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Toronto company helping to solve our plastic problem

As reported by the Globe & Mail, Toronto-based GreenMantra Recycling Technologies is working hard to solve Ontario's plastic problem (in 2009 alone Ontario used 235,000 tonnes of plastic packaging and recycled less than a quarter of it). Founded 7 years ago by entrepreneur Pushkar Kumar, GreenMantra diverts plastic from our landfills by converting it into useful waxes and oils.

"Used plastic is, to put it mildly, plentiful. According to Stewardship Ontario, the province alone used 235,000 tonnes of plastic packaging in 2009. Only about a quarter of that was recovered."

"Noting this fact, about seven years ago, Mr. Kumar decided to look for a solution. A metallurgical and materials engineer, he worked with his father, a chemical engineer, on the project.They reasoned that all plastics are polymers made of molecules found in many other materials. Once broken down, those polymers could be converted into other things. But what could they convert the plastic into? And what kind of process would accomplish it?"

"The Kumars eventually found what seemed the ideal answer to the first question. Synthetic waxes are usually a byproduct of oil refining, but refiners can make more money – especially in today's world of $100-a-barrel oil – from creating gasoline than from waxes, which are used to make floor wax, shoe polish and car waxes."

"So they have been altering their processes to produce less wax. That has reduced supplies, Mr. Kumar explains, which is driving wax prices up."

That creates an opportunity. GreenMantra won't compete for raw materials with existing suppliers and will have lower upfront costs than they do, he says. Does that mean GreenMantra can produce the products for less cost than established producers? Mr. Kumar says he isn't sure whether he can undercut their prices, but he is sure he can compete – and, he says, "at least I can guarantee that the prices are stable."

"The challenge, explains Lyle Clarke, vice-president of innovation and blue box at Stewardship Ontario, is efficiently recovering and realizing value from the many different grades of plastics consumers put out for recycling. GreenMantra, Mr. Clarke says, is "going at the heart of the challenge in the system."

"Mr. Kumar says his process can handle a variety of plastics, including bags and bottles. Perhaps most important, he can process mixed loads of material, potentially eliminating the time-consuming job of sorting, since existing recycling processes are mainly limited to a particular type of plastic."

"A key to making this work was finding a catalyst to drive the chemical process that breaks up the molecules. Loads of plastics are bound to contain impurities – bits of metal, glass or other materials – and GreenMantra needed a process that would continue working despite those impurities. The company found a catalyst a couple of years ago and has been refining its methods since.The beauty of GreenMantra's business model is its simplicity, argues James Sbrolla, entrepreneur-in-residence at the MaRS Discovery District, the Toronto technology incubator that has helped Mr. Kumar build his company. "They're not trying to change the world. They're picking a very simple niche that they can do well at."

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original source Globe & Mail

Toronto among the Economist's top 5 most livable cities

The Economist Intelligence Unit has released it's annual rankings of world's most livable cities and, as in past years, Canada dominates the list. Three Canadian cities--Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary--placed in the top ten. While Toronto still has some catching up to do with Vancouver (who got the number one spot for the second year in a row) it nonetheless scored favourably, coming 4th out of 140 cities worldwide.

"The ranking scores 140 cities from 0-100 on 30 factors spread across five areas: stability, health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. These numbers are then weighted and combined to produce an overall figure. The top ten cities occupy the same positions as last year, with the exception of Melbourne and Vienna, which have swapped places."

"The report, which some companies use to determine hardship allowances for relocated employees, explains what makes a high-ranked city:
Cities that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density. This often fosters a broad range of recreational availability without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure. Seven of the top ten scoring cities are in Australia and Canada, where population densities of 2.88 and 3.40 people per sq km respectively compare with a global (land) average of 45.65 and a US average of 32."

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original source The Economist

New Church St. eatery is also a social enterprise

Blog TO reviews Fabarnak, the restaurant/cafe that recently opened inside Church street's revamped 519 Community Centre. In addition to serving great tasting sustainable and healthy foods, Fabarnak also functions as a social enterprise by offering employment opportunities to area residents.

