Paradise Unpaved

by Franke James

illustration by franke james of green driveway and garden

illustration by franke james of neighbor in yellow shirt illustration by franke james of news story photos and illustrations by franke james of weights, lightbulb, footprint, suv photo and illustration by franke james of flowers and suv  illustration by franke james of city official  Alice in wonderland illustration by franke james; inspired by John Tenniel  record of media coverage by franke james permit process by franke james bobcat and dirt photos by franke james workers photo by franke and bill james workers photo by franke and bill james before photo by franke james of permaturf green driveway planting photo by franke james planting photos, top by lucas oleniuk licensed from the toronto star, bottom by bill james after photo by franke james of permaturf green driveway garden photo by franke james  garden photo by franke james illustration by franke james illustration by franke james calculation of runoff on interlock versus green driveway by franke james


Paradise Unpaved copyright 2008, Franke James, MFA

Photographs, illustrations and writing by Franke James, MFA except where noted.

Alice in Wonderland drawing by Franke James, was inspired by illustrator John Tenniel’s 1865 drawing, “She was now more than nine feet high!”

Franke James with shovel photo by Michael Stuparyk, Toronto Star, under license from Torstar

Seeding Photo of Franke James by Lucas Oleniuk, Toronto Star, under license from Torstar

Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell, excerpt of lyrics.

Many thanks to Joan Chadde, author of Understanding the Ecological Impacts of Changing Land Uses published in the Spring 2008 issue of Green Teacher, and her colleague Dr. Alex Mayer, a hydrologist in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering & Sciences at Michigan Technological University, for their kind assistance with the stormwater calculations.

Articles and Media:
The Green Driveway Articles detail the building of our green driveway step-by-step, including the materials used.
Eco-friendly driveway is rejected by the city Paul Moloney, Toronto Star,
May 5, 2007 Interview by Melissa Grelo, CITY TV, May 6, 2007
Don’t Rip Up Your Driveway in North York, Lloyd Alter,, May 8, 2007 Franke James wants a green driveway, city says no.
Martin Edic, Burnertrouble May, 2007 Resources: Stormwater Runoff: Understanding the Ecological Impacts of Changing Land Uses by Joan Chadde, Michigan Technological University, Green Teacher Magazine Issue Spring 2008
Toronto Homeowner’s Guide to Rainfall: Riversides 2008 report: Urban Runoff Excellent backgrounder on stormwater runoff and the economic cost of it to the city. Riversides 2008 Toronto Workshops5 Things You Can Do Reports referenced by Franke James to City Official
City of Toronto 2005:
Transportation Report on Wet Weather Flow City of Toronto 2005: Impacts of Front Yard Parking on Wet Weather Flow

305 Responses: 157 Comments and 148 Tweets

  • Mother Earth says:

    I love seeing the entire story all in one place and to see how far it has come – your paradise (sans pavement) is just beautiful! What an example you are!!

  • nadine sellers says:

    the power of green transcends the stagnant city planners gray laws.
    a simple plan makes a lovely statement for progressive action.
    merci les amis de Toronto. what a testament of natural conscience.

  • Lelo in Nopo says:


    I adore this blog…

    …and you should too. Visit Franke James.

    “They paved paradise, and put in a parking lot.”

    Patriotism? This is patriotism, to me.

  • Julie says:

    This visual essay is delightful and learningful, Franke. Thanks for simplifying it so lyrically! (Hmm, what’s the visual equivalent of lyrical?)

    As someone who has been collecting cast-off bathtubs in order to have someplace to grow things (we live on rock and shale), I’m really happy for you, Franke, that you’ve beem able to reclaim this bit of land and turn it into an urban oasis!!

    I’m also envying the fact that you don’t have to deerproof your garden. One lapse in closing the deer gates last weekend and the marauders finished off my peas, cabbage and several herbs — even my zucchini plants! Luckily, they don’t like onions….

    Anyone who thinks we’re going to be able to make a quick transition “back to the land” when the climate change/fossil fuel you-know-what hits the fan hasn’t created a “living driveway” or had to fend off raids on their food sources.

