by Ashley McMorrow, teacher candidate
Green spaces in Toronto provide many benefits for all its inhabitants and visitors, including higher quality of life with many options for recreation and education in parks, sports fields, woods, lakesides, and gardens. These spaces give people a place to enjoy physical activity, relaxation, peace, and an escape from the heat. They have also been shown to reduce stress and boost mental and physical health, and reduce traffic noise. Beyond the personal benefits we can all visibly see and feel, green spaces help to promote cooler temperatures, greater biodiversity, assist in stormwater management, clean air and water, and a healthier and more livable urban environment. Largely made up of ravines and along the waterfront, the need for expanded green spaces and increased tree canopy within the city itself is becoming increasingly more important. We all need to do our part to both promote and expand our available green spaces throughout the city.
Current Green Space Programs
Green Thumbs Growing Kids currently is running an Urban Trees from Seed program, which engages elementary students and focuses on how to locally source and collect urban tolerant native tree seeds. The students are then encouraged to germinate and maintain their trees in their school gardens, and how to go about planting them throughout their neighbourhoods.
Green Thumbs Growing Kids along with PollinateTO created three pollinator gardens at Rose Avenue Junior Public School, Winchester Junior and Senior Public School, and Spruce Court Public School. Not only providing more green spaces, but also providing spaces for our ever-so-important pollinators!
Green Thumbs Growing Kids also has their on site green roof. While this one at the Daniels Spectrum building is not a space for programming as it currently lacks the necessary safety features, green roofs help lower urban air temperatures and prevent stormwater runoff, provide insulation, create a habitat for wildlife, and bonus: it’s a place to grow more food!
The City of Toronto has an incentive program for green or cool roofs. The grants are for $100/square meter for a green roof or $2-$5/square meter for cool roofs.
Local Appreciation and Enhancement of Forests (LEAF) has a Backyard Tree Planting Program that they’ve partnered with the City on, to provide subsidized trees and shrubs for homeowners.
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has also partnered with the City for their Private Land Planting Program. Eligible sites need to have a minimum of 2 acres and be within their jurisdiction. Spring orders must be placed before December 1 of the preceding year
These are just a few of the programs and incentives being offered within Toronto. It is important that there is both continued support and participation in these programs. They are not possible without the City’s support and the donations they receive. It is also important for active participation in these programs as there is a growing need for more green spaces and to expand the tree canopy within the City. The programs through Green Thumbs are especially important as they engage youth, building an awareness and interest in our environment and the impacts humans can have on it, both negative and positive, and hopefully inspiring them to continue making green choices throughout their lives.