Sustainability means using the resources of today intelligently to meet our needs while leaving enough for future generations to meet their needs. It’s about living in harmony with nature and improving the quality of lives. It’s also about making the places we live in good for people. The ways in which humans did things in the past didn’t always have an eye toward sustainability. But as people and organizations we make choices. A good way to learn about sustainability is to view the successes of others. On this tour you will visit 10 excellent examples of sustainability, each in its theme as defined by the Biosphere Eco-City Initiative ( Visit, enjoy, and use these sites as models in your life. All the sites are free to visit, from spring to fall. Some are also open in winter. Other good sites are listed at the end of this book, again by theme. Page 29 shows the Tour Map ( followed by the textual Cycling Tour Route on Page 30. Ottawa is your city. Even if you live somewhere else in Canada, remember that Canada’s capital belongs to you. If you come from another country, you’ll find that Ottawa is a world city. If you live here and know the city well, do the tour and see Ottawa in a new light. Ottawa is both large and small and so are the sites on the tour - from a large outdoor recreation complex to a pedestrian and cycling bridge that is changing downtown traffic patterns. Explore Ottawa to get a sense of this place. Have fun!

Richelieu Park - Natural Capital

"maintaining land, water, soil, materials"

Natural capital is the potential of natural elements to meet human needs. To ensure the sustainability of our natural capital, we want to maintain land in a natural condition, preserve soils, protect waterways and use natural building materials (such as wood and rock) in intelligent ways. Richelieu Park represents sustainable Natural Capital with healthy trees left standing to provide sap for maple syrup.

Nearby Community Features

Circuit Vanier – Four different 2-hour walks to see nature and culture, including over 30 outdoor Vanier Murals that depict the area’s history. Guides are available upon reservation from the Museopark.

  • Cycling: This is the start of the tour. For map and route, please see pages 29-30. Bike racks available.
  • Bus: Route 5, Stop 7040, 300 Des Pères Blancs Avenue
  • Parking: Free on lot at end of cul-de-sac (where bus stops).
  • Website:
  • Location: 300 des Pères-Blancs Ave., Vanier.

From February to April, the park’s maple trees are tapped in the traditional way using hanging pails. The sap is collected to be boiled into maple syrup in the only urban sugar shack in North America. The Vanier Museopark is a francophone museum on the second floor of the Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre in the 7-hectare Richelieu Park.

What to See and Do Here

Walk along the mildly sloping trails and listen to birds and chipmunks. In season, note the pails hanging on trees to collect maple sap and then taste pancakes with maple syrup at the sugar shack. The site is open all year and has many events. Maple treats, books by Vanier authors and other products are available at the Museoboutique. The Vanier Public Library is on-site.


This site originally belonged to a society of missionaries known as the White Fathers. Here they produced maple syrup and taught theology. This was in the village of Eastview, which became Ottawa's main francophone area. In 1969, the neighbourhood was re-named Vanier in honour of Governor-General Georges Vanier.

Major's Hill Park - Sense of Place

"belonging, sense of community, and stewardship"

People feel they belong when their neighbourhood or city meets their needs and when they interact with other community members. Some sites can inspire a sense of place. This feeling of belonging often leads to greater care for the social needs of others and to greater stewardship of the environment.

Nearby Community Features

Byward Market – “On The Market” are shops, restaurants, bars, and market stalls selling produce and goods. National Gallery of Canada – Canada’s national art museum, home to many permanent and temporary exhibits. Nepean Point – Strategically located on the Ottawa River, excellent views of the twin cities. Cycling: For route and map, see page 30. Bike racks at National Art Gallery. Bus: Route 14, Stop 7557, Elgin/Rideau. Parking: National Gallery. Website: Location: Between MacKenzie Ave, and the Ottawa River, across the Rideau Canal from Parliament Hill.

Major’s Hill Park is Ottawa’s oldest park, formally established in 1875, and covering just over five hectares in the heart of the capital. A large lawn forms the centre of the park. Many of the walkways surrounding the lawn offer views out over the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River.

What to See and Do Here

A unique location, almost entirely surrounded by some of the city’s major landmarks: Chateau Laurier, American Embassy, National Art Gallery, Rideau Canal locks, and Parliament Hill. The Ottawa River, the original transportation backbone of the region, flows east toward Montreal.