    Have a lovely summer enjoying your driveway,

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks! I’m fascinated by your bathtub and deer comment! We are so fortunate. Here we had a beautiful south facing piece of land and it was covered up for years by interlock! But I do worry a bit about the water it will need in the future – some plants, and the eco-lawn grass, are drought tolerant but still trees and plants do need water. We may have to adapt to more deserty plants…


  • greig clark says:


    Another wonderful story, wonderfully told.
    I love the reference to the Joni MItchell song I have always loved that one.. you should see if she wants to come and dedicate your “unpaved paradise” on its next anniversary??

    all the best

    greig and carolyn clark

  • Thanks Franke! A visual report such as yours makes for a more powerful statement than numbers alone.

    Keep up the wonderful work!

  • Stephanie in Ottawa says:

    WOW! Congrats on getting approval for your green driveway. What an awesome and ambitious project. I love the finished design. It is both green and inspiring. I’m going to look for my little bit of Paradise to reclaim.

  • Stan Kozak says:

    Hi Franke,

    Well that is a wonderful story and I was looking forward to seeing how you made out after sharing the start of this last year.

    Now what happens if you occasionally drive on that grassed area with the grid system under it? Would the grass hold up?



  • Franke James says:

    Hi Stan,

    Thanks for your comment! Yes the grass does hold up. The grass roots are protected by the honeycomb cell structure. The Permaturf is totally drivable and can support all vehicles. It has a maximum load capacity of 100 tons per square yard. See more details in my article:
    Green Driveway: Playing with Perception and Reality



  • Dagny says:

    If at first someone tells you no, try try again! What a beautiful garden. Looks so peaceful.


  • I was so happy to see your amazing story- sometimes rules and bureaucracy stand in the way of good common sense especially these days when we are all (should be) more eco-conscious, but the old rules still apply.
    We just bought an old Japanese home and renovated it and am enjoying building up the garden for keeps this time. The house we were renting before and renovated a 4 car carpark into a beautiful garden full of trees and parking for our bicycles was completely decimated when we moved out- it broke my heart! The neighbors told me when they asked why they were ripping out all the beautiful plants and trees we had built up over the 10 years we lived there said that the landlord didn’t want the obligation of keeping it up for any new tenants. Now it is ugly and hot- dirt and gravel, but the soil is still good so if they rent it out (might be harder now that it is so ugly) I might mention that to any new tenants to encourage them to get started- got to look on the bright side and do what you can do when you can do it!
    Well done writing this all up- you are inspirations to us all!

  • Joy Walsh says:


    Paradise UnpavedA Couple’s Battle to change their drive into a garden

    This is a great article with pictures and illustrations about a couple’s battle with Canadian authorities in their town to get rid of their driveway and replace it with trees and a garden.

    Follow their pictures and journey here on Paradise Unpaved – Franke James

    I can relate as the trees and garden we planted and created out of a carpark over a 10 year period was completely destroyed when we moved out a few months ago. Thank god I decided to move some of the trees and plants that I loved. But I still left some very beautiful plants that were too hard to transfer- texas yellow rose shrubs and healthy trees on the perimeter of the garden- including a lemon tree that had just started to bear fruit this year (they just cut it down)… continued

  • Franke James says:

    Thank you Joy for posting about my Paradise Unpaved visual essay — and sharing your personal story of paradise reclamation from an old carpark! How inspiring! It’s too bad that your old landlord did not share your vision, but so fortunate that in your new garden you are the owners and have more control.

    Anyone curious about the effects of deforestation should check out Joy’s post about Myanmar: “Saving Mangroves May Help Lessen Power of Natural Disasters


  • David Ticoll says:

    Hi Franke,

    Paradise Unpaved is a beautiful account of an inspiring initiative. I heard about this from an Ontario government economic development officer based in the U.S. I couldn’t agree more with what he said about it, which is as follows:

    The story is beautiful.

    It is delivered beautifully. And the results are beautiful.

    The use of the technology is creative.

    It reminds me of what is good about the Internet. And of what is good about Toronto. And of course, what is good about people.

    It adds to the reasons I enjoy representing Ontario in the US.

    It tells us all that we can all take steps to help preserve this planet for our offspring and beyond.

