An intro to the greener side of the Beach

It is hardly surprising that we Beachers care so much about our natural environment. With beautiful Lake Ontario, parks, ravines, and mature tree-lined streets right on our doorsteps, we are truly fortunate. Our parks’ usage matters to us, fallen trees don’t go unnoticed, and urban development is fiercely fought where it threatens natural resources and issues related to density, transportation and more. And we don’t just care, we take action.

As a result, numerous ‘green groups’ and residents’ associations have a mandate that is partly or entirely focused on environmental issues and solutions. This paper is now honouring this dedication to what we hold so dearly.

Starting this month is a regular environmental column on a wide variety of issues and options. Topics will range from safer household and personal care products, eco renovations, and water preservation, to local renewable energy, transportation, tree preservation and replanting, and more.

My passion for dealing with environmental issues professionally goes back a couple of decades. Personally it goes back to my roots, growing up in rural West Germany. Human population 500, animal population 600 plus. As a child I begged for a pink piglet as a pet, witnessed the messy process of slaughter days yet enjoyed the delicious results, helped in the cow barn of my friends’ parents and my riding stable, was privy to a cow’s calving and saw a newborn horse filly stand and stagger about less than an hour after birth. I got sun-burned working in scorched fields, and an aching back and knees from days of grape-picking for our neighbours in their autumn vineyards. I saw where our fresh (raw) milk and cream came from, was aware of our dinners’ origins, helped work the soil of my friends’ parental farms, and learned how to drive on a tractor.

Although my first career took a different direction, the penny dropped eventually and I found my calling in environmental work. My studies, jobs, community engagement and volunteering have exposed me to the slew of challenges we face in protecting and improving our natural environment, while maintaining or bettering our own and others’ lives.

I will do my best to provide you with interesting, relevant, and readable columns. As a start, I want to introduce a number of local groups active in environmental awareness-raising and local projects. It is meant as a brief overview and is by no means a complete list.

Beach Community Energy Co-Operative Inc. (BCEC)
Solar project on Kew Beach Public School. Looking for board and team members. They will be offering investment opportunities to buy solar shares soon. Contact: Teresa Miller,, or visit online at

Beach United Church Green Team
They have hosted talks and workshops for their congregation on general environmental issues and reducing home energy consumption. Currently working on a solar cooperative to offer purchase of shares in their 165 panel (41 kW) solar system going onto their roof as part of current renovations. Contact: Ron Sitton, 416-691-8082.

East End Transition Enthusiasts (EETE) and Beach In Transition (BIT)
Neighbourhood groups of city-wide Transition Toronto. EETE plants and harvests from their backyard gardens, hosted a documentary film event, picked and preserved crab apples from Kew Gardens, and hosted info tables at local farmers’ markets. BIT is still a fledgling but plans to partner with the East End Sustainability Network for future film events and projects. Email the umbrella group at

East Toronto Climate Action Group (ETCAG)
Active in energy conservation projects, film screenings, eco fairs and other public events, environmental education programs for elementary schools, lobbying, and letter-writing. Received several environmental awards for a community garden and public realm beautification. Email, or visit

East End Sustainability Network (EESN)
Initiated by MPs Matthew Kellway and Craig Scott with support from leaders of GW32 and Citizens Climate Lobby. Seek to unite local groups and leaders on sustainability issues in the East End. Email

Greening Ward 32 (GW32)
One of several groups resulting from Councillor McMahon’s town hall meetings in spring 2011. Activities so far: hosting an eco fair, planting a community garden at Kingston and Balsam, and participation in the EESN. Email A sub-group, Friends of Woodbine Park (FOWP), formed this spring to beautify the park, playground and other areas. Includes an Adopt-A-Tree program to water the park’s 120 new trees. Contact for FOWP: Martina Rowley (see author’s contact information above).

Ward 32 Renewable Energy Group
A Pilot Project for a Dog Waste Digester to generate usable biogas from dog waste. Location planned near the Kew Beach dog park. Email Ronn Stevenson,

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