Art Project info for Earth Day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

No. 9 and BGL Launch Environmental Art Project for Earth Day



No. 9 Contemporary Art and the Environment has commissioned the acclaimed art collective BGL to create an art installation on the Lower Don, the most altered part of this urban river.  Inspired by this installation, No. 9 is hosting an Earth Day Event on the banks of the Lower Don, by the old Eastern Avenue bridge. 

Open to the general public April 22, from 3:30 – 5:30 pm, the event integrates environmental issues, art and social history.

Participants can create their own clay art in response to the BGL exhibit, and are also invited to go on an environmental walking tour of the Lower Don, and visit the displays by groups instrumental in the protection and revitalization of the Lower Don, such as the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and Waterfront Toronto.

For information and directions to the site, please visit

Everyone is Welcome. We look forward to seeing you there!


Recycle your old electronic waste for Earth Day!

Monday, April 21, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
11:00AM – 4:00PM
Free Admission

Downsview Park, Earth Day Canada and Toronto and Region Conservation invite you to celebrate Earth Day at Downsview Park. Leave your legacy and help create a sustainable community for future generations by planting 2000 trees in Downsview Park’s Canada Forest. 

Earth Day at Downsview Park features environmentally-friendly exhibits, activities and entertainment – rain or shine – for the whole family!

  • The Green Pavilion offers food, crafts and products by eco-friendly vendors and exhibitors.
  • The Recycle Yard welcomes your donated used clothes, books, computer equipment and household items for charity.
  • Interactive exhibits by Creepy Crawlers, Earth Rangers and Citizen’s. Environment Watch – showcase new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle, and fun ways to learn about nature and the environment.
  • The Kids Area features arts and crafts, origami, buskers, face painting and more!
  • Our Main Stage salutes the best in up-and-coming enviro-focused entertainment by Delta Folk and the Funky Mamas.

Team Green Challenge

Help promote positive environmental action by organizing a group of friends, family members or coworkers to participate in our Team Green Challenge. Tree planting teams can compete to be the “largest group of planters” or the “most spirited group of planters”.

For more information about Earth Day at Downsview Park or to register a team for the Team Green Challenge, contact Downsview Park at 416-952-2222 or

Where does stuff come from … and go?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

So this isn’t so Toronto specific, but more of a global post. Have you ever wondered where all that stuff we collect – you know, the kind that really has no use in our every day life and eventually gets packed away and forgotten about – ever wonder where it comes from, and where it goes?

If your answer is yes (even if it’s not, you should check this out), may I suggest this website: the Story of Stuff.

Remember, you can start your spring cleaning now!

Upcoming Provincial Election – Important video to watch!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

If you’re in Ontario, you know that the upcoming Provincial election is on October 10 (if you didn’t know, you know now).

The parties are already gearing up for their campaigns with the NDP and Tory’s already gearing up. One thing you might want to consider during this election is where each of the parties stand on a very important environmental issue facing our province: the deforestation of the Boreal Forest.

Check out this video which gives you a good idea of what’s going on and then visit Forest Ethics for more information.

20 Minute Make-over

Friday, April 13, 2007

The count down on litter is on! It’s time to commit your participation in the City’s 4th annual 20-Minute Toronto Makeover. Mayor David Miller is asking all Torontonians at work, school or at home to stop what you’re doing on Friday, April 20, 2007, come outside at 2:00pm and do a 20-minute clean-up blitz around your office, school or neighbourhood.

Please work with your supervisor, colleagues, teacher or fellow students to plan your participation. The 20-Minute Toronto Makeover is a complementary event to Mayor David Miller’s Community Clean-up Day, scheduled for the following day, Saturday, April 21.

More info here

Green Coffee, Great Time …

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Merchants of Green CoffeeYesterday was my dad’s birthday. My dad loves his coffee. Really loves his coffee. He can drink a coffee before bed and be fine. Always has. One of my favourite memories as a child is the sound of the milk being frothed for his cappuccino as I fell asleep. So today, as a surprise, my mom – who is never short on interesting ideas and fun adventures to go on – gathered a bunch of close friends and family at a rather fitting location – the home of the Merchants of Green Coffee.

We gathered for some snacks and nibblies and talked and caught up and wished my dad a happy birthday – and then it began … the history of coffee 101. Our host was a walking encyclopedia of information about the 2nd largest commodity industry in the world next to oil (over 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed every year). He began by giving us a very concise and fascinating look into the history of coffee. Its origins begin in Ethiopia where they have an entire ceremony built around coffee.