    It shows that you can “fight city hall”.

    It proves that bureaucrats can “get it”.

    And it demonstrates the wonders of creativity.

    All the best,


  • Marty says:

    You weren’t kidding about doing the hard things first! Change a lightbulb, save some power. Change some pavers, and create a new mini ecosystem.

    Beautifully told.

  • Mary Stevenson says:

    Another inspiring essay!! I recently read about guerilla gardening, a wonderful concept for revitalizing green space without the sanction of municipal governments. You have beautifully illustrated that it is possible to work within the system to create an eden on a busy city street. Congrats!

  • Roz says:

    I’m lucky enough to be a neighbour who can see all those plants filling out. The green growth is amazing. I remember the interlock – a desert. Now, for water, when are the rain barrels going in?

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for dropping by! I was considering rain barrels — but I think our ‘french drain system’ on the west side of the house takes care of both rainwater and overflow. We built a horizontal rubber-lined trench of gravel which two pipes lie on top of. There are three parts to our system: 1. the downspouts, 2. the pipe from the 50 gallon sump pump, 3. the gravel channel (for overflow from a commercial building next door to go into).

    The rain and overflow water is channeled through the pipe and gravel into our backyard, where it discharges into the soil.

    We created this water system (in consultation with an engineer and contractor) due to the large amount of runoff we were receiving from a neighboring building. They eventually fixed their eavestrough, but in a heavy rainstorm our sump pump works hard and a lot of rainwater is discharged into our backyard.


  • Michael Brennan says:


    So you think YOU’RE green?

    You may be sorting for recycling, saving water, picking up trash in your neighborhood, and other ‘green’ activities, but have you given up your car? Covered your driveway with grass and plants? Read this fantastic visual story about Bill and Franke James (Bill helps us with the club website and both have been at some club socials) and their saga with going really green.

    Paradise Unpaved

    Or, you can go directly to Franke’s site to see her other posts

  • Twittered:

    Blown away by @frankejames’ driveway post — — Inspiration + Instruction = *Totally* Empowering!

  • Daharja says:

    This made me feel WONDERFUL.

    There really is hope for us, isn’t there?!

  • […] Franke refers to her work as ‘conceptual art’ that’s designed to express her personal concerns about the environment and global warming. The starting point for her pieces is usually a personal environmental action, such as when she decided to give up her SUV and convert her driveway into a garden. […]

  • Peter says:

    Great idea, and wonderfully told. Thought you might be inspired by these kindred spirits over in Portland:

  • Franke James says:


    Wow! is a great site! So impressive. For (also known as readers here’s the Depave mission statement:

    Depave Mission

    Depave has been created to inspire and promote the removal of unnecessary concrete and asphalt from urban areas. Depave is a project of City Repair, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, USA.


    Livable cities where people and wildlife coexist and thrive amidst clean air, clean water, and an abundance of plants, trees, and vegetation.


    The problem is concrete. Paved surfaces contribute to stormwater pollution, whereby rainwater carries toxic urban pollutants to local streams and rivers, greatly degrading water quality and riparian habitats. Pavement also disconnects us from our natural world.

    The solution is clear. The removal of impervious pavements will reduce stormwater pollution and increase the amount of land available for habitat restoration, urban farming, trees, native vegetation, and beauty, thus providing us with greater connections to the natural world.

    Objectives of Depave

    – Provide information, inspiration, and technical assistance to those wishing to remove concrete and asphalt
    – Educate the public about the benefits of pavement removal
    – Advocate to minimize and/or reduce the amount of impervious pavement in public construction and repair projects.
    – Promote responsible and creative reuse and recycling of concrete and asphalt
    – Provide an opportunity for greater connection with the natural world

    —end snip–

    If you are unpaving your Paradise please send me an email about your project: franke [at]



    The real poop on Franke James

    […] I was first introduced to Canadian visual artist Franke James’ work via a link from Max Gladwell, a site that explores social media and green living. Ms. James, who describes her visual essays as “a freewheeling mix of illustrations, photographs and hand-drawn text,” sits squarely at the intersection of these two spaces. […]

  • Blogged by July 21, 2008

    Lovely visual essay of how a residential driveway became a nice green area, even after the city objected.

