Greenest City Winter 2024 Newsletter - West Neighbourhood House

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Dear Friends: Greenest City Program wishes you all Happy Holidays and all the best in 2024. 

This year is almost over and we don’t want to miss the last chance to greet our program participants, sympathizers & supporters.  It has been a very intense year for us, full of challenges and amazing learning opportunities that have helped us to grow and improve many areas of both our climate actions and community engagement work.

We thank you all for your commitment to our Thriving Earth Thriving People program and the support we got from you in so many different ways. From those who joined us at the beginning of the year in our different seedling workshops, and seeds packaging sessions, to the volunteers and placement students who helped us in all our program activities and events such as Seedy Saturdays, Gardening tasks, Kids Program, Good Food Market, Summer Potlucks  Harvest Celebration and others events.  It was a pleasure working and sharing time with you this past year while making sure we opened leadership and empowerment spaces among Parkdale residents.

Immense gratitude to all of you for believing in Greenest City and getting engaged throughout our year of programming.  Without your participation, this would not be possible! Looking forward to seeing you around and building, together,  greener opportunities for the well-being of our wonderful Mother Earth and ourselves.

A message from our Greenest City Program Manager

“As I watch the climate change disasters all over the world – increased floods, droughts, and life-changing events such as hurricanes – you might wonder ‘What can I do to change things?’  (I do!)

Should I recycle more, never fly again, go to protests, sell my car, buy land in the forest to secure a place to grow food for my family- generations to come, only buy second-hand, save my seeds, plant pollinators, never use plastics….

Yes? Any of these, all of these, none of these?  I say this –  tentatively, at times overwhelmed,  forcefully, at times to motivate me and more often lately…. I remember to turn to the earth and others for the healing and energy to take the next step.

Five Foundational Principles for ‘Going Green’ with Greenest City.  

In your life, work, and/or community build on:  

1. A cultivated love of the earth.

2. A desire to act together – with others who are also wanting change.

3. A resistance to the racism, classism, sexism (and more -isms) that is a barrier to climate change mitigation and adaptation for ALL.

4. A belief that while it is corporations creating the most damage, we can also participate in holding them accountable in homes, at workplaces and in our communities.

5. A commitment to act on the priorities of our Indigenous, Metis, and Innuit community members and leaders wherever you are.

Consider donating to the Greenest City Program by choosing ‘Greenest City’ when you donate to West Neighbourhood House 

What we are doing: 

Greenest City joined West Neighbourhood House in 2022.  West NH, a much larger organization, had just created a new strategic plan that included Climate Action and Land.  Imagine how delighted we both were!  Us, a tiny organization struggling with no core funding and high impact and a large organization with the capacity and desire to make big changes in the lives of our most vulnerable community members, centring the strengths of our community around climate action and land.  West Neighbourhood House does MUCH more, which you can see here:

However, if you are like me, you KNOW that rising heat, increasing food costs, flooding, and decreasing green spaces – all impacts of a world on fire,  will negatively impact your neighbours who are low-income the most.  I know too – that you care for the earth.  You care about the plants and bio-diversity, you care about the insects, frogs, and birds that thrive in the city when we carefully steward the land.  And imagine with me, that we can also create and build a community, together with all our neighbours, where we can actually thrive and build mutual aid.

This takes work. And fun. And building meaningful connections with people and the land.  (more here)

Here are three ways we are going to do this in 2024:

  1. Build on our city’s biodiversity by planting native plants, food, and medicines in 12,000 square feet of urban growing spaces.
  2. Grow the climate leaders of the future in our 11-week Growing the Future series for children and youth.
  3. Act on phase one of mitigation of heat for our low-income community members in high rises by – documenting high-rise temperatures and mobilizing tenants.

Do this with community members and grassroots organizations, prioritizing organizations led by Black, Indigenous and/or racialized leaders.

Consider supporting West Neighbourhood House in our Winter Appeal, donate online at


I love to hear what others are up to – if you would like to send me a note even if you can not donate at this time.

Stay Warm!!   

Angela ElzingaCheng
Manager of  Families, Newcomers and Climate Action at West Neighbourhood House


Upcoming events

Parkdale Seedy Saturday 2024 

The seedy season is starting!! West Neighbourhood House/Greenest City is looking forward to seeing our wonderful seedy community again on March 16. We hope you can join us to swap, bring, and get some edible and pollinator seeds.

Event Details:

Saturday, March 16, 2024
Set up time: 9:30am – 11:00am
Event: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Parkdale Library. 1303 Queen St. West. MAP

Table fees: $30 for vendors, free for not-for-profits. We can offer a sliding scale based on the day’s sales. If you’d like to reserve a table, please reply to this email or fill out our short exhibitor/vendor registration form here.