Ethiopia is the cradle of humanity and birthplace of the arabica coffee tree (coffea arabica). Green coffee beans are crushed by tribes people and mixed with animal fat as a food source for long expeditions.

You’d never think it, but coffee has an incredibly fascinating history! I would suggest you take a look at the Merchants website about the history of the drink – which is the second most consumed beverage after tap water (!). So there we were, all 20 of us sitting around tables with five mugs in front of us – one for water to clean our spoon, one for drinking water to cleanse the pallete, and three for various types of coffee that were going to taste. The main reason the Merchants exist is to promote and educate consumers about fair trade and organic coffee.

Our mantra is Fresh Coffee, Fair Trade, Green Business. Merchants of Green Coffee strives to be a sustainable company – a business that creates financial and social wealth without degrading the productive and aesthetic capacity of the environment for both present and future generations. Essentially, we look at the triple bottom line; equal treatment of the economic, social and environmental components of trade. We exist to re-acquaint coffee drinkers to the wonderful taste of fresh roasted coffee using beans brought to market under sustainable conditions.

The Merchants subscribe to a mantra for coffee that has three key points noted here: 3 Keys to great coffee

We were all fascinated by what our host had to say. He jumped back and forth through time, threw out facts left, right and centre, but it all made sense and came together in the end. For example, Mocha Java – which for most of us North Americans means a blend of coffee and hot chocolate (or something similar), is actually two different types of coffees from two different regions split 50/50. The Java beans are higher in acidity and less full of body while the beans from the port of Mocha (where the beans were shipped from) are less acidic and more full of body. The combination of these two beans makes for a nice even brew.

Here’s another fascinating fact: Indoensian Monsoon – grown in India (one of the larger producers of coffee beans) – is created by drying the beans (which when done by hand can take up to two weeks), then placed in a large house-like structure with a roof but no walls and left there for another two weeks while the monsoon winds and moisture blow their way into the beans creating a “musty” taste. This process was created as a result in the decline of beans being sold to Europe. You see, when India used to ship their beans to Europe in wooden ships, they were known as one of the best coffee beans in the world because of their taste – which developed whilst at sea in these wooden ships and containers. But then metal ships came along and new ways of transporting the beans and suddenly when the beans arrived in Europe, they no longer had that “musty” taste and were rejected by the Europeans as “not real coffee”. So the process of creating Indonesian Monsoon beans was created!

I’m not retelling the story very well, but trust me – it’s a fascinating story.

The best part of the experience is knowing that the Merchants are here promoting a sustainable way of growing, roasting and distributing a commodity that we all want … they are concerned about the consumer and want the consumers to know how coffee is prepared from the minute it’s picked from the tree to the first sip. Coffee beans, when roasted, are only good for up to 5 days – and then they go stale. And once they’re ground, they’re only good for about 3 days max. So pretty much the coffee that you get at Starbucks, Second Cup – you name it, is not fresh but stale. Not only that, but the environmental impact of growing and roasting these beans is devastating to some of our most precious forests such as the rainforest in Brazil. Here are some interesting facts about the coffee trade:

  • Every cup of coffee consumed destroys roughly three square centimeters of rainforest, making coffee the 2nd leading cause of rainforest destruction.
  • Coffee is the 2nd most heavily pesticide sprayed crop in the world.
  • Coffee is the number one cause of water contamination in most producing regions.
  • Supply chain inequities exploit millions of small subsistence farmers.
  • Small farmers produce the highest quality coffee.
  • Fresh coffee, consumed one to three days after roasting, is dramatically superior in taste to any other coffee.

Fair TradeThere was so much information to soak up over the two hour session – and not a dull moment to be sure. But if anything, I learned that we have to be more conciously aware of the coffee that is being served out there. Look for the Fair Trade sign and organic labels.

There are numerous certification organizations throughout the world. For fair trade, look for coffee certified by members of the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) such as TransFair Canada and TransFair USA. For organics, look for coffee certified by members of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movemenbts (IFOAM) such as the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA). For shade and biodiversity, look for coffee certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre (SMBC) and Rainforest Alliance. 

One last tidbit, when you buy your coffee – see if there is a “roasted on” date … if not, you can be sure that the beans in your hands have been sitting there far longer than the 5 day limit.