  • Beerzie Boy says:

    Great story, well told. An inspiration. Thanks.

  • Joshua says:

    What a great story, it’s encouraging to know there are people with the determination to follow through when they reach hurdles like this. On a totally different scale, I had similar issues trying to get a neighbourhood parking pass, and I discovered that the “Toronto” civic centres couldn’t help me because they followed Etobicoke, North York, etc bylaws while city hall could issue the permit right away, under Toronto bylaws. So bizarre.

    Maybe there is a way to collect some rainwater, which you could use to water the front when need be… and keep some of the huge volume of water off the back yard. As an apartment dweller with a large rooftop patio, I’m stuck doing some container gardening, but have buckets to collect rainwater to avoid having to go down to the bathroom or kitchen to fill a watering can.

  • […] These Toronto residents replaced their conventional driveway with permeable pavement and put in a garden. See the story, with photos and illustrations, HERE. (Thanks Adam!)

    They even managed to calculate the volume of water that is absorbed into the landscape (as opposed to becoming pollutant-gathering runoff) thanks to the permeable driveway. […]

  • Lesley Harrington says:

    You’re an inspiration! Thanks for sharing.

  • […] James’ charming and inspiring visual essay is here. Found this via the faraway […]

  • April says:

    Awesome. So inspiring. It’s a beautiful improvement. Good for you!

  • […] Paradise Unpaved | Franke James […]

  • […] 22 July 2008 Paradise Unpaved “And since we didn’t have a car, we didn’t need a driveway. We dreamed of […]

  • Franke James says:

    Thank you to Beerzie Boy, Joshua, Trailer Park Girl, Nicole Stamp, April, Anand, and This is the Goo, for your help in spreading the word! I hope Paradise Unpaved inspires others to dig up some asphalt or concrete and find their own bit of paradise! It’s under there I’m sure…



  • Barb says:

    Hi – And when is David Suzuki planning on making a visit.? A piece on Daily Planet maybe?? Bravo!

  • yoshi hashimoto says:

    hi Franke,
    Just wanted to say congratulations. Small, simple steps- the very essence of “acting locally”, how embarrassing and shameful it is that this even has to be a news item! Good for you, keep it up….don’t stop now!

  • Derek says:

    I can’t wait to turn our driveway in to a vegetable garden. Right now we need it for storage of building materials, so a couple years to go. We plan on leaving one parking spot, and turning our unattached garage in to a studio/workshop, as well as adding a greenhouse. Our driveway is just gravel at the moment, so it shouldn’t be a problem converting it to a garden. Good job fighting the city on that one!

  • […] Franke James.? Read the full story here. […]


    Paradise Unpaved: Franke James’ Driveway One Year Later

    A year ago we recounted how artist Franke James gave up her SUV and then decided to rip up her driveway, except the law said that every house had to have a driveway paved with concrete, asphalt or brick. Even porous pavers like turfstone were illegal.

    Franke took her case (and a printout of TreeHugger) to City Hall and won; now she tells her story in her wonderful mix of humour, drawing and photography.

    One of her last panels shows a summary of benefits of tearing up the drive and says it all, but read the whole thing at ::Franke James

    See more Franke James on TreeHugger:
    Franke James on Global Warming in Canada
    Selling the SUV: Do the Hardest Things First
    Don’t Rip Up Your Driveway in North York

  • Mathieu says:

    Wow!!! with a green driveway my neighbors would have a reason to explain why they spray water on their driveway to clean it!!!

    Bravo! Je suis curieux de savoir si ma ville a un reglement semblable!

