Saturday, 12 December 2009

My Green Driveway -- by Franke James

(pronounced Frank-ee) is a Toronto artist who got there via the Maritimes (Mt Allison) and BC (U of Victoria) She has created Fat Cat Canada cartoons, an illustrated book Bothered by My Green Conscience: How an SUV-driving, imported-strawberry-eating urban dweller can go green (2009) , and a thought-provoking video A Green Winter (2007). says, “In a non-preachy and humorous fashion, Franke’s book explains how she made big decisions that were suitable to her lifestyle and in turn significantly reduced her personal contribution to environmental waste and damage. Franke’s advice: “Do the hardest thing first.” The following is an excerpt from her family blog The James Gang.
In the spring of 2007, Franke was told by North York officials that she could only build a driveway out of concrete, asphalt or interlock. She was shocked and pointed out, “But none of those are good for the environment! How can you ask people to do that? The city's website says it wants Toronto to be a green city….” But the officials weren’t budging.
The next day she put her communications skills to work and called up Paul Moloney at the Toronto Star. He responded by writing an article Eco-friendly driveway is rejected by the city. Then Melissa Grelo from City TV read the article, and came over to interview Franke and find out what was really going on. Melissa understood what a contradiction it was and called up the Mayor’s office. She promised, “You’ll be hearing from the Mayor’s office, they said they’ll be looking into it.”
But a couple of days passed and there was no phone call. Action was called for! Armed with the Toronto Star article, the City TV news item, and a Treehugger article, she phoned the Mayor’s office. She politely requested an explanation as to why she was being told by North York officials that she could not install an eco-friendly driveway, when everyone knows that Toronto is aiming to be the greenest city in North America…. For the full scoop and to see the final ‘reveal’ read Franke’s step-by-step articles in her My Green Conscience blog.
building the driveway
Also check out Catherine Porter’s article Driveway Dispute has Green Ending. Below is a short excerpt from it.
Franke seeding the driveway: Lucas Oleniuk, Toronto Star
While other people shovel or sweep their driveways, Franke James spent yesterday seeding hers. It marks the first lawn driveway in North York -- a model she hopes her neighbours will follow.
"If more people in our neighbourhood did this, it would be a terrific thing for the environment,” said James, who runs an advertising and design business with her husband, Bill. Watching as he laid straw on top of the grass seed to guard it from birds, she added: “This was a small thing we could do to help the environment.”
The truth is, there was nothing small about it. The couple’s project has been gargantuan, starting with a battle at city hall, where arcane regulations forbid homeowners in North York from resurfacing driveways with anything other than brick, asphalt or pavement, despite the city’s greater green agenda.
"This is a perfectly functional driveway," James said. "Fire trucks can park on it." Not that she will test it anytime soon. The couple sold their family car – a Toyota SUV – for more than the $10,500 the project has cost them.
See also her environmental art at


FrankeJames said...


Just sorting through my email post-Copenhagen and saw your email!

Thank you for this post about my art and green driveway.

Much appreciated!


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