Seed Saving at the University of Ottawa

Good things come in small packages. This saying has proven true many times, but was especially true at a seed saving workshop in late August.

Greta, from Greta's Organic Seeds taught a group of University of Ottawa Students and SYC staff  how to save seeds!

Greta, from Greta’s Organic Seeds taught a group of University of Ottawa Students and SYC staff how to save seeds!

The University of Ottawa Student Learning Garden and Sustainability Office welcomed Greta from Greta’s Organic Seeds to share her knowledge of saving seeds.

Greta shared knowledge and passed on skills of how to preserve the basis of most of human foods – seeds. 9 out of every 10 bite comes from a seed, and saving seeds promotes biodiversity and resilience in our food system. Moreover, saving a diversity of seeds can lead to some of the most colourful and flavourful plants, fruits and vegetables known!

Saving Tomato Seeds is easy and fun!  1. Find your favourite tomato  2. Squeeze out the juice and seeds into a glass jar  3. Add a bit of water and let the jar sit for 5 days 4. Pour out the juice and save the remaining seeds (at the bottom of the jar) 5. Place seeds on a plate to dry 6. Put seeds in a safe, dry place and plant them next season!

Saving Tomato Seeds is easy and fun!
1. Find your favourite tomato
2. Squeeze out the juice and seeds into a jar
3. Add a bit of water and let sit for 5 days
4. Pour out the juice and save the remaining seeds (at the bottom of the jar)
5. Place seeds on a plate to dry
6. Put seeds in a safe, dry place and plant them next season!

For more information, there are incredible organizations, networks and resources available to support seed savers across Canada. Check them out here:  The Seed Ambassadors Project, Seeds of Diversity, USC Canada

From Farm to Hydro-Cooler to Box to Plate

Fresh CarrotsBy Sarah Archibald – SYC’s Campus Food Systems Project Coordinator

When we speak of the food system, we often use the sayings “farm to plate” or “field to fork”. Most of the time, we miss out on some key parts of the food systems when we forget to use terms like “modified atmosphere to box” or “ground to hydro-cooling station”.

Excuse me, modified hydro-what?

Let’s start at the beginning… Most of our food begins its life in the form of a seed or spore, it grows in the ground, or in trees and is often harvested by farmers and farm workers. This food can be directly sold on site or at farmers markets. However, most of the food we eat goes through a few more steps before reaching our plates.

Last week, as SYC’s Campus Food Systems Project Coordinator, I joined Toronto’s largest distributor of fruits and vegetables, Bamford’s Produce, on a tour of some of the lesser known aspects of the food system — the packing, cooling, and storing of food.

Though it was tough to wake up at 5:30 am, I realized that this was probably a sleep-in for most farmers and distributors! We met our Bamford’s Produce hosts at York University and were joined by York’s Nutrition Team, Farmers Market Coordinator, ARAMARKs VP Health and Wellness, the Food Service Manager, Communications Manager, two passionate chefs, and a staff member. As we drove to the first site, we had great conversations about our food knowledge and values including why we care about food and local food systems.  Our different perspectives: ecological, health, nutrition, cooking, and economics demonstrated how incredibly diverse food is!

Carrots are washed, cooled and sorted depending on size and packed for supermarkets and kitchens.

Carrots are washed, cooled and sorted depending on size and packed for supermarkets and kitchens.

We arrived at Bradford Produce to the smell of fresh carrots, soil, and wafts of fresh onions. Bradford Produce is a farmer-owned packing and storage facility. Having a cooperatively owned packing and storage facility allows farmers to share machines and collectively gain health and safety certifications that facilitate their food to be sold to grocery stores, Universities, and other institutions.  There are over 100 local farms that send their soil-covered carrots to be washed, sized, and packaged at Bradford’s facility. The cool temperatures and methods used at this facility, including hydro-cooling (essentially washing right away with cool water), will extend the shelf life of the carrots and keep them fresh until at least April 2014.

Sarah Archibald and Chef Abdel are excited to cook up local carrots through the school year!

Sarah Archibald and Chef Abdel are excited to cook up local carrots through the school year!

For our next stop we made our way just south of Georgian Bay – where some of the best apples in Canada are grown! This area, known as the Beaver Valley, has a microclimate that is perfect for apple production: a cool spring which delays apple blossom formation and a warmer fall which helps in maximum growth of apples. Here is where Bay Growers, a packing facility, processes and stores thousands of apples throughout the fall.  Thousands of apples are stored in rooms with only 2% oxygen so that they stay fresh so that we can enjoy local apples throughout the year.

