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Design charette at Scadding Court envisions city's first container mall

A trip to Ghana in 2009 by a few self-funded Scadding Court-area teens is paying off, and in the process offering an excellent example of how rich countries can learn from poor ones.

"What we saw there were all kinds of rusted out containers where people were selling chicken, cutting hair," says Scadding Court Community Centre head Kevin Lee. "We came back to Toronto, there's so much under-utilized public space, like sidewalks that are three times the size they need to be, and on Dundas Street, economically depressed, with no eyes on the street…."

So now, there are 19 containers on Dundas just west of Bathurst, and a charette at the Scadding Court Community Centre on Tuesday brought together architects, designers, city planners, public health workers and community members to show and tell how that might be expanded into the city's first container mall.

The first container went up three years ago, very shortly after the group, of which Lee was a part, got back from Ghana. At first, it was just food, but it soon morphed into retail, including Stin Can, a bike repair shop run by two 19-year-olds, graduates of the Biz Start program who, according to Lee, were able to start up with just $2,000. (You may want to think about stopping by their container instead of your usual local.)

"What we're trying to do," Lee says, "is establish a template for the city of Toronto in terms of economic development at the grassroots level. Economic development doesn’t just mean trying to attract Google to move their head office to Toronto."

The city just found $80,000 to buy two or three new containers, according to Councillor Adam Vaughan, in whose ward the containers sit. Now they’re just waiting for a council vote on approvals, which could come as early as this week.

"You put 10 bureaucrats around a table, all it takes is one to say no to scrap things," Vaughan says from the floor of the charette. He says the original idea came from a private company who wanted to set up some containers on Queen West. Heritage Toronto nixed it, according to Vaughan, saying the only spot they could use was the parking lot at Queen and Phoebe, so the company dropped the idea.

The charette, and the community centre's central involvement, is a way, Vaughan hopes, to circumvent the usual impediments to Toronto ever having nice things. "What we're looking for here is a way to say yes."

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Kevin Lee, Adam Vaughan

Ryerson unveils plan for smart grid lab

With the help of the provincial government, and in conjunction with private sector partner Schneider Electric, Ryerson University will soon be launching a new laboratory dedicated to smart grid innovations.

A smart grid is simply one that gathers fine-grained information about electricity users—where they are, what their usage patterns are, when peak and lower demand times are, and so on—and uses it to more efficiently and effectively distribute power across that grid. It can empower users to be more collaborative energy consumers (by helping us know when the grid is nearing capacity), minimize blackouts and brownouts, and also facilitate the better use of renewable energy as a power source.

The smart grid lab will provide students with a learning ground, so they can receive specialized training in smart grid technology, and also be a research hub, a venue for the development and testing of innovations in smart grid technology.

“Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Energy is committed to solving urban energy challenges,” Sri Krishnan, interim dean of Ryerson's engineering school, emphasized. “Working with Schneider Electric to develop this lab enables us to take this even further and work towards creating innovative solutions within the smart grid technology space, while also providing Ryerson students the benefit of being trained in a state-of-the-art facility."

The lab will be constructed at Ryerson's Centre for Urban Energy, and is scheduled to open in July of 2014.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Matthew Kerry, Marketing and Communications Manager, Centre for Urban Energy, Ryerson University

New platform connects investors with social and environmental ventures

With the emergence of social enterprise, and the increasing visibility of many social, and especially environmental, issues, many more investors are becoming interested in using private capital to not only generate revenue, but also tackle some of our greatest problems. Helping to match investors with the enterprises that might achieve these goals: Social Venture Connection (SVX), an online platform that's just been launched by MaRS with the help of the Province and several private partners.

Billed by the Ontario government as the first such system in North America, SVX is a registered dealer with the Ontario Securities Commission. At launch, 12 ventures (including both non-profit and for-profit enterprises) were registered, ranging from an organic farm supply company to ZooShare, which is piloting a biogas plant at the Toronto Zoo. Their goal is to attract what are dubbed "impact investors," ones who have "a focus on achieving positive social and/or environmental outcomes and modest to market-rate financial returns," according to SVX's website. 

It's the first step towards a larger goal of creating a full-fledged regulated market, one that functions much like any mainstream exchange but with an explicit focus on social impacts.

Because SVX vets the enterprises that apply to be listed, and also provides some support services to the ones that make the cut, the idea—or at least the hope—is that those enterprises that do get selected will have an easier time attracting investors. SVX is also actively working to identity potential investors, ones who are known to have an interest in the social implications of the ventures they support.

