Great urban gardening and sustainability workshops July 11th

This post originally appeared in the Building Opportunities with Business Blog.

Strathcona proves once again that it’s fast becoming one of the funnest and most forward thinking parts of the city! I read the newsletter from Strathcona & Cottonwoods Gardens regarding their upcoming open house on July 11th and I figured it was so good that I’d just paste it in full into the BOB blog. Please pass the word on about these great open house events!

Magical Gardens in the midst of the city: Sunday July 11th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

From 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on July 11th you can visit eight magical acres, sway to live music with Tambai Marimba, learn from free gardening & sustainability workshops, see one of Vancouver’s oldest off-grid solar houses, eat scrumptious goodies, sample local garden honey, snatch wonderful plants at bargain prices, & celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Vancouver’s first community garden and the opening of Cottonwood’s new garden (the first community garden fully accessible for seniors and people with disabilities!)  Everyone is welcome!

Strathcona & Cottonwood Gardens Annual Open House takes place at

Prior/Hawks * Raymur/Malkin

For more info call (604) 608-0384 or (604) 253-3384 or visit their sites: or

Open House Events

Live Music!  Tambai Marimba!  Fiddlers!

Sway to the music of awesome fiddlers or dance your socks off with Tambai Marimba, Vancouver’s great youth Marimba Band. Tambai Marimba: Cottonwood Garden, 10:30am to 1:30pm.  Fiddlers: Strathcona Garden, 11am to 2pm.

Free Gardening & Sustainability Workshops

How to Keep Chickens in Your Backyard for Complete Beginners/Southland Farms: Sunday, July 11, 10:30am

Thinking about having your own chickens and fresh eggs?  Jordan Maynard, Manager of Southlands Heritage Farm, will help you understand the basics of keeping chickens in your backyard.  You’ll leave this workshop with the confidence to buy, care for, and enjoy your own backyard hens.  Workshop organized by Village Vancouver.

Permaculture/Vancouver Permaculture Meet-up Group: Sunday, July 11, 10:30am

Permaculture is an important way of letting the earth take care of itself.  Learn basic permaculture techniques from the Vancouver Permaculture Meet-up Group.  Workshop organized by Village Vancouver.

Winter Gardening/Grants Gourmet Gardens: Sunday, July 11, 1pm

Want to have fresh vegetables from your own garden year round?  Certified organic farmer & edible landscaper, Grant Watson, will teach you the basics of what/when to plant, so you can harvest from your garden in the coldest season.  Workshop organized by Village Vancouver.

Corsage Making: Sunday, July 11, 12-2

Learn how to make corsages from flowers and leaves picked that morning at Cottonwood. You can have a corsage custom-made for you, make your own, or choose one that has been made.

Compost Making/City Farmer: Sunday, July 11, 10:30am-2pm

Learn how to make compost from City Farmer’s Compost Hotline Staff.

Birdhouse Making for Kids: Sunday, July 11

This hands-on workshop teaches kids how to make their own birdhouse.  Each participant will be able to make and keep a wooden birdhouse they have made.

Bee-keeping demonstration: Sunday, July 11, 10-2

Bee-keepers from each garden will demonstrate basic bee-keeping techniques and teach people about bees and their needs.

Solar Eco-House Demo: Sunday, July 11, 10:30am – 2pm, Strathcona Community Garden

See Strathcona’s wonderful solar house.  This garden house generates its own power with solar panels, re-uses all its water with a grey-water recovery system, was built with recycled materials, and has a licensed composting toilet.  Built over 20 years ago by teenage women learning carpentry skills, this is one of Vancouver’s oldest off-the-grid houses.

Magical Oasis in the Midst of the City: Garden Tours

Please join us for tours of Vancouver’s oldest community gardens, as we celebrate 25 years of community building, local food production and sustainability.  Recipient of a City of Vancouver Heritage Award, Strathcona and Cottonwood Community Gardens feature eight magical acres with 350 individual garden plots; countless varieties of native and exotic perennials; one of the largest collections of heirloom apple trees in BC; thriving honeybees; a solar house that generates its own power, recycles water, and has a licensed composting toilet; beautiful water gardens, terraced gardens, oval gardens, fragrant gardens, reflecting ponds; an Asian garden, native garden, permaculture garden, wetlands; cherry, apple, plum, mulberry, fig, pear, persimmon & Asian pear trees; blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, Saskatoon berries, gooseberries, grapes & kiwis; eight types of bamboo; nut trees; and many ornamental trees and shrubs.  There are two solar greenhouses; toolsheds; extensive composting; and many species of birds, butterflies and hummingbirds.  A pair of bald eagles nests overhead. Garden Tours: 10:30am to 1:30pm, at Strathcona and Cottonwood Gardens

