Latest posts in Notes from the Panther Lounge

Toronto's "solar schools" inspire climate optimism

September 21, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: Toronto's

(Credit: BlackRockSolar)

By Gideon Forman, climate change policy analyst

In spring 2014, the Toronto District School Board — Canada's largest — embarked on a program of putting photovoltaic panels on more than 300 of its school buildings. When complete, it will create enough power to meet the annual needs of about 4,250 homes. But Richard Christie, senior manager of the board's sustainability office, says the program generates far more than electricity.

The Solar Schools Project had its genesis in a pilot, launched in 2010, for which small (one- to 46-kilowatt) solar arrays were placed on 12 schools. Income produced through sales of this power helped establish the board's Environmental Legacy Fund, which gives teachers $400 toward the cost of a $650 course in ecological education. "These courses will have a big impact on the [school] system," Christie explains. "Ten years from now we'll see a lot more principals who have environmental education as a priority because they took these courses when they were teachers."

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How Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound 2016 helped Vision Youth grow

September 15, 2016 | 2 comments
Photo: How Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound 2016 helped Vision Youth grow

By Winnie Hwo, Senior Public Engagement Specialist

Roughly six months ago, I planted a seed. I met a group of conscientious parents, their teenage children and the co-founder of Vision Youth, Eric Li, in Markham, Ontario.

I presented to them what Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound 2015 did and what Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound 2016 will do for their fast-growing teenagers.

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Bringing nature (and joy) home to the city

July 27, 2016 | 1 comment

By Jode Roberts, communications,

What's the Homegrown National Park Project?

• Thirty retired canoes relaunched as pollinator-friendly planters
• Sixty-five keen volunteer Homegrown Park Rangers
• Thousands of milkweed plants welcoming monarch butterflies
Musical parades, outdoor movie screenings and community events — including Homegrown pizza nights!
This award-winning project began four years ago. It aimed to transform Toronto neighbourhoods, one fun, citizen-led step at a time.

Each spring, we recruited and trained residents of neighbourhoods along the former Garrison Creek. With the support of DSF staff, these Homegrown Park Rangers gained skills and confidence. Then we set them loose. They established new pollinator-friendly spaces in their neighbourhoods. They created food- and art-filled community events that engage their neighbours. And they did it all for the sake of bees, butterflies and other essential critters.
Ranger Aidan's community canoe project landed thousands of pollinator-friendly canoe planters. Ranger Marc's rain garden project transformed 11 front yards into flood-busting rain gardens. Rangers Anjum, Georgia and Gillian helped swap pavement for pollinators along Palmerston Square. That inspired the adjacent school to hatch its own exciting greening plan. And Ranger Michael began a "butterflyway" of pollinator patches through his Cedarvale neighbourhood.
This year, the Homegrown National Park Project will focus on:
• Greening Toronto laneways (like this and this)
• Growing our canoe garden fleet
• Creating more butterflyways through the city
• Hosting more outdoor events — movies, pizza nights and the fourth annual Park Crawl September 25!
This year we're excited to begin bringing the joys of the Homegrown National Park Project to communities across the country through the launch of our national Butterflyway Project this fall. For a sneak peak, check out this video.

For more information about the Homegrown National Park Project, check out and visit our Facebook page. If you want to get involved, contact Jode Roberts at

Cycling in Toronto: A personal reflection

July 21, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: Cycling in Toronto: A personal reflection

By Gideon Forman

I'm mostly a walker and runner, not a bicycle rider, but I find myself drawn to cycling nevertheless. Why is that?

I like what it does to Toronto, my city, and appreciate the cyclist's physical presence. The steady pumping of thighs as the rider progresses up Beverley Street, up St. George, at human speed, human scale.

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Stand with Grassy Narrows, one of Canada's most toxic sites

July 4, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: Stand with Grassy Narrows, one of Canada's most toxic sites

Participants of the River Run rally 2016 called on the Ontario government to clean up the mercury spilled in Grassy Narrows.

By Faisal Moola

In 1962, a Dryden, Ontario pulp and paper mill began dumping untreated mercury waste into the Wabigoon River, upstream from several First Nations communities, including Grassy Narrows, home to the Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek people. Until 1970, more than 9,000 kilograms of mercury poured into the watershed. Mercury contamination has devastated the local environment and community members' health to this day.

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