Last week, environmental leaders from across the province gathered at Edmonton’s Royal Alberta Museum for the 26th Annual Emerald Awards.
Earlier this year, the AEF received 65 nominations for the prestigious awards. A panel of knowledgeable third-party judges was tasked with reviewing all nominations and selecting three finalists, with one recipient, in each category.
“Over our Foundation’s quarter century, we have seen a great evolution in sustainable practices across all sectors in our province. We have witnessed the inspiring effect Albertan EcoHeroes have had on others, both in our province and around the globe,” says Andy Etmanski, Board Chair, AEF. “Each recipient represents a unique, positive, and innovative approach to sustainable practices. We are thrilled to share their stories with Alberta as we showcase their hard work and dedication to the environment.”
“By becoming an Emerald Awards Recipient, we hope to reach a wider audience and continue towards our goal of building a sustainable urban forest,” shares Katelynne Webb, City of Edmonton’s Root for Trees program (Government Institution Recipient). “As more volunteers become involved with the initiative, we can continue to positively impact Edmonton’s urban landscape and create stewards of Edmonton’s urban forest.”
“Many amazing environmental initiatives as groups have been recognized by the AEF, and it is incredibly fulfilling to be among them,” says Ngaio Baril, Foothills Stream Crossing Partnership (Shared Footprints Recipient). “This recognition is amazing and will provide the motivation required to keep improving fish habitat, one crossing at a time.”
Hosted by Albertan theatre artists Jana O’Connor and Chris Bullough, the 26th Annual Emerald Awards celebration featured special performances by Dallas Arcand Jr., Lindsey Walker, and poet laureate Pierrette Requier. The Honourable Lois Mitchell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, andDr. Bob Turner, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud, provided special greetings.
Presenting the 26th Annual Emerald Awards Recipients!
Decentralised Energy Canada
Recipient – Community Group or Not-for-Profit Association: Grassroots
In 2001, Alberta’s electricity market fully deregulated. Industry saw an opportunity for Decentralised Energy (DE) to substantially reduce emissions, energy costs and system losses while diversifying Alberta’s economy and creating jobs. In response, a small group of stakeholders established Decentralised Energy Canada (DEC) to connect and support businesses in the DE industry and to drive a paradigm shift from a carbon intensive, centralised energy system to a cleaner, more efficient, decentralised energy system. This initiated an industry movement that marked the beginning of Alberta’s transition to a low-carbon energy economy. In 15 years DEC has cultivated an industry cluster of more than 10,400 businesses, suppliers, and professional service providers. Education initiatives have reached more than 98% of Alberta homes and more than 17% of Alberta’s urban municipalities have accessed DEC’s services. DEC’s membership represents over $25.7 billion of revenue with more than 70% of these businesses based out of Alberta. Project support services have been delivered to more than 900 projects representing approximately 1,500 MW of DE capacity and an estimated 2 million tonnes of CO2 offsets annually compared with the baseline energy supply mix in Alberta.
Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta – Recycling Without Limits
Recipient – Community Group or Not-for-Profit Association: Large Organization
In 1995, the Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta (CPAA) established a clothing donation program to generate revenues that would provide funding support for the valuable services offered to its members. Through a partnership with Value Village, donations of gently used clothing and small household items dropped off at bins placed around the community are exchanged for revenue. In 2008, that partnership was expanded to include the ABCRC with a bottle recycling program. Throughout 20 years of experience with these successful partnerships, the CPAA has maintained records on the amount of pounds of clothing, household items and small appliances that are kept out of landfills, and collected, sold, or recycled. Last year, donations dropped off at bins around the community kept over 4 million pounds of useable material out of Alberta landfills, an increase of 12.5% over last year, and the Collection Crew recycled over 250,000 containers, saving over 83,274 kWh of energy, 24,293 kg of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and more than 12,786 kgs from the landfill. The clothing and bottle recycling program generates 60% of the CPAA’s operating revenues, funding programs that serve 3,900 Albertan’s with cerebral palsy and other disabilities each year.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – Sustainability Program
Recipient – Large Business
Located on the shores of one of the world’s most picturesque lakes, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is tasked with minimizing its impact on the environment it inhabits. Through innovative practices and employee engagement, the hotel rises above and beyond expectations, becoming a role model for the hotel industry around the globe.
