Buying Recycled, and Recycling for Good

Written by Denise Deby.

Blue reusable shopping bag by TooHotToHandle at en.wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Blue reusable shopping bag by TooHotToHandle at en.wikipedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

September brings pressures to buy stuff, like fall clothes and school supplies. Buying sustainable is one option; re-using, recycling and buying local or handcrafted items can be great alternatives.

Here are a few opportunities to shop local and/or repurposed:

The Old Ottawa South Community Association holds its Community Wide Porch Sale on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. The sale includes a tool drive for the Ottawa Tool Library, and an e-waste depot that supports Hopewell School Council and HealthBridge. CentretownSandy Hill  and other communities are also holding neighbourhood-wide garage sales on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, Sept. 12, the new 613flea, a non-profit marketplace for artists, artisans, antique vendors, vintage clothing sellers and other creative types to sell their wares, launches at Lansdowne Park. At the annual flea market at the Bronson Centre, you’ll find records, clothing, jewelry, art and more.

Update: Dress for Success Ottawa is holding a Fall Hidden Treasures Sale on Saturday, Sept. 12 until noon. Proceeds support DFS’s efforts to enable women in difficult circumstances to obtain clothes suitable for work.

(When you’re cleaning up at home this weekend, gather up any empty beer and wine bottles—if you return them to Beer Stores on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 12 and 13, 2015, all of the proceeds support Rogers House, which provides respite and palliative care to families at CHEO.)

Stock up on used books when Friends of the Ottawa Public Library hold their next Mammoth Book Sale on Saturday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at 100 Tallwood Drive. You can also purchase used books at many library branches; proceeds support the library through FOPL. If you’d like to donate books, check here for details on what’s needed.

Another place to find used books is at Karen Learning and Education Opportunities (KLEO)’s Annual Book Sale on Saturday, Sept. 19 at the Dovercourt Recreation Centre and Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Royal Canadian Legion’s Westboro Branch. Book purchases will support KLEO’s work to provide education for Karen children in Thailand.

If you’re looking for home renovation supplies, check out Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores—there’s one in Ottawa East and one in Ottawa West. Profits support Habitat for Humanity. They also accept donations of building and home décor materials, although it’s best to call to find out what they need. The stores also accept used electronics for recycling.

Need a bike to get to work or school, or just to ride? Try re-Cycles or Cycle Salvation. They sell refurbished bikes, and also accept bike donations. Check their websites for details.

Play It Again Sports and Tim’s Used Sports Equipment sell used athletic gear. Kunstadt Sports also has a selection of used equipment.

For second-hand clothes and accessories, in addition to thrift stores, try consignment stores like Rikochet ResaleClothes Encounters of a Second Time, The Clothes Secret, AMH Style and Boomerang Kids.

Update: On Saturday, Sept. 19 during Tastes of Wellington West, if you buy a used t-shirt at St. Vincent de Paul, Twiss & Weber will help you upcycle it as part of their #FabCollab.

Update: Also check out Etsy Made In Canada Day on Sept. 26 and 27 for crafts and products made locally and/or from reclaimed materials. There’s a growing list of vendors here.

Need more suggestions? Try And please let us know in the comments if you have favourite sources.

The Ottawa Tool Library

Written by Denise Deby.


Here’s exciting news—Ottawa is getting a Tool Library!

Tool libraries lend out tools, just as conventional libraries lend out books. Tool libraries have been set up in Toronto, Hamilton, Halifax and Calgary. Most charge an annual membership fee for the opportunity to borrow tools from the inventory.

Tool libraries are a great example of the sharing economy, minimizing the amount of “stuff” people have to buy, and pooling community resources for items that most people need only once in a while.

In Ottawa, the tool library is a non-profit initiative intended to provide people with affordable access to tools. It will open at Arts Court in the new year. Update: The Ottawa Tool Library opened in August at MakerSpace North, 250 City Centre. Check them out here!

In the meantime, the Ottawa Tool Library is holding a tool drive to help them get up and running. You can donate used or new hand tools, power tools and kitchen equipment. Check your cupboards, basement or garage for underused items you might have, clear the clutter and share with others! There are several drop off locations; check the website for details. They’ll be accepting donations again in January, and can use volunteers, too.

Stay tuned for more news about the Ottawa Tool Library!

Food Events in Ottawa September 2014

Written by Denise Deby.

