Toronto Green Community has created an education and outreach fee-for-service program for Apartment Managers and Owners. The program is designed to help Apartment Owners reduce waste and save on costly disposal fees. Compared to Toronto’s recycling rates for single-family homes which is between 50% and 60%, the current recycling rate in apartment buildings is only 16%.
The Apartment Greening Program has carried out several successful pilot programs. In one Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) apartment building in Etobicoke, TGC increased recycling by over 113% and reduced waste by 30%. Currently we are expanding the Apartment Greening program.
ESL in the Garden
Being very much aware of the increasing number of newcomers in Toronto and the significance of involving them in environmental solutions, TGC developed our “ESL in the Garden” Manual” as an intermediary resource to connect ESL groups to community gardens for hands-on outdoor garden-related lessons along with in-class appropriate lessons covering range of environmental topics from starting your own garden to waste reduction, water conservation and food security.
Our objectives are:
- to create links between the environmental and community/settlement sectors
- to encourage newcomers to engage in environmental initiatives
- to encourage the environmental sector to effectively reach out to and engage diverse communities
- to provide a space for dialogue and for gardeners to share knowledge about growing food in an effort to help address food security issues in the city of Toronto
- to build inclusive and cooperative communities
This resource is ideal for settlement agencies, leaders of English Conversation Circles, ESL/LINC instructors, & international language schools. Bring environmental issues into the classroom or take your group outside for some experiential learning! .
TGC’s Naturalization site is located on the West side of Eglinton Park, on the hillside behind the baseball diamond. It was established in 1995, to provide a shaded area for park visitors to walk, to reduce erosion on the hillside and to return a variety of native species to the park’s ecosystem. This includes not only the native trees and shrubs planted there, but also the many birds and insects that visit or reside in the canopy. It is an important demonstration area for the native species that can thrive in Toronto, a city on the edge of the Carolinian forest to the south and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence forest to the North.
The site is located on the east side of a large, teardrop shaped hill or drumlin that extends North and West of the park. Drumlins were formed at the end of the Ice Age, by retreating glaciers. In addition to its interesting shape, the hillside has an interesting composition; it is made up of alternating layers of sand and clay, creating an aquifer. This turns the entire hillside into a giant sponge, trapping water and allowing it to ooze out through many surface level springs. In April and May this means many parts of the hill can get extremely wet and muddy, with pools of water forming in many areas.
“It’s Easy Being Green” Harbourfront Centre School Visits Program
One of the most important tools for tackling environmental issues is education. Understanding that the youth of today will help shape our future, TGC recognizes the importance of educating children about energy issues. In 2009 TGC established a partnership with the Harbourfront Centre School Visits Program. “It’s Easy Being Green” was a full-day educational program designed by TGC and offered through the Harbourfront Centre. The aim of the program was to educate children in grades 5 & 6 about energy production, conservation and renewable energy sources. The program had theatrical and artistic elements that helped engage children in the classroom, in their school community and beyond.
Community Energy Action Plan
TGC’s Community Energy Action Plan was a pilot project that encouraged participants to learn about energy conservation and to take action in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by focusing on what TGC named the five pillars of energy conservation: behavioural changes, transportation, home retrofits, appliance upgrades and green power. Children, parents and community members were engaged in an awareness-building effort resulting in neighbourhoods within the community challenging each other to further reduce their energy consumption.
For this pilot project, which was generously funded through the Ontario Ministry of Energy’s Community Conservation Initiatives Program, TGC worked with two distinct Toronto communities: one in the Lawrence and Yonge area and the other in the Lawrence and Allen area. We built awareness about energy conservation and worked together to reduce energy consumption in Toronto.
The Toronto Green Community regularly hosted an Environmental Speaker Series for its members and the general public. The topics were on a wide array of environmental issues and were presented by knowledgeable and engaging environmental experts. Here are some sample topics of events held:
- HTO: The Future of Toronto’s Water
- Transition Towns
- Environmental Justice and Racism in Canada
- EcoVillages: Models for Sustainable Living
- Bringing Life back to the Landscape through Wildlife Habitat Gardening
Developed by Green Communities Canada, Eco-Driver was a project that aimed to promote driving habits that reduce our fuel consumption. These habits include a switch to more efficient vehicles, improvements to vehicle maintenance and operation, and avoidance of unnecessary driving.
The Goal of the Eco-Driver project was to assist drivers across Ontario with taking the next step toward the eco-responsible vehicle use. Activities included events, exhibits workshops and 45-minute presentations. (The presentations continue to be offered by TGC).
TGC was the delivery agent for this program in Toronto.
TGC has created two Train the Trainer programs with valuable resources which are still available through our website.
- TGC’s Ecological Gardening Train-the-trainer Manual has been designed for use by community groups interested in educating people on ecological gardening. We have designed the manual to be as user-friendly as possible, suitable to both experienced gardeners and beginners alike. It contains all the information and resources you need to conduct workshops on five different eco-gardening themes:
- Ecological Gardening Basics
- Native Plant Gardening
- Troubleshooting Weeds and Pests Naturally
- Water-Friendly Gardens and Landscapes
- Natural Tree Care
- TGC’s Container Gardening Train-the-trainer Program was developed in order to train residents in each of Toronto’s four regions (North, South, East, and West) how to lead workshops on container gardening in their own communities. The program provided a one-day workshop, resources and support to allow trainees to lead workshops tailored to their own communities where they could continue to act as a gardening resource as part of a wider network of trainees throughout the city.
- Intro: Why container garden?