Also, don’t forget to include your social media handles and/or website so we can promote you! For more information, visit the Toronto Seedy Saturdays website here.

April 22 Earth Day Celebrations:

Next year, Greenest City program will have a special event to commemorate this important date. “Earth Day was first observed on April 22, 1970, when an estimated 20 million people nationwide attended the inaugural events at tens of thousands of sites including elementary and secondary schools, universities, and community sites across the United States”.

Would you to learn more about it?  See here: history/april-22/#earth-


Goodbye to our Intern from the University of Toronto

Serena Yuan has completed successfully her placement position with us. While supporting many of our objectives during last fall and part of this winter, without any doubt, she has left a positive environmental footprint in our program.  She showed great enthusiasm for community engagement while supporting our Kid’s program, leading various activities with our volunteers, planning Truth and Reconciliation and Harvest Celebration events, and organizing gardening and other community-based activities. Thank you so much, dear Serena, for your impactful contributions to our Greenest City program. For sure, we will miss you here. All the best in your life and your career.

Here are some words  she wanted to share with our participants:

“As the 2023 season wraps up, so unfortunately does my time with Greenest City and the Parkdale community. It has been a wonderful autumn with you all, and I have learned so much about how to care for the earth and of our communities. I want to thank Sandra for her brilliance in organizing amazing programs and events, the volunteers for inspiring me to work hard while keeping a smile, and the gardeners for showing me all the delicious and beautiful things that can sprout from a simple plot of soil. Thank you for welcoming me, and I hope we will have the chance to meet again!” 

Previous events 

Winter compost workshops

On November 10 and December 2, we held a series of two Compost workshops called: “Better soil, better food, better health.”  Joseph Durand, our facilitator from Compost Toronto immersed us in a wonderful journey in which we learned the main principles of properly composting while using the “Three-bin structured composting method”. Throughout an engaged conversation in the first session, we discussed the interconnections between soil, plants, and compost, and afterward, we collectively built a pile of static compost. A month later, in the second session, we got to monitor the pile of compost, taking some samples and observing microorganisms via microscopy. We knew why it is important to spend some time during the winter to make some compost and many more things that underlie soil dynamics.  Here are some reflections shared by the facilitator:

“Composting in the Milky Way Garden:  It’s been a fun time meeting all of the Milky Way gardeners and talking about soil and compost. Talking about compost is talking about soil — and there is so much to learn and know. Here are some of the things that we have talked about this summer and fall.  

Did you know? 

Composting is discussed in some of the earliest written materials ever found. Including the first medical textbook. 

Plants use up to 70% of their energy that they get from the sun, air, and water, to feed the bacteria in the soil, exuding carbohydrates, fat, and protein from their roots. In exchange, the bacteria and fungi help the plants grow by sourcing nutrients the plant needs. 

Plants even eat bacteria! They take them into their root tips, drain the juice out, and then spit them back out of the root hairs. And we are only just now learning about this!  

The healthiest ecosystems in the world, the great plains, savannahs, rain forests, jungles, etc. grow without people or fertilizer — why? 

Soil is made up of rocks, pebbles, sands, silt, and clay plus organic matter and trillions of microbes. There are more life forms in soil than on the surface of the earth. If we group them together, we get bacteria, fungi, protozoa (flagellates, amoebas, and ciliates), nematodes, earthworms, and microarthropods (sow bugs for example). Bacteria are the biggest group and are eaten by just about everyone else. This is the start of the “Poop Loop.”  

Bacteria like to stick onto the rocks, pebbles, sand, silt and clay, and dissolve the minerals for food. They also do this with organic matter. This is decomposition.  

Bacteria and fungi are eaten by the protozoa who eat millions every day. Any extra nutrients they eat gets pooped out into the soil all day, every day, providing nonstop food. The protozoa are then eaten by each other and the nematodes who also poop out any extra nutrients and the nematodes are also eaten by worms and microarthropods who also poop out the extras!  

So, plants feed the bacteria which is the basic food for all of the life forms making poop in the soil all day every day. This idea was first shown by Dr. Elaine Ingham in the early 1990’s and teaches us plants aren’t passive recipients of chemical fertilizers – in fact, the plants are in a symbiotic relationship with the microbes.  

When we compost, we are growing the Soil Food Web and all of the goodness it provides. We recycle all of the left-over nutrients from our food and garden scraps and animals in one place. Once everything is eaten and digested, we are left with amazing healthy compost. Adding it to our garden increases the water-holding capacity of the soil, along with more nutrient availability. 