"Since opening in October, word has slowly gotten out about the cafe/restaurant's unique menu of sustainable, homemade foods. Everything served at Fabarnak, right down to the ketchup served with the "Cosy" gluten-free elbow pasta with four local cheeses ($12), is made on site. Fabarnak smokes it own meats, makes its own soup stocks, even creates its own evergreen oil for its vegan "Comfy" soup, a tomato bisque with gouda and croustade ($4 or $9, depending on size)."

"My philosophy is that food is either about fantasy or nostalgia," says head chef and director of food services Eric Wood. "It takes us to somewhere we've never been, or reminds us of someplace we'd like to revisit." Wood encourages the staff to push boundaries and try to experiment with new tastes. "It's like you're writing a play," he says. "Constructive conflict is a good thing."

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original source Blog TO

Green roofs in Toronto, one year later

In January of last year Toronto City Hall announced an ambitious and innovative sustainability policy, requiring all new buildings and retrofits to include a green roof. Now, one year later, Blog TO looks at some of the most noteworthy projects that have emerged as a result.

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original source Blog TO

Sweet smell of soapy success

The Toronto Star features Ella's Botanicals, a Toronto-based business which manufacturers a line of handmade soaps and lotions. Launched by Torontonian Ella Nunes in 2006, Ella's Botanicals has built a loyal following for its commitment locally produced, eco-friendly and all-natural skin care products.

"The company's top seller is the Lavender Rose soap bar, which counts essential oils of lavender and geranium among its ingredients. Another standout is the Chai Latte soap bar, which includes cinnamon, vanilla and goat's milk.The products are luxurious and eco-friendly, and range in price from $5.50 for a bar of soap to $20 for a 500-ml bottle of lotion."

"Much like her soap bars, which can take a month to make, Nunes has built her business slowly but steadily. She launched Ella's Botanical's in 2006 with a single product: soap bars. To pay for the essential oils and other materials needed to produce samples, the trained herbalist and aromatherapist worked part-time as a cashier at Mountain Equipment Co-op."

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original source Toronto Star

Cowbell is the first restaurant in Toronto to get LEAF certification for its green ways

Toronto's Cowbell restaurant has been awarded a Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice (LEAF) certification by a new Alberta-based organization that help diners identify green restaurants. As reported by Toronto Life, the Queen West restaurant was lauded for its dedication to buying local, its efficient use of energy and water, and its commitment to recycling.

"When it comes to providing environmentally sustainable cuisine, locavore haven Cowbell walks the walk, according to Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice (LEAF)."

"Mark Cutrara, Cowbell's co-owner, considers it an honour. LEAF offers a certification on three levels, with three representing the ultimate in culinary green-dom. Cowbell got a level two, but Cutrara says it's difficult for a non-vegetarian restaurant to get much higher—and if there's anything Cowbell is not, it's vegetarian. "Meat production in itself is less sustainable," he says. "And I'm not about to go and change the name of the restaurant to Veg-Bell."

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original source Toronto Life

Canadian Innovation Exchange announces 2010 finalists

The Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX) has released its list of organizations who have made the finals for this year's "Hottest Innovation Companies" awards. CIX--an annual conference celebrating Canada's innovation economy--will take place on December 7th at the MaRS Centre in Toronto. As reported by Media Caster, 11 Toronto companies made the prestigious list.

"CIX, taking place December 7th at the MaRS Centre in Toronto, ON, provides a platform for these companies to showcase their great Canadian innovation while catalyzing strategic relationships and transactions across this dynamic sector."

"Congratulations to all our nominees for showing the best that Canada has to offer the world," said Rick Nathan, Co-Chair of the Canadian Innovation Exchange. "These companies truly reflect what Canadian business innovation means," added Robert Montgomery, Co-Chair of the Canadian Innovation Exchange."

"Finalists will make live presentations in front of leaders of major corporations, entrepreneurs and investors. Winners in each category will be announced at the Canadian Innovation Exchange on December 7, 2010 at the MaRS Discovery Centre, Toronto."

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original source Media Caster

Toronto signs up to unique carbon reporting scheme

As reported by ClickGreen UK, Toronto has joined New York and London in signing up to a unique carbon reporting scheme. The initiative, organized by global non-for-profit "The Carbon Disclosure Project" (CDP), provides a system for cities worldwide to report on their greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related strategies.

