The Sustainability Book Club – join us tonight!

Join facilitators from Sustainable Calgary, Arusha and EcoLiving Events to discuss themes and issues affecting the city and world today.

When:  Third Wednesday of each month, from 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Where: Pages Books, 1135 Kensington Road NW, 403-283-6655
It is free and Everyone is Welcome – even if you have not read the book!

Please join us for a free and lively discussion of important issues facing us today. The goal of the Sustainability Book Club is to share books and discussions that help us understand the world and our place in it in a different way.  This can change the way we experience the world and the way we act in our day-to-day lives, opening new possibilities for environmental sustainability, social justice and peace.

Feel free to join us and drop in – even if you have not read the book. It is the issues and themes that spark the discussion. Everyone is welcome to join in for one session or all of them. It is your opinion on the issues that builds an interesting discussion.

November 19, 2014:
Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development by Herman E. Daly

In a book that will generate controversy, Daly turns his attention to the major environmental debate surrounding “sustainable development.” Daly argues that the idea of sustainable development–which has become a catchword of environmentalism and international finance–is being used in ways that are vacuous, certainly wrong, and probably dangerous. The necessary solutions turn out to be much more radical than people suppose. 

“Daly is turning economics inside out by putting the earth and its diminishing natural resources at the center of the field . . . a kind of reverse Copernican revolution in economics.” –Utne Reader

Future reads:

December 17, 2014
Not the Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, and the Myth of Progress by John Michael Greer

January 21, 2015
Making Good by Billy Parish and Dev Aujla

February 18, 2015
Capitalist Realism: is there no alternative? by Mark Fisher

March 18, 2015
Beautiful Trouble – A Toolbox for Revolution assembled by Andrew Boyd

April 15, 2015
The Farm Then and Now: A Model for Sustainable Living by Douglas Stevenson

May 20, 2105
Walking the Frog: Solutions for Our Climate Change Paralysis by Tom Rand

The Book Club is sponsored by Pages Books, Sustainable Calgary, Arusha and Eco-Living Events.

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Walk Bridgeland: Oct 26 & 29

IMG_3100We had a fantastic turnout for our first Walk Bridgeland event, many thanks to those who came out to help us audit the area’s urban design.

Armed with clipboards and area maps, participants set out on three separate walks led by students from the University of Calgary’s Environmental Design program. With autumn in full swing, Bridgeland is especially beautiful area to explore.

IMG_3101Now, we would like your input on how you feel the area should be utilized. We are holding two additional guided walks on:

  • Sunday, October 26 at 2 pm, and
  • Wednesday, October 29 at 7 pm

The walks are guided and it is free to participate! We encourage you to bring along a friend, some mittens and  on October 29 – a costume! Hot chocolate will be provided at both events.

You can RSVP online for October 26 or October 29, or simply join us at Central Plaza in Bridgeland, between 8A Street and 9 Street, General Avenue and 1 Ave SW, view on Google Maps here.

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Walk Bridgeland – October 25, 26 and 29

We want to pick your brains – and what better time than Halloween?

During the last week of October, you’re invited to help us “audit” Bridgeland’s urban design, in both conventional and unconventional ways. Less conventional: we’re asking you to document how places make you feel (you get 32 emotions to choose from). More conventional: we’ll scour the landscape to discuss and take note of contributing factors.  

Is Bridgeland walkable, bikeable, vibrant?  We need your input!  Your feedback on this series of guided walks will help us choose the location for a community-led design project.

So let us pick your brains and save the dates! You can RSVP here:

We hope to see you soon!
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D.talks and Lost Spaces

Wednesday, October 1, our friends at D.talks will be discussing lost spaces. That is, under-utilized, in-between, overlooked and forgotten spaces. Over the course of the evening, speaker Matthew Passmore (MoreLab) and panelists Chris Manderson (City of Calgary) and David Law (Victoria Park BRZ) will discuss what these spaces offer and how (or if) we should harness their potential. The evening will be moderated by Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra.

The talk takes place Wednesday October 1 from 6 – 9 PM at Festival Hall,
1215 – 10 Ave SE in Inglewood. Tickets are $12 for adults, $5 for students and are available online.

dtalks-lost spaces_invite_jpg

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5 Coolest Community & Design Interventions, Calgary 2014


Calgary Surfing

Photo: Grace Honsberger-Grant

While Calgary enjoys the last vestiges of hot summer weather, I’m taking a look back at the top five coolest community and design interventions I saw whilst biking around this summer.