Some of the initiatives at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise include: an extensive recycling program; a paper reduction program; use of minimum 30% recycled content paper in all offices; used kitchen grease is recycled into biodiesel; gently used hotel items are donated to local charities; used amenities are donated to the Clean the World program which processes and distributes amenities to homeless shelters, senior citizens, and struggling families throughout Canada; reusable bags are used on a regular basis to reduce the consumption of plastic bags; diverted 355 tons of waste and 1.6 tons of mattresses from landfills; 50% of electricity is purchased green sources; volunteers participate in the Lake Louise Shoreline Cleanup.
Bullfrog Power, Canada’s leading green energy provider, offers individuals and businesses clean, renewable energy solutions. By choosing Bullfrog Power’s green energy, Canadians can reduce their environmental impact, support the development of new, community-based renewable energy projects across the country and help transition Canada to a cleaner, healthier future. Together with its customers, Bullfrog is helping to reshape the energy landscape in Canada. When homes or businesses sign up for Bullfrog Power’s green electricity or green natural gas, Bullfrog Power injects green energy onto the respective energy system to match the amount of conventional electricity or natural gas the customer purchases, displacing energy from polluting sources. Bullfrog also uses the support of its customers to help fund new, renewable energy projects in Canada. To date, bullfrogpowered homes and businesses have supported 70+ new green initiatives across Canada. Thousands of Canadian homes and organizations are doing their part to address climate change and air pollution by switching to green energy with Bullfrog Power. Many environmental non-governmental organizations and non-profits, such as WWF-Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, and the Pembina Institute, have bullfrogpowered their premises to show their support for advancing renewable energy.
For the past six years, Aspen Heights MicroSociety (AHM) has embarked on a mission to transform their school and community through environmental Initiatives and projects with the students as the driving force behind their projects.
Aspen Heights Microsociety projects include: exploring their local watershed by raising and releasing of trout in a local pond, developing a recycling program that includes paper; cardboard, batteries, ink cartridges. New this year: Zero-Waste Boxes; establishing a licensed bottle depot that recycled nearly 15,000 containers last year; raising urban chickens which provide eggs for their student breakfast program; evolving their gardening program to include a fully-functioning aquaponics growing system, along with hydroponics kits dispersed throughout the school; forming their Fish and Wildlife Department to raise and release insects into nature; building a functional completely solar-powered greenhouse that will grow produce year round.
NAIT – Alternative Energy Technology Program
Recipient – Education: Post-Secondary
NAIT’s Alternative Energy Technology program was launched in 2011 with the goal of developing highly skilled, specialized workers to fill roles in Alberta’s nascent renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. The interdisciplinary program focuses on technical design and project development in areas as diverse as solar PV, biorefining, geothermal and energy management. Based on these bedrock technologies, students are able to create hybrid systems tailored to both the client’s goals and the environmental conditions at the site. With a strong emphasis on designing economically sound systems and customer care, 11% of NAIT’s alumni have gone on to start their own businesses. Graduates are already emerging as leaders in their fields. Along with the staff and current students, the program is helping to shape the future of the industry in Alberta – through education, outreach, innovation, and collaboration.
Alberta Council for Environmental Education – Advancing Environmental and Energy Education in Alberta
Recipient – Public Education & Outreach
The Alberta Council for Environmental Education (ACEE), a non-profit with charitable status, just celebrated the end of its first decade. Their mission is to work in collaboration with others to advance environmental education in Alberta. In 2005, they engaged the community across Alberta who created the “Framework to Advance Environmental Education in Alberta,” which provided a blueprint for ACEE’s work: annual provincial environmental education conferences convening over 5,000 professionals, in partnership with provincial/national organizations, Alberta Teachers Association, and school boards; annual leadership clinics – a multi-day retreat where schools, NGOs, and municipalities develop goals, receive professional development, produce a plan; a multi-stakeholder Education Task Force to create Curriculum for a Sustainable Future, which proposes content for new Alberta K-12 curriculum to increase 700,000 students’ environmental, energy, and climate literacy; professional development for pre-service and in-service teachers; Alberta Green Schools, to advance environmental literacy; supporting environmental education through Communities of Practice; Get Outside and Play, a program to connect pre-school children with nature; searchable database of resources; robust polling of Alberta families and youth; engaged 3000 youth just last year.
