Saturday, December 6, 2014

Opportunities for the Hamilton Faith Community

Looking into the New Year, we will be working on a couple initiatives and would love to have members of faith communities get involved. These include:

Expanding the Greenbelt to include Urban River Valleys.

The Hamilton faith community is being invited by Environment Hamilton to participate in their campaign to expand the greenbelt in Hamilton, along the urban river valleys (thanks to the province’s new urban river valley designation).
The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance recommends that the municipalities of Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, Markham, Guelph and Hamilton use the Province’s designation as a further layer of protection for green spaces. Over five million more Ontarians would be directly connected to the Greenbelt if the Greenbelt grew along some of the province’s best-known rivers and creeks. Faith groups could play a significant role in both the symbolic message (Celebrating our valleys) as well as promoting congregations engagement and health too (we plan to do hikes and clean ups with many other groups).

Pollinator Paradise Project.

Here, we are interested in getting more communities and individuals involved in creating habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators by planting corridors of milkweed and wildflowers in our public parks and around our homes and faith groups.

FCG’s Solar Revitalization for Faith Communities Project is funded by Ontario Power Authority. We will be encouraging faith communities across Ontario to share their solar stories and encourage others to go solar as well. Hamilton will be part of this initiative of course.

Municipal Level of Engagement

City of Hamilton, Climate Change Community Action Plan invited GSS (with Environment Hamilton) to be part of the steering committee in April because they understand the significance of having faith communities at the table for this ongoing planning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Photos from the Youth Anglican Synod back in May 2nd 2014

At Green Venture (weeding).

At Green Venture

Friday, November 7, 2014

Photos from the Divestment Forum and GSS Awards 2014

Oct 21, 2014
Westdale United Church

 Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church

Divestment Forum

With Tim Nash (Sustainable Economist), Don Mclean (Hamilton 350) and Karen Lockridge (Mercer).

Water Wisdom

Water is a multidimensional element; water cleanses, nourishes, sustains ecosystems, and is life-giving. Water is sacred. As the climate changes and our population grows we begin to put more stresses on our freshwater resources. In order to ensure the availability and cleanliness of the water for future generations, we must learn to better manage our own consumption and use.

"Water is a human right and as such, must be protected from privatization, pollution, and bulk exports." The Council of Canadians.

Join us on Saturday November 15 from 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. for "Water Wisdom" at the Hamilton Spectator Auditorium (44 Frid St.) to learn about water management in our homes, in our community, and globally. Special guest speakers include: Sara Stratton, KAIROS, Romila Verma, Professor of hydrology at the University of Toronto, and Christina Read, Greening Sacred Spaces.

Event is FREE.

For more information call Gail at 905-522-3330 or email Christina at

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Green Sacred Spaces Awards 2014 and Fossil Fuel Divestment Forum

Greening Sacred Spaces recipients are:
Westdale United Church
Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church

Forum Speakers are:

Jane Ambachtsheer, Partner and Global Head of Responsible Investment Mercer 
Tim Nash, Sustainable Economist, Toronto
Don Mclean, Hamilton 350

Tuesday, 21st of October at Westdale United Church (99 North Oval, Hamilton).
Doors open at 6pm
Event starts at 6.30 pm.

Contact Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko

Freewill donations accepted.

Monday, July 28, 2014

My article in the Hamilton Spectator: Building a culture of conservation.