  • […] twitters from both Onehouse and Beyond Magazine, here’s a story about a family in Toronto who decides to green up their life. First, they sell their car, and then […]

  • […] then there’s Paradise Unpaved, in which a committed individual turns her paved driveway in Toronto into a green driveway and […]

  • Franke James says:

    Seth at Swiss watching

    Very lively writing! Fun to read your carbon offsets article and see how you wove flying, vegetarianism and Paradise Unpaved all together. Glad to see we’re one of the ‘awesome’ ways to reduce one’s footprint! We figured doing everything eco-perfectly is a bit tough — so we’re knocking off the biggies first (e.g selling the SUV, unpaving our Paradise…)



  • […] Science, Tech | Tags: driveway, grass, green, replace, trees | [from kottke of course] here is a cool, green, and quite nicely done story on how to change your driveway and your city’s views on going green. tbo11 is a blog […]

  • Franke James says:


    I have to laugh at your headline. We sometimes joke that we’ve built a little ‘parkette’, but it’s really just our front yard. Thankfully, our former 4-car interlock driveway is now history! (The green driveway part is on the right.)

    Thanks for spreading the word (and to everyone else who is blogging about it. Kottke is amazingly viral). Hope our experience inspires others to rip up some pavement. ~ Franke

  • heidi walling says:

    What an inspiring story! And creative way to share it. I found the article by chance when looking for ideas on making our blacktop driveway more eco-friendly! We have jobs requiring cars, so can’t go that far…but will head in a better direction. Thank you!

  • Renee says:

    Congrats on your giardino!!! What an inspiring story and what courage you both have!!!!
    It is wonderful that you documented each step of this fairytale so that others can follow in your footsteps.

    For sustainable trips to Sicily, Italy with garden walks, herb lectures and authentic meals visit my site:

    un caro saluto,

  • Blogged:

    “As a follow up to my imaginings of edible garden rooftops, check out Franke James’ visual essay on transforming a parking lot back into paradise.”

    Cheryl McNamara

  • […] This story about removing an asphalt driveway and building a garden is pretty cool. […]

  • Blogged by

    Local artist and eco-minded citizen Franke James decided to do the hard thing first and replace her interlocking brick front yard (parking lot) with plants and an eco driveway (paradise). What she didn’t expect was a North York demand for concrete, asphalt or interlocking driveways. But, with persistence, she made one of the city’s greenest front yards a reality….

  • […] nice visual storytelling by the woman who fought the system in Toronto and unpaved her driveway. Lovely results one year later. Thursday, July 24, 2008, 11:52pm. Comics, Politics. Permalink. […]

  • jeff says:

    Hi Franke
    Great to see you made it thru the gauntlet.

    We are looking into permaturf for our driveway to replace some awful interlock. We just sunk 3 holes 400 feet deep each into the driveway for a geothermal system, so replacing the surface is on the horizon.

    If you’re interested in just how UNgreen this mayor and his corporation really are, here’s my small tale.

    We planned a south facing addition that would be a passive solar collector in the winter. No problem. The city approves the plans except one small but very necessary item. There is an awning that extends 8 feet to cut out the summer sun so the space does not overheat requiring constant AC.

    The Building Code does NOT recognize any use of an awning or overhang on a house except to extend around 14 inches to 24 inches to support eaves. This meant going to Committee of Adjustment for approval as a minor variance.

    No exceptions!

    As both our stories demonstrate, there is a big disconnect between what the mayor claims and what he has done, or even about to do. As I write there has still not been any plan at updating the Code allowing for ‘green’ things such as these.

    Imagine, it’s technically still illegal to have a clothesline. Unbelievable.

    BTW, no permit was or is necessary to drill 400 feet! Go figure.

    Enjoy your drive.

  • Brook says:

    So, if it isn’t inappropriate to ask, how much did all of this cost? I’m curious to compare it to getting a driveway paved — Perhaps some people who are thinking of doing significant repair on their current driveway will go this route if the costs aren’t too far off.

  • Twittered:

    Paradise Unpaved – A pictorial about a battle of the garden vs. the city. Very well done and an interesting story.


  • Franke James says:

    Hi Brook,

    We built our green driveway out of PermaTurf. There are other products around, but to give you a rough idea of costs:

    MATERIAL: One skid of PermaTurf covers 360 square feet, and costs approximately $900. USD. If you order more than one skid, the price drops accordingly. (Visit to get a quote.)

    SHIPPING AND DUTIES: You also have to factor in shipping and if you’re out of the US (as we are), then duties too.

    INSTALLATION: We installed it ourselves, which saved us a lot of money and was not hard. We enjoy a good workout!

    Check out my step-by-step articles on how we built our green driveway.

