Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cycling in Prince Edward County

Last weekend I went for a joyride through one of Ontario's best cycling areas - Prince Edward County. I covered 86km starting from Prinyer's Cove in the northeast, passing through the towns of Waupoos, South Bay, Milford, and Picton. The roads were very quite--I encountered more cyclists than motorists--and there were many points of interest along what they call they Arts Trail and Taste Trail. Cycling is a great way to discover the lay of the land, and a peaceful and beautiful land it is!

Some of the highlights for me was sampling cider at the County Cider House, wine at Del-Gado's winery, Mariner's museum, Lake on the Mountain conservation area, Black River cheese company, and fresh local strawberries. I hope to go back to discover more of the area!

An excellent cycling map is available from the Bloomfield Cycling Company.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thanks busy bees for a job well done!

I recently re-discovered my new favourite food--honey! It started with a visit to Pioneer Brand honey at the Hillcrest Mall Farmers Market. There are so many varieties, from buckwheat honey to blueberry honey to creamed honey, and so many ways to use it. And it's a great sugar substitute in recipes.

"But what really sweetens the pot is knowing the honey in my tea is at work even if I’m not. In this liquid gold, I find a cache of antioxidants, a digestive aid, a detoxifier and even a soothing balm for wounds, all rolled into one delightful concoction.

Honey is the ultimate in products derived from herbs. Fashioned through an ingenious alliance between animal and plant kingdoms, honey delivers a diverse array of phytochemicals in one package. This bounty arrives courtesy of the industrious honeybee, who visits some 2 million flowers to manufacture just one pound of honey." -Gina Mohammed

I also take a teaspoon of bee pollen every day. It's a superfood! There are 22 basic elements in the human body. Enzymes, Hormones, Vitamins, Amino Acids, and others - Which must be renewed by nutrient intake, no one food contains them all, except Bee Pollen!

I also learned about beeswax candles.
Beeswax is very different: all natural, non-toxic, non-polluting, non-allergenic, and with a delicious honey-sweet aroma. It burns cleaner, brighter, hotter, and longer than candles made from other substances. A perfect, renewable resource, beeswax is made by the female worker bee for honeycomb, which safely contains their honey and the Queen's baby bees. To produce one pound of beeswax, the worker bees eat about ten pounds of honey, fly 150,000 miles, and visit 33 million flower blossom! Beeswax is precious stuff. It's also healthy. Beeswax produces negative ions that actually clean your air of odors, pollen, smoke, dust, dust mites, viruses, and other allergens and hazards - the only known fuel to do so. As does a rainstorm, beeswax candles leave your air fresher and cleaner - they are a true air purifier. They are the only candle for anyone with chemical sensitivities or allergies.

Paraffin, on the other hand, is petroleum industry waste that is bleached (adding dioxin and other poisonous chemicals) and texturized with acrolyn. Stearic acid, a by-product of the meat packing industry, is added as a hardener. Often, candles are highly scented with artificial, synthetic oils and marketed to "freshen" our air. They are known to release carcinogens like benzene and toluene.

An excerpt from the children's book Buzz, Buzz, Busy Bees by Dawn Bentley sums up my sentiments nicely:
Mmmm, mmmm. Honey golden as the sun.
Thanks busy bees, for a job well done!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Greener Side Celebration and Mill Pond Splash

With May bringing spring bird migration, blooming flowers, and pleasant temperatures, it's no wonder that nature festivals abound. I took my kids to Our Greener Side Celebration at the Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan on May 28th, and the Mill Pond Splash on May 29th in Richmond Hill.

Highlights from the Mill Pond Splash included seeing some animals up close (including red tailed hawk, kestrel, and great horned owl), mural painting, walking along the pond, and getting a "grow your own butterfly" kit.

At Our Greener Side Celebration (the 3rd annual), my son discovered many creatures in the pond (the volunteers were fantastic!), we attended a Ontario wildlife show by Earth Rangers (see barn owl in photo), the pizza was incredible (local organic ingredients), sat in some electric vehicles, watched some entertaining musicians on stage. There was something for everyone, from crafts from reused materials to expert speakers to tours to a plethora of exhibitors. I hope even more people visit next year.