Cutting Edge Sustainability: Solar House

Strathcona’s Eco-house is a model of sustainable building.  This garden house generates its own power with solar panels, re-uses all its water with a grey-water recovery system, was built with recycled materials, and has a licensed composting toilet.  Built over 20 years ago by teenage women learning carpentry skills, this is one of Vancouver’s oldest off-the-grid houses. Learn how the eco-house was built, principles of grey water recovery, solar power: 10am to 2pm, Strathcona Garden.

Wonderful Plant Sale!  Bargain Prices!  Great Plants!

Strathcona & Cottonwood’s Annual Plant Sale features an incredible variety of plants at bargain prices including perennials, vegetables, heirloom fruit trees & berry bushes, bamboo, flowers, shrubs, native plants, shade lovers, sun lovers & more!  All of the plants are grown by our gardeners or donated by local nurseries.  Prices are awesome and the range is impressive.  Over 600 plants at bargain prices.

Plant sale starts at 10am, Sunday, July 11, at Strathcona Community Garden (corner of Prior & Hawks).

Opening of New Garden Fully Accessible for Seniors and People with Disabilities: 11:30am

Join us as we celebrate the opening of this new ¾ acre inclusive garden that is designed to enable everyone, regardless of age or physical ability, to garden.  Based on the principles of universal design, the garden features raised beds that are high enough for seniors and people with disabilities to garden from a seated position; pathways 3-4’ wide and surfaced with a firm surface appropriate for persons with walkers, canes, strollers and wheelchairs; water taps at a convenient height for people who have difficulty bending and close to raised beds so that carrying a hose will not be needed; a tool shed with easy access and reachable tools; meeting spaces with wide-enough, smooth surfaces.

Official Opening of New Accessible Garden: 11:30am.  This new part of Cottonwood is along Raymur, at the corner of Raymur & William, across from the Food Bank, on the east side of Strathcona Park.

Honey!  Local Bees!

Honey sales from our own bees, who thrive on the diversity of flowering plants in our gardens.  The honey is fresh, local, and delicious.  Come early!  The honey usually sells quickly.  Honey Sales: 10am at Strathcona Garden and at Cottonwood Garden.

Silent Auction
If you haven’t been to our Silent Auction before, you’re in for a visual treat.  Beautiful hanging baskets with fuchsias in full bloom, heritage apple trees, and a stunning Passion Flower vine, to name but a few of the entries we’ve had — all generous donations from local nurseries and gardeners.  Come and check it out and maybe you’ll go home with a spectacular plant to highlight your garden or patio.  Sunday, July 11, Strathcona Garden, 10am to 1pm.

Native Plant Tour
Come to the Native Garden at Cottonwood and we’ll show you which BC native plants you can grow to replace some of the invasive plants that have come into BC.  Sunday, July 11, 10-2.


Strathcona Garden & Cottonwood Garden are sister gardens located next to each other in and next to Strathcona Park., on the east side of Vancouver, on Prior Street, between Main & Clark.

Strathcona Garden is located just west of Strathcona Park, on Prior & Hawks.

Cottonwood Garden is located along the south side of Strathcona Park, on Malkin, between Raymur & Hawks.

The new accessible garden expansion is on Raymur, opposite the Food Bank (1150 Raymur).

The two gardens host the Open House together

More Information about Strathcona & Cottonwood Gardens

Strathcona & Cottonwood Community Gardens are the oldest community gardens in Vancouver, and are an awesome story of what people in the community can do to transform the urban landscape.  These beautiful eight acre gardens were built on dump sites — a massive community effort transformed the land into a magical oasis & self-help organic food centre in the midst of the city.  Hundreds of volunteers composted new soil, laid water pipes, built a recycled off-grid solar house with grey water recovery & a composting toilet, designed & built over 300 garden plots, built 3 solar greenhouses, and planted an amazing collection of native trees & bushes, heirloom fruit trees, berry bushes, perennials, etc.  There are terraced gardens, oval gardens, fragrant gardens, water gardens, a permaculture garden designed/maintained by young people, a native garden, Asian garden, the largest collection of heirloom apple trees in BC, wetlands, honey bees, and many species of birds, butterflies and hummingbirds.  A pair of bald eagles nests overhead.