"CDP Cities, in partnership with the C40 and the Clinton Climate initiative (CCI), has asked the largest cities in the world committed to tackling climate change – the 40 member cities and 19 affiliate member cities of the C40 – to voluntarily measure and report to CDP so the cities can proactively manage risks, reduce carbon and further adopt strategies that safeguard the future of cities."

"London, Toronto and New York have already agreed to report their carbon emissions data to CDP."

"Cities play an essential and leading role in accelerating solutions to climate change and C40 cities are already making a massive impact," said David Miller, Mayor of Toronto and chair of C40."

"CDP will provide a reporting platform that allows C40 cities to track their progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and share that critical data with each other and around the globe."

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original source ClickGreen UK

Toronto Housing project is its own sustainable ecosystem

Fast Company writes on Toronto's " doubly virtuous" 60 Richmond East Housing Co-operative, both a housing project for relocated hotel and restaurant workers and a urban mini-ecosystem where residents can grow their own produce. Designed by Teeple Architects for Toronto Community Housing, the 11-story, 85-unit complex was completed in March of 2010.

"Only in squeaky-clean Toronto could you find a housing development that's doubly virtuous, like this one. Designed by Teeple Architects, it houses hotel and restaurant workers relocated from another housing project. But the building is also designed to provide produce for a restaurant, so that the residents can make a living close to home."

"The architects collaborated with the city and a local labor union to create this award-winning structure. Teeple took inspiration from the residents' professions, installing a training kitchen on the ground floor and a sixth floor vegetable garden to supply it. Storm runoff from the roof irrigates the garden while composted waste from the kitchen fertilizes it. Teeple calls this self-sufficient mini-ecosystem "urban permaculture."

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original source Fast Company

An edible education

The Toronto Star writes on Bendale Business and Technical Institute, the Scarborough high school that is home Canada's first school-based market garden. Since the installation of garden beds on the high school's campus students have harvested over 1,800 pounds of food, all put to good use in the school's cafeterias and pay-what-you-can community markets.

"This is the cutting edge of edible education. What Bendale has is one step beyond a simple school garden but not quite an urban farm. It's believed to be Canada's first school-based market garden. It proves the educational value of food and all the ways it can be worked into the curriculum. And, if all goes as planned, Bendale will serve as a model for schools across the country."

"There are so many schools that could be turning their lawns into fields of food," says garden co-ordinator Ian Hepburn-Aley, a community food facilitator with FoodShare."

"FoodShare is a non-profit organization that tackles food and hunger issues through grassroots projects. It has helped 26 Toronto schools create food gardens and is working with five more on indoor/outdoor growing projects. Most are modest affairs, cared for by staff, students and parent volunteers. Many languish over the summer."

"What sets Bendale apart is its funding and its scale. The high school, on Midland Avenue north of Lawrence, experimented with two of FoodShare's small "Footprint Gardens." Then it was chosen to pilot a large-scale garden through an 11-month, $65,000 Ontario Community Go Green Fund grant, awarded to projects that reduce greenhouse gas omissions."

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original source Toronto Star

Toronto bike share gets green light

As reported by the CBC Toronto's bike-sharing program, known as Bixi, has officially signed up its 1,000th member. The City of Toronto had earlier pledged to support the program if Bixi could collect 1,000 membership pledges before this November. Now that the membership goal has been met the City will commit a $4.8-million startup loan for the bike-share program.

"When the program launches in May 2011, bikes will be available from 80 locations south of Bloor Street between Spadina Avenue and Jarvis Street. A resident or visitor will be able to use one of the bikes for a fee of $78 a year, $28 per month or $5 per day."

"Toronto will guarantee a $4.8-million startup loan for Bixi and has to dig up $600,000 in sponsorship deals. But the city is not directly funding the program. But the city is not directly funding the program. Public Bike System Company runs a similar Bixi program in Montreal, which has about 5,000 bikes parked at about 400 stations across the city."

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original source CBC

TTC is now on Google Maps

Route planning on Goolge Maps has recently become easier (and more fun) for Torontonians who navigate the city by transit. As reported by Torontoist a TTC function has finally been added to the popular internet trip planner.

