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, green spaces are 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—cosmetic use of pesticides is banned in the city.)
For the eco-conscious visitor looking to conserve fuel and energy when they travel, here are a few simple ways you can help reduce your environmental impact when visiting Toronto:
To help keep the city green, I recommend renting a bike rather than a car. Between the traffic jams, streetcars, and rule-flouting pedestrians, driving in Toronto is a bear anyway, and best avoided. If biking doesn’t appeal, Toronto is an extremely walkable city, with a fabulous transit system that is sure to help you get to where you’re going without an ounce of carbon-footprint guilt.
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.
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 ask whether sustainable materials were used in the construction of the property. The Drake, the Gladstone, and the Fairmont Royal York are three particularly green hotels that go above and beyond the typical eco norm. No matter where you lay your head (be it a five-star hotel or a B&B), you can help minimize your environmental impact by requesting that your sheets and towels not be changed daily. (Many hotels already do this.) Also, remember to 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 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. Toronto has too many restaurants that support the local foods movement to list here, but some suggestions include Edulis, Chantecler, Montecito, Richmond Station, and Actinolite.
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.