To be eligible for consideration, ventures must have been incorporated in Ontario for at least two years, and have revenues between $50,000 and $25 million a year.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment

Toronto's first Green Energy Hackathon held at MaRS

Founded in 2011, MaRS's Data Catalyst gathers data from partners in several sectors—healthcare, entrepreneurship, and energy—and analyses it to help support the development of the province's innovation economy. This past weekend, Data Catalyst organized the city's first ever Green Energy Hackathon, to give local app and product developers a chance to work with some of that data as well.

Data from many of the province's smart metres—from 2.7 million households, to be more precise—is currently being gathered in what's called the Green Button initiative. It's the Green Button open API that was made available to participants at the Hackathon—data that enables users to better understand how Ontarians are actually using their energy. Using that data, participants at the hackathon came up apps that do everything from help individuals know the best time to use certain appliances to warning small businesses about impending weather disruptions.

"There's a big hairy problem about how to engage people in their use of energy," says Joe Greenwood, program director of Data Catalyst. That problem, he goes on, has a lot to do with behavioural economics: even though we could save money by changing our energy consumption habits, it turns out people aren't entirely rational in how they handle such choices—which leads to the thorny question of how exactly to induce them to alter those choices.

On the bright side, Greenwood explains, Ontario has also made one of the biggest investments in smart metres, which creates a big opportunity for smart developers to give people the capacity to manage their energy use more effectively. Because we're starting to learn more about how we currently consume energy, we can start experimenting with tools that will motivate people to consume it better.

One key theme Greenwood noticed in the apps that were started at the Hackathon—some of which will be getting support for further development—is simplification. Though energy companies and large corporations may look at charts and graphs to help them determine their choices, individuals work differently; many of the developers started looking at giving rewards—badges or air miles, or using humour—as tools to help people change.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Joe Greenwood, program director, MaRS Data Catalyst

MaRS Cleantech Fund gets $500,000 boost

"In a market economy, if you solve a big problem you get a big reward," says Tom Rand, managing partner of the MaRS Cleantech Fund.

Generating substantial amounts of environmentally sustainable energy is certainly a big problem, and the Cleantech Fund's goal is to try and find the emerging companies who will help solve it. The $30 million private venture capital fund, located at MaRS, has just landed a new $500,000 investment courtesy of RBC Generator, the bank's investment arm that looks specifically for opportunities in companies that address social and environmental issues. It's the first investment deal RBC has announced as part of that initiative.

Green energy is obviously a huge sector; the MaRS Cleantech Fund focuses primarily on "early stage, disruptive, low carbon energy infrastructure," Rand explains. (More concretely, this means innovations like smart grids that better distribute energy.) The Fund has already invested in eight companies, and is aiming for 10 to 12 in total.

Though the fund is entirely privately financed, Rand also emphasizes the importance of being located at MaRS, which he calls "the most serious clean-tech innovation machine in Canada by far."

MaRS assists the fund with deal flow—the most promising new companies can be found there, so for investors it provides fertile ground for sniffing out the best opportunities—and their ongoing support with essential processes like preparation for the market make it, Rand adds, "the most high powered, high octane help you can get."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Tom Rand, Managing Partner, MaRS Cleantech Fund

Who's Hiring in Toronto? The Ontario Brain Institute, TechSoup Canada, the ROM, and more

The most interesting of the opportunities we've seen this week:

The Ontario Brain Institute, a major hub for research and medical commercialization, has two key positions open. They are looking for a knowledge translation lead and a communications lead; both for their outreach program.

Also looking for communications help is TechSoup Canada, which helps organizations with a social mission--non-profits, charities, social enterprises, and the like--make better use of technology. It's an entry level position, and those with compentence in French are particularly encouraged to apply.

In the environmental sector, the University of Toronto's sustainability office, which is charged with improving that institution's sustainability, is hiring a campaign coordinator to support and supervise a team of 10 students. It's a five month contract, but there may be opportunities to extend.

In senior hires, the Royal Ontario Museum is looking for a new managing director of ROM Contemporary Culture (formerly known as the Institute for Contemporary Culture) to take charge of positioning the centre as it evolves.

And in city-building organizations, non-profit 8-80 Cities, which works to make streets, transportation, and public space vibrant and available to all a city's residents, has two positions open: a director to lead some specific projects, and a more junior project coordinator, to support the organization's work.

Do you know of an innovative job opportunity? Let us know!

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Penguin, Jane Goodall Institute, and more

In the world of books, major publishing house Penguin is hiring a digital and social media coordinator to both maintain their websites and work on engagement campaigns. Also the literary sector, the Ontario Arts Council is looking for a literature officer to help manage their grants programs. The post is for a five-year term.