Root for Trees, an enhanced tree planting program, works to preserve and expand Edmonton’s urban forest through partnerships with corporations, community groups, and individual residents. Edmontonians are invited to participate in tree-planting events where they are provided with all the materials required for an exciting and educational day in nature. Volunteer groups involved in planting events create and enhance the vegetation cover throughout parks, along roadways, and in established tree stands. At each event, Root for Trees facilitators promote interactive and environmental awareness-oriented activities by providing expertise on natural topics, promoting the growth of the urban forest, and involving volunteers in many hands-on learning experiences. With the annual goal of planting 16,000 trees and shrubs exceeded each year, Root for Trees continues to work towards doubling the size of Edmonton’s total urban forest canopy by 10 to 20% within 10 years. The overall outcomes of this program are to preserve and sustain Edmonton’s environment, improve Edmonton’s livability, and transform Edmonton’s urban form.
Cuku’s Nest Enterprises Ltd – The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce
Recipient – Emerald Challenge: Innovation
The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce is Alberta’s first net-zero commercial office building, which opened in the Edmonton community of Summerside in February 2015. Since then, it has been dubbed Edmonton’s “crown jewel” of sustainable construction, as well as a model of a triple bottom line commercial building – capturing the essence of sustainability by measuring its impact on the world in three parts: profitability, social/human, and environmental capital. The owners challenged the design team to deliver a net-zero-energy building to demonstrate the feasibility of low-energy-use buildings in cold climates. The result was a beautiful, sustainable and affordable building.
In 2005, a group of companies and government agencies came together under the umbrella of fRI Research with the goal of developing a better system to inventory, manage and repair stream crossings. The Foothills Stream Crossing Partnership (FSCP), a multi-industry partnership with the objective of improving the condition and performance of stream crossings by inventorying, prioritizing, repairing barriers to fish passage, and maintaining watershed health, was the result of this meeting. Since 2006, 8,400 stream crossings have been inspected at least once, for a total of 16,000 inspections. Since 2011, FSCP members have mitigated fish barriers at over 200 stream crossings and have scheduled the repair of fish barriers in 55 priority watersheds looking forward to 2020.
The Green Medium (thegreenmedium.com), an environmental awareness blog, showcases a collective of youth “Resident Writers” that write for the blog on environmentally related topics that they are passionate about. The overall mission of the blog is to increase environmental literacy and awareness as well as to engage an audience that may not be conscious of environmental issues in their daily life. By the end of spring 2017, they provided fifty young adults with the opportunity to research, think about, and educate others on one or multiple environmental topics in one to two-week residency periods. By regularly providing interesting content written by peers on a range of topics and by providing a medium for individuals to actively care and contribute to the discussion, The Green Medium has worked hard to fight environmental apathy and misinformation in communities where such a discussion would not have happened otherwise
Ann Smreciu – Wild Rose Consulting Inc
Recipient – Individual Commitment
Ann Smreciu is a champion of native plants. For more than 30 years she has worked to re-establish Alberta’s native plants on disturbed lands, from dams and utility corridors to landfills and mine spoils. At the outset of her career, relatively few species could be considered for such projects because supplies of viable seed were non-existent or extremely limited, and little was known about their requirements for germination or seedling establishment. Ann’s early work with prairie wildflowers saw her collect substantial quantities of seeds of a wide range of native species from southern Alberta, conduct experiments concerning viability and pretreatments required for germination, and run greenhouse and field trials that established seedlings often by out planting on disturbed sites. Her success was measured in field performance, monitoring over several years. This success led to similar work with more central and northern species in the province, culminating in significant contributions to revegetation at sites located at the Oldman River Dam, Cloverbar Landfill in Edmonton, along pipelines, and at the Oil Sands. Her lifelong ambition has been to see native seeds banked for use in reclamation in the province and this was realized in 2009 with the creation of the Oil Sands Vegetation Cooperative.