By North American standards, Toronto is an exceptionally green city. It boasts good eco-initiatives such as composting and recycling programs, a powerful local-foods movement, and more. The city's wealth of parkland, even in the downtown core, is a standout. And although there is nothing on the scale of, say, Central Park, there are green spaces scattered throughout, from tiny plots in the Financial District to neighborhood gems like Riverdale, Allan Gardens, Trinity Bellwoods, Dufferin Grove, and High Park. (The green spaces are well maintained, but you may notice a fair number of weeds because cosmetic use of pesticides is banned in the city.)
Cycling is a popular mode of transit, and the city has ambitious plans to expand the number of dedicated bicycle lanes as part of a proposed 1,000km-plus (621-mile) Bikeway Network. There are biking trails through most of the city's parks and more than 29km (18 miles) of street bike routes. Favorite pathways include the Martin Goodman Trail (from the Beaches neighborhood to the Humber River along the waterfront); the Lower Don Valley bike trail (from the east end of the city north to Riverdale Park); High Park (with winding trails over 160 hectares/395 acres); and the best of them all for bi-pedal fans: the Toronto Islands, where bikes rule and cars are forbidden. Bike lanes, which are clearly marked, include routes along College/Carlton streets, the Bloor Street Viaduct leading to Danforth Avenue, Beverly/St. George streets, Jarvis Street, and Davenport Road. For cycling maps, rentals, and more information, visit www.toronto.ca/cycling.
It's Easy Being Green
We can all help conserve fuel and energy when we travel. Here are a few simple ways you can help preserve your favorite destinations:
- Each time you take a flight or drive a car, greenhouse gases release into the atmosphere. You can help neutralize this danger to the planet through "carbon offsetting" -- paying someone to invest your money in programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount you've added. Before buying carbon offset credits, just make sure that you're using a reputable company such as Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), or Carbon Neutral (www.carbonneutral.org). Air Canada partnered with Zerofootprint, a not-for-profit organization, to offset flight emissions when you book on www.aircanada.com. In February 2010, they tallied the program's savings: Since 2007, the offsets were 15,108 tons of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of removing 3,740 cars from the road.
- Whenever possible, choose nonstop flights; they generally require less fuel than indirect flights that stop and take off again. Try to fly during the day -- some scientists estimate that nighttime flights are twice as harmful to the environment. And pack light -- each 6.8kg (15 lb.) of luggage on a 8,047km (5,000-mile) flight adds up to 23kg (51 lb.) of carbon dioxide emitted.
- Call the Green Tourism Association of Toronto for inspiration and advice about eco-friendly travel (tel. 416/392-1288).
- Rely on public transportation to get around Toronto: The TTC is safe and clean, and it makes it easy to get to downtown, midtown, and uptown sights. Or rent a bike: Check out Bikeshare (tel. 416/504-2918; http://communitybicyclenetwork.org/bike_rentals).
- If renting a car is necessary for a side trip (such as to Niagara-on-the-Lake), ask for a hybrid or rent the most fuel-efficient car available. You'll use less gas and save money.
- Take a look at "The City of Toronto Green Guide" online at www.toronto.ca/environment/. And pick up a copy of Green Living Magazine for good resources, also online at www.greenlivingonline.com.
- Where you stay during your travels can have a major environmental impact. To determine the green credentials of a property, ask about trash disposal and recycling, water conservation, and energy use; also whether sustainable materials were used in the construction of the property. The website www.greenhotels.com recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Also consult www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com for more green accommodation ratings.
- At hotels, request that your sheets and towels not be changed daily. (Many hotels already do this.) Turn off the lights and air-conditioner when you leave your room.
- Last, but definitely not least, eat at locally owned and operated restaurants that use local, seasonal, and (wherever possible) organic produce. Ditto for meats: Look for pasture-raised and non-industrial suppliers. Not only do these choices contribute to the local economy, they cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Check out the city's farmers markets and, when shopping at supermarkets, look for the Local Food Plus (www.localfoodplus.ca) label, which identifies local producers that aim for sustainable practices. Toronto has too many restaurants that support the local foods movement to list here, but some suggestions include Gilead Café and Bistro, Reds, Zucca, Trattoria Giancarlo, Cowbell, The Local Kitchen, and Scaramouche.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.