For more information – definitely check out their website: Their location may be a bit out of the way (it’s just north of Queen, west of Broadview – you can see it from the Don Valley), but it’s worth the trip for sure. They do have coffee classes that give you a more indepth look at the trade and bean that has become so imbedded in our culture, and they havea fantastic store set up for you to browse and sample various coffees. You can also become a member of the Merchants and recieve 30lbs of coffee over the year (delivered straight to your door) plus recieve a free roaster of your own! Be sure to check out the many stores around Toronto that offer Fair Trade and organic green coffee beans. There are tons of them out there.

Now if only I drank coffee…

First post and I’m not even in TO

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Strange that I would find myself outside the country and starting a blog about my home town, Toronto. Maybe I needed to be away from Toronto to write about it. Maybe reading uTOpia has pushed me to put my views online about the city where I live. Maybe … maybe, I just wanted to start a blog and see if I could maintain it.

Other failed attempts have come before, but this WordPress thing looked too good to pass up, so I thought – hey, why not give it a whirl and see what happens!

I’m currently in Watermill, New York just outside of Southampton visiting my grandmother and some extended family before Christmas. I like to say that I was doing Sex and the City before Sex and the City was doing Sex and the City (try typing that ten times fast). This is my second home … the house in which my grandmother lives was built the year I was born (easy for her to keep track of my age!). I feel a special connection to this place and love coming down as often as I can.

But this blog wasn’t put up to talk about Long Island … no, this blog is about Toronto – but it’s also about Toronto in relation to other cities – like New York.

It’s not fair to compare the two cities in my opinion – they’re apples and oranges. I hated New York when I was a kid. Perhaps it was my anti-American sentiment setting in … being half American was not something I was particularly proud of as a child – I was a staunch nationalist to my Canadian heritage. But growing older and wiser now I’ve come to appreciate New York. My thoughts on America in general would require another blog completely, and I’m not going to get into those politics right now – no offence to my family of course. 🙂

But Toronto seems to be striving to be like New York now – why is that? Yonge and Dundas are looking more and more like a cheap rip-off of Times Square! And now that the monstrosity known as Metropolis is finally being built after eons of hoarding covering up the north-east corner of Yonge and Dundas, we will soon be subjected to even MORE advertising blaring down on the citizens who just want to relax on Yonge-Dundas Square – if that is at all possible. We even have our own discount ticket booth on the Square (T.O.TIX) like in Times Square. That’s not such a bad thing – at least there’s a bit of culture infiltrating the tsunami of advertising.

On a side note: it’s interesting to me that in the midst of all the talk of energy crisis’ happening in Toronto and the fact that we’re going to need more power in the coming years and the Province decides to build a coal-power plant right smack dab on our waterfront (brilliant idea) … that developers are allowed to push for more signage and more electronic screens to blast nothing but Loreal cosmetic ads at us from above …

Times Square grew organically. Yes it’s an assault on the senses now, but it all started way back when. It didn’t pop up out of nowhere. To me, Yonge and Dundas now seems like it’s a hydroponics greenery plopped into the middle of an organically grown garden … if that makes any sense. I’m not against what’s happened to the area – I think it’s great that we have an open square like YD Square, and I think it’s finally finding its feet and weaving itself quite nicely into the fabric of downtown. But I believe Toronto could have done far more interesting things with the architecture, integrated the surrounding culture in better, created something really worth visiting. At least in Times Square there is always something going on. Walking up to Yonge and Dundas on any given night results in bright lights blinking banal information at you … and not too many people particularly caring about it. Where are the comfortable cafes to go and grab a quick coffee in? Think about it – there’s no where around that area that one can take a load off in – relax for a bit. It keeps you moving and effectively moves you out of its core because its sterile and uninviting … or pushes you into a store like the good consumerist society we are.

Having said all that … I don’t want you to think that I don’t like Toronto. I’m an avid fan of it and am becoming more and more engaged by it and the potential this young city has. It’s a frustrated teenager trying to find its place in the grand scheme of things – a bit schitzophrenic at times, but underneath it all, there’s a layer of good that’s just waiting to surface again when the hormones die down a bit. Like patient parents, we’ll just have to coax it and guide it a bit along the way.

Update: On a side note, I’d like to draw your attention to a great press release by the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) in regards to the Portland Energy Plant proposed by the McGuinty Government and a more sustainable and greener plan.