"The addition of TTC to Google Maps fills in a substantial void in transit directions, as the service is already provided for GO Transit, York Region Transit, and the Hamilton Street Railway. Also, it joins the TTC's list of notable achievements in customer information in the past year, including a new mobile site, text-based next streetcar arrivals, and more next vehicle displays at subway stations."

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original source Torontoist

Bike boxes arrive in Toronto

As reported by Blog TO, St. George and Harbord has recently become the first Toronto intersection to host bike boxes. Bike boxes--lines painted on the road marking a spot for cyclists to pull out in front of stopped traffic--were added to the City of Toronto Bike Plan in order to make turning on bike safer and easier.

"For those unfamiliar with bike boxes, they basically enable cyclists to pull out in front of stopped traffic so as to make turns more safely. They're particularly effective when turning left, but by giving cyclists a head start (intersections with bike boxes also feature no-right-on-red signs), they also help to diminish the chance of a cyclist being swiped when turning right. Cyclists might be a bit nervous the first time they try out a left hand turn in traffic, but by getting oneself visible, the endeavour is far safer. Just make sure to avoid oncoming traffic. Obviously!"

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original source Blog TO

Evergreen Brick Works set to become cultural beacon in Toronto

The Evergreen Brick Works, one of Toronto's most anticipated development projects, has officially opened to the public. For the past eight years Evergreen, an environmental non-for-profit, has been working diligently to transform 16.5-hectares of the Don River flood plain into a lively and sustainable public space. The Brick Works--which now houses, among other amenities, a museum, a year-round camp, and a food market--has already been hailed by the Globe & Mail as "cultural beacon for Torontonians and tourists alike" and by the National Geographic as one of the "world's best geo-tourism destinations".

"In many ways, [the Evergreen Brick Works's] arrival – a definitive argument for a better conserved, more sustainable Toronto – could not be more timely, coming only weeks before a municipal election that many regard as a referendum on the shape of the city's future."

"In the course of a single day, depending on the season, visitors will be able to hike, fish, scale a 27-metre climbing tower, ice skate, study trees and plants, tend a garden, fix or ride a bicycle, study art, attend a lecture on urban issues, walk the Beltline (it starts right there), dine on Brad Long's family-oriented meals, explore for fossils, watch deer, picnic, and more."

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original source Globe & Mail

Above the concrete jungle, green roofs you can eat

The Toronto Star writes on restaurant green roofs, the growing trend in Toronto's culinary scene. Featuring four celebrated Toronto restaurants -- Beast, Parts and Labour, Vertical and Weezie's -- the article looks at the challenges and the joys of growing your own food. An excerpt on Beast's green roof:

"Beast, 96 Tecumseth St."

"Growers: Rachelle and Scott Vivian, spouses and co-chefs, formerly of Church Street's Wine Bar."

"What they grow: Tomatoes, chili peppers, strawberries, edible calendula and nasturtium flowers, herbs and "corn by accident," said Rachelle. Planted on a whim, the cornstalks quickly shot up, and now the plants are flowering. The duo don't think they'll actually get cobs — but then again, they might."

"Challenges: Raccoons. One ate an entire plant of chili peppers. "I don't feel sorry for him," said Scott, "but I kind of do. Those things were spicy." Cucumbers and coriander just wouldn't grow, despite their best efforts."

"Joys: "Not having to go into the walk-in and open up a bag of herbs," said Scott. "That's definitely the most satisfying part."

"What they grow: Hard-to-find heirloom varieties of tomatoes, eggplant, hot peppers, peas, beans, and Swiss chard. Shehata is particularly proud of the more than 40 varieties of heirloom lettuce."

"How he grows it: McAuley trawls construction sites for leftover wood hoarding, which he builds into bins. The upcycled greenhouse is entirely made from found and salvaged windows and doors."

"Challenges: "This year we went full tilt and failed," said Shehata. "Which is fine." Blasting heat wilted many of the plants, a problem exacerbated by a spongy soil mixture that didn't allow fledgling plants to properly root."

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original source Toronto Star
57 Sustainability Articles | Page: | Show All
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