Jul 22, 2014 | Vote0   0

Building a culture of conservation

Community energy plan will save tax dollars, reduce greenhouse gas

Community Energy Plan.
There's the community. There's energy usage. And there's a plan. Wait. There is no plan.
At least not for Hamilton.
There is neither long-term vision nor strategy on managing our energy expenditure
and consumption.
As a corporation, the City of Hamilton is working hard to manage its own energy use;
 think cost avoidance, installing energy-efficient systems, green fleets, renewable energy
projects, the water biogas purification unit, and so on.
With the support of Horizon Utilities, the corporation aims to work on a Municipal Energy Plan (MEP)
to further comprehend its energy needs and conservation opportunities.
(Horizon is an award winner for being a sustainable, innovative electricity company.
It is currently conducting an energy mapping project in Hamilton and St. Catharines to
better target energy conservation programs.)
Hamilton is the envy of other communities, with an existing district energy closed-loop piping
system, producing hot water at a central plant that is then piped underground to individual
buildings for heating and cooling to be then recirculated. (Jackson Square and the Central 
branch of Hamilton Public Library use this system.)
We've got all this and more, but at the community level there still is no holistic, comprehensive
plan to make our neighbourhoods more energy efficient and resilient through the rational use of energy.
There ought to be.
Given that 80 per cent of Canada's energy is used in urban centres and that energy waste
and poor management of building infrastructure are major contributors to climate change,
the sensible path to take as a community in curbing green house gas emissions would be to strike
at the core of these energy-guzzlers.
The community energy plan (CEP) is a proven framework to engage citizens and local organizations
in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Generally created through a collaboration between municipal governments and broader
community stakeholders, CEPs are crucial for leveraging existing programs and initiatives
and setting concrete, feasible targets and ways to meet those targets, through grassroots community engagement.
As well, an important part of such a plan is encouraging the development of green infrastructure
through plans and policies, and other innovative initiatives (sustainable jobs, local investments).
Cities across Europe, such as Copenhagen and Mannheim, have long-established plans and
are reaping the rewards. More recently, closer to home, Guelph, London and our immediate
neighbour, Burlington, have modest plans in place and are slashing their energy consumption
and saving money while they are at it.
That's right. A CEP will save money for the city. Big time.
"The amount of money I'm leaving on the table (when I don't have a plan) is huge. Because if I am
 running at two to three times the energy intensity of a Scandinavian city, they have more money
 to do other things than I have. That's a big deal," says Peter Garforth, whose company 
Garforth International LLC helped establish plans for the cities mentioned above.
"Take any North American city and if they are spending $200 million a year in electricity costs,
a comparable city in Central Europe is spending $70 million to $100 million."
Think of what all that extra money could be doing in a city.
A CEP is about identifying opportunities and constraints, setting goals, utilizing technologies
 (such as smart grids) and delivering action. It also involves changing behaviours and our
relationships with energy. It has to do with promoting a culture of conservation that extends to
how we get around (transportation), the way we generate energy, the way we use the land,
particularly in the face of future growth, how far our food has to travel in order to get to our tables.
A Climate Change Action Plan steering committee at the city has recently been established
with task forces assigned to some of these areas.
As well, encouraged by some city departments, groups like Environment Hamilton and
the Hamilton Association for Renewable Energy (HARE) are promoting the idea of a local
improvement charges (LIC) program for home energy improvements since the residential sector
 is responsible for 30 per cent of our energy use. LICs are long-term, low-interest loans provided
 by the municipality and placed on the property tax bill.
Both these examples can be elements of a future CEP for Hamilton.
Hamilton is said to be in the throes of a cultural transformation, a renaissance of sorts,
as innovators, artists, entrepreneurs choose our city as the "happening place" they call home.
Let's give it that cutting edge by working to get a community energy plan in action.
After all, a reliable, sustainable energy supply is a key component to the long-term health
and prosperity of cities.
Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko is a Hamilton freelance writer and blogger. She works at Environment Hamilton,
managing and co-ordinating various projects. Read more of her writing at

Friday, July 25, 2014

Depave Paradise

Faith groups!
You are all invited to consider the extent of your pavement: Do you really need that much?
Tearing up asphalt in favour of planting native species, restoring marshes and wetlands etc benefits urban communities where we have far too much impermeable surfaces covering the soil; a problem because with increasing storm events (due to climate change), sewer overloads lead to flooded buildings and streets.

Hard surfaces, such as driveways, parking lots, and buildings also interrupt the natural water cycle by preventing rain water from soaking into the ground and creating heat sinks, warming up our cities. By removing pavement and replacing it with native plants, trees and shrubs we are increasing the infiltration rate, recharging our groundwater supply, and cooling our neighbourhoods.

Faith groups, schools, and other institutions are joining in this fun, community engaging movement. In Hamilton, a couple Catholic schools have depaved already.
Please see these links for more examples:

Green Venture is on the look out for faith groups interested in depaving some of their asphalt.
They are willing to come in and do a free presentation/workshop on depaving pieces of your property in order to create more permeable green space.
Taken from Green Venture's website.

Partnering with a local faith group to promote an energy conserving neighbourhood.

Here is a brief piece from summer intern, Joy Liu who worked with us at Environment Hamilton over the last few months. She describes the benefits and support she had working with a local faith group to promote the idea of a local improvement charges (LIC) for Hamilton home energy conservation improvements.

