photos by Mark Coatsworth
Where : Taylor Creek Park
Why : A beacon for the fragile state of the Don Valley's ecosystem. Making an environmental as well as an artistic statement, these solar-powered "functioning sculptures" by Noel Harding use specific wetland plants and waste plastic (used as a substitute for soil) to absorb volatile oils and hydrocarbons and filter metal contaminants from the Don. An early warning system for wetlands pollution and the prototype for water cleanup solutions on a large scale.
WindShare Cooperative's wind turbine
Where : Exhibition Place
Why : The first of its kind in North America, it demonstrates that there is a viable way of generating energy that doesn't rely on dangerous, costly and polluting nukes and coal-fired plants. In its first full year of operation, the turbine has produced more than 1.1 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean, green electricity while displacing tonnes of emissions contributing to acid rain, smog and ground-level ozone. It costs Toronto hospitals $150 million to treat the victims of air pollution. Need we say more?
Where : 150 Sparkhall in Riverdale
Why : The road to a more eco-friendly planet begins at home. This 1,700-square-foot semi demonstrates that living off the grid is not only possible but preferable. The dwelling recycles rainwater and waste water while relying on solar panels for heat and shade plants for cooling. Its water purification system mimics the natural path rain follows when it passes through the ground to a spring. Built for less than $100,000, it uses less than one-tenth the water and energy required to heat a conventional house.
Mountain Equipment Co-op's rooftop garden
Where : 400 King West
Why : Moving green roofs beyond mere architectural curiosities while challenging our concept of urban space. This self-sustaining 10,000-square-foot urban oasis features a drainage system that goes boldly beyond the rooftop container concept and allows native shrubs, perennial grasses, flowers, herbs and ground covers to flourish. The plants not only regulate the store's temperature, keeping heat in during winter and out in summer, but provide a stop for migrating birds as well as habitat for small animals.
Steam Whistle Brewery - and the seven other buildings on Enwave's Deep Lake Water Cooling Air Conditioning system
Where : Throughout downtown core
Why : Making Toronto cool - literally - and harnessing the enormous ecological potential of Lake Ontario. Twenty years in the making, the deep water cooling system uses 75 per cent less electricity than A/C and eliminates 40,000 tonnes of carbon monoxide, the equivalent of removing 8,000 cars from the street a year. That's enough energy saved to service more than 100 Toronto office towers or 4,200 homes per year.
Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Garden
Where : 167-169 Gerrard East
Why : May not look like much this time of year, but this tiny former trouble spot run by Evergreen has been converted into a green patch that's preserving native plant species (woodland strawberries, columbine, prairie smoke, sweet grass, slender vervain, native dogwood shrub, baneberry, purple coneflower) as well as planting deep political and cultural roots by educating Toronto's aboriginal people about food security, aboriginal traditions and healthy eating.
Beach Solar Laundromat
Where : 2240 Queen East
Why : Providing a 21st-century model for business sustainability. This 2004 Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Award-winning laundromat uses rooftop solar panels to preheat water and a heat exchanger to draw heat energy off its hot water system. Municipal cold water run through coils in the ceiling to provide A/C during the summer. The laudromat's wash-and-fold service is operated by Neighbourhood Link/Senior Link. The bottom line: revenues have doubled while utility costs per load of laundry and harmful emissions have dropped by 30 per cent.
Where : York University
Why : Proving energy efficiency can be achieved on a large scale. York's co-gen facility, fired up in 1998, is among the first - the city only recently fired up its first - and largest of its kind anywhere in the GTA. Exhaust from a gas-fuelled turbine preheats water producing steam which provides heat, cooling and light to more than 30 per cent of the campus (the second-largest physical plant in the city) saving the university millions.