Nature festivals are a great way to enjoy our natural wonders with family and friends, come together as a community, and learn a thing or two about going greener. Another event coming up is the Carden Nature Festival from June 3 - 5, 2011.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A bike ride in pictures

Today was Bike to Work Day in the Greater Toronto Area. Here are some highlights from my bike ride today.

1. New section of Bartley Smith Greenway (between Planchet and Jacob Keefer Pkwy)

2. Bartley-Smith Greenway under Hwy 407

3. Bartley-Smith Greenway, north of Steeles and Dufferin

4. New subway construction at York University

5. Future multi-use trail in Finch Hydro Corridor (coming this summer).

6. Bike to Work celebration by Smart Commute at York University.

7. Collision at Keele/Steeles. Traffic was snarled up for quite a distance.

8. Memorial near Rupert's Pond at Barrhill/Rutherford in Maple

9. New bike lane on Dufferin (though I think 6 lanes for cars is excessive suburban arterial)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Artificial Leaf turns Water into Energy for Cheap

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research team, lead by Dr. Daniel Nocera, have created a functioning artificial leaf which in reality is an advanced playing-card sized silicon+catalyst solar cell that can power a house in a developing country for a day using a gallon (3.79 liters) of water and sunlight....

The oxygen and hydrogen can either be passed through a fuel cell to generate electricity, or burned to generate heat. All the leaf needs is water and sunlight, and it will work for at least 45 hours without degrading in performance according to testing done in the lab.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Life, Money, and Illusion: Lesson from the East Coast Fishery

The City of Hamilton’s planning committee recently heard from Mike Nickerson, the author of Life, Money and Illusion: Living on Earth As If We Want to Stay. Excerpts from his presentation are reproduced below. The full transcription is on the CATCH website.

“…The really fundamental change between human beings and the earth has been well illustrated by the east coast fishery, because when Europeans came to North America you could drop a bucket into the ocean and pull up codfish. They were so dense in the water they couldn’t escape from a basket. And for 400 years, they were the foundation of the maritime economy. Anybody could go fishing and make a living.

“If somebody was ambitious, they fished a little more than they needed to for their immediate needs, they make some extra money and they could invest that in their boat or their net and catch more fish, and make more money. And that more money – more fish – more money – more fish process went on for 4 centuries. It just got better, and better and better and better and then it collapsed. And there’s something about better and better and better that doesn’t naturally need to collapse.

“There is something important going on that wasn’t being paid attention to. And that was the fish stock. And the reason it wasn’t being paid attention to is that for four centuries there was nobody that could even imagine that we would dent this incredible volume of fish let alone bring them to the status of endangered species. But because of the expansion of the number of fish and people fishing and particularly because of the power of the equipment we were using for fishing, you could no longer support yourself fishing cod on the east coast.

“And what we did with the fish we’re doing with the forests. We’re doing it with fossil fuels; we’re doing it in some places with fresh water, with soil fertility; with the ability of the environment to absorb our waste. These are all wake-up calls to the human family. They’re all telling us one thing. They’re saying we’re grown up now. We’re no longer a young offender; we’re fully responsible for the laws of nature, and we will be tried in the court of natural selection.
“There are only two laws in nature that we have to obey. One is the law of the minimum. How much resources do we need compared to what the planet offers – which is what the fish and the fossil fuels is about. And the other is the law of tolerance. How much of our waste can we tolerate - can the environment which supports us tolerate?

