When you’re trying to change the world, they say it’s a good idea to start small.
That’s what a handful of Toronto environmentalists did recently when they set out to plan, design and produce a green map of their community, which highlights a wide range of eco items from environmentally friendly homes to businesses and topography.
While the map isn’t meant to move mountains, organizers hope it will provide that first nudge toward a greener and brighter future.
“Until we did this map, we didn’t really see our ward as a whole as green,” says Mariko Uda, one of the five residents who helped spearhead the project. “It’s so powerful to have this visualization in the form of a map. The map definitely encourages a green atmosphere and fosters interest, a feeling that one is part of a community and positive change. Working on this map we learned so much about our community.”
Organizers discovered their ward has plenty of green clout owing to the dozens of houses with solar panels and solar hot water heaters, multiple community gardens and an orchard, the city’s first subway bike shelter, and Artscape Wychwood Barns, a LEED certified building that houses community organizations and events such as The Stop’s Farmers’ Market.
The ward is also where you can find various businesses offering eco-friendly products and those that operate with a view to sustainability. With a population approaching 60,000, Toronto’s Ward 21, which is known as St. Paul’s West, runs south to the CN rail line, west to Winona Drive, north to Briar Hill and east to Spadina Road.
“The map was created to document and celebrate Ward 21 as one of the greenest wards in the City of Toronto,” says Uda, “and to find out what we’re missing or want more of in our community, to raise awareness of the unique natural features of our ward and to inform newcomers as well as long-time residents about the green features of the ward.”
The idea for the map project evolved from a community environmental group known as Green Neighbours 21. Five local residents in this group decided to use their knowledge and skills in city planning, cartography and environmental sustainability to design the map. While the City of Toronto does have green maps that highlight various eco features and green tourism attributes, this is believed to be the first ward-based map of its kind.
“We thought that doing a ward-based map would be a smaller scale that people can feel they are more a part of and they can do something to improve the city,” Uda says.
As a civil engineering grad student, Uda feels some urgency when it comes to environmental concerns. Her dissertation is exploring how to make neighbourhoods more resilient and sustainable to future risks.
The map is not a done deal, though, as organizers recognize that their ward is constantly evolving. A blank space in the corner of the map asks people for input in an effort to create a conversation about what they’d like to see in the community.
To view the map online or to download a copy, visit www.gn2l.ca.
The beauty of efforts such as the Ward 21 green map is that it fosters a promotion of eco initiatives within a community, setting up a welcoming green framework that spurs the growth of other environmental projects, ideas and plans. Next thing you know, residents and businesses that share a green sensibility are moving to the neighbourhood to be with other likeminded environmentalists.
Could your community be next?
The National Association of Green Agents and Brokers (NAGAB) provide a Greenbroker and Greenagent certification program to sales reps and brokers across Canada. To get more information or to sign up for a course, visit www.nagab.org. Elden Freeman M.E.S., AGB, broker is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organization. 1-877-524-9494 Email eIden@nagab.org.