When Ottawa was first founded, it was called Bytown, after Lieutenant-Colonel John By. It was little more than a base for the British Army to build the Rideau Canal. In 1826, Colonel By took up residence in a house on the hill. After he was replaced by Major Daniel Bolton in 1832, the land here became known as Major’s Hill. The house burned down in 1849, but some of its foundations are still visible. Today, the park is frequently used for major festivals and events in the capital.

Corktown Footbridge - Transportation

"movement of goods and people"

Sustainable transportation means moving goods and people using the fewest resources and polluting the least. For example, air travel is not very sustainable, whereas walking is.

Nearby Community Features

University of Ottawa – The world’s largest bilingual university, with 40,000 students. Ottawa City Hall – 3 blocks west and north of the bridge. Cycling: For route and map, see page 30. No bike racks. Bus: Route 97, Stop 3021, Campus 2A. Parking: West side, on nearby streets. East side, University of Ottawa. Website: None Location: 400 m south of the Laurier Ave. Bridge.

The Corktown Footbridge takes pedestrians and cyclists across the historic Rideau Canal, the world’s longest skating rink in winter. On the east side lies the University of Ottawa in Sandy Hill with its Campus transitway station. The west side features the commercial and entertainment area of Elgin Street, Lisgar High School and City Hall. The bridge also connects the Rideau Canal’s Eastern and Western Pathways, which are important cycling and walking paths.

What to See and Do Here

The bridge itself is elegant. From it you can see beautiful views of the city in all directions. This is one of the best views of the Rideau Canal, with canoes and cruise boats in summer and skaters in winter. Padlocks line the bridge’s railings, attached there by lovers who then threw away the keys, symbolising an everlasting commitment. This is a more common practice in Europe, but the body of water crossed by this bridge is itself linked by 47 “canal locks” from Ottawa to Kingston.


The bridge was named after the shanty settlement of Corktown that housed Irish workers during construction of the Rideau Canal. It honours their work and sacrifice.

FSS Building - Energy

"for buildings, transportation, manufacturing and food"

Conserving energy and reducing its use are very important aspects of sustainability. Energy conservation is vibrant in Ottawa. This includes building retrofitting (the addition of new technology or features to older systems), expansion of public transit, and exploration of district heating systems. Alternative energy sources are also being explored: solar, ground- source heating, and biogas collection on farms.

Nearby Community Features

University of Ottawa campus – neat buildings, including historic Taberet Hall. Sandy Hill – One of Ottawa's most historic neighbourhoods, with mansions. Strathcona Park – On the Rideau River, home to many community events. Elgin Street – Shops, restaurants, bars. Cycling: For route and map, see page 31. Bike racks. Bus: Route 16, Stop 6796, Campus 1A. Parking: On campus. Website: Location: 120 University Ave., on the central-western portion of campus, just north of the Campus Transitway station.

Completed in 2012 to house the Faculty of Social Sciences, the university's newest tower is environmentally friendly with a heat-recovery system (the building does not need to be heated unless the temperature goes below -17°C) that won the building a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of “gold”. During much of the winter, it shares its extra heat with other campus buildings and helps heat water on campus during summer.

What to See and Do Here

From the 5th floor, see the 6-storey green wall, North America's largest indoor living wall, in the main atrium. Note how much natural light there is – 95% of the building receives daylight. Stop at Première Moisson on the first floor for fair-trade, organic coffee, and meat and dairy products from local farmers.


Founded in 1848, the University of Ottawa is one of Canada's top 10 research institutions. With 41,000 students enrolled in both undergraduate and graduate programs, the university is an important part of the city.

Children's Garden - Food

"local food, heritage crops and animals, urban gardens"

This site’s main purpose is to serve as a space to engage and educate the senses, the mind and the imagination in terms of our relationships with nature, particularly with respect to food. The focus is on kids, but adults are welcome to help.

Nearby Community Features

Main Farmers’ Market ( – Saturdays at Saint Paul University. Ottawa East Community Garden – behind the university. Cycling: For route and map, see page 31. Bike racks? Bus: Route 16, Stop 7639, Main/Hazel. Parking: On nearby streets. Website: Location: Northeast corner of Main St., at Clegg St., just off the St. Paul University campus.

Children design and operate this garden that features organic food, perennial plants, shrubs and trees. They create elaborate signs for their individual plants, while adults help with some of the heavier work and organize group activities. A colourful picket fence surrounding the garden makes it very easy to find.