Hart House, the cultural hub at the University of Toronto's downtown campus, is looking for an education and production coordinator for a 10-month contract to provide support to their theatre programming. Finally, the Canadian Opera Company is seeking an assistant music librarian. It requires a strong background in music and familiarity with standard office computer programs.

UNITY, a charity that works to empower youth through artistic self-expression, has three posts available. They are hiring a program coordinator, a festival & volunteer coordinator, and a managing director, operations. Contracts, qualifications, and salaries vary per posting. 

If you're interested in urban agriculture, non-profit Cultivate Toronto is looking for a community relationship manager. The organization focuses on creating food gardens in people's front and back yards, and the position involves developing and maintaining relationships with program participants.

In technology jobs, the Ontario Public Service is on the hunt for a senior interactive developer with significant experience working with open source technologies and platforms.

And finally, in leadership positions, the Jane Goodall Institute is looking for a new CEO. The position requires experience both in conservation and in financial management, and they are hoping to find a billingual candidate. Among environmental groups, think tank Pembina is looking for a single candidate to split their time between two functions: director of development for the Pembina Institute, and exective director for the associated Pembina Foundation.

Know of any innovative job opportunities? Let us know!

Ryerson develops online tool to calculate how much money that tree in your yard is saving you

Ryerson professor Andrew Millward thinks you need a tree in your yard.

He is so convinced, in fact, that he’s gone and developed a very seriously titled online tool, the Ontario Residential Tree Benefits Estimator, to convince you he’s right.

According to a paper the geography professor co-wrote, in which he and his team followed 577 trees to provide 25- and 40-year energy conservation projections, "each tree will save between 435 and 483 kWh per household -- equal to running a dishwasher once every day for an entire year. This can translate into a saving of upwards of $40 annually."

"Trees provide many social, economic and environmental benefits in addition to the energy conservation ones we highlight in our study," he says. "And they require an investment of time and care, especially in the first years following planting. Because large trees deliver the lion’s share of benefits, cities require a collective contribution/will/action to ensure we have large healthy trees in our cities. Tools, such as the estimator we have developed, help make the economic case for care and maintenance of trees."

Users of the tool choose their city, tree species and its location on the property to calculate their own real or potential savings.

The estimator was developed for 27 cities around Ontario, with coding by Nikesh Bhagat from Ryerson’s spatial analysis graduate program. According to Millward, the team -- which also includes Michelle Sawka, Janet MacKay, LEAF and Misha Sarkovich -- would be open to tailoring it for other cities around the country and the world.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Andrew Millward

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Diaspora Dialogues, Toronto Botanical Garden, and more

As befits the season, there are many seasonal job posting right now, especially in the areas of gardening, urban agriculture, and the environment.

Evergreen, based out of the Brick Works, is hiring an urban agriculture program assistant for the summer. Applicants must be under 30 years of age and returning to full-time post-secondary studies in the fall, and will work both on the green spaces at the Brick Works and in delivering programs across the Toronto region.

Green Thumb Growing Kids, a charity that helps urban children learn about how to grow, cook, and enjoy fresh food, is also hiring summer students: they are looking for two garden program leaders to help maintain school gardens and develop children's garden programs. Applicants can be younger in this case—the age range is 15-30—but must be returning to some kind of full-time study in the fall.

Also in this area, Central Toronto Community Health Centres is looking for a garden and program support worker to run weekly programs, maintain a community kitchen, and provide other assistance as needed. This too is a program for students under 30 returning to studies at the end of the summer. Another community organization, the Agincourt Community Services Association, is on the hunt for some similar help: they are trying to find two urban agriculture facilitators for the summer to promote youth engagement in gardening and healthy eating.

Finally in this sector, the Toronto Botanical Garden is seeking a teaching assistant for their children's programs. The assistant will be working with children aged 3-11 enrolled in the Gardens' summer camp programs, as well as help with maintaining the teaching gardens.

Also for students, but in another area of environmental work: TREC Renewable Energy Co-operative, which focuses on energy conservation, has a summer opening for a communications and research assistant to help with their ongoing outreach and marketing efforts.

Moving on to the cultural sector, FACTOR, the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings, is hiring a full-time project coordinator to manage an artists' client base. Also looking for a project coordinator is ArtReach Toronto, which focuses on engaging youth who typically have a hard time accessing arts programming. It's a six-month, part-time contract, and the coordinator's primary responsibility will be to develop a series of cultural career workshops.

One last, and particularly noteworthy opportunity: Diaspora Dialogues, which supports diversity in the creation of new literature in Canada, is seeking a new artistic director. The position is part time, and the successful candidate will play the lead role in shaping the overall direction programming takes in future.