The tour was an amazing opportunity to see the innovations in the food systems and options for farmers to join together to have their products ready for local supermarkets and institutions. However, there is still a long way to go for these systems to be deemed “sustainable”.  It was clear that consumer perception drives apple production, as apples with even small blemishes are not deemed good enough for normal consumption and are turned into juice. Moreover, the processors waxed every apple as they said “this is what consumers want”. The Campus Food Systems Project aims to educate consumers, especially students, about the food system so that we can understand why blemishes occur and which may one day result in our apples not being waxed and being produced with many fewer pesticides. Though going to your farmers market is an amazing option for asking how your food was produced, it isn’t an option for everyone. Distributors play an essential role in bringing food from field to fork and we’re excited that Bamford Produce and their partners focus on supporting local farmers, providing educational opportunities. They were so excited about SYC’s initiatives and hope that our generation of consumers can help drive sustainable food systems.

New Interns at SYC!

Hello everyone! We are Nejc and Hrvoje, two new interns at SYC, staying here until the end of November. We came to Canada as part of the “Thinking Canada” study tour and internship programme funded by the EU. The aim of the tour was to provide students with an understanding of EU-Canada relations and the complex diversity of Canada itself. We visited six cities – Ottawa, Québec, Montréal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria – where we met with various private and public institutions, government bodies, think tanks and NGOs. Some of the topics covered include Canada’s cultural diversity (the English/French relationship, First Nations and multiculturalism), political issues (federalism, regionalism, and the role of government), the environment (including old-growth forests and Arctic issues), urban issues and economic issues (business, finance, trade). We are both very lucky and excited to be working with the team!

A little about our backgrounds:

NejcI am Nejc (pronounced Nates) from Slovenia, currently finishing my Master’s degree in English Language and Literature at the University of Ljubljana, where I focused on Canadian and American studies, as well as cultural theory during my studies abroad. Coming from a rural background and a family of hikers (which is very Slovenian) and a few vegetarians (which is not), I have always had an appreciation for the environment. That interest grew as I started taking sustainability and climate courses through Coursera’s online platform, and I am now increasingly drawn to the challenges of sustainable transport and the infrastructure required. Combining the environmental with my geekier side, I will be working on building the Sustainable Campuses database, updating the SYC website, and helping with various other tasks.

HrvojeI’m Hrvoje (pronounced: her-vo-yeh) and I come from Croatia where I study English Language and Literature, and Sociology at the University of Zagreb. I’m really interested in society in general, but more specifically in the solutions to problems we (still) face- inequality, poverty, environmental issues, all sorts of discrimination, politically disengaged youth etc.  I am particularly interested in LGBT rights, racial discrimination, and multicultural issues, that’s why I’m looking forward to working on the anti-oppression policy of SYC. Hopefully I’ll be able to develop it more by connecting all the mentioned topics through the concept of environmental justice (I’ve always preferred the bigger picture). I firmly believe that sustainability and equity are inseparable, and that treating them as unrelated entities is incomplete and counterproductive. If you have any ideas, suggestions or simply feel passionate about anti-oppression issues, please contact me at:

Local Food: Canadian Schools, Campuses and Health Care Facilities Speak Up

F2C Photo 40-1

According to new report commissioned by Farm to Cafeteria Canada, activity to bring healthy, local and sustainable foods into public agencies is gearing up in almost every province and territory in Canada – and there is a hunger for more.

The Report- Local Foods- Canadian schools, campuses, and health care facilities speak up (2013) is the first pan-Canadian survey of its kind. In all, 239 food and nutrition specialists working within schools, campuses, and healthcare facilities answered questions about efforts to bring local food into their institutions. The responses show that a significant number of public agencies in Canada are working along multiple fronts to put more local foods on patient and student plates

“Students ask – Is it local? Is it fresh? They have a much higher expectation of their dining experience. They want fresh, healthy, local and seasonal food – food that keeps them alert, active and focused” says Steve Golob, Chef at the University of British Columbia’s Vanier Place Dining Hall and member of Farm to Cafeteria Canada’s Advisory Committee.

SYC is helping to build awareness, education and action across Canadian Campuses through its work with Meal Exchange and the Campus Food Systems Project. Find out more by visiting our website or contacting

Welcome SYC’s New Campus Food Systems Coordinator!