What to See and Do Here

A flagstone pathway, level enough for wheelchairs, takes you to raised organic vegetable beds, a seating circle for story-time and activities, a 3-stage composting bin, and a “twigloo” play structure. Off the pathway is a woodland garden at the back. The Children’s Garden is a place for play-groups, workshops (e.g. art-making, organic gardening), and harvest feasts.


In 2008, the City agreed to allow the community group Sustainable Living Ottawa East to turn an underused urban park into the city’s first designated children’s garden.

Playground for Children of All Abilities - Health

"clean air/water, safety, healthy access to environment"

Clean air, water and soil in urban regions is essential to sustainability. So is safety, which relates to buildings, traffic and community programs. Access to the outdoors is important and activities that provide this to less able members of our cities are commendable.

Nearby Community Features

House of Paint graffiti wall ( – Annual painting & dance festival . Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Brewer Park. Brewer Park Pond. Cycling: For route and map, see page 31. No bike racks, but users leave their bikes on the grass. Bus: Route 4, Stop 6790, Sunnyside/Bronson. Parking: On the street. Website: Location: On Seneca, three blocks south of Sunnyside Ave.

This large playground in Brewer Park provides outdoor fun for children with physical, developmental, cognitive, learning, hearing or visual disabilities and impairments. Other children like it too. There are also shaded areas to take a break out of the sun.

What to See and Do Here

An enclosed swing and a swinging platform cater to children who cannot use a regular seat but who love to sway in the breeze. Minimum slopes provide wheelchair access to all play areas, while soft modular tiles under some equipment help prevent injuries from falls. Gear and puzzle panels, pictures, labyrinths, crawl tunnels, and sound and sensory panels help kids learn. The Rideau River is located within walking distance south of the playground.


Ottawa Rotary clubs got the idea from a sister club in Australia and cooperated to build the playground for the 2005 Rotary Centennial. The playground is located in Brewer Park, which began as a public beach (now closed) on the Rideau River.

Mooney's Bay Park - Recreation

"urban and rural, greening sports events"

Many forms of recreation, from walking or horseback riding to ultimate frisbee, bring pleasure with low environmental impact. Parks and pathways are important in both urban and rural parts of the city. Farm holidays teach food production to urban folk. Outdoor sports events can be made more sustainable with enhanced public transit, carbon offsets, the sale of healthy food and drinks, and the increased availability of drinking fountains.

Nearby Community Features

Carleton University( – Canada’s Capital University, with 26,000 students. Hog’s Back Park ( – overlooks the spectacular Hog’s Back Falls on the Rideau River. Cycling: For route and map, see page 32. Bike racks. Bus: Route 87, Stop 1525, Riverside/Walkley. Parking: Pay parking. Website: Location: The park entrance is a west turn off Riverside Dr. between Walkley Rd. and Brookfield Rd.

This is a large park on the Rideau River with grass, mature trees and a sand beach. It is popular for wedding photos because of its natural beauty. Picnic tables, tennis courts, a playground and volleyball nets provide opportunities for outdoor recreation for people of all ages. Across the toboggan hill, you can see an outdoor track and sports field that hosted the international 2001 Francophone Games.

What to See and Do Here

As you walk along the natural shoreline you can watch dragon boats and kayaks moving along the river. In the central part, on the beach, you can see volleyball games all through summer. There are also tennis courts, play structures, cycling and cross-country skiing.


Mooney’s Bay was originally a swimming area, but many other activities are now available here. The world’s largest one-day beach volleyball tournament takes place here in mid-July to raise money for local charities.

Fletcher Wildlife Garden - Habitat

"urban green space, rural environment, connectivity"

The ongoing destruction of forests, fields and wetlands is one of the greatest menaces to wildlife. The Fletcher Wildlife Garden demonstrates the plants and variety of natural settings necessary to support small animals (bugs to frogs to chipmunks) in the Ottawa area.

Nearby Community Features

Arboretum ( – 1700 varieties of trees on 26 hectares. Canada Agriculture Museum ( A working farm in the city. Cycling: For route and map, see page 32. Bike racks near the Interpretation Centre. Bus: Route 85 (all week), Stop 8021, Carling/Irving, walk 20 min. OR, Route 185 (Sat/Sun only), Stop 1586, Central Experimental Farm, walk 9 min. Parking: Parking at the baseball diamond along the entry road. Website: Location: The entry road is signed and runs east off Prince of Wales Drive, just south of the Arboretum and across from the Canada Agriculture Museum.