1. Surfing on the wave in the Bow River

Every summer I have the same conversation with many fellow Calgarians; Calgary summers are wonderful, the weather is nice and there are festivals and events every weekend, but we have no ocean and there are few water sports to participate in. I usually respond by rambling on about rafting on the Bow or swimming in one of the man-made lakes Calgary has to offer, however this summer I found something new to talk about!

In mid-August, the water levels on the Bow fell to the perfect level, creating a natural wave under the 10th Street Bridge where surfers and kayakers frolic in the water from sun up to sun down. The wave not only attracts a number of wetsuit-clad surfers and kayakers, it also attracts spectators from the bike path. Pedestrians and cyclists step off the path while others sit on the grass with sandwiches in hand watching the surfers and kayakers play. Although I don’t kayak or surf, I get a certain thrill out of watching these girls and guys ride a wave in the middle of the prairies. So, Calgary may not have the ocean, but what we do have is a number of creative people who can find a wave in the heart of downtown and enough people on our bike paths to take the time to watch this spectacle for a few minutes.

Calgary Surfing 2

Photo: Grace Honsberger-Grant

2. Live Music at Angel’s on the Bow River

On its small corner off Memorial Drive along the Bow River bike path, Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream Cafe has created a cozy outdoor spot to watch a sunset. Best known as a spot for grabbing ice cream cones on a hot summer day, the cafe is also a hidden gem of an evening destination for tea, outdoor seating and live music. An outdoor living room has been created with guests sipping tea and coffee atop couches, carpets and pillows surrounded by outdoor fireplaces while a local musician performs. A cozy outdoor oasis with the caffine and the smell of campfire and acoustic guitar – what more could you want from a bike pathway after dark? Open mic nights take place every Friday throughout the summer and local artists play during the week.

3. Community Orchard at Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Centre

The West Hillhurst and Sunnyside communities are known for having some of Calgary’s longest running community gardens. The Hillhurst-Sunnyside community gave rise to Calgary’s first Community Orchard several years ago through the City of Calgary’s Community Orchard Pilot Project (940 4a St. NW). The Orchard includes cherry bushes, hazelnut bushes, gooseberry bushes, honeyberry buses, and apple, apricot and pear trees. This year, an additional orchard, shown below, has been planted at the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Centre, tucked between the building and the tennis courts. September is really the perfect time to visit these orchards and the rest of the garden to enjoy the harvest.

4. Outdoor Piano and Seating Area on 3rd St.

For the last 3 years Calgary’s Downtown Association has brought pianos to Calgary’s downtown streets during the summers, and this year’s piano is the most beautiful one yet. It is located on Third Street and Sixth Avenue SW. It is adorned with wild flowers and potted plants draping its panels, and accompanied with four sunny yellow deck chairs for listeners to relax in. Jesse Moffatt, a Calgarian piano designer who is best known for his work saving musical artifacts during the city’s 2013 flood, designed Third Street’s outdoor piano. I really encourage you to meander along 3rd Street and have a listen to the many talented people who regularly play the piano, or play the piano yourself before it gets packed up for the winter!


Artwork at ContainR. Photo: Grace Honsberger-Grant

5. ContainR Site in Kensington/Sunnyside

ContainR in Kensington is a new community space in Kensington and Sunnyside (1020 2nd Ave, NW) that hosts everything from orchestra concerts to bee keeping tutorials. The site’s floor, stage, office and storage areas are all made of beautifully redesigned, repurposed shipping containers, adding a wonderful community, artistic feel to the corner. The site incorporates a variety of types of local artwork and permaculture gardens and holds multiple events per month. I went to a number of fun event this summer, however they are hosting some more interesting ones this fall.

Visit for more information on upcoming events or take a walk by the ContainR site to see the beautiful public artwork and gardens the site hosts.


Artwork at ContainR. Photo: Grace Honsberger-Grant

Kate2Kate Beck is an aspiring urban planner who is passionate about streets, social justice, bicycles and rock climbing. She spent the summer helping to connect Active Neighbourhoods with the Bridgeland community. She is currently finishing her degree in geography at University of British Columbia in Vancouver.


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Research Round-up on Walking

Why you should hold your meetings on the move, drive less, and rally around good urban design.

While the benefits of walking have been hailed for centuries (see Frederic Gros’ “A Philosophy of Walking“) the peer-reviewed research is starting to add up, confirming Nietzsche’s heartfelt manifestos on the subject.  Walking really does enhance creativity – a great reason to take your brainstorming sessions outside.  University of Calgary researcher Gavin McCormack correlated hours spent driving to obesity - an important consideration given today’s increasingly sedentary lifestyles.  Meanwhile, walking more is positively correlated with better public health.

