It’s been a week since the end of my time at the City of Markham Sustainability Office, and I’ve been visiting other sites in the area to provide both anchors and comparatives for my research.  The work going on in the municipal office is important, but the greater context matters even more.

The first thing that jumps out is the prevalence of solar photovoltaic panels on residential, agricultural, and commercial buildings.  Too often the uninformed public assumes solar energy is impractical at these latitudes, yet through outreach and education it is possible to change that mindset.

VAWT with solar pv - Georgian Bay

While wind energy would also be viable in this area, it is far less common due to space constraints and concerns about safety.  Smaller wind energy applications, such as the VAWTs pictured above, are gaining ground and could become a significant source of local energy.  This growth would require a strong campaign to improve awareness of the options available to consumers.

The parking lot sign at a local grocery.

The use of reusable shopping containers is another facet of life in Ontario that stands out.  While plastic bags remain available (for a fee), most shoppers own and use a variety of bags and bins.  These containers are a frequent ‘giveaway’ item at festivals and outreach events, including from Markham’s Sustainability Office.

A local foods shop in Barrie

While major grocery chains are still the go-to shopping choice, there is an ever-growing trend toward local food and the vendors that carry it.  This is particularly evident in summer and autumn, when the ubiquitous farmers’ markets and roadside stands offer the best of what’s around at any given time.  During these seasons suburbanites are reawakened to the bounty available from the farms and gardens all around them–the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is built on some of the best agricultural land in the province, and borders the rest.


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