If you’re ready to travel, or need some time away from the kids, then don’t waste time organizing your next green getaway. Whether you live only a few kilometres away, or in Northwest Alberta, the city of Toronto is a great destination for eco-friendly travellers. Below you’ll find sustainable places to visit, eat, sleep and explore.
Get cozy in Green Key suites
Before you embark on your adventure, it’s necessary to book a room at a hotel. Nothing is worse than getting to your destination to only find that there are no rooms available. Check out the following eco-friendly hotels:
Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel: Located at 123 Queen Street West in Toronto, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel has a central location with a 4 out of 5 ranking on the Green Key Audit from the Canadian Hotel Association. The hotel partners with Clean the World, a nonprofit organization that recycles discarded soap and plastic bottles, and donates soap, shampoo and other bath-related products to developing countries and homeless shelters. The Sheraton is equipped with energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, as well as procedures that help eliminate negative environmental impact from guests and staff. It also features an electric vehicle charging station and a single-stream recycling program that collects all waste and sorts it off-site.
Old Mill Toronto: In 1793, the first governor of Upper Canada built an industrial saw mill, named the Kings Mill, in what is now The Kingsway neighbourhood. After being destroyed by fire twice and rebuilt, the mill changed hands and transformed into a community centre. Finally, the mill switched proprietors and was reconstructed into a hotel that opened in 2001. While Old Mill Toronto has a long history, it is also one of the greenest hotels in Toronto. The hotel prides itself in improving its carbon footprint by improving all lighting fixtures, installing all energy-efficient appliances, saving water, alleviating its environmental impact and partnering with Clean the World to invest in recycling. To top it off, Old Mill Toronto is a Green Key hotel.
Add Earth-friendly activities to your itinerary
Once you’ve booked a hotel and know what part of Toronto you’ll be staying in, start planning your itinerary to make sure you visit all your favorite sites. Below are three places green-minded visitors will enjoy.
Toronto Zoo: Situated in the city’s east end, the Toronto Zoo is surrounded by Rouge Park and the Rouge Valley Conservation Centre. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that the zoo is heavily involved in wildlife conservation and sustainability efforts. The zoo has many initiatives such as: Adopt-A-Pond, a program that educates people on wetland conservation; PhoneApes, where the zoo recycles cellphones to places across Ontario – without recycling to landfills; and Eco-executives, a program that provides sustainable education workshops to small and medium size businesses. The zoo also participates in several conservation efforts to improve captive breeding, reintroduction of rare species into controlled settings or natural habitats, research habitat loss and care for the zoo’s extensive plant collection.
Kortright Centre for Conservation: About 40 kilometres north of downtown Toronto, the Kortright Centre for Conservation is an environmental and sustainability education and demonstration centre that works with individuals and communities to speed up the adoption of ecological technologies and practices. The centre has more than 135,000 visitors every year and offers more than 80 programs and workshops for schools, professionals and the general public. It is a member of the EcoCentres Network, an Ontario-based group that supports and guides education centres on reducing their environmental impact, and holds a Silver EcoCentre certification. The centre also features its Power Trip Trail, a 1.6-kilometre trail that features one of the largest, educational renewable-energy demonstrations in Canada.
Toronto Farmers’ Markets: Instead of just visiting one farmers’ market while you’re in town, the city of Toronto hosts a system of community-based market organizers through its Toronto Farmers’ Market Network. Depending on what time you visit Toronto, it will vary as to which market you can visit. However, some of the year-round markets include Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market, Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market, St. Lawrence Market and Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) Organic Farmers’ Market. What all markets have in common is a shared focus on sustainable agriculture, support for local farmers and improving nutrition through accessibility and variety.
Have a drink in the name of sustainability
Not everyone wants to go to farmers’ markets or the zoo, but many people do love to drink a nice cold beverage. If you’re in Toronto and want to drink responsibly, in all aspects, then check out these two green breweries.
Steam Whistle Brewing: If you are super conscious about nutrient information, then you’ll be happy to know that Steam Whistle Pilsner goes beyond Food Canada’s standards. Steam Whistle uses just four simple, GMO-free ingredients in its beer: purified water, malted barley, hops and yeast. Steam Whistle Brewing began selling pilsners in 2000, and has been using green, both figuratively and literally, glass bottles with painted logos instead of labels. The brewery is also powered by wind and low-impact hydropower. In addition, Steam Whistle Brewing, as its name suggests, is heated by steam instead of a natural gas boiler that runs all day long.
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company: When it opened its doors in 2006, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company began crafting beers made from 100% certified organic malt and hops. The company purchases supplies from local companies that have a good sustainability track record. In 2013, Beau’s All Natural was the first Canadian brewery to become B Corp certified, and the brewery has won many awards, including the 2013 Community Builder of the Year Award from Ottawa United Way, the 2013 Sustainability Accomplishments Award from Ontario Craft Brewers Centre of Excellence Awards and the 2014 Environmental Commitment Award from LCBO “Elsie” Awards. To top it off, Beau’s All Natural has a barrel-aged beer club that benefits the entire brewery’s sustainability improvements.
Satisfy your cravings while sightseeing
Eating is an important aspect to any trip. It’s especially important if you’re doing a lot of sightseeing. You need energy to explore, but as an eco-friendly traveller you probably want to make sure the energy you’re getting is from an environmentally sustainable business. If you want a boost of green energy while discovering Toronto, then look at the following venues.
Café Belong: As part of the Evergreen Brick Works complex, Café Belong is located within a unique support system that promotes urban sustainability and green design. The complex was once a deteriorating group of buildings, but now holds the title as one of the top 10 geotourism destinations in the world by National Geographic. The café keeps ingredients local and organic, and works to create a connection between the land where food grows, the farmers who harvest it and the people who enjoy it. What makes this green restaurant even more interesting? The chef and owner is a co-host of the Food Network show Restaurant Makeover.
Tori’s Bakeshop: No trip is complete without something sweet, and Tori’s Bakeshop provides that and more. As a business within the “Old” city of Toronto, the building has a lot charm. Its old-school flare reminds visitors of a time when milk was delivered to your doorstep and the vegetables you bought at the market were grown down the street. However, Tori’s Bakeshop lives up to those old-school standards by offering all-natural organic baked goods, freshly made every morning. The bakery offers dairy-free, egg-free, casein-free and refined sugar-free items that are free of toxins, making it an ideal place to grab a snack, no matter your diet.
Balzac’s Coffee Roasters: Named after French author Honoré de Balzac who supposedly drank 50 cups of coffee per day, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters opened its doors to honor the spirit of Monsieur Balzac’s literary excellence and his passion for coffee. With locations throughout Ontario, the coffee shop is able to create a micro-community within each shoppe. The company has six locations in Toronto, with an additional five locations throughout southern Ontario. Balzac’s Coffee Roasters prepares coffee and food with high ethical standards to offer consumers a sustainable, local and natural experience. All coffee, sugar and cocoa is Fair Trade Organic, and all milk is organic and sourced from nearby farms.