    This is the one where we actually built it in a long weekend:

    Good luck!


  • Matthew says:

    Hi Franke,

    I have one question and it has to do with winter. With a paved driveway, it’s easy to clear with with a shovel, but I wonder what it will be like with the PermaTurf. I imagine that when you shovel the snow, it will tear up the grass. Any ideas on how it will work out?

    Once again, thanks for sharing your achievement.

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for your comment and question!

    You can shovel and also use a snowplow on it but you need to keep the ‘shoe’ up, not scraping the grass. It’s okay to shovel the grass because the roots are protected by the PermaTurf, and cannot be damaged. The manufacturer of PermaTurf is located in New Hampshire, which gets lots of snow. They tell me they have many customers who regularly shovel their green driveways (but we don’t have a car, so we enjoy leaving the fallen snow ‘pristine’, which I know is not for everyone… but it’s one of the many perks of us not having a car).

    See my post which shows summer and winter views:

    All Season Eco-friendly Driveway

    If anyone reading this is curious about how we built the driveway, see my step-by-step Green Driveway Articles:

    The later ones go into great detail.

    Hope that answers your question. The main environmental benefit is permeability. So whatever material you choose to build your driveway out of, make sure the rain can soak into the ground.


  • Claire says:

    Love it!!!!!!!!!!

    Great fun! The glue that held me from beginning to end was that you were telling a story…

    Funny, endearing, stubborn, ‘David overturns Goliath’

    Tons and tons of positive and doable examples of what each person can do
    To change their life
    That of the people around them
    And — in a delightful way — to have the faith that if you keep communications going with your city, your city will eventually “graciously” see the light!

  • [] Paradise Unpaved | Franke James: Lovely illustrated story about changing a hot, dry, bland, and environmentally unfriendly driveway into a lush paradise. []

    Your story made me want to buy a house just to turn the driveway into a garden.

    Conner McCall / sloped

  • Kicking a keen sense of green to the curb

    “Franke James likes doing the hard things first, which is why, when it came to reducing her carbon footprint, she skipped right past the programmable thermostat and coffee thermos business and headed straight for the real green challenge — selling her SUV and replacing the driveway with a garden.

    Well, technically speaking, the driveway still exists. But it’s been completely covered in grass and surrounded with trees, bushes and other lush foliage.

    Up until now, the predominant trend in North American cities has been to pave over greenery with asphalt in the name of development

  • Lucy says:

    Hi Franke,

    Lelah Ferguson sent a link to your article. It was fun to see your illustrations.
    I can see a Mattise-ean aesthetic still pervades, and it was uncanny to recognize your hand writing.

    You look well, and healthy and happy,

    All the best,


  • […] Franke James left her green footprint in The National Post today.

    Vanessa Farquharson, the Post’s Sense & Sustainability columnist wrote about Franke’s real life story of ripping up her interlocking driveway, battling City Hall, and winning the right to be the first pilot project for a green driveway in North York […]

  • Saving the Earth – One Driveway at a Time:

    Paradise Unpaved | Franke James.

    This visual article is beautiful, engaging, funny, inspiring, and practical. It’s the story of how my friend and colleague Franke James and her husband successfully went up against the city of North York (which, as she points out, is really Toronto) to be allowed to replace their huge, ugly, ecologically unsound concrete interlock driveway with a green alternative

  • lp says:

    love this kind of stuff – curmudgeonly old cynic me – does my old heart (what’s left of it !) the world (what’s left of it!) good – and you had trouble doing it! – who was in charge of anything (worth bothering about) who thought that what you were doing was wrong? – I’d like a strong word with that idiot! – good for you and all like you!

  • Etna says:

    I just stumbled here, and I’m glad I did. This was a joy to read and look at! Congratulations on your beautiful little paradise.

  • Franke James says:

    To LP and Etna,

    Thanks very much for your comments and strong votes of confidence.

    Connecting with people like you makes my day!


  • I would like to congratulate you on literally GREENING your life.


    james livingwell

  • […] – Paradise Unpaved This is the story of a family in North York who converted their entire driveway into a garden. What’s most […]

  • Eric Hacke says:

    Hey, thanks for the comment on my blog.

