Tour Green Toronto: We Had No Idea


When we got the email from Leanne at Toronto's Green Tourism Association inviting us for a bike tour of downtown green attractions in Toronto, we thought right, that won't take long, how do you spell oxymoron? We could not have been more wrong. We started at the temporary bicycle arch at Harbourfront (and confirm that the bikes were not damaged in the installation and that it is spectacular) where TreeHugger Bonnie (visiting from London) and I joined TourGreen's Leanne and Marnie.


In a few minutes were at the Music Garden, designed by Julie Messervy in collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma. According to the City of Toronto, "The garden design interprets in nature Bach's First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, with each dance movement within the suite corresponding to a different section in the garden."


10 minutes by bike and a few more by stair and very steep ladder, we were on the roof of Mountain Equipment Coop, where 9 years ago they built a store built using 50% recycled materials (unheard of at the time) and one of North America's first green roofs. They did not plan for public access (who knew that they would become such a big deal?) which is a shame, because it has thrived, is hosting a plethora of birds, insects and butterflies, has demonstrated that the systems work and preserve and protect the roof underneath.


They used a Soprema system with a styrofoam drainage layer and filter cloth above; we were impressed at how well it has held up.


Next up was a climb to the roof of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the Canadian Classic set in front of Mies Van Der Rohe's Toronto Dominion Centre, about which we will defer to TreeHugger Bonnie, who knows something about gardens and can post intelligently.


Also on the agenda was a ride out to Tommy Thompson Park. This was an artificial peninsula built 40 years ago from the excavation debris of the TD centre shown above, and the Bloor subway. It was planned to be a new industrial harbour to accommodate all of the traffic generated by the St. Lawrence Seaway, but the shipping container changed all that and the only thing that came were birds. and more birds. and seeds, and plants and before we knew it, Toronto had a wild wetland park.


Leanne and Marnie planned to finish up with a canoe trip through the Toronto Islands, but we were already finished and had a long bike ride home so we took a rain check. Nonetheless, we were completely blown away that in a City where we have lived most of our lives, there was so much green stuff going on right under our noses.

The goal of the Green Tourism Association is to "lead tourism in Toronto towards a sustainable future, evolving an industry which is ecologically sound, promotes and supports local economies, and fosters an appreciation of and respect for diverse cultural and natural heritage." They are succeeding- One could spend weeks following up on all of the attractions, activities, stores and restaurants listed on the Tour Green map of Toronto and the Green Touring Guide book. We congratulate them on a job well done.