Impact's Impact: Sustainability For Everyone

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

IMPACT conference Ottawa group picture

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in the IMPACT! Youth Sustainability Leadership Conference. The conference aims to help young leaders "take their next strategic step for action: to deepen their sustainability understanding, build their leadership skills, and develop or advance projects and initiatives for meaningful change." The conference demonstrated that there are no sustainable actions too big or too small: all are worthy, all are rad and all are important.

Moreover, in addition to eating some delicious vegan food and meeting some other sustainably-minded individuals in the community, I got to share my zero waste journey with others. But perhaps most importantly, I learned about some other community-orientated sustainable initiatives and social entrepreneurship actions spearheaded by some very cool folks all over the city. From ethical energy to ethical brunch, here are some sustainable actions percolating across the 613, and perhaps how you can get involved.

Ethical Tree sample of website page

There is nothing more disappointing than going out with friends for food and realizing that there is NOTHING on the menu you can eat. Trust me, this happens more often than not. One time, listed Subway as their top vegan friendly-restaurant... So my new friend Siavash, an uOttawa grad, helped to create, an ethical-business directory specific to Ottawa. You can find restaurants, cafes and other cool places to support by selecting your personal ethical preferences, be it Vegan-Friendly, Fair Trade, Organic, or Woman-Owned.

There are over 300 establishments in the directory alongside accurate rating and reviews. Imagine finding the perfect new breakfast spot with veg-options for Sunday brunch with your gals... that is actually owned and operated by other gals! Plus as we move into exam season, this is a great resource for finding fair trade coffee shops across the city which fit your dietary-preferences. So great!

Another really cool movement already well established is Backyard Edibles, an urban farming operation which transforms underused residential space into productive market gardens. Talk about eating local! Folks who offer to have their backyards (or frontyards) farmed get a beautiful garden managed by the very cool and experienced BE farmers as well as a basket of garden fresh veggies each week.

You can find BE's urban-farmed produce at Farmer's Markets across the city once again when the weather get warm so keep your eyes out! And if you have some backyard dirt without any vegetable friends which also meets their basic requirements to become a garden plot, perhaps you can get involved and get some urban-grown, organic veg in return.

uOttawa's Cuppa Change group bake sale

A more recent addition to the Ottawa sustainable scene and started by students still in their forth-year here, Cuppa Change is a capacity building organization and initiative platform that hopes to provide agency, education and initiatives to encourage youth to promote ethical and sustainable community development. I am particularly partial to Cuppa Change because it was founded by some close friends who love working together to inspire change! If you saw the red boxes by the recycling stations around campus, that was Cuppa Change's first initiative called Roll Up for Change.

They collected winning Timmies rims and donated them to those homeless shelters in order to provide folks with a free cup of coffee and build relationships between service providers and members of the homeless community. They have some amazing things coming up, including a much-needed mental health initiative and a project concerning food waste. If you wanna support them, they are still building a team, looking to umbrella any cool ideas you may have and are having a fun pub night this weekend!

Finally, I want to share with you a for-profit cooperative with grassroots vibes who are doing great things for the energy grid. The Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op is a seriously cool community-owned solar energy investment opportunity which partners "with local property owners to use their land or rooftops for community-owned renewable power projects". This may seem complicated, but members can buy shares and get returns on their investments through sale of the power back to the grid, allowing individuals to make worthwhile social, sustainable and local financial investments. I also got an insider scoop and learned that they expanding their team, so this is a great experience for folks with an expertise or just a passion for clean energy who is looking for their next step.

The IMPACT! conference didn't just feature folks who already had some skin in the sustainability game. They were also concerned with empowering students and recent grads at all stages of their sustainability journey, providing development workshops and talks as well as networking opportunities and funding. The workshop included a diverse range of student leaders so naturally there was a diverse range of interesting and innovative project ideas in their nascent stages, concerning everything from outdoor education to indigenous awareness, from app development to farming co-operatives.

Once again, my favourite takeaway from the conference is that there is no project too small and no initiative too big. Everyone can do something and there is something for everyone to do. Some really special and sustainable things happening on every scale in our own backyards, from solar to sushi. Lets support each other, shall we?

~ jennie - @trashlesslovemore

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