May 16, 2005

Toronto presents first Green Awards for leading-edge environmental actions

Eight environmentally active individuals and groups recently received the city of Toronto's first-ever Green Toronto Awards. The top winners were chosen from among 24 previously-announced recipients of Toronto environmental awards of excellence in eight categories (ELW April 11).

About 300 people filled City Hall's council chamber for the awards event, which was hosted by Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone (Chair of the Roundtable on the Environment). Featured speakers included Toronto Mayor David Miller, science journalist Bob McDonald and local environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki. Summaries of some of the winners and their achievements follow.

The Green Toronto Award for Leadership was presented to environmental lawyer Jerry DeMarco, who was instrumental in helping the town of Hudson, Quebec pass its precedent-setting bylaw prohibiting non-essential uses of pesticides, which was then challenged by two lawn-care companies. The Hudson case had reached the Supreme Court of Canada when DeMarco and his colleague, Ottawa lawyer Stewart Elgie, intervened on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the World Wildlife Fund and Nature-Action QuÈbec. They sought to have the bylaw upheld, as well as to broaden significantly the environmental implications of the case. The Supreme Court subsequently set a legal precedent which not only enabled Toronto to pass its own pesticides bylaw, it provided legal acknowledgement that a healthy environment is critical to the future of every Canadian community.

In the Green Design category, Beach Solar Laundromat received the top award. Already honoured in 2004 by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment as Canada's leading small business in terms of pollution prevention and greenhouse-gas emissions, Beach Solar Laundromat is powered by solar energy created by eight solar thermal panels on its roof. Owner Alex Winch, president of Mondial Energy, has replaced electric lights with high-efficiency fluorescent lights, and his unique air-conditioning system uses no refrigerants emits no exhaust heat. Beach Solar Laundromat has succeeded in reducing emissions by 40% and lowering utility expenses by $9,500 while increasing the business's revenues significantly.

Enwave Energy Corporation received the Green Toronto Award in the Resource Conservation category for its Deep Lake Water Cooling system, which provides cost-competitive cooling to buildings in Toronto's downtown core. The system, launched in 2004, consumes a fraction of the electrical energy consumed by traditional cooling technologies. Enwave's goal in initiating the project was to provide an energy-efficient, environmentally sound alternative to conventional air conditioning in downtown buildings. Enwave also wanted to integrate infrastructure to provide a deeper, colder, cleaner source of potable water for Toronto and to demonstrate leading-edge technology that can be replicated.

Grassroots Environmental