EcoSuperior: Sustainability in the city
On the eastern edge of the majestic Lake Superior, in the state of Ontario, we arrived at the city of Thunder Bay; we had heard about a really interesting project called EcoSuperior, so we decided to visit it. We got in contact with Ellen, the executive director of the project and she was very happy to have us visit that very afternoon.
When we arrived at the building, there was a group of children on the patio doing activities with EcoSuperior staff. On entering the small reception there were various things for sale, all promoting good environmental practice: reusable bags, organic seeds, rainwater collection systems, compost bins, and more. Ellen took me to her office so we could talk in peace.
Twenty years previously, as a result of a government programme that incentivised the community to start developing sustainable practices in the city, this non-profit organisation was formed. Its initial goal was to carry out studies and campaigns to evaluate the quality of the water, and establish ways to protect it. As the years go on, the number of services they offer has been growing. They maintain a close relationship with the community in order to have first-hand knowledge of its needs, and these are always kept in mind. One of the main things they manage is a campaign for the harvesting of rain water, raising awareness and selling reasonably-priced materials to do it. For example, they help with the installation of ‘rain gardens’: in the city they have serious problems with flooding, and this type of garden allows people to avoid it or reduce its effects. They also offer recycling and waste reduction campaigns, like collection points for used batteries.
They have an educational programme with various action areas: summer camps where children find out about different sustainable practices while having fun, activities in schools where they do presentations, and programmes to create ‘Green Schools’, amongst others. Health plays an important part in their programme, with active transportation campaigns where they incentivise bicycle use, walking routes, guides on how to do healthy exercise, and more. They carry out studies on the problems certain chemicals can cause when found in water, the dangers of burning waste and the impact of plastic on our health. Some time ago they started to work on nutrition, and together with various organisations and groups in the city they are creating a food strategy programme to promote consumption and guarantee community access to healthy, local food.
EcoSuperior has 12 employees and there are 10 volunteers, depending on the programmes they are working on at a given moment. They have a traditional organisation system, with a director, manager etc., but according to what Ellen tells us, they all discuss things together and are open to listening to everyone; they’re like a family. “We are working on generating more and more of our own resources, so we can depend less on government funds, which at the moment represent 90% of our budget. Although, really, they know that they need to do this type of work and don’t have anyone to do it, so they trust others to develop it.”, Ellen tells me, when I ask her about how they fund the project. The other 10% comes from the products sold in the shop (the star product being the rainwater collectors), advising people who want to make their houses energy efficient, and doing events for other organisations.
I was surprised to see the number of programmes they bring about. As Ellen acknowledged, it’s a slow process and there’s still a lot to do, but more and more people are deciding to take small daily steps towards being more sustainable in their day-to-day life. Initiatives like EcoSuperior show how, with persistence, you can bring more and more people onto this path. They’re lucky in that their government believes in the importance of what they do, serving as an example of how to promote activism in the city.
Writed by Joel Jansa.
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