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OliviaChowBike
Olivia Chow is our featured Green Hero this month because she is running to be Mayor of Toronto. She’s a Green Hero who might just make a good leader of a great city in this time of climate crisis. Why? Because she’s done almost everything she can to reduce her own ecological footprint and is therefore an unusual politician because she actually leads by example. Instead of just talking about what other people should do, she quietly does those very things herself. In other words, she gets her own house in order. She practices what she preaches.

While we know her as politician, she was an artist and teacher before her election as a city councilor in 1991. She had her own sculpture studio in the years before her political career and created art pieces for clients. Anybody who works in the arts knows how hard it is gain the trust of clients, make sales and commissions and run a small business all at the same time. She also taught at George Brown College – meaning she had to deal with the challenge of inspiring students. Listening to them and realizing that in order to be a teacher you have to listen and try and give feedback to your audience. But you also have to walk the walk not just talk the talk.

Beginning as a school trustee in 1985, and as Toronto a city councilor and then Member of Parliament, Olivia’s politics have addressed homelessness, public transit, and many other urban issues. She was also an early advocate of people changing their lifestyles to better suit the planet. What was so impressive was that although so many folks talked about change and dreamed about what could be done, Olivia had this practical side that was just about getting the job done.

She and her late husband Jack Layton turned their downtown Toronto home into a showpiece of environmental stewardship. She even made a little video to demonstrate how the green home improvements worked. I was so inspired by this video that I used it when I first pitched Green Heroes in 2006 to a large but skeptical audience at a media conference. I used a clip of the tour Olivia gave to illustrate how stories about people active in environmental change could motivate others to share them via the Web and inspire further action in their own homes and communities.

So Olivia was one of the first “Green Heroes” not because of anything too remarkable – she put her money where her mouth was. She fixed her home so that it wasn’t part of the problem, but part of the solution – all at her own expense. I wish more people would be like her. When people asked how she could afford the renovations, she said she had the income to support that sort of thing. Even though it did mean some investment and sacrifice, there was a payoff in lower costs down the road. She just recommended that people with similar middle class incomes do the same.

She has also, on principle, been skeptical about too much expansion at Toronto Island Airport. Recognizing that the natural wonder of the Toronto islands is for all Canadians to enjoy and experience the natural world. That it is senseless to have this treasure be overrun, as it would be, by a busy commercial airport. Now there is even talk of exposing the island paradise to jet traffic. Olivia also always went to work – rain or shine, sleet or snow, on her trademark bicycle, decorated with flowers and bright colours, Then in, 2006, she won the Trinity—Spadina seat for the NDP. In the federal election her house remained a monument to a sustainable future. A reflection of how we can make our homes and our urban centres sustainable, and beat the climate change crisis down with our own efforts. Even though we need political leadership, we also need people to start practicing a sustainable, affordable lifestyle, at home, just like Olivia. If she wins the leadership of Toronto it will be interesting to see if the city will become a place where the world can see people leading by example on climate change.

Olivia Chow1 - credit, Justin Arjune

 

Celebrate National Aboriginal Day with us today!

The Governor General of Canada proclaimed the first National Aboriginal Day on June 21, 1996. Every year, this celebration offers us a unique opportunity to learn about the rich, diverse heritage of Aboriginal peoples across our country, and celebrate the First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and all of their contributions to Canadian culture.

Not only does Canada have a history full of beautiful cultures, we are also lucky enough to have a rich and diverse natural environment across the entire country.  The Aboriginal way of life  celebrates nature and understand the deep connection we have with the environment we live in.

One of our Green Heroes, Ta’Kaiya Blaney, is a Sliammon First Nation and says this about her culture, “In my culture it’s a fact, and an understanding of life, that everything is connected, and we were put on this earth to be stewards and caretakers of the environment.”

Ta’Kaiya is only 12 years old, but has become an advocate for marine and coastal wildlife and spreads awareness through singing.  Her first song, “Shallow Waters,” was inspired by the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline and Ta’Kaiya’s desire to prevent future oil spills.

