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GreenTOpia: Towards a Sustainable Toronto

by Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio, and Jonny Dovercourt, eds.

Most of GreenTOpia, the third installment in Coach House’s “TOpia” series,  is a lot of fun to read. This collection of essays and lists of resources could easily have been pretty boring and ended up being read only by those already convinced they have to act locally while thinking globally.

But the first essay sets the tone. In “The Green Thumb Blues,” Pasha Malla writes about the potted plant he acquired while working for the Sierra Club Defence Fund, and seduces the reader with a story that takes us into the practicalities of environmental activism, with sassy asides about the incongruities of life. Like the rest of the book, Malla’s essay is both irreverent and informative.

Among the things we learn in the essays are that old buildings are usually easier to heat and cool than newer ones, that retrofitting high-rise apartment buildings in suburban Toronto would make them more energy-efficient and save money in the long run, and that, if police records of marijuana grow-ops are any indicator, we ought to be able to grow vegetables all over the Greater Toronto Area, from the suburbs to the centre of town.

There are chapters on everything from green parenting (“Do you have boobs? Use them”) to the pleasures of crowded streets (“Life at the speed of a bicycle”). The last third of the book is a directory of just about anything you might need to live a green life in Toronto. There’s information about cutting back electricity consumption in rented apartments, phone numbers of “the powers that be” locally, provincially, and federally, and a recipe for making your own biodiesel fuel.

One piece – a comic-book view of life in the Toronto of 2507 – might have been left out, but all in all this book should give the same pleasure as the Whole Earth Catalogue did back in the 1970s.