Do you know of a great job opportunity? Let us know by emailing [email protected] 

Who's Hiring in Toronto? The CBC, Toronto Atmospheric Fund, and more

The most interesting and innovative opportunities we've spotted this week:

There are a good number of interesting openings in media right now. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression are hiring a digital development coordinator to work on IFEX, a network of organizations that promotes free expresion as a human right. Also, a new Canadian affairs and cultural magazine called Depict is launching soon. It will consist entirely of visual elements -- infographics and "visual storytelling" -- and they are looking for both a creative director and a graphic designer.

Continuing with the media opportunities, Global News is looking for a project manager with at least 3-5 years of experience to handle several digital projects. And finally, a very significant opening at the CBC: they are on the lookout for a new managing editor of cbcnews.ca--a senior position for someone with at least five years of related experience.

Moving on to the environmental sector, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund was established by the municipal government to provide support to new initiatives that combat climate change. They are currently seeking a summer intern for a 12-week project. The position is paid and candidates should have completed some graduate level work in public policy or environmental studies.

Real Food for Real Kids provides healthy catering for child care centres and camps, with an emphasis on local and organic ingredients. They are looking for an assistant kitchen manager.

In medical research, the Ontario Brain Institute is hiring for three six-month internships: one in industry relations, one in community outreach, and one in finance and governance. All the positions are paid, and applications are due by the end of this week.

And finally, Toronto-based financial software company FreshBooks is hiring for several positions, including a MySQL developer and a product manager.

Are you hiring or do you know of an innovative job opportunity in Toronto? Email Yonge Street's innovation and jobs editor Hamutal Dotan to let her know. 

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Twitter, CivicAction, and more

The most interesting of the job opportunities we've come across this week:

News broke this week that Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president of English-language services at the CBC, was leaving that position to spearhead Twitter's first Canadian office. She's not the only person they're hiring: the social media company is currently on the lookout for an account executive and an account manager.

Also in tech openings, digital ad agency Dare Toronto is looking for a front end web developer with 4-5 years experience. Another firm, Usability Matters, is on the hunt for a graphic designer.

The Women's Healthy Environment Network works on promoting environmental health. They are looking for a volunteer, part-time executive director to lead their board.

In the cultural sector, the Ontario Public Service is looking for a senior program consultant to work in the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and specifically to work on major events and festivals. Canada Arts Connect is seeking a managing editor for their magazine about Canadian cultural news. It's a part-time position--about 10-15 hours per week. And the Toronto International Film Festival continues its spate of seasonal hiring: they are now on the hunt for a senior marketing coordinator for a contract that runs from May through early October.

CivicAction, the non-partisan advocacy group dedicated to city-building in the GTA, is seeking a project manager to manage the development of new programs directed at youth facing challenges in finding employment. The post is for a nine month contract.

Also in urban initiatives, non-profit developer Artscape is looking for a development associate to help with three of their major annual fundraising events.

Finally, the Toronto Society of Architects is hiring an executive administrator with some scheduling flexibility (ranging from 20-40 hours per week) to oversee their day-to-day operations.

Are you hiring or do you know of an innovative job opportunity in Toronto? Email Yonge Street's innovation and jobs editor Hamutal Dotan to let her know. 

Innovative new biodegradable pots created by U of T researchers

The weather is finally getting warmer and sunnier, and that means many Torontonians are turning to thoughts of gardening. Three University of Toronto researchers are hoping to make that gardening a bit easier on the planet with the creation of an innovative new biodegradable pot, made strictly of plant-based materials.

The pot (which doesn't yet have a name) is the brainchild of Sally Krigstin, Mohini Sain, and Javad Sameni, all of the university's forestry department. It's not the first fully biodegradable pot to appear on the market in Canada, but "the difference," explains Krigstin, "is that this one has some water resistance, so it's comparable to plastic."

The biodegradable pots you might have already seen in stores, she goes on, "completely disintegrate when you put them in water." These new ones won't, she says, because of the development of a new plant-based binding material. It makes the pots much longer lasting than other biodegradable ones. The researchers have had theirs last in greenhouses for over a year.

The researchers are bringing the pots to market with the help of Myers Lawn and Garden. They recently got their first major order--for 250,000 pots--from an Ontario farmer who sells potted plants to Loblaw (though the pots won't actually be sold at their Ontario locations). But Krigstin also hopes this is just the beginning of the applications they'll be able to find for their new binding material (the patent is pending).

Next up on their development list is food packaging: Krigstin thinks they can use their binder to create new packaging options that could replace styrofoam in items such as food trays and takeout containers.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Sally Krigstin, University of Toronto Department of Forestry

Who's Hiring in Toronto? Social Enterprise Toronto, TIFF, Small Change Fund and more

Some of the neatest jobs we've come across this week...