    I just got a chance to go through some of your other posts and it’s great stuff.

    I love the hand drawn illustration. It’s kind of like my photo-heavy editorials, except nicer looking, nicer topics, and less opinionated. So really, just better in every way.

    When I do a post of sites like mine, but better, yours will be on that list.


  • Dave Riddell says:

    Congratulations, Franke! What an inspiring story.

    Wonderful, just wonderful.

  • Loved the site says:

    I loved your site as it has an unusual flair to it

  • […] was a safety hazard. But when it hit the media they backed off. Watch the amazing transformation here.? I LOVE what they […]

  • Ena says:

    Wow really thought provoking, beautifully presented visual essay.

    I work in horticulture in Ireland and I have added this inspiring story to my blog. Here in Ireland we have a similar problem in that almost every family now has at least 2 cars and people have very little time to maintain their front patch (and in some cases people don’t want to have to converse with their neighbour – sad isn’t it). The garden has taken a back seat and concrete and hard landscaping are to be seen more and more in comparison to years ago.

    Personally I feel the city and county councils should be encouraging and not hindering the development of green spaces. Grants should be made available and here in this country we should pay more emphasis on community composting. But no, these are not important issues in the scheme of things – much more important to wonder why all the rain we have received of late has no where to go because the once green lawns took care of that! Foolish people don’t seem to get or see the bigger picture at all.

    I’m going to keep a regular eye out for your essays as really your an inspiration. Just goes to show how perseverance and belief in something as simple and wonderful as a front garden pays off. I applaud your tenacity, and so should your city.

  • Makes me wish I had a driveway so I could tear it up!!!


  • Paradise Unpaved

    I came across an extraordinary storyteller the other day: Franke James. Her stories are made of text and photographs and illustrations and they’re fabulous! She calls them “Visual Essays” and they’re all documents of her efforts to green her life. Here’s the latest, called Paradise Unpaved.

    Seeds for Thought

  • […] my World Cafe Girl Geek friends, a pointer to the work of Franke James – wow, great visual thinking […]

  • [] Visual essays are a powerful way to get any message across. In researching topics for my show, A Greener Toronto, I stumbled upon Franke James, a writer and illustrator who lives in Toronto, and who takes reducing her carbon footprint to a whole new level. She got RID of her SUV!! And in the process took on the City Of Toronto. Why, you ask? You’ll have to click here to find out: []

  • This is amazing, inspiring and re-affirming! Way to go. We are going to rip up half our parking lot at our community centre next spring and make it a garden… we could start the unpaving paradise movement!

    Much love,

    Cameron Stiff

  • Mitch in Montreal says:

    I just sold my Sport Ute and now I bike!… Well, I keep on biking since before, I had the car, but rarely used it!

  • […] There’s a wonderfully inspiring story online how a North York artist turned her four-car parking pad into a garden, notwithstanding municipal requirements for a paved driveway. Franke James eventually got Toronto’s first permit for a “green” driveway, and estimates that she has already kept 10,135 gallons of stormwater out of the sewers. […]

  • Nigel in England says:

    Well done

  • Wolfie Rankin says:

    Over here in Australia things are getting bad, it simply won’t rain.. and when it does, I often joke that I could probably pee more… though it’s a sad sort of joke.

    Congratulations, I think you did a wonderful thing.


  • Dan says:

    Wow! What a story. You are truly an inspiration!

    It’s really made me think “What can I do? This person could do it – maybe so can I!”

    Thank you for posting this! To me, you are a hero!

  • Jason.E says:

    Awesome article…. I was amazed. It took some serious inspiration to do something as awesome and helpful as that.

    Nice job you two!


  • Emerald says:

    Well done, such gorgeous work! And so nice to Stumble upon a fellow Torontonian trying to do a bit of green in our small space ;)

  • slv says:

    Exceedingly inspirational and a great example to show “the hesitant” folks. Good for you for getting the exemption and then doing a smashing job of it!

    Small comment – having just replaced our masses of cement with interlocking pavers, the pavers are a small step up. At least they drain through the pavers. Does not reduce the heat island effect, but if some folks want to go half way, making the total area of cement smaller (we halved ours) and going with pavers is one way to do it.