Monday, February 28, 2011

The truth about orange juice

Alissa Hamilton is author of the book "Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice

Here's what the leading orange juice companies don't tell you:
- they strip the orange juice of oxygen so they can store it in huge tanks for up to a year
- this process also strips the juice of its orange juice flavors, so engineered "flavor packs" are added back to make it taste fresh
- without the flavor packs, which contain chemicals to simulate nature, the juice would taste like sugar water
-More details here:
Sue's Market in Richmond Hill sells 2L of freshly squeezed orange juice for $7.99, which is not much more expensive than the commercial stuff, plus it tastes way better and is better for you. Or, cut up a fresh Florida Valencia orange and awaken your senses to the taste that the major labels can't imitate.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Majestic Plastic Bag - A Mockumentary

This is brilliant... uses humour to educate.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

GO Station's days are numbered

The York University GO Station is in the boonies. It's about a 2km walk from campus. A free shuttle bus makes the trip for the 4 trains in the morning and 4 in the evening.

However, once the subway is extended to York University, the GO train connection will be moved to the new Sheppard West subway station, providing a multimodal link with the north part of the City. York's GO Station days are numbered. And that's a good thing!

Photos: 1) Way too much salt! 2) Station platform 3) new Presto fare card is coming 4) e-waste at the adjacent industrial warehouse

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gangzhou, China wins sustainable transport award

Guangzhou, one of China’s fastest growing cities, beat out other cities including Tehran, Iran; Lima, Peru; Leon, Mexico; and Nantes France to take this year’s top honors at the ITDP Sustainable Transport Awards.
The committee recognized Guangzhou for its new world-class BRT system that integrates with bike lanes, bike share and metro stations, raising the bar for all cities. Guangzhou’s new BRT attracts 800,000 passengers a day — more than 90% of the existing metro lines in the world.
The Sustainable Transport Award is given annually to the city that made most progress over the year to increase mobility for all residents while reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions and improving safety and access for cyclists and pedestrians.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Which has the higher density?

Intensification can be looked at in two ways. The towers at Jane/Rutherford, near Vaughan Mills in Maple, remind me of the picture on the left. They achieve high density, but are still not pedestrian, transit, or cyclist friendly, and are not a highly desirable place to live. The picture on the right, however, is more to the human scale, has quality asthetics and public realm, and achieves an even higher density than the left. Now if we could only get city planners and developers on board!

[from City of Hamilton Visioning Workshop]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What's Your Big Green Idea?

At the Sustainable Engineers Association Conference on Jan 15th, I challenged students to provide their big green ideas. What can the Provincial government be doing to be greener?Below are the responses. I've since put them on dotmocracy sheets and asked some of my colleagues if they agree. View the results of voting HERE.

  • Light rail in the median – should be more widespread (already beingplanned on Hwy 407); we should catch up; in between densely populated urban areas it would be a huge energy saver and also immune to congestion
  • Driver education interms of awareness of cyclists and how to treat them on the roads
  • Promotion of warm mix asphalt
  • Smaller buses onthe road, especially on lesspopulated routes and off-peak hours; smaller buses are more than enough for these applications and are more efficient
  • DVP bicycle tram (light rail) with major pick-up points (Salma Saad)
  • Major bike arteries, with private and tax deductible funding (Salma Saad)
  • Wider bicycle lanes on all major roads, like in Beijing, China
  • Single fare system between cities/regions. It is too expensive to commute downtown when you need to buy multiple passes (Radhika Sagar)
  • Piezoelectric type panels for electricity generation
  • Eliminate HOV lanes; they are not a way of saving the environment and a wasted lane when cars sit and idle
  • Increase cost of driving by charging road tolls; Implement a car tax a la Denmark
  • Solar cells on top of cars to power them or contribute to some of its power. In parking lots it can be plugged in to a system and the owner can get a cut of the electricity made off the parked car. Rest goes to owner of land. (Armin Hamta)
  • Wind generation along sides of busy highways; storing energy (heat) from busy highways that surrounding communities can tap in to.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hot Yam

I ate at Hot Yam yesterday. Run by student volunteers at the University of Toronto, it's a mostly local, mostly organic, and entirely vegan lunch for only $4. Not only is it healthy food to nourish you, it tastes amazing. It could just be the best deal in town. Available only on Thursdays from 12-2pm at the International Student Centre (33 St. George St.). Check out some recipes here.