Tuesday, 2 April 2019

How can we help Toronto's pollinators?

by Annemarie Baynton

Toronto is home to hundreds of species of pollinators, including over 360 species of bees and 112 species of butterflies. And they need our help.

Pollinators are in decline due to habitat loss, climate change and other stressors. Some are even endangered and at risk of extinction – like the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and the Monarch butterfly.

STARK CONTRAST: What your grocery store looks
like with (top) and without (bottom) pollinators.
Source: Whole Foods

So what can we do? Plant pollinator gardens! Yes, the easiest and most effective way to help pollinators is to create much-needed habitat. The simple act of planting native plants, trees and shrubs will have positive benefits for all pollinators in Toronto.

Fortunately, many of the places to create pollinator gardens already exist – in our yards, school grounds, church properties, and parks. Our city with patches of parkland, ravines, urban gardens and green roofs, can provide an abundance of potential pollinator habitat.

Want to create a pollinator garden in your community? Apply for a PollinateTO grant!

Through its new PollinateTO Community Grants program, the City of Toronto is offering grants of up to $5,000 to support community-led projects that:

  • create pollinator gardens and rain gardens on public and private lands, including residential streets, neighbourhoods and school yards
  • enhance or expand existing gardens with native pollinator-friendly plants

So what exactly do pollinators need? And how do we create pollinator habitat? Find out, after the jump.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Tips for moving toward a plant-based diet

In our last Rethink Food post, we explored the benefits of a plant-based diets, which include better health and a lower impact on the environment.

In this post, we share some tips to help you transition to a "planetary health diet" – that is, cutting meat and sugar consumption in half, while eating more plant-based proteins. For many, this might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be.

In the video below, we talked to Torontonians who have or are making the switch to find out about the challenges they faced and tips for success.

1. Start slow. Why not start out by either removing meat from your diet one day a week (for example, by joining the Meatless Monday movement), the same meal every day of the week (e.g. breakfast), or removing one type of meat (such as red meat) entirely?

2. Ease into a plant-based diet by starting with foods you already love. You might already be eating vegetarian proteins such as veggie burritos and falafel wraps. A lot of people think that going plant-based means a completely new food vocabulary, but you can start by eating meals you're already familiar with.

3. Pack in the protein. One of the biggest concerns for moving toward a plant-based diet is where to find your protein, or worrying about a lack of diversity in your meals. However, there are a wide variety of plant-based protein options: legumes, grains, nuts, processed proteins like tofu and much more.

Visit our Plant-based proteins Pinterest board for lots of useful information and recipes to help get you started.

4. Picky kids? No problem. If you're worried about transitioning your kids to a plant-based diet – do not fear! While kids are notoriously picky eaters, if you involve them in meal prep, or in growing a garden, they will be more willing to eat new foods. The more diversity you introduce them to, the more their palate will develop, and the less they'll be afraid of new foods. Hungry for more? Watch Eric's Story, part of our Rethink Food video series, as he talks about including more plant-based proteins in his family's diet.

5. Make sure you get the essential nutrients. Protein, iron, calcium, vitamins and other minerals are all important for a healthy body - and there are no shortage of plant-based sources of these. Meal planning is a great way to ensure you're getting everything you need.

We hope these tips are helpful, and are excited for you to begin your new journey!


1. Participate in a live-stream of Food Planet Health: Toronto responds to a global call to action on Monday March 25 at 6pm. Follow the link and click "interested" or "attending" so you can get a reminder.
2. Join the conversation: share your tips for incorporating more plant-based proteins into your diet on Twitter by using the hashtag #RethinkFood.

It's time to rethink our relationship with food – visit livegreentoronto.ca to find out how.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Half-way to our 2030 target? Toronto's 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

In February, the City of Toronto released its 2016greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory showing that local GHG emissions were 33 per cent lower in 2016 than in 1990.  The good news is, we're half-way to our 2030 target of a 65 per cent reduction. And, we have already exceeded our 2020 target of a 30 per cent reduction.  The not-so-good  news is that we’ve already taken many of the incremental, easy actions, so we've got a lot of work ahead of us. And, only 11 years to reach our next target. Read on to learn more about why counting GHG emissions matters and how it's done.

What is a GHG inventory?

A greenhouse gas inventory measures the emissions in a given city or region using data from energy use in buildings, vehicles, waste and industry. City staff use data from utility consumption in Toronto – electricity and natural gas bills – and add information about travel patterns and waste disposal to calculate the overall GHG emissions generated in Toronto in a calendar year.