- Area: Site assessment – Space, Light, Wind and Water access
- Containers: Size, Type (basic vs. subirrigated) Materials, Drainage, Plant Placement
- Soil: Types, Different organic soil components, Factors affecting drainage, Compost, Vermi-composting
- Watering: When, Drainage, Consistent watering, Humidity, Water troubleshooting, Repotting
- Plants: Starting seeds, Planting times, Varieties, Maintenance, Companion planting
- Troubleshooting: Fertilizers and nutrient deficiencies, Pest management, Pest repellence, Natural insecticides
Diversity and the Environment
In the Environmental sector various organizations have been developing programs for newcomer communities, conducting focus groups and research to understand barriers to inclusion and grappling with how to increase diversity within the sector.
In the Community sector, there is a growing interest in food programs, environmental determinants of health, pollution, and the environment as an arena for voluntarism and developing leadership.
At the TGC, we decided that we would like to play a role in helping build bridges across the sectors and in shining a spotlight on these issues. We began this journey by creating a cross-sectoral network.
Diversity, Inclusion and the Environment Network
In the summer of 2008, TGC invited a select group to our first Diversity, Inclusion and the Environment Network meeting with the objective to promote and support community initiatives that link environmental issues to poverty, marginalization and social exclusion by fostering a cross-sectoral network that encourages collaboration, experience sharing, and capacity building.
By bringing environmental and community organizations together, we hoped to inspire partnerships across sectors with the potential to engage and provide benefits to communities in new ways, while also strengthening the environmental sector. Several meetings were held in 2008 – 2009.
Other TGC Diversity Initiatives
In March 2009, TGC’s speakers series featured a presentation by Cheryl Teelucksingh, author of the book “Environmental Justice and Racism in Canada”, followed by a panel discussion with Beenash Jaffri, Damien Lee, and Ben Powless. Below is an article about the event:
TGC’s Speaker Series Discusses the Link Between Environmental and Social Justice Issues
by Wendy Southall
On March 2nd TGC hosted a panel discussion on Environmental Justice and Racism in Canada. To a packed house, speakers Jennifer Foulds and Cheryl Teelucksingh, and panelists Beenash Jafri , Ben Powless and Damien Lee discussed their perspectives on the intersection of
environmentalism and social justice.
Jennifer Foulds, of Environmental Defence, spoke on their PollutionWatch initiative, which studied patterns of poverty throughout the GTA and Great Lakes Basin and compared these to the locations of the highest air pollution concentrations. The National Pollutant Release Inventory was used to gauge pollution for the study, which did not take into account small polluters or vehicle exhaust. The result was a clear correlation between intensity of pollution and poverty in both regions studied.
The purpose of the study, according to Ms. Foulds, was to motivate governments to act and to make polluters reduce their impact on the communities around them. The study has served as a starting point to bring social justice groups together with environmentalists and into affected communities. Ms. Foulds noted that an initiative has begun in some of the affected GTA areas, which would engage local youth to take this information and bring it into their communities.
To reduce the concentration of polluting industries in low income areas, Ms. Foulds suggested stronger legislation was required, aimed at reducing levels of toxic releases, and the creation of an environmental equity framework which would avoid sighting new facilities in areas with already high concentrations of polluters.
Cheryl Teelucksingh, author of the book Environmental Justice and Racism in Canada, noted that the concept of environmental racism has been a discussion point in the U.S. for many decades. In the 1960’s, the issue was crystallized with the disclosure of mass dumping of PCBs into predominantly African American communities, and legislation was ultimately passed through the Environmental Protection Act to attempt to deal with the problem.
Dr. Teelucksingh noted that the problems exist in Canada but are less apparent due to lower concentrations of any one ethnic minority in most communities. Dr. Teelucksingh noted that the problems of environmental inequities arise on two levels: distributional injustice (where toxins are put) and procedural injustice (lack of access and input in decision making). She also noted that the issue should not be whether the polluter’s behaviour vis a vis a community was intentional or not (for example, when a group moved into an already polluted area), but rather should focus on the fact that industry and government are benefiting from the burden that racialized communities are bearing.
Ben Powless, who is a Mohawk from Six Nations in Ontario, spoke of the destruction caused by the Tar Sands project to First Nations communities. He noted that the press and environmentalists address the Tar Sands as a general pollution problem, but in fact the impact has been most direct and profound on local First Nations communities. He sites elevated cancer rates, polluted drinking water, and loss of traditional hunting lands and water. Fish caught from the Athabaska River have coloured spots and growths, and the moose hunted nearby have 30 to 400 times the safe level of toxins in their meat.
Tar Sands technology involves stripping off forest and up to 200 feet of soil beneath to expose the bitumen (tar) underneath which is then strip mined. The affected area is massive, covering an area the size of Florida. First Nations treaty rights guaranteed access to hunting and water in the area, but in many cases there was no effort made to gain consent. First Nations are now faced with a loss of their culture, health and community.
A lively discussion involving panelists and the audience followed the presentations and demonstrated that there is a great need to address these issues and further discuss the existing varying perspectives. A final question that evening was: “What can we do?” Contacting your political representatives and the businesses responsible for the pollution (check polutionwatch.org) was viewed as the most effective action to support affected communities.
The “Native Bus Tour”
Toronto Green Community and the Sustainability Network co-sponsored the “Native Bus Tour of Toronto”, a two-part event that consisted of an historical tour of Toronto from an Aboriginal perspective, as well as a post-tour discussion on how non-profit organizations and Aboriginal organizations/communities can work together to further common goals.
TGC sits on the Advisory Council for the Sustainability Network’s Environment & Diversity Project which provides the project collaborative with advice and resources.
Internally the TGC strives to use a diversity lens in all aspects of our operations including inclusive hiring practices, volunteer recruitment, and program development. To this end, we plan to create and implement an anti-oppression policy & organize related training for TGC staff & volunteers.