The best part is that the best compost has the most diversity and greatest number of microbes, which makes the best soil and healthiest plants. Diversity is the key to healthy soil! If there’s a pathogen, there’s a predator to take care of it. Recent advances in science allow us to know how much diversity there is just in the bacteria. We only know the names for 5% of them and we only know what a few of those actually do in the environment. So, using compost helps us maximize the diversity in the soil as we learn more about its mysteries. 

Together we have learned about how to utilize diversity and maximize the nutrient content of the compost and soil while helping the soil to sustain itself without any fertilizers or chemicals”.  

Please join us this winter & spring as we learn more about soil and composting and growing healthier plants. We will keep you posted about new dates for upcoming workshops.

Farewell party to Hope Garden former gardeners 

In collaboration with the Hope Garden new Steering Committee, at the beginning of December Greenest City organized a party to recognize the incredible work that former gardeners have done for more than 10 years. As they are leaving the garden this year, It was amazing to see most of them having fun while being together, getting some yummy food, and listening to good music and garden stories.

We will miss the former gardeners in the Hope garden.  Their passion for growing food is amazing and has not gone unnoticed. They will stay connected with Greenest City and still will have the chance to join our programming, including the Harvest Festival, Seedy Saturdays, workshops, potlucks, and much more…!

Thank you so much to the previous steering committee for raising some funds that we used to support this party. Special shout out to Zorida Mohammed for your generous donation! We missed you at the Party though.

A quick reminder on how to apply for a plot in Hope Garden   

1.  Being a Parkdale resident.

2.  Don’t have a plot in any other place to grow food

3.  People must wait until plots are available

4. People can use the plot for  3 consecutive years

At this time we have a waiting list of more than 50 people, however,  anybody who meets the requirements can apply to get a plot in Hope Garden, please contact the Greenest City program coordinator at

2023 Volunteers

Greenest City is a program mainly run with the support of our community members.  Volunteers and Placement Students are at the core of successfully reaching our environmental goals and social justice aims out.  We never will get tired of saying how grateful we are to all of you who year by year have given us your time, knowledge, and capacity to support our cause.  A BIG SHOUT OUT TO OUR 2023 AMAZING VOLUNTEER TEAM. 


“When I first came to Canada my expectations were high that after I arrived here, I would start to earn and change life immediately, but it wasn’t so. Life became lonely until I joined West Neighborhood, Greenest City program as a Volunteer. Sandra Leon, who is the coordinator, helped me to join a community where I learned many things. I learned how to make compost manure from the waste which was used to plant different kinds of food. I learned small portions of gardens are given to the community to grow food. The volunteer experience helped me to know how to set up shades, and tents. I also enjoyed supporting organizing events… The greatest part she was a participator and a guide. Above all, she integrated us with the community, especially during the Potluck which was new to me. Volunteering and serving the community is touching the Heart of God. Thank you, Greenest City. Thanks, Sandra.”. 

Livingston Mutiga  (Newcomer) 

“Hi, my name is Trevor. I have been part of the community for a very long and  I have a very special place in my heart for volunteering especially around Greenest City. I have had the opportunity to support it in many ways and I am still up today as a volunteer, I will be helping next year with different events such as the Good Food Market, and I look forward to it. I enjoy helping with the Market setup,  welcoming members of the community, and explaining to them what the market is about.  

I always learn that volunteering comes from the heart. You get paid in many other ways. through gratitude, through the eyes of somebody who is there with you and who is eventually learning something from you. Last summer for example I collaborated in running a barbeque for the community and it was nice seeing people’s faces and receiving words of appreciation. This is something that has no monetary value. This is something you carry in your heart, in your voice, and in the way you talk to people… this is very important to me, and I would never put a price on enjoyment and gratitude. It is something that that we honor. This is the way you get paid while volunteering.  

Trevor Hardy (Parkdale Resident)

Help change the conditions that drive social inequities in our community by donating to our Winter Appeal!

The ultimate goal of West Neighbourhood House is to change the conditions that drive social inequities. We work diligently to get at the root causes of these harmful conditions with our public policy and advocacy work.

Your support enables us to respond to immediate housing pressures and continue our work on improved housing policy, building safer and more inclusive communities, and increasing the availability of affordable housing.

Together, we can continue to build a resilient and inclusive community.

This year, our goal is to raise $73,000 towards the Winter Appeal.

Read the full appeal letter by Prasad Rao, Volunteer President, West Neighbourhood House Board of Directors on our website.

Show your support by visiting


Stay updated with our activities and programs on our social media including our Facebook page and Instagram! To volunteer and connect with us, please contact If you would like to receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Greenest City is a program of West Neighbourhood House. Read more by visiting their page.

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