November 1, 2016
Conference promotes green infrastructure
Keynote panel left to right, Tony DiGiovanni; Paul Ronan, OPA; Christine Zimmer, Credit Valley Conservation and Janet McKay, LEAF and Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition.
The Grey to Green Conference took place at Toronto’s Ryerson University in early June, highlighting the importance of green infrastructure to society.

The conference, presented by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, offered nearly 20 presentations, training opportunities, a mini trade show and tours.

A featured panel discussion examined Ontario’s green infrastructure deficit, and how to address it. Panel members included LO’s executive director Tony DiGiovanni, Janet McKay of the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition, Paul Ronan of the Ontario Parks Association and Christine Zimmer of Credit Valley Conservation.

Panelists cited a challenge in promoting green infrastructure, a phenomenon called “plant blindness” — that the public sees plants as backgrounds, not living solutions to problems. Continued emphasis on the real benefits provided by living plants, including water retention, oxygen production, soil conservation, cooling effects and more, is vital, they agreed.

Efforts to measure and benchmark green infrastructure benefits are also important; economic activity, social benefits and climate remediation effects are all key metrics. Green infrastructure saves money for municipalities and society over time, a story that needs better telling, according to Paul Ronan.

Tony DiGiovanni explained his thoughts on the discussions: “The 21st Century belongs to landscape professionals and living green infrastructure — to those in the business of enhancing lives. Because our story is so good, because it brings so many benefits, it is a hard story to focus; we need communications professionals.”

Landscape Ontario was a sponsor of the conference.