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a naturalised area in Ottawa. Managed by the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club (OFNC), it has a backyard garden, butterfly meadow, pond, old field, mixed woodlot, ash woodlot, hedgerow, and ravine with a stream. Volunteers restore and enhance these habitats.

What to See and Do Here

Follow the Bill Holland Trail to visit the various habitats in the Garden. Visit the Backyard Garden (behind the Interpretation Centre) to learn what you can plant on your own land. Information on wildlife, gardening, habitat conservation, "how-to" leaflets, plant and animal lists, and an extensive photo blog are available on the website: fletcher. Print materials are available at the Centre on Friday mornings and Sunday afternoons during the summer when volunteers are working and the Centre is open.


The idea for a "wildlife garden" in Ottawa, where people could learn how to garden in a more wildlife-friendly manner and learn about local wildlife, was proposed by Peter and Judy Hall in 1987 as part of a national celebration of wildlife. The site chosen was successfully negotiated with the federal government. The site was officially opened in 1990.

Algoquin Centre For Construction Excellence (ACCE) - Design

"built environment"

A building that is made sustainably is one in which the entire conception, from positioning to material selection to functionality, reflect the desire to cause the least harm to the environment and to the people who use it.

Nearby Community Features

Centrepointe Theatre ( – A publicly-owned performing arts hall, City of Ottawa Archives ( Discover Ottawa’s hidden treasures. Cycling: For route and map, see page 33. Bike racks on the building’s west side. Bus: Route 95, Stop 3017, Baseline 1D. Parking: Paid parking on campus. Some Pay and Display spots on southern side of ACCE. The Park and Ride south of ACCE is free on weekends. Website: Location: 1385 Woodroffe Avenue (west side), between Baseline Rd. and Meadowlands Dr. W.

Not only are many courses on green building practices offered here, but ACCE is a reflection of what is taught in the building. It has LEED Platinum Certification and features many innovative aspects that you can see.

What to See and Do Here

If you take the self-guided tour, downloadable from the website (see address below), you can see this uniquely green building that serves as a one-of-a-kind living laboratory, demonstrating what is possible through innovative, environmentally friendly design, construction, maintenance and operation. Highlights include a five-storey living wall, an expansive atrium, technical shops and labs, study pods, a mobile access centre, critique rooms, and a green roof of almost 4000 square metres.


Algonquin College’s long history with skilled trades led to the vision to put them all, especially the construction trades, in one building. Its three themes are: people from different trades working together, using the building itself as a learning tool, and building sustainably. ACCE was completed in 2011.

terra20 - Waste Reduction

"processing waste, recycling, design, conversion"

The location of waste sites is a major issue in any urban area. To reduce the need for landfill, Ottawa has developed a large facility to compost food waste, and another to convert waste to energy. A construction association is helping members recover building materials, and manufacturers are designing products to reduce waste.  Another initiative, that of making quality products from recycled materials to reduce the need for virgin materials and divert waste from landfill, is an emerging trend that is nicely illustrated at terra20.

Nearby Community Features

Lee Valley Tools – Mail-order and retail supplier of fine woodworking and gardening tools and cabinet hardware. Cycling: For route and map, see page 33. Bike racks. Bus: Route 152, Stop 2917, Iris/Southwood. Parking: Free at Pinecrest Shopping Centre. Website: Location: Pinecrest Shopping Centre, Highway 417, take Pinecrest/Greenbank exit 129.

terra20 is a large eco-retailer. The store itself is built with recycled materials where possible, and with a healthier environment in mind. The result is a physical store that looks appealing while incorporating elements of sustainability.

What to See and Do Here

Find toys, table ware, jewelry, backpacks and more made of recycled materials; solar and crank-powered electronics that reduce reliance on batteries and electricity; and, a large selection of health and beauty products that are free of harmful chemicals and/or contain no animal ingredients. The Ecobar is North America's largest cleaning-product re-fill station.


Founder Steve Kaminski and President Bill Stewart are friends and entrepreneurs who share the dream of making it easy to find sustainable products, and ultimately, having these products be the standard rather than the exception. The first terra20 store opened in Ottawa in September 2012.

Follow the tour on

We are on Gemagram! Visit on your Desktop or Smartphone to access an interactive map, get directions to the tour sites and much more!