Local school garden - D. Deby photo

Sometimes so many great events come up at once that I have to fit them all in one post. That’s the way it is with food right now. Take a look at what’s happening in the next week or so:

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Face the Waste Friday, Sept. 19 and Harvest Festival, Friday, Sept. 19-Sunday, Sept. 21 at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

Although many people go hungry, there’s actually enough food produced in the world for everyone. The problem lies in how food is distributed—and part of the problem is that around a third of the food produced in the world gets wasted rather than eaten.

In North America, much of this waste happens during processing, transportation, retail sales and in people’s homes. A Toronto study indicated that one in four household food purchases ended up in the garbage, while other stats suggest that over 30 per cent of fruits and vegetables in North America don’t even get to grocery store shelves because they’re considered too unattractive.

The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is hosting Face the Waste on Friday, Sept. 19. Katrina Siks and Jason Garlough will talk about how their initiative, Hidden Harvest Ottawa, collects fruit and nuts from urban food trees that would otherwise go to waste. There’ll also be a screening of Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story (2014), a documentary by Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin about their six-month adventure living off of food that would have been discarded and what they discovered about food waste.

Face the Waste starts at 7 p.m. (doors open 6:30); register at

On Sept. 20-21, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum continues its Harvest Festival with interactive demonstrations on how to reduce food waste. Learn how to turn vegetables into soup, check out worm composting, catch Just Eat It!: A Food Waste Story, and more. See the website for the schedule.

Just Eat It – A food waste story (Trailer) from Grant Baldwin on Vimeo.

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Just Food Public Farm Tour Sunday, Sept. 21

Just Food operates a farm site right in the city. They’re inviting people to come visit, check out the farm businesses that grow food there and learn about farming programs run by community groups for new Canadians and youth. It’s from 1:00-2:30 p.m. at 2389 Pepin Court near Innes and Tauvette Streets in Blackburn Hamlet. (See their website for further details on the event and how to get there.)

Also, every Sunday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., the farms at the Just Food site operate a Farm Stand where you can buy their fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs and preserves. For more information about the farmers, see their blog at

If you’re interested in organic farming yourself, Just Food accepts new applicants for their Start-Up Farm Program every year. This year applications for 2015 are due September 30, 2014. There’s more information at

Just Food Farm - D. Deby photo

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Feast of Fields Sunday, Sept. 21 and Organic Week Sept. 20-28

Feast of Fields is an annual celebration of local food organized by the Canadian Organic Growers. This year, Canadian Organic Growers–Ottawa St Lawrence Outaouais (COG OSO) is hosting Feast of Fields at the Moulin Wakefield Mill, from 12:30-3:30 p.m.

You’ll be able to sample creations by local chefs using organic ingredients from Ontario and Quebec farmers. There’ll also be organic beer and wine. You can take a walk through Gatineau Park or listen to live music, too.

Even better, Feast of Fields will raise funds for two great COG OSO programs: Growing up Organic, which helps schools set up organic gardens and runs education programs, and Senior Organic Gardeners, which supports gardening programs for seniors. Tickets are available in advance on Eventbrite.

Feast of Fields also kicks off Organic Week, a celebration of organic food and farming that takes place Sept. 20-28 across Canada.


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Transition Ottawa Film and Panel Discussion on The Healing Power of Plants Wednesday, Sept. 24

Transition Ottawa is hosting a screening of Numen: The Healing Power of Plants, a documentary on medicinal plants and traditional knowledge. The film invites viewers to “deepen our relationship with the natural world and reminds us of the healing made possible by re-embracing our place in the wider web of life.” After the film, local herbalists Amber Westfall of The Wild Garden and Corrie Rabbe of Radical Homestead will speak. 7-9 p.m. at the Jack Purcell Community Centre.


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The Myths of Safe Pesticides Book Launch at West End Well, Thursday, Sept. 25

As part of Organic WeekCanadian Organic Growers is holding a book launch for The Myths of Safe Pesticides. Author André Leu, president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and an international expert on sustainable agriculture, will speak about the book. A social hour (with refreshments) will follow.

It’s at the West End Well, 969 Wellington St. W. starting at 7 p.m. (doors open 6:30).

For more information, see

The Myths of Safe Pesticides cover - photo courtesy Canadian Organic Growers
The Myths of Safe Pesticides cover – photo courtesy Canadian Organic Growers

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
“Gifted” by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)

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
Mud Lake by Bram Cymet (bcymet) on Flickr Creative Commons

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.