Since fall 2011, Dana Lahey has been co-coordinating the Campus Food Systems Project with Caitlin Colson from Meal Exchange. This project works with 9 campuses across Canada to help students improve the multi-stakeholder organizing, procurement practices, and applied student research for the food systems on their campuses. Dana has new and exciting opportunities ahead of him and will be working with SYC one day per week from Austin, Texas.

To continue on with Dana’s great work from Ottawa, we’re pleased to announce that Sarah Archibald has joined the SYC team!

Sarah is no stranger to food systems as she has farmed in 5 countries, spent four years studying Global Food Systems and Agro-Ecological Agriculture and has volunteered and worked with a variety of food security and food sovereignty-focused organizations.  Sarah also has campus food systems experience as she was a volunteer, researcher and then coordinator with the McGill Food Systems Project, which is how she met Dana four years ago!

Sarah’s excited to work and share with the inspiring Campus Food Strategy Groups, the SYC and Meal Exchange teams as well as many other individuals, groups and organization.

Sarah’s always open to ideas, conversations and new recipes! Feel free to contact her at

Better late than never…

Hi everyone,

We haven’t been doing the greatest job lately of updating our blog… And I think it’s high time to fill you in as to why! We’ve been going through some changes lately, mostly around staffing. If you follow us on Facebook or on Twitter you’ll know about one of them already. Tracey Guptill, National Sustainable Campuses Coordinator, moved on to new pastures (quite literally – she moved to an organic dairy farm before embarking on travels to India). In her place, we now have Sarah English, who is taking on the Coordinator duties while performing an evaluation of the project. Sarah is a former Sustainability Coordinator at Wilfrid Laurier University, and she’s bringing a great perspective to the project! We’re glad to have her on board.

Another change we have had is the departure of our National Director, Mark Hanlon. Mark has moved back to the beautiful isle of Newfoundland, and will be keeping up with his passion for the environment on a more local level. Mark contributed a great deal to SYC over his tenure as ND, and we are excited about what he’ll be up to on the Rock! In his absence, I will be taking on the role of Interim National Director. I’m looking forward to working will all of you in my new role, and continuing to work with high school students and teachers through the Sustainable High Schools Project. If you have any ideas for projects or events, or if you’re interested in volunteering with SYC, feel free to contact me at director[at]

Sustainably yours,
Gabriela Rappell
Interim National Director
Sierra Youth Coalition

Imagine That: The Power of Experimenting & The 2012 Western Sustainable Campuses Conference

Sustainability is in many ways at its deepest core an idea: the possibility of a civilization that lives in harmony with the world, that flourishes, restores, and sustains life. Learning how to experiment, to imagine some new idea, some possibility, and then testing out your idea, bringing it into being, is then essential to innovating towards this imagined state.

The 2012 Western Canada Sustainable Campuses Conference proposes to do just that: to bring together inspired and inspiring students, faculty, administrators, staff and community members at Simon Fraser University in beautiful Burnaby, BC for four days of exploration, questioning, connecting and imagining just what a sustainable campus really looks and feels like, and the projects and ideas that are transforming Canadian campuses and challenging Canadian society. Presentations and panel discussions will compliment facilitated dialogue and skill building sessions and inspiring keynotes. Delicious food and open space technology will fuel us and help us connect and share our thoughts, hopes and dreams. If you’ve got an amazing project you’re excited to share, sign up for the Thursday night Pecha Kucha session, or a speaker you’d like to hear, contact the conference team at

Best of all, registration is only $60 and SYC can help you get there in comfort on VIA Rail, our trusted transportation partner. Visit the conference website for full details and to register, and we’ll see you in Vancouver next month!

The conference is presented in partnership with Sustainable SFU and Go Beyond.

Calling all campus-based public water advocates and anti-bottled water activists!


The Coalition for Bottled Water Free Communities is holding a set of conference calls in late October to connect campus water advocates across the country to share information, update each other on initiatives, share resources and discuss strategy. If you are a water advocate or know someone who is, please pass the information along and join us on the call – details below.

These calls will kick off organizing towards this year’s Bottled Water Free Day on March  15, 2012, as well as helping build an movement that backs the tap each and every day.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Cameron Stiff, National Campaigns Coordinator for the Sierra Youth Coalition, at

Cheers to the tap!

English Call (note there is a separate French call earlier in the day)
Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011
Time: 1pm Newfoundland – 1:30pm Atlantic – 2:30pm Eastern – 3:30pm Central – 4:30 Mountain – 5:30 Pacific.
Call in #: 

Participation Code: 1647450

The Coalition for Bottled Water Free Communities is a Partnership between The Polaris Institute, The Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Sierra Youth Coalition and the Canadian Federation of Students with the intertwining goals of  ending the sale of bottled water and protecting the public water system.