The July 11 Open House will be very special as Strathcona celebrates 25 years of community building, local food production and sustainability, and Cottonwood opens a new accessible garden expansion, which will be fully accessible for seniors and people with disabilities.

Strathcona’s 25th anniversary is a watershed for community gardens throughout the city.  When people started Strathcona, the concept of community gardens in Vancouver did not exist and there was a lot of resistance to the idea.  It took a lot of hard work and struggle to get the gardens to happen and to eventually have gardens all over the city.

Community gardens all over the city did not spring out from nowhere, but from the work and support of many people.  Community gardens are now not only accepted, but the City and the Park Board have had to develop policy around it because of the great demand for community gardens throughout the city. We can all be proud of contributing to that.

Cottonwood’s new accessible expansion is the first truly integrated accessible community garden in Vancouver, which will enable seniors and people with disabilities to participate in community gardening and will make a real difference to many people.  Based on the principles of universal design, the garden features accessible raised beds that are high enough for seniors and people with disabilities to garden from a seated position; pathways 3-4’ wide and surfaced with a firm surface appropriate for persons with walkers, canes, strollers and wheelchairs; water taps high enough for access & close to plots so that carrying a hose will not be needed; a tool shed with easy access and reachable tools; meeting spaces with wide-enough, smooth surfaces.

There are hundreds of community gardens in Vancouver, but seniors and people with disabilities are often not able to garden in them simply because they are not properly designed and have barriers.  Paths between plots are too narrow for wheelchairs to pass, beds are in the ground or too low or wide for people with disabilities to reach, water taps are too low, path surfaces are too bumpy or sloped, tool sheds cannot be entered etc.  Seniors face similar issues bending to the ground, to taps, carrying heavy hoses, etc.  Even in existing gardens where there are raised beds, the paths are often covered with inaccessible surfaces like bark mulch or gravel, so seniors and people with disabilities are segregated from the rest of the gardeners.

This special new garden is designed to change that and will enable everyone, regardless of age or physical ability, to garden and be part of all garden activities.  It will thus make a significant difference to many people.

For more information about the marvellous July 11 Open House

Please call (604) 608-0384 or (604) 253-3384

or email

or visit or


Speaking and thinking a greener world into being

I had a conversation with a person whom I respect very much just this past weekend, regarding the Gulf cleanup from BP’s catastrophic well failure and the implications it might have for the near future. This friend  has worked on some impressive international projects and is a LEED AP project manager with a great company doing work that directly helps save the environment.

I,  however idealistically, hoped out loud that the BP disaster might serve as a wake up call to investors that we can (and should) contact the firms we hold shares in and ask them to not cut corners, to do things right, and to consider the very real cost of environmental catastrophes the likes of which we’re seeing off the coast of Louisiana. To be better corporate citizens. I was shot down for being naive.  I was perplexed. This person was employed in a save-the-world type industry after all.

I then alternately suggested that if we couldn’t rely on the hope that somewhere deep inside every investor, no matter how faint, there is a moral imperative, then perhaps this event would serve as a wake up call and signal the beginning of the pendulum swinging back from years of deregulation and privatization? Perhaps this could stand as the moment when government reasserted itself as a force that convenes, regulates, and intervenes in the best interests of the people and environment we depend on? Once again I was shot down for being idealistic, if not immature in my thinking.

I was hurt. Not because I was told I was naive and idealistic, but because this discourse crystallized the biggest challenge to transitioning to a sustainable and equitable economy. Our thinking.

What we think is important, and what we say even more so because it affects what our friends, neighbors and people we’ll never even meet think in response. The more we doubt out loud that government will do what’s right for the environment the less likely that reality becomes. The more we doubt out loud that investors will realize we have an obligation to demand best practices the less likely it is to happen too. And the more we think and say out loud that these challenges are insurmountable, that the human race is doomed, that governments and corporations will never change and the fate of this world is out of our hands then the more we breathe that reality into existence. I refuse to waste my breath lending legitimacy to the current model, like so many of us who claim to be realists. If you’re still reading this blog, it’s unlikely that you’re one of these people and I hope you find these encouragements fortifying. A realist can recognize major obstacles and respect challenges while remaining positive that they can be overcome.

