Every city has its unsung heroes who dedicate their time, energy and skills to improve our neighbourhoods. From heritage to horticulture, and from urban development to environmental issues, these dedicated individuals spend many hours every year to make and keep our hometown liveable, presentable, and interesting.
Once a year, there is an opportunity to receive recognition for some of these efforts. The annual Live Green Toronto Awards formally recognize environmental efforts. Submissions are made by video and voted on online. A team of judges then selects a winner from each of five categories – youth, individual, group, small business and corporation – with each receiving a cash prize, a physical award, and the opportunity to share their story on CP24 television.
Since 2007, the City’s Live Green Toronto program has been “promoting and supporting the greening of Toronto by offering grants, expertise and one-stop website full of resources, rebates, tips and tools to help residents and businesses take action to reduce emissions, protect our climate and clean our air.”
Live Green Toronto hosts the annual car-free Live Green Toronto Street Festival on Dundas Square and on Yonge Street. As well, it offers training and coordination for several hundred citywide environmental volunteers to help with their programs.
Here in the East End, we are fortunate to have a substantial contingent of environmental groups, residents and neighbourhood associations committed to improving our local air quality and green spaces, cleaning up our beaches, running farmers’ markets, and operating stores that offer anything from gently used clothing to organic products. This column has covered local environmental groups [Beach Metro News, Nov. 7, 2012 – An intro to the greener side of the Beach]. Following are several more individuals and groups championing the environment.
Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon spent years volunteering for green issues before taking office. Now she also hosts community leaders meetings and park socials for friends of parks groups to connect our ward’s tireless volunteers and promote collaboration, sharing tips and best practices, and to learn about and celebrate each other’s successes.
McMahon’s assistants are planning a community fair for autumn, where groups can set up information tables and share their projects with local residents.
Our ward boasts 25 parks and parkettes, 11 of which have a ‘friends of’ group that works on park improvements and community engagement in their park.
We also have three separate locations for weekly farmers’ markets in East Lynn Park, Jonathan Ashbridge Park, and now Fairmount Park. Each was started by a handful of passionate and energetic citizens wanting to bring local and organic foods closer to home, and to support the efforts of Ontario’s farmers. The main drivers for these markets were the Danforth East Community Association, Janaki Hadida, Kim Antonius and Susana Molinolo.
Along the Danforth, DECA has been leaving its mark in many ways since 2007. The group hosts a hugely popular farmers’ market, movies in the park, jack o’ lantern festivals at Halloween, arts events, and are facilitating pop-up shops and much more.
They, and the new Beach Hill Neighbourhood Association, have also started adopt-a-tree programs to water street trees along their commercial strips, and your author did the same for newly planted trees in Woodbine Park.
Even some of our shopping habits are satisfied by numerous local green stores. Health and beauty care products, as well as food items, are offered by our health food store owners, including Beaches Natural Foods, Mama Earth Organics, and The Wholesome Market. Other stores save many items from landfill by offering gently used clothing and used or vintage books like those at the Great Escape Book Store.
A different kind of book borrowing began locally a couple of years ago, when Bill Wrigley championed Little Free Libraries. The idea was started by Tod Bol of Wisconsin in 2009, and today there are an estimated 10,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide. In the Beach, Bill built his own beautiful wooden ‘library on a pole’ on Lee Avenue and we have over a dozen dotted throughout the Beach now. You can order your own from Bill or build one yourself and save pre-loved books from the recycling bins!
To help reduce stormwater runoff from residential properties, Citizens for a Safe Environment, an NGO led and coordinated by Beacher Karen Buck, got 11 raingardens installed throughout Riverdale and East York. Through the now cancelled Community Program for Storm Water Management, the group’s Residential Rainproofing Project secured funding for downspout disconnection and construction of front yard gardens with native plants. The gardens are ‘fed’ by rainwater from roofs and improve the health of our watershed, while adding biodiversity. The cost for the design, installation, and planting was shared equally between the City and the homeowners, and much of the materials were sourced locally.
The Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association – a non-profit umbrella organization of seven residents’ and neighbourhood associations – has until recently focused on land-use planning policies in the Beach, specifically regarding condominium projects.
Now that the fates of current development proposals have been decided by the Ontario Municipal Board, members of GBNA are looking into broadening their scope of projects and considering adding sustainability issues to their work.
Numerous unnamed individuals have their hands in the green game, including bicycling group 32 Spokes, and home-owners who have had solar panels or a green roof installed. Each is a champion for the environment and contributes to our little part of the city being so much better off for it.
Martina Rowley is an environmental communicator ~ firstname.lastname@example.org ~ 647-208-1810