and wildlife, with an impressive range of species. You can discover the area AND contribute to cataloguing its biodiversity at Nature Canada’s BioBlitz on Friday, Sept. 13 and Saturday, Sept. 14. Everyone is welcome to join the nature walks led by local naturalists to look for birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles. Check the schedule for details.

If you want to see some cool sustainability initiatives in the city, take in the Ottawa Sustainability Tour on Saturday, Sept. 14. It’s self-guided and encompasses several environmentally-significant sites, including the Richelieu Park forest, Fletcher Wildlife Garden, the Children’s Garden, Major’s Hill Park, the playground at Brewer Park, the University of Ottawa’s FSS building (with North America’s tallest “green wall”), Algonquin College’s Centre for Construction Excellence, Mooney’s Bay, the Corktown footbridge and terra20. There’ll be information and resource people at each location, and you can download or pick up a guide to the sites. The tour is organized by The Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City Council, Tucker House and The Otesha Project with other collaborating partners.

At 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, you can also take part in Capital Vélo Fest’s fun bicycle rally from 8 Locks’ Flat by the Corktown Bridge.

Tucker House is holding its fifth annual Green Gala on Saturday, Sept. 14. It’s a fundraiser for Tucker House’s environmental education, retreat and leadership programs. The masquerade ball includes live music, locally-sourced refreshments, an “eco-auction” and tours of the organization’s historic building. Tucker House is in Rockland, but there’s a free return shuttle leaving from Ottawa. See the website for details, and the Tucker House website for more information on its programs.

Preston Farmers’ Market Environmental Day and Electronic Waste Collection

Written by Denise Deby.

“Plugged” by Keoni Cabral on Flickr Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/keoni101/5145003933/

Jessica Sheridan at EnviroCentre sent us word of this Saturday’s Enviro Day and E-waste event at the Preston Farmers’ Market. It’s on Saturday, August 10, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Il Postino parking lot (corner of Preston and Louisa Streets):

Bring back your household electronics to have them recycled locally, safely, and in a sustainable manner.

Shop for delicious local foods and get rid of your old electronics, all in one convenient location!

Please help us divert electronic waste from landfill. Full list of accepted electronics at http://envirocentre.ca/services/enviroboutique/e-waste-recycling-program/.

We hope to see you there!”

VRTUCAR, Fair Trade Ottawa Équitable, RightBike, Ecology Ottawa, Hydro Ottawa and Windmill Development Group will also be at Enviro Day, along with the market’s vendors of produce, baked goods and more. Come on out if you can.

Green Home Reno Tour, Saturday Oct 24, 2012

By guest blogger Roger Senecal a real estate agent in Ottawa. Roger is a LEED Accredited Professional and an Accredited Green Agent with the National Association of Green Agents and Brokers.

There’s a unique event this Saturday October 27th in Ottawa – a Green Home Reno Tour. EnviroCentre has organized the Green Home Reno Tour to showcase several older homes where targeted renovations have resulted in improved comfort and significant energy and cost savings. The tour will be of interest to people who own or are thinking of buying an older house, those planning renovations, and any homeowners interested in increasing the resale value of their home. As well, it will be of interest to contractors who want to share their existing sustainable renovation practices, or learn more about what others are doing.

The day is planned to include site visits, networking, a trade show and a delicious meal. The cost is $20 per person, which includes the bus transportation and meal. Envirocentre collaborated with the Social Planning Council of Ottawa and Tucker House to organize this unique tour.

The schedule:

9 AM:  Registered participants meet at City Hall for coffee and snacks

9:30 AM:   Bus departs for first destination

Noon:  Refreshments served

2:30 PM:  Afternoon meal at Tucker House, followed by trade show

4 PM:  Bus departs for Ottawa, arriving just in time for dinner.

Here’s the link to register. Hope to see you there!

Green Home Reno Tour

Green Events in Ottawa June 2 and 3, 2012

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

Capital Vélo Fest 2012

For the second year, Capital Vélo Fest is hitting Ottawa streets, to promote cycling in our city. On Saturday, June 2 at Ottawa City Hall (11 a.m.-5 p.m.), there’ll be bicycle rodeos, games like bike polo and “bike limbo,” displays of bike products, helmet and bike checks, bike-powered fruit smoothies, and more. From 5-11 p.m. is the Tour la Nuit, a night-time bike ride from City Hall to the Experimental Farm and back (streets will be closed). On Sunday, festival activities will continue in Brantwood Park (10 a.m.-1 p.m.) and Hintonburg (6 p.m.)

Capital Vélo Fest was established last year as a non-profit corporation that aims to “inspire people of all ages to ride a bike more often.” The Festival may still need volunteers; you can contact them via their website.

Spring Give Away Weekend, Garage and Plant Sales Galore

On June 2 and 3 the City of Ottawa is holding Give Away Weekend to encourage residents to set out their unwanted household items at the curb for others to take. The City suggests you mark items as “free” when you put them out. Check their website for other tips as well as what not to include.

Several communities, including Hintonburg, Westboro and Carlington, are holding garage sales on June 2.

Also not to miss: the Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s Annual Native Plant Sale on Saturday, June 2, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Prince of Wales Drive south of the Arboretum. Volunteers will be on hand to offer advice.

Doors Open Ottawa

This weekend is Doors Open Ottawa, a great opportunity to tour buildings that are normally closed to the public. Several of the sites this year are “green buildings,” including the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence that features a five-storey biowall made of plants, Ashbury College with “Canada’s first teaching green roof,” the Beaver Barracks with Canada’s largest residential geothermal exchange system, and the landscaped roof of the C.D. Howe building. You can also tour the Britannia Water Treatment Plant and the Robert O. Pickard wastewater treatment centre. What’s more, there’s a free shuttle bus between downtown sites. Check the website for details, opening and closing times.