Long Blog 4: Going Green in Toronto

Autumn colours in the Don Valley Ravine: Matt Forsythe

The past year has come with constant adjustments to our lives and our ecosystem; it remains ever-changing but forced to do so at a much faster rate lately and because of this, we have been able to witness how our daily decisions make an impact on the world. Issues that we have continued to endure, both before and during the pandemic, are those of our environment which include climate change, green space reduction, pollution, and loss of biodiversity amongst many others. The city of Toronto is typically praised for its environmental sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives, however, there are many improvements we could be making to reduce our carbon footprints to see long-term improvements.

It is transparent that the pandemic has affected us in many ways throughout our recent timeline and our environment did not escape that influence and transition either. At the beginning of shutdowns and with many of us limiting our exposure outside, it was reported that air pollution in major cities has decreased by almost 60% as well as a big drop in CO2 (harmful gas) emissions, the most since World War II. (The Happy Broadcast, April 14, 2020) As great of an impact we believed we were making, as soon as countries and cities began experiencing their second wave, researchers realized that those statistics really had no long-term effects on a lasting positive solution to pollution. In an interesting news article written in December of 2020 by Ryan Flanagan for CTV News, he mentions how there may be links to areas where mass spreadings of the virus are connected with areas that previously reported high pollutants. After reading Ryans’ point of view on the matter, I believe whether the links arise to be factual or not, taking little measures to provide as much care for our planet as we can, will only make a positive impact on our world both today and in the future.

As our beautiful city has been ranked as one of the greenest in the world, I believe our abundance of urban forests is accountable, giving us a range of biodiversity in scattered places around the city. According to a scholarly publication done to analyze the green space in the city, Toronto is home to about 10 million trees which covers approximately 26% of the entire city. (Nowak, David J., et al. “Toronto’s Urban Forest.”) Over the years, we have done a fairly adequate job of protecting nature within the city, hopefully foreshadowing the increasing realization of its importance, its conservation, and its thriving in the future. Each of us can speed up this process by reflecting on and celebrating the green spaces we value today, that make escaping from the city, in the city, feel peaceful and easy. “When you walk out to the most southeasterly point, you look out at Lake Ontario and it looks like an ocean: no land, no cityscape — just water. …It’s a serene, natural environment in the heart of the city.” (Liz D’Andrea, Toronto Star, March 21, 2021). From a Toronto Star article asking Torontonians what their favourite Toronto green space was, this response from Liz D’Andrea is my favourite, capturing exactly how those of us living in the city value its charming nature aspect as well.

Finally, instead of dwelling on all the improvements we should be making and implementing in major ways throughout the city, I believe it is important to remember that change starts with an individual; each and every one of us. There are many little things you can do that make big differences in reducing carbon footprints for both the city and your own, plus, they can provide other personal benefits too! Even if you own a business, it has been proven that companies that have transitioned to go green, have experienced a significant increase in profits; more on this in World Economic Forum’s medium post-

Some useful tips to start and maintain a green thumb in your everyday life are recycling, using cloth bags instead of plastic, using reusable coffee cups and sprouting some plants! Creating your own personal greenery space is a great way to grow some of your favourite vegetables or even to display some cute house plants, and as an added bonus, taking care of greenery provides major psychological benefits and shows increased happiness! In this article published in the Toronto Star, author Yuliya Miranda Rackal explains exactly how even in these unprecedented times, having a house plant can provide the perfect support system, allowing all of us to spread more love for our environment and each other.

As I bring my post to an end, I want to emphasize the reality that the city of Toronto does experience many more issues that are significant, and as they may be more short-term, they are pressing as well as life-threatening. In spite of this, I recognize this issue of maintaining a healthy environment in our city is much more long-term while also being very dangerous in terms of repercussions which is why I chose to focus on it here. I believe if we do not begin taking this seriously now, our near future will suffer greatly, so I urge us all to do our part to make our world a better place. We have been so lucky to experience what the beautiful city of Toronto has to offer and I hope we can preserve that for as long as possible, showing outsiders just how diverse and special our city is.

References

“Archive.” The Happy Broadcast, www.thehappybroadcast.com/news.

City of Toronto. “Donate to Urban Forestry.” City of Toronto, 11 Feb. 2020, www.toronto.ca/business-economy/partnerships-sponsorships-donations/donate/donate-to-urban-forestry/.

Flanagan, Ryan. “Pollution Is Affecting the Pandemic, Not the Other Way Around.” CTVNews, CTV News, 28 Dec. 2020, www.ctvnews.ca/climate-and-environment/pollution-is-affecting-the-pandemic-not-the-other-way-around-1.5246563?cache=brirzndzdnjgzsas?ot=AjaxLayout?contactForm=true?clipId=104062.

Nowak, David J., et al. “Assessing Urban Forest Effects and Values: Toronto’s Urban Forest.” Resour. Bull. NRS-79. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 59 p., 1 Jan. 1970, www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/43543.

Rackal, Yuliya Miranda. “Why Love Sprouts Eternal for House Plant Enthusiasts Waiting out the Pandemic.” Thestar.com, 7 Mar. 2021, www.thestar.com/news/insight/2021/03/07/why-love-sprouts-eternal-for-house-plant-enthusiasts-waiting-out-the-pandemic.html.

Star, The. “What’s Your Favourite Toronto Green Space? Here’s What Star Readers Said.” Thestar.com, 21 Mar. 2021, www.thestar.com/life/together/places/2021/03/21/whats-your-favourite-toronto-green-space-heres-what-star-readers-said.html.

World Economic Forum. “How Going Green Can Help the Planet and Your Profits.” Medium, World Economic Forum, 13 Mar. 2017, medium.com/world-economic-forum/how-going-green-can-help-the-planet-and-your-profits-f09de301bb95.

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