Working with Laidlaw
Summer 2014 Local Improvement Charges Campaign

Volunteers at Laidlaw United Church getting ready to promote LICs

Throughout the local improvement charge (LIC) campaign, Laidlaw Memorial United Church has provided support that was an incredibly important part of its implementation.
Laidlaw is located in the centre of where we planned to focus our campaigning efforts.
Rev. Doug Moore graciously allowed us to use the church space for campaign activities such as the volunteer training, volunteer base, and the information session. He even faciliated office space that we could use when we were working in the area.
The church provided refreshments for information session participants, and presentation equipment.
Rev. Doug actively promoted the campaign to the congregation by putting up posters, distributing information pamphlets during Sunday service, and allowing us to participate in the church’s annual Rummage Sale and talk to the participants.
He gave us insight and ideas, such as promoting the campaign at the It’s Your Festival in nearby Gage Park.  Members of the church made up half of our volunteer team.  During the door-to-door portion of the campaign, it was easy directing people to the information session since the church is in a convenient location and many residents knew about it.
Laidlaw saw this as an opportunity to reach out to the community, as it provides a way to invite more people into the church.  Rev. Doug was able to share the church’s stance and support for environmental stewardship based on their values.  He enthusiastically shared about the things the church has already done, such as installing solar panels, inspiring the broader community.
We are very grateful for the church’s help and would love to work with them again.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Easy Fermented Beverages at Home with EH member Michelle Doherty

Fermented beverages can seem intimidating and strange at first but I hope to find everyone a beverage that they can enjoy and reap the benefits of. In a time where our digestive systems are ravaged by the monotony of processed foods and fast food it is of utmost importance to take steps towards a healthy lifestyle. Fermented beverages have a multitude of purported health benefits with one of the most common being replenished gut flora and improved digestion.

In this workshop I will go over the benefits and steps to making Kefir, Kombucha and Ginger Bug Sodas with a special demonstration on making kefir.

When: Saturday, July 26th. 2014
Where: Grace Lutheran Church, 1107 Main Street West. Hamilton
Time: 2 pm to 3.30 pm

Suggested donation: $5
 Please register with Beatrice at or call 905 549 0900

Local Improvement Charges Information Session

Interested in energy conservation? Want to help make our city more energy efficient?   The residential sector is responsible for 30% of our energy use! Imagine the energy—and money—that could be saved if home energy upgrades were more accessible!

EH and Hamilton Association for Renewable Energy (HARE) are trying to bring an exciting new program called local improvement charges (LICs) to Hamilton.

LICs are long-term, low interest rate loans provided by the municipality and placed on your property tax bill.  A homeowner can make their home more energy efficient with no payment upfront!

We need public support to encourage the City to implement this program!  Have questions?  Want to learn more?  Come to our information session:

Wednesday July 16th, 7 pm

Laidlaw Memorial United Church, 155 Ottawa St. North

All are welcome!

You can also visit for more information about LICs and how they work,

We are also looking for volunteers to help with this initiative!

Volunteers will be going door-to-door with EH staff and talking to residents about how local improvement projects can benefit us.

Are you interested in Volunteering?  Please contact Joy at or at (905) 549-0900.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Get to Worship Without Your Car Weekend Coming in September

Traveling green is an important way we can be stewards of our planet.

Over the weekend of September 19, 20, 21 Greening Sacred Spaces Hamilton invites people of all faiths to travel to worship that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on foot, by bike, by public transit or carpool.

Be part of the fun while promoting active transportation. Register your place of worship to participate and promote active transportation by emailing Beatrice at or by calling Environment Hamilton at 905 549 0900.

Once you register participants from your group can join your team.
Let’s celebrate 'a greener way to worship' together!

Contact me if you would like a poster.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Edible Mushroom Growing Workshop with Tom Nagy

Back by popular demand!

June 15th, 2014 at 2pm.
Bait Un Noor Mosque (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community). 2301 King St. E at Pakdale, Hamilton ON

This event has been sponsored by Bait Un Noor (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) and Greening Sacred Spaces at Environment Hamilton.

This event will consist of an approximately 1.5 hours powerpoint presentation and hands-on demonstration of the proper methods, techniques and materials necessary for successfully cultivating and propagating delicious, nutritious edible mushrooms out of easily accessable and/or waste materials. This will be followed by a brief question and answer period.

The two species that will be focused on are the oyster (Pleurotus spp.) and king stropharia (Stropharia rugosoannulata) mushrooms. Both are very aggressive and adaptable species that are great for beginning mushroom growers. Oyster mushrooms can be coaxed to grow in used coffee grinds, sawdust, wood chips or brewery grains and can be grown indoors straight through the winter. The king stropharia on the other hand prefers outdoor conditions and grows prolifically from hardwood mulch and sawdust.