  • […] came across the blog site of Franke James entitled, My Green Conscience. In it there was a page on unpaving her driveway in North York (Toronto), Canada. It was such a cool idea that I had to share it with […]

  • You are fantastic and an inspiration – not only getting rid of your SUV! but getting rid of your driveway! well done you.
    For most people their house is their most valuable asset – you must be happy with where you live and had no plans of moving as it must be a big gamble on your house price to remove 3 out of 4 parking spaces. (I hope I got that right)
    Looking at your amazing result your house must have increased in value – has it? I know it was not about the value of your house but this must be a consideration for others wanting to copy you.
    I love it!!!
    PS. love the way you told your story : )

  • Franke James says:


    Thank you for the wonderful comment! Glad you enjoyed my story. We have discovered so many benefits from selling our car — and the beauty of our green driveway is just one of them. I’ll be writing a new essay soon on the ripple effect of selling our car. It’s been almost 2 years now.

    To answer your question about the property value going down due to the elimination of the parking spots — I will be making that exact argument to MPAC to reduce our property taxes! The City has told me previously that the two legal boulevard spots we had were worth $20,000 each… (We paid $600 a year for the parking privilege.) But somehow I bet MPAC will not discount our property by $40,000. We’ll see. (Technically we had 3 legal parking spots — but a 4th car occasionally would park as there was room. We still have one parking spot in the garage — or very close in front of it. A second spot would require a special front yard parking permit from the City.)

    Other people reading this might think we’re crazy to voluntarily reduce the value of our property by removing those two spots, but our view is that a new owner could add one more spot by applying for a front yard permit (for a total of two), and install a conventional driveway IF they wanted.

    We’re realistic that most home-buyers would not see the green driveway as an asset. But we have no plans to move and we LOVE our green driveway. It’s enhanced the beauty of our home for us and that’s all that matters.

    Best wishes for 2009!


  • Hi there, we’d like to link with you and perhaps we can also discuss strategy :) We’re a local group in Portland, Oregon who is doing this – we just removed 3,000 SQ Ft. this past summer at one location and have done others in the past. Looking forward to connecting. And, I’m albertkaufman on Twitter, btw.

    Albert Kaufman
    Portland, Oregon

  • Franke James says:

    Hi Albert,

    Good to see your comment — and thanks for the connection on twitter. Yes, we should talk. If you look back in the comments you’ll see I’ve mentioned and also posted some of your mission statement.

    I’m publishing a book in March which will include the Paradise Unpaved essay (and four others). I think there is an opportunity to get the depaving message out there — so let me know what new stuff you’re up to. Here’s my book info:

    Bothered by My Green Conscience
    How an SUV-driving, imported-strawberry-eating urban dweller can go green

    Look forward to connecting!


  • Rebecca Whetstine says:

    Tremendous! I like especially that you were persistent and positive in your dream, researching further into the issue to get at the real answer of “Yes”, which your intuition told you was there. I have left every rental I ever lived in with abundant perennials and happy Neighborhood Grandma Ladies taking walks past priorly-barren desmesnes. You surely have had many happy visits similarly! Thank you for the research and citations to help the rest of us create Paradise!

  • […] surfing on the net, following writings from friends, this is what I found: a truly, inspiring story, as much in the content as in the way it is […]

  • Lisa says:

    Great job! Can you tell me if you purchased you Permaturf locally?
    I see the link online but it is in the US.
    I also cannot see anything about pricing.
    I have a 10×24 ft area that I wish to convert.
    There is not a lot of info online about these products in Canada…hard to believe???
    thanks in advance


  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for the email. We had the Permaturf shipped from the US. However, since then I’ve heard there is a similar product in Canada. See my post below on Secrets of a Green Driveway:

    “For Canadians, who don’t want to pay the shipping and duties from the United States, you may want to investigate a new alternative by Green Innovations’ systems called MODI. I have not seen it in person, but after reading about it on their website, I think it’s worth a look.”

    Good luck! Please send me a note and a photo of your green driveway if you go ahead. I have documented our building of the green driveway in a series of posts.



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