International conservation organization World Wildlife Fund is looking for a digital content strategist. Working as part of the marketing and communications team, the successful candidate will both develop strategy and write content for a variety of platforms.

Also in the environmental sector is the Small Change Fund, which helps communities working on sustainability issues. They are on the lookout for a new operations manager. And one last one in this area: the Canada Green Building Council needs a new education manager to oversee the creation, marketing, and delivery of the organization's educational programs.

Planned Parenthood Toronto is seeking a director of community health services to manage clinical functions, and participate in organization-wide strategic development. Applicants should have at least five years of clinical experience and have a demonstrated commitment to PPT's equity goals.

Social Enterprise Toronto is a network that aims to support the growth of the social enterprise sector in Toronto. They need a community researcher to collect and process data, and to help them plan a forthcoming conference. There's an age requirement on this one: you must be between 15 and 30 years old to apply.

If you are just starting out and love flim, the Toronto International Film Festival has a four-month communications internship opportunity for someone to work in their press office this summer. And if national history is more your thing, the Historica-Dominica Institute has a number of positions now open, ranging from web officers to subject editors for the Canadian Encyclopedia.

And here is one more community organization looking for a lot of summer help: The Stop, which is a food-oriented non-profit that does everything from run cooking classes to build community gardens. You can see the many seasonal positions they have available here.

Are you hiring or do you know of an innovative job opportunity in Toronto? Email Yonge Street's innovation and jobs editor Hamutal Dotan to let her know. 

Who's Hiring in Toronto? OCAD, TVO, Fresh City, and more

The best of the job opportunities we've spotted this week:

Ontario public broadcaster TVO is hiring for two digital positions right now. They are looking for a digital media producer to help create online content and maintain existing TVO websites. For those with more seniority, TVO.org is also looking for a manager to lead the digital team.

Also in broadcasting, the CBC is on the hunt for a mobile developer to maintain current sites and build new mobile web pages.

If you have an interest in the arts, Canadian Stage is looking for a digital marketing manager for the summer (with a possible contract extention) to help develop web content, execute social media campaigns, and provide project management. Small World Music Society is also looking for some communications help: the charity needs a marketing coordinator with a background in graphic design, media relations, and social media.

Friends of the Greenbelt and the Greenbelt fund are a pair of non-profits that work closely together to support the permanent swath of green space that runs through southern Ontario. They are currently seeking a communications manager with at least five years of experience to take the lead on marketing and media relations, as well as an education and outreach specialist to develop an engagement plan for their local food-purchasing program. Meanwhile Fresh City, a Toronto farm, is looking for a research assistant to help them understand the environmental impact of their operations.

In the academic sector, OCAD University needs a manager of graduate studies to provide oversight of their administration and business affairs.

Toronto's best-known incubator, MaRS, is hiring again, this time for a project manager with a particular background in business analytics. Finally, the Centre for Social Innovation, which runs three shared-space facilities across the city, is looking for a manager to take the lead on day-to-day operations at their new Regent Park location.

Are you hiring or do you know of an innovative job opportunity in Toronto? Email Yonge Street's innovation and jobs editor Hamutal Dotan to let her know. 

Who's hiring in Toronto? Loblaw, FreshBooks, and more

Lots of interesting opportunities have cropped up lately. Here are a few of the most promising:

Grocery giant Loblaw is currently looking for a senior developer and a more junior developer to work within its new eCommerce group. Both hires will work on the company's new product platform, set to launch later in 2013.

The Pembina Institute is Canada's best-known clean energy think tank. The non-profit is seeking a communications lead with at least two years of professional experience.

Ecommerce start-up Shopcastr, who we last wrote about in the summer, is hiring a UI/UX designer, to spearhead their design projects. Unusual skil required: "Can make a bitchin’ button."

For those with a good appetite, Postmedia is looking for someone to do front- and back-end development of their new experiment in food publishing called Gastropost.

Also on the hunt for a developer is TalentEgg, the innovative job board that matches up employers and students. They are looking especially for someone with PHP skills.

If the outdoors is more your speed, Evergreen is looking for an assistant camp director. Their camp is called Green City Adventure Camp and it focuses on the intersection of the environment with the city.

Finally--and also good for the nature lovers--the Riverdale Food Working Group is hoping to find someone with just the right energy to serve as a community animator and raise local awareness of food and food security issues.

Are you hiring or do you know of an innovative job opportunity in Toronto? Email Yonge Street's innovation and jobs editor Hamutal Dotan to let her know. 
189 Sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All
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