Suggested $5 donation.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

4th Nourishing Hamilton Fair: Food, Faith and Justice

Vendors have included: Farm Maps, Pollinator Gardens, Fruit Tree Project (Environment Hamilton), Rainbarrels,Oliver’s Garden Project, Good Food Box,Hamilton Sustainable Victory Gardens, Westdale Secondary School Gardens, Hamilton Community Garden Network,Neighbour to Neighbour, De Dwa Da Dehs Nye Aboriginal Health Centre, City of Hamilton Waste,  Urban Orchards, Composting/green binning, Food advocacy/security action (Hamilton Food Charter).

Tom Nagy will offer his ‘Grow your own Mushrooms’ Workshop from  2pm-3pm.

Sunday, May 4th 2014. 
TIME: 1.30-4pm.

PLACE: Beth Jacob Synagogue 375 Aberdeen Ave.Hamilton

Free Event. Freewill donations appreciated.

Contact Beatrice 905 549 0900 or email

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Notes from the Green Awakening Network/Greening Sacred Spaces Forum March 01

Thanks to Sue Carson, St James Anglican Church, Dundas and Co-Chair of Greening Niagara Diocese!

 Notes from March 1st, 2014.
Divestment issues. March 1st – Sue attended The Green Awakening Network Forum in Toronto. 4 excellent speakers suggesting ways to divest out of oil companies.

Rev. Fletcher Harper from New Jersey.  Episcopal priest at Executive Director of GreenFaith.  
There has been a Christian history of divesting from products – tobacco, alcohol, weapons etc.
3 reasons we should act to divest:
1. If there is grave large scale harm being done by a company or government policy.
2. Intractable resistance by industry or govt. that refuses to change.
3. Need to redefine society’s moral code.
Actions:  Reinvest –don’t just protest.  Stop making the problem worse. Look at our churches energy footprint. Commit to be part of the solution. Talk about money/morals.

Jane Ambachtsheer – partner in Mercer investing consulting business based in Toronto.
Her company is world wide – 15 in TO. Told of group at Oxford, UK campaign on campuses titled “Push your Parents – your pension is f ****ing up my future”‎. 
Two reports she recommend we use:
1.The Stern Review 2006 (Sir Nicholas Stern) The economics of climate change.
2. Climate change scenarios 2011 – implications for strategic asset allocation.
  Ask yourself what is the carbon risk in my portfolio?  How much carbon is invested in the companies?  Also what is the water risk in companies (eg. Beverages)

Seven suggested areas as to where to invest instead: Alternative energies, Energy efficiencies, Water infrastructure/technologies, pollution control, waste management, sustainable resources and environmental support services.

Mike Brigham: co-founder and president of SolarShare co-op.
Is solar too expensive?  In 1977 it was $75 a watt, now 72 cents a watt.  Price dropped because of advanced technology – could drop more.  Since 2008 50% drop in price.  He went through all the types of hydro, coal, nuclear etc. Solar has to make sense – cheap, renewable. Easy to find rooftops so can be produced where it is needed in cities.

Christine Boyle: community organizer in B.C. Directs Spirited Social change.

We need to be pushing people to make BIG life changes and not just focus on the low hanging fruit (recycling/eating organically). We have to stop being polite and get engaged and be disruptive in all areas.  Draw strength from other groups that are working on the same ideas.  At 29 she will see the results of our action (or inaction) in her lifetime.

Movie “Do the Math” was shown –discussion by Monica Resendes from Toronto
Working on U of T. divestment.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Opportunity to participate in research about faith-based environmental initiatives in Canada

 A post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto is working on a project studying faith-based organizations doing environmental work in Canada. Through this project, she is hoping to gain a better understanding of their work and the theologies and worldviews that drive and shape it, as well as some of the advantages and challenges of doing this work with a faith-based approach. This research will hopefully shed light on the important work being done by these organizations, and also provide them with useful information to help them evaluate and improve their programs. The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Please contact Joanne Moyer for more specific information or 416-978-6484.

Mushroom Workshop: Back by Popular Demand!

With Tom Nagy!
Saturday, March 29th, from 1 to 2.30 pm
Grace Lutheran Church 1107 Main St. W. Hamilton
This event has been sponsored by Grace Lutheran Church and Greening Sacred Spaces at Environment Hamilton.

This event will consist of an approximately one hour powerpoint presentation and hands-on demonstration of the proper methods, techniques and materials necessary for successfully cultivating and propagating delicious, nutritious edible mushrooms out of easily accessable and/or waste materials. This will be followed by a brief question and answer period.