What’s design got to do with it?  According to Professors William Milczarski and Peter Tuckel, even people who aren’t that into walking will walk more in pedestrian-friendly environments.  This extends to cycling.  Brian Saelens and his fellow researchers show that urban environments that are more dense, encompass mixed land uses and have greater pathway connectivity, unsurprisingly, experience more walkers and cyclists.

How does Calgary fare when it comes to walking?

  • 4.96% of work commuters in Calgary were walking in 2014, slightly down from 2011
  • 2014 most pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood: Sunnyside
  • 2014 most walkable community: Beltline
  • Calgary was voted 10th (last) most walkable city in Canada in 2013
  • 73% of Albertans walked for leisure, transportation, or for work in 2013, but we don’t walk enough to attain a moderate level of physical activity, and the Alberta Centre for Active Living recommends we spend more time walking
  • The City of Calgary now prioritizes walking and transit through their Municipal Development Plan, Calgary Transportation Plan, and Complete Streets Guide

How can we design more walkable communities?  Check out these great visuals from Dan Burden via the City of Calgary.

Have a great afternoon, all, and don’t forget to take a… 

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Sustainability Book Club Is Back for Another Year!

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Long Weekend, Long Format

Whether you’re road-tripping or having a “staycation” this long weekend, we’ve found three enlightening podcasts related to walking, communities and sustainability – and one fun internet quiz from 1985! Sound perplexing? Just wait until you see your results.

Walking Matters, from Ideas on CBC Radio
Journalists, writers, a zookeeper and a family physician explore how our minds and bodies are engaged through walking. An insightful listen for a relaxing evening or… a long walk.

Social Optimism, from Space + Place on CJSW Radio
This always-enlightening urban design-focused program is produced right here in Calgary at CJSW 90.9FM. We’re partial to the program, having recently been featured on it for our work on Active Neighbourhoods. In this episode, author Justin McGuirk speaks about his book, Radical Cities and how a new optimistic generation of architects and planners are transforming social housing in Latin America.

Resilient Cities, from The Urbanist Podcast, Monocle Magazine
Recognize that voice? It’s Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi! Calgary, Hong Kong, Da Nang and San Francisco are all profiled in this episode on strong leadership, the right infrastructure and communities that weathered catastrophe.

Love internet quizes? Who doesn’t. We especially like this San Francisco gentrification quiz from 1985. Source: City Lab. 

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Buying Groceries, Bridgeland Jaunt and Your Input

Did you know that citizens attending the Bridgeland Farmers’ Market drive less on average than Ward 9 residents, and walk, carpool and drive more? Residents of Ward 9 (which encompasses other inner city neighbourhoods like Inglewood and Renfrew) in turn, walk and cycle more than the rest of Calgary on average. That being said, they still drive quite a lot, especially to access groceries.

Active Neighbourhoods Calgary in BridgelandIn late July, we asked citizens attending the Bridgeland Farmers’ Market to tell us how they travel within their community. We posed two questions to participants: how do you travel to work/school and how do you travel to buy groceries? Of the 29 participants, 45% were adults, 14% were seniors and the remaining 41% were children and the majority were Bridgeland residents. To track how they travel, participants were given ten marbles to divide amongst different modes of transportation. Here’s what we found out:

  • Participants reported driving to work 43% of the time, walking 25% of the time and using city transit 15% of the time.
  • Participants also reported driving to buy groceries 68% of the time, walking to buy groceries 22% of the time and using city transit 4% of the time.

What’s clear is that citizens are still relying predominantly on car transport to get to work and notably, to access the basics like groceries.

Here’s where we need your input

We’d like to explore this further and need your help: tell us what you think would help residents in your community shop for groceries by walking or biking.

Explore Bridgeland tonight à la Jane Jacobs

Tonight, join us at 7 pm for our Bridgeland Jaunt. Meet us at First Avenue Northeast, between 8 Street and 8A Street for an hour-long walk through the inner-city community. Sustainable Transportation specialist Ryan Martinson will lead the walk, à la Jane Jacobs, to swap ideas on what’s working, what isn’t, and what can be done about it – right now and in the future. bridgelandjaunt_poster_final

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Bridgeland Jaunt – August 27

What makes your neighbourhood great? What would you change, and why? And what does urban design have to do with it? To chat about these and many more questions, join Sustainable Transportation specialist Ryan Martinson for a walk through Bridgeland, à la Jane Jacobs, to swap ideas on what’s working, what isn’t, and what you can do about it – right now and in the future. Join us August 27, 2014 from 7pm until 8 pm. We’ll start and finish at First Avenue Northeast, between 8 Street and 8A Street.


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