Building better communities and a better world begins with our thinking and spreads through our words actions. So stay positive and never be afraid to be called naive or idealistic for your socially and environmentally hopeful views. It probably means you’re in the right kind of headspace, where you believe a better world is possible. And frankly, just to show that my comments weren’t that naive here are two examples of recent and proposed changes in the best interest of environment and people. One from investors and one from government.

Socially responsible investing is booming. This is also known as ethical investing or ethical funds.  Once the realm of “tree huggers and hippies” these ethical funds have finally arrived in the mainstream of markets in Europe, Asia and North America and have become one of the biggest investment megatrends in half a century. How did it start? With a change in thinking.

President Obama announced just this spring that new and more stringent regulations for the banking and financial sector are essential. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, has proposed the biggest Wall Street regulatory overhaul since the 1930s as a response to the 2008 financial crisis which was caused by greed and deregulation run amok. If it can be proposed for the financial sector, it can also be proposed for the energy sector.

For far too long people have doubted the power of our governments, whether on the provincial, state or federal level.  They’ve viewed them as inaccessible and when accessible, innaffective. On the heels of this tragedy it’s not a long shot to believe that an outraged public and a progressive government can’t push the pendulum back the other way and demand more accountability and responsibility from corporations like BP. Where does it start? With a change in thinking. What comes next? A change in our dialogue, followed by actions.  Where does it begin? In our communities, and with individuals like you and I.

So I encourage us all to be mindful of how we think and speak. Because at times our thoughts and words can shape the world we live in more than our hands.  Don’t be too insulted when a friend says you’re naive and idealistic, it should be an affirmation if anything.

Come be a part of TheChange

The push for more sustainable and socially responsible practices on the part of both business, government and other institutions has been explosive over the past decade. It’s great that so many of us are working hard to improve our lifestyles, inform our purchasing choices, produce more environmentally friendly products and develop clean technologies but at times it seems a very fragmented and frenetic effort.  Nevertheless, it’s a sea change in the way we view ourselves and our society, and now one website is slowly becoming the shell that we can put to our ear and hear the sound of that conversation.

TheChange is an incredible concept and a very user friendly online platform that bridges non-profit organizations, companies and individuals, universities and technical schools and social enterprises who are contributing to positive change in their communities and world.

Aggregating Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds it helps to integrate efforts and make connections by creating a more accessible dialogue between those of us racing to that better future. It’s an online community and an incredible place to find connections to all things sustainable, green, socially-responsible, including education, job opportunities, products and services or just cool updates and news. Here is the list of participating organizations so far.

Check it out and be a part of TheChange with us.

Green, Green, Green

This blog is overdue for an update.  I’ve been monitoring my Google alerts and RSS feeds but their hasn’t been much big news since Will Allen had to cancel and the roof top farm went South at the last minute.  I don’t have terribly much to add to those tales of woe, but here is some recent ‘green’ news.

Apparently the powers that be in Western Canada are meeting in Victoria to discuss clean energy and the green economy.  BC’s Liberals, Alberta’s Conservatives, as well as the Premiers of both Saskatchewan and for the first time Manitoba are meeting to discuss challenges and opportunities for Western Canadians and knowing politicians, how to get more money out of Ottawa.

The Gaining Ground Summit is coming around again, this time it is entitled Eco-Logical.  Invited speakers include:

  • Gregor Robson
  • Carol Sandford
  • Jared Blumenfeld
  • Mark Holland
  • Richard Branson

No word if the Greening the Inner-city Blog will get a press pass again.  The conference is October 4th through 7th.

Apparently UBC is going to help Vancouver become the world’s greenest city.  You’d think this wouldn’t be news, as UBC is the largest university in the City, in the entire Province, so it seems rather obvious they’d contribute in some way to the effort.  However if want the few details, the Vancouver Sun had a story a while back.  The Straight also covered the announcementGregor’s blog also covered the story, wonder what he’ll do with if he ever loses an election or otherwise moves on?

Well that’s all the news that is green enough to print, err type.