The two species that will be focused on are the oyster (Pleurotus spp.) and king stropharia (Stropharia rugosoannulata) mushrooms. Both are very aggressive and adaptable species that are great for beginning mushroom growers. Oyster mushrooms can be coaxed to grow in used coffee grinds, sawdust, wood chips or brewery grains and can be grown indoors straight through the winter. The king stropharia on the other hand prefers outdoor conditions and grows prolifically from hardwood mulch and sawdust.

A suggested $5 donation will help to support future presentations and workshops in your community centered around similar topics including upcycling waste materials, encouraging local food consumption, nutrition and environmental sustainability. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Environment Hamilton AGM with Guest Speaker Dr. Laurence Parker to talk on bee-biodiversity.

Annual General Meeting: March 18th. 7pm. All welcome. 
Hamilton Room. Central Library. 55 York Blvd. Hamilton.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER - Dr. Laurence Packer (York University) will speak about bee biodiversity. 
 Packer is the author of Keeping the Bees and is a decade long member of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Building a Geo-Thermal Church: TOUR ***NEW DATE***

Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster is the only exclusively geo-thermally heated and cooled church in North America. Denise Neutel will give a talk and tour of this building constructed in 2005.

Saturday,  April 5th 2014
10 am to 11.30 am

211 Stonehenge Drive, Ancaster
Registration is required 

For more information contact Beatrice Ekoko at 905 549 0900 or
Event is sponsored by Greening Sacred Spaces (Environment Hamilton) and Hamilton Association for Renewable Energy (HARE).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Divestment or What? Economic Tools for Creation Advocacy in a Time of Crisis.

Save the Date:  6th Annual Forum,  March 1, 2014

Faith & the Common Good: Greening Sacred Spaces and the Toronto United Church Council’s Green Awakening Network invite you to join us for our 2014 Annual Forum.
The theme of the 2014 forum is "Divestment or What? Economic Tools for Creation Advocacy in a Time of Crisis."  Its purpose is to create a space where we can openly explore the dilemma presented by our personal and institutional enmeshment in a fossil-fuel based economy. The "‘Do the Math" campaign has highlighted for many of us the disastrous environmental consequences of continued reliance on fossil fuels – and yet many of our private and institutional investment strategies are built around that reliance. What is the way forward?
  • Is there a moral imperative for faith communities to divest from fossil fuels and invest in a clean energy future?                                                                 
  • Are there alternative green investment strategies open to Canadian institutions that rely on return on capital to fund good work?                                              
  • What are some of the practical, economic and fiduciary restraints facing charities, faith communities, and individuals that need to be understood?


March 1, 2014, 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m., Beach United Church, 140 Wineva Ave, Toronto

Registration Cost:  $15 (includes light refreshments)

Highlights: Confirmed keynote speakers include Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith, and Jane Ambachtsheer, Partner and Global Head of Responsible Investment at Mercer.  The forum will also include a screening of "Do the Math" and an Eco-Fair featuring local green social enterprises.

This will be the first forum of its kind to target Canada’s faith sector in an exploration of the economic tools available to us to help shape a clean energy future for the next generation.  We hope you can join us for what we know will be an informative and frank conversation on the topic. 

Watch this space for registration and event details!
Peace and blessings to all,

Mushroom Workshop: He rocked it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marvellous Mouth-watering Mushrooms

Happy New Year to you all!
There's lots to do to protect and enhance our wonderful planet and its inhabitants of all sorts. There is also lots of fun to be had and we are kicking off the new year with a workshop on growing your own mushrooms at home. Yay! I love mushrooms, being part Hobbit.
Our volunteer Tom Nagy will be leading the workshop and here's what he says:
Ever been interested in growing your own crop of delicious or medicinal mushrooms, either inside or outside of your own home? Come and learn a variety of efficient and creative methods for growing your own varieties of mushrooms and how doing so can enhance your physical and mental health and our relationship with food, crops and the environment.
This presentation will begin with a short analysis of what mushrooms and fungi actually are, how we understand them, how they behave, and also how they differ from other kingdoms of life. Understanding fungi at least on a basic level is critical to effectively nurturing them just as one would do a plant in the garden or inside the home.
Next, you will learn the basic ways of which to grow mushrooms both indoors and out, including the importance of humidity, sterility, substrate and a number of other key components necessary for successful mushroom gardening. Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) will be the main focus, but other simple and delicious mushroom species will also be covered, and how some of them can be used in combination to increase the productivity of your vegetable garden.

When? January 25th, 2014
What time? 10-11.30 am
Where? Grace Lutheran Church.
1107 Main St. West Hamilton, Ontario

Now folks, this event is free but donations are welcome so that we can get Tom to host more of these workshops.