Nous invitons tous les militants pour une eau publique de qualité qui travaillent à éliminer l’eau embouteillée sur les campuses à assister à un appel conférence! 

La coalition pour des collectivités libres d’eau embouteillée va tenir un  appel conférence en Octobre qui permettra à tous les militants actifs des différents campus et collèges de se mettre en contact, partager des informations et discuter d’idées de campagnes pour l’année en cours! Si vous êtes actifs sur vos campus ou si vous connaissez quelqu’un, s’il-vous-plaît transférez l’information et joignez vous à l’appel! Les détails se trouvent ci-bas.

Ces appels lanceront les efforts d’organisation en vue de la prochaine Journée sans eau embouteillée du 15 mars 2012, et aideront à construire un mouvement qui soutient le robinet à tous les jours.

Pour plus d’information ou pour confirmer votre présence, s’il-vous-plaît contactez Cameron Stiff, le coordinateur des campagnes de la Coalition Jeunesse Sierra, au

À bientôt!

Appel Francais (notez il y a un appel en anglais plu tard dans la journée)

Date: Jeudi, 27 octobre 2011
Heure: Terreneuve 11h30  —  atlantique 12h —  l’est 13h —  centrale 14h — montagne 15h — l’ouest 16h

Numéro: 1-866-906-9888
Code de participation: 1647450

La Coalition pour des collectivités libres d’eau embouteillée est un partenariat entre l’Institut Polaris, le Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique, la Coalition jeunesse Sierra et la Fédération canadienne des étudiantes et étudiants, ayant des objectifs inter-reliés de mettre fin à la vente d’eau embouteillée et la protection des systèmes publiques d’eau.

National Food Summit – Last Day to Register!

There’s a food revolution happening on university campuses, and we want you to be part of it.

SYC is partnering with Meal Exchange, a national student food security organization, to present Esurio 2011: A National Student Food Summit, this August 5th to 7th in Toronto.

$100 tuition reduction for all delegates! The Summit will be held at the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. With the theme of the Summit being, “Food Connects Us All”. Students concerned about issues related to food, poverty, health and the environment are invited to be one of five representatives from their campus to share their expertise and perspective in the creation of a Campus Food Charter.

Students from across Canada will gather at the University of Toronto to share their struggles, solutions, and inspiration and together craft a Campus Food Charter to guide our work in creating a national student movement for a sustainable, equitable and just food system. During the summit we will learn from leaders in the Canadian sustainable food movement, tour some of Toronto’s most innovative food projects, and generally have a great time.

The registration deadline is July 29th and the summit starts on Friday August 5th at 9am. Full Registration details are available here.

If you can’t make it but want to share what you’ve got going on and get involved with the upcoming food campaign, please drop us a line to and tell us what’s up!

Yours for sustainability,

The Sustainable Campuses Team!

Change the World. Save the Planet. Have fun!

This is my personal mantra and what’s top of mind as I start my new job with SYC. I’m super excited to be working with this amazingorganization and group of people on what is to me the most important thing to do right now: reverse the destruction of our world and bring justice to those being oppressed by the ol’ powers-that-be. That Carl Sagan quote comes to mind: “Nothing else is going

 to matter if you can’t breathe the air or drink the water. Don’t just sit this one out. Do something!” That’s right – it’s gotta be a priority for us, now – all Canadians, and everyone around the world – changing key practices to reduce our carbon emissions, our air and water pollution, unsustainable agriculture, a broken justice system, a giant hole where our democracy should be, kids feeling left out and pissed off, and on and on. Sounds like lots of different problems, but for me, they’re all interrelated, and that’s what I love about the concept of sustainability: it covers everything.

Some of the ideas I’ve got in my head now:

– A national engine retrofit program, to get hybrid engines into cars and drastically reduce our transportation-related carbon emissions and improve city air quality;
– A national food and farmer campaign, to get people growing and knowing what a sustainable food system is all about;
– Some awesome skill building and sharing workshops and activities;
– Getting people thinking and talking about ecological economics and responsible investments; and
– Making awesome media and revamping the SYC website to be beautiful, useful and inspiring.

If you’ve got campaign or conference ideas, please drop me a line at and let me know what you are thinking. I can’t wait to start working with the awesome SYC network to revolutionize our sleepy little country!

Peas and love-