Thank you to numerous staff of the City of Ottawa, the National Capital Commission and OC Transpo for their advice. Thank you also to site managers and community associations working near the sites.

Photo Credits

  • James Birtch: Richelieu Park; Corktown Bridge; Vanier Building, Playground for Children of All Abilities; Mooney’s Bay Park; Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence.
  • Katie Breen: Children’s Garden.
  • Laura Hagerman: Cover.
  • Christine Hanrahan: Fletcher Wildlife Garden
  • David McClelland: Major’s Hill Park.
  • Pamela Tourigny: terra20.


We invite other cities in Canada and around the world to develop their own self-guided Sustainability Tours and to improve on Ottawa’s!

Project Origin

The Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City Council ( began consultations on the Ottawa Sustainability Tour in January 2012. Since then over four dozen volunteers have worked on the development of this demonstration project. Their work is part of the “gift economy”, in which people give freely for the good of others.

Websites for Downloading Tourbook and Questionnaire

Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City Initiative ( Tucker House ( The Otesha Project ( Capital VéloFest ( Envirocentre ( Canadian Organic Growers (

* Caution: The contributors to this tour guide have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of information contained in it, but cannot accept liability for any loss, injury, or inconvenience sustained by any reader or user as a result of information or advice contained in it. "Stay Calm, Be Brave, Wait for the Signs" (from Tom King’s Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour).

List of contributors and tasks

Task legend

  • Project administration
  • Research & writing
  • Translation
  • Editing
  • Launch preparation
  • Funding
  • Newsletter
  • Volunteer recruitment
  • Design
  • Project planning
  • Cycling route
  • Media
  • Web
  • Maps
  • City of Ottawa representative

(Steering Committee Members in red)

Mark Aaftink 8  • Elly Adeland 10  • Rebecca Aird 4, 15  • Eslam Al-Hogaraty 10  • Rob Alvo 2, 4, 9  • Renee Armstrong 9  • Paulo Arruda 13  • Janik Aubin-Robert 5  • Leanne Bing 7, 11, 12  • Jim Birtch (Project Coordinator) 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12  • Tom Birtch 9  • Katie Breen 12  • Heather Buist 8, 12  • Riley Cain 11  • Alex Carr 8, 12  • Joana Chelo 3, 5  • Ted Cooke 10  • Jennifer Cossette 2, 4  • Joffre Coté 10  • Janet Edwards 2  • Laurin Fulton 8, 13  • Sandy Garland 4  • Christine Hanrahan 4  • Suzanne Harding 2  • Mary Hegan 6  • Bob Hillary 8  • David Hobden 4  • Elaine Isabelle 10  • Abe Karar 13  • Paul Koch 6  • Christine Lee 1, 4  • Louise Lefebvre 4, 12  • Dick Louch 11  • Glenn MacDonald 2  • Andrea MacGowan 9  • Quinn MacGowan 9  • David McClelland 2, 4, 14  • Estefania Mahecha  • Genèvieve Mercier 10  • John Morrell  • Ken Murray 2  • Erin O'Manique 2  • Sarah Partridge 11  • Elizabeth Payne 9  • Jon Rausseo 5  • Barbara Riley 4  • Matt Schaaf 10  • Kayla Siefried 11  • Henry Steger 4  • Natalie St-Pierre 12  • Nicolas St-Pierre 12  • Jamie Stuckless 5  • Kara Stonehouse 6,10  • Pamela Tourigny 12  • Judi Varga-Toth 5  • Marielle Verret 3, 7  • Tomas Whillans


The Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City (OBEC) Council, in partnership with Tucker House and The Otesha Project, has planned a tour of urban and rural sites that illustrate ten themes of sustainability. The tour will have routes and stopping points for cars, bicycles and private buses. A May 2012 discussion at the Ottawa 3i Summit on Sustainability (innovate, interact, initiate) brought in many ideas for tour sites. More suggestions are welcomed. A tour guidebook in paper and web formats will explain how each site addresses a particular aspect of sustainability. This tour will be educational and fun. It is planned to continue as a feature of Ottawa's tourism offering after its launch in the fall of 2013. Special events on launch day will be provided by local community organizations, businesses and schools. There will also be volunteer guides on the bus and bicycle components of the tour. If you or your organization are interested in providing ideas or support for the tour, or you would like more information, please contact us.