Inventories are released annually, however, it can take up to two years for data collection and verification, which is why the City’s 2016 inventory was just released. Toronto's GHG reporting follows the Greenhouse Gas Protocol for community-scale GHG inventories. Toronto's inventory is also shared via the C40 Cities Network, a network of the cities committed to addressing climate change. You can explore Toronto's data, and other cities, on the C40 website.

What does Toronto’s inventory show?

Glad you asked! The key findings are:

  • Major progress has been made towards Toronto's GHG goals with our 33 per cent reduction, but it's not all good news as much of the reduction came from the province ending coal-fired power generation, and many of the easier actions have already been taken.
  • 45 per cent of GHG emissions in Toronto comes from homes and buildings, primarily from burning natural gas to heat indoor spaces and water, so making our homes and buildings energy efficient is a top priority.
  • 35 per cent of GHG emissions in Toronto are generated by transportation, with 80 per cent of that attributed to personal vehicles, so our daily choices about how we move around the city are critically important.
  • 20 per cent of GHG emissions in Toronto are generated by waste, so recycling and composting are very important, but even more important is reducing the waste we generate. 

Is Toronto on the right track?

Yes! According to this latest inventory, GHG emissions in Toronto are 33 per cent lower in 2016 than in 1990.

TransformTO, which is Toronto's Climate Action Plan till 2050, lays out clear and specific goals and GHG reduction targets, based on 1990 levels.
  • 30 per cent by 2020
  • 65 per cent by 2030
  • 80 per cent by 2050

What next?

There is lots to be done! While great progress has been made, we need to transformhow we live, work, build and commute to continue to achieve our targets.

We can all play a part in reducing emissions.  Learn about how we can #TransformTO together.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

6 ways to be a waste diversion leader

Waste is the third largest source of emissions contributing to climate change in Toronto.

In an effort to remedy this, the city is implementing the Long Term Waste Management Strategy, which aims to divert 70 per cent of Toronto’s waste from landfills by 2026. This moves the city towards a circular economy and a zero waste future.

Apartment and condo buildings are a very important part of the Waste Strategy since over 50 per cent of Toronto’s population live in them. However, only 28 per cent of waste generated in condos is diverted compared to 66 per cent of waste in single family homes.

So what can you do to help divert and reduce waste? Small changes in your habits help, but you can also help motivate people to do the same at work, school and in your community.

Here are six ways to make a difference in your apartment or condo building, presented in partnership with Global News Toronto.

We're accepting applications for our Waste Reduction Community Grants until March 1, 2019. The waste grants are just one way the City of Toronto is helping to #TransformTO & leading the fight against climate change.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

The 2019 edition of the Canada Food Guide revolutionizes our preconceived notions about our relationship with food. The Guide calls for a major shift towards plant-based diets, de-emphasizing meat as a source of protein.

The new Canada Food Guide makes sense - not just for your health, but also for our planet.

The Guide was released hot on the heels of a major, global scientific study from the EAT-Lancet Commission written by 30 leading scientists from across the globe. The report promotes "the planetary health diet" and reinforces the approach of the Canada Food Guide.

Why go plant-based?

1. Your health. Research has proven that eating a plant-based diet can help prevent Type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, improve heart health, and lead to healthier skin.

2. The environment. Greenhouse gas emissions – the leading cause of climate change – per gram of beef or lamb protein are approximately 250x those of legumes. Another way to think of this is that twenty servings of vegetables have fewer greenhouse gas emissions than one serving of beef.

“Intensive meat production is on an unstoppable trajectory comprising the single greatest contributor to climate change…”EAT-Lancet Report
Want to get a clearer picture of the environmental impact of your favourite foods? Check out this handy tool from BBC News.

3. Your pocketbook. Generally, plant-based proteins cost less than meat, which means more money in your pocket. In fact, some research has shown that vegetarians can save upwards of $750 per year compared to meat-eaters.


Incorporating more plant-based proteins into your diet may seem like a daunting task, but keep in mind that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Even going plant-based one day a week will make a difference. To get you started, visit our Pinterest page for lots of tasty and simple recipe ideas. Be sure you check out our #LocalDishTO recipe boards while you're there. And, did you know that we curated kid-approved recipes in our Make It Local recipe book? Finally, check out the Toronto Vegetarian Association website for lots of resources, including their 7-Day Veggie Challenge.

It's time to rethink our relationship with food. Visit livegreentoronto.ca to find out how.