Share in the Celebration!

Here are just a few of the events taking place across the country:

For a full list of events in each Province, click here 

Watch Ta’Kaiy Blaney save marine and coastal wildlife with her voice on the new Green Heroes episode, “Back to Nature,” airing on TVO this Tuesday, June 25th, at 7:30pm.

 

GreenHero Laura Reinsborough‘s Not Far From the Tree  is bringing fall to the public!

The organization aims to promote the benefits of eating  locally by helping Toronto homeowners make use of their  harvests. Not Far From the Tree is partnering with other  organizations to put on two great events this month in the  city:

City Cider – On September 18th, 2011 from 1-5 pm, visit  The Orchard at Spadina Museum for live music, cider,  yoga for kids, and more!

Harvest Festival – On September 22, 2011 from 4-7 pm, come out to Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard for free fruit and snacks, orchard tours, children’s activities, and more!

Not Far From the Tree is also using green transportation! Check out the new cargo bikes it will use to share fresh fruit from trees in Toronto.

Why should you go local? Laura explained it in this guest post she wrote for our blog last year. Inspired by Laura’s work, Greenheroes created the Tasting Local Foods campaign in which we share information on how you how you can grow and eat locally.

Toronto is one step closer to joining California in a shark fin ban.

On Friday, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to support it.

Rob Stewart, shark activist and proponent of the ban, spoke to the Council to explain why sharks need our help.

GreenHeroes hopes that such bans will change the industry and eventually stop the cruel hunt of this now endangered animal. You can help Rob in his fight to protect sharks by signing this petition and coming out to his fundraiser 100% Fin Free: An Evening For Sharks this Wednesday night.

Want to do more? Check out United Conservationists, the NGO Rob started to protect sharks and other animals.

MaRS
21Nov
2010

It seems to be Canada’s biggest embarrassment at the moment. The innovation dry-spell. A government unwilling to shell out the big bucks to keep Canada at the top of the innovation charts. Everyone is talking about it.

But we’re hopeful that the tides are changing. One of the surest signs is a new-ish project out of Toronto (though it sounds like it’s a bit out of this world too). MaRS (formerly Medical and Related Sciences; now, just a cool name) is where it’s at in the world of science, business, and innovation.

As a matter of fact, its mission is “to build great companies, develop a vibrant innovation hub, and strengthen Canada’s global innovation brand”.

Since its inception in 2005, MaRS has broadened its scope from a focus on basic medical and sciences to a broad range of innovative sectors.

MaRS caught our eye because it brings everything we love together in one place: science and business, big thinkers from the world of academia, government, and the private and not-for-profit sectors. Community leaders are held up high and untapped potential is leaked open.

MaRS lends up and coming entrepreneurs the tools they need to turn their innovative ideas into realities (and get them out to market!). Offering advice and business services from experienced advisors, education and toolkits for entrepreneurs, and tools for raising capital, MaRS is your one stop shop for growing your ideas.

Bill Lishman had loads of tech and science ideas, but some of his ideas were also socially innovative. Take his Pickering protest, which is famous for its socially innovative means of protest. MaRS, too, offers tools for successful social innovation, much like the burgeoning network of social entrepreneurs at the Center for Social Innovation.

And for more ideas on how let your ideas take flight, visit the campaign page! Some other social innovation organizations we’ve set our sights on to help your ideas soar:

Social Innovation Generation

Changemakers

Tides Canada

Coops Canada

Social Enterprise Alliance

Social Capital Partners

Social Earth

Remember – in the battle to save the planet, let your ideas take flight: Share your story of innovation and bright ideas sparking change by entering our contest, and you’ll be eligible to win a prize, including being featured on TV as our next GreenHero! Contest details and more information can be found here.

GreenHeroes.tv is all about saving the planet, one story at a time. Do you have a great story to tell about how you’re helping to make the world a greener place? Enter the contest to nominate a friend or yourself – you could be one of Canada’s next GreenHeroes!

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