It’s harvest time in Toronto after a long and beautiful growing season. At Eglinton St. George’s United Church, we’re reminded of all the growth that has taken place in our community garden with each tomato that we pick and each leaf of lettuce that we pluck.
Parishioners practice waste reduction, composting and conservation. They welcome diverse members of the neighborhood and take care of the hungry and homeless through their numerous programs.
That’s why this inclusive, compassionate parish, situated in Toronto’s Danforth area since 1927, was selected by Faith & the Common Good (FCG) to receive a Green Sacred Spaces Award. This annual award recognizes faith groups that have achieved excellence in greening their places of worship as well as engaging the broader community in the care of the environment.
Amending the Soil - Church of the Messiah Community Garden
“Amending the soil” is not a phrase I thought I’d ever repeat countless times. But at Church of the Messiah, in Toronto, we have made significant efforts to improve our soil, carrying out wheelbarrows full of gravel, garbage, and weeds, and digging in shovels full of rich organic material.
Improving the soil is one of the hardest jobs we undertake as urban gardeners. Access to our plots is restricted by stairs and busy streets, and high-quality organic soil has to be carried and dug in by hand. But the effort to improve our gardening soil is worth it because this is one of the most consequential chores we can do. Boosting the quality of the soil with organic material and better drainage helps everything we grow reach its strongest and most productive potential.
Light shining down from heaven on the garden at Holy Cross.
As I write this, the Holy Cross Eco Ministry nears its first anniversary, and what a blessed year it has been! Deo gratias!
Our eco team has just arrived back from watering our native pollinator garden and our vegetable gardens. Watering these gardens is often a peaceful task: admiring the growing fauna, greeting passersby, and surveying the bees and caterpillars and butterflies who have found a new happy home.
A Commitment to Sustainable Food: Islington United Church’s Giving Garden enters its 7th year
Islington United Church has long been a “green beacon” in its Etobicoke neighbourhood, demonstrating how a faith community can operate in an environmentally responsible manner. The congregation’s work has garnered community recognition including Faith and the Common Good’s Greening Sacred Spaces Award in 2013 and has been referred to as “the greenest church in Toronto.”
As an independent K-12 school located in Richmond Hill, Holy Trinity School (HTS) proves to be an aspirational leader when it comes to educating, promoting and advocating for sustainability. After joining ClimateWise Business Network in June 2018, HTS has participated in Faith and the Common Good’s Energy Benchmarking for Faith Buildings program and they are currently in the process of creating an action plan to achieve their greenhouse gas reduction goal. In May 2019, Holy Trinity School received recognition for their commitment to sustainability as they received an award for Engaged Green Team at ClimateWise’s York Region Sustainability Awards.
With climate change growing as a moral issue, faith communities are finding their own sustainability profile as an opportunity to lead. A growing number are taking action with the support of Green Economy Hubs, benefiting from a new partnership between Green Economy Canada and Faith & the Common Good.
In Sudbury, York Region, and five other communities, these faith-based organizations are investing time in measuring their environmental footprint and working to reduce it.
This past summer, the Ottawa Chapter of Faith & the Common Good collaborated with a new environmental effort: the Wild Pollinator Partners (WPP) network. This new initiative in Eastern Ontario was created to share information, resources and experience on native pollinators and it also has the goal to help liaise between local groups such as teachers, researchers, NGO’s and local residents. WPP saw a need to support and promote the important pollination benefits that native bees and other native species of insects provide to the local ecology. They realized that many people were not aware that wild bees, which are mostly solitary bees, are key to local pollination in both cities and the countryside. The belief that we are dependent solely on European Honeybees (an introduced species) to do all pollination is false. However Honeybees compete for the same nectar and pollen as our native species so it is crucial to provide native wildflower habitat to ensure the health of local populations of pollinators.
The Jaffari Community Centre is a proud member of ClimateWise Business Network. The organization is currently participating in Faith & the Common Good’s energy benchmarking program.
The Jaffari Community Centre’s sustainability journey demonstrates how passionate people can impact the way a community acts on climate change. A few like-minded women were the forerunners of a sustainability movement that effectively shifted the way community members think and act. Their “Eco team”, which started five years ago with a grass roots approach to reducing waste is now a fully integrated eight-member Eco Board, working to improve the Centre’s overall sustainability method.
This winter the Ottawa Chapter of FCG is offering a free garden webinar series for local faith communities to learn about how to support the birds, bees and other wildlife on your property. Native birds and bees benefit from simple and easy changes that we can make to our gardens. Providing more “habitat” supports these important species that help strengthen the resiliency of our local ecological systems and also provide many personal benefits to us including mental health and spiritual joy.
During the FCG winter webinar series, we will:
- discuss the reasons why we should be supporting local birds and the bees on our faith community property and the benefits of a more sustainable and ecological landscape;
- share how prayer, meditation, community food and/or sacred space gardens can attract more birds and bees through easy enhancements and simple changes to maintenance techniques;
- highlight some local Ottawa programs and resources that can support both your home and faith community garden (including signage that will let your neighbours know about your efforts!);
- be there to answer your gardening questions and perhaps we can have some cross-pollination with gardeners sharing their own experience with their peers online.
This FREE four-part garden webinar series starts in January 2020. All Ottawa webinar participants (those who attend the webinar) will be entered into a draw to receive some great garden paraphernalia to help with your sustainable efforts at your faith community! We are looking forward to supporting your sustainable and ecological gardening efforts this spring.
Tues January 28 at Noon (EST) – Introduction to The Birds and the Bees of Sustainable Gardening - We will start off with the 5 W’s, providing an overview of ecological and sustainable gardening, why it is important and where to start in your own garden. (LINK)
Tues February 11 at 7 PM (EST) – Supporting Wild Pollinators in your Gardens – What Wild Bees are Visiting your Sacred Space? Our focus will be on wild bees and other beneficial insects you will meet in your landscapes and how to support them. (LINK)
Wed February 26 at Noon (EST) - Gardening for Wildlife – guest presentation by Canadian Wildlife Federation - The CWF program highlights the key “ingredients” to a successful and beautiful garden that will support local wildlife. (LINK)
Wed March 11 at 7 PM (EDT) – The Birds and the Bees of Sustainable Gardening – What Next? This final webinar will focus on new research and how to apply it to your gardens, local resources and any other final questions you may have to help get you started for spring gardening. (LINK)
This series is being offered as part of the Ottawa Interfaith Sustainable Garden Network. Please contact Katherine Forster to join the OISG Network and received the Ottawa Chapter - Sustainable Garden Network newsletter which is sent out 4-6 times a year providing updates on local garden resources and new FCG Outdoor Greening programs.
As always, FCG Ottawa staff is here to help support faith community staff and volunteers working outdoors on their landscape and gardens and those who want to add a new sustainable garden component to their property. Let us know what your needs are in terms of your sacred landscape and ecological gardens — we are here to help!