Healthy CommunitiesYMCA Green Team

Green roofs to greenhouses: environmental sustainability at the Y

19 April 2018 - by YMCA of Greater Toronto
The YMCA of Greater Toronto has been selected as one of  Canada’s Greenest Employers for the eighth time! We are honoured to be recipients of this prestigious award, which recognizes employers that “lead the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness” — including developing earth-friendly initiatives and demonstrating environmental leadership.

Our journey in environmental sustainability has included green roofs, energy-efficient technology, green teams, projects built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design  standards (our Cooper Koo Family Cherry Street YMCA was recently certified as LEED Gold), energy upgrades, solar energy generation, and an organic farm. Through these initiatives and more, we are committed to sowing the seeds for a healthier future.

We are proud of our work with community partners towards building a sustainable future, including being “partners in power reduction” by reducing electrical demand, increasing energy efficiency, and contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment. One of our recent “green initiatives” has been introducing many Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations across YMCA locations (Cooper Koo Family Cherry Street YMCA and Markham Ruddy Bratty YMCA), a micro-grid solution using solar energy to provide a more renewable mode of transportation, and helping to reduce our carbon footprint. The green roofs across many of our YMCA locations continue to provide environmental and community benefits, including providing solar energy for the electrical vehicle charging stations and welcoming spaces for individuals and families to enjoy the peaceful natural surroundings or engage in classes and workshops.

Our organic farm at YMCA Cedar Glen Outdoor Centre is entering its sixth year of operation, and continues to introduce new environmental and sustainability programs. The latest includes expanding its Agricultural Harvest Share Program by offering pre-boxed harvest shares to local communities at several YMCA Centres of Community across the GTA. A greenhouse built largely from recycled materials supports operation of the farm and Harvest Share program. Each year, 750 to 1,000 trees are also planted at Cedar Glen, with the support of community partnerships and donations. Beyond these initiatives, Cedar Glen continues to provide unique learning opportunities for young people to engage with the natural environment through a variety of farm camp programs. The farm is an exciting opportunity for the YMCA as it encourages environmental sustainability on all levels.

Being selected as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers is an incredible honour, and provides us with feedback that against national standards, our programs are considered earth-friendly and progressive. We remain steadfast on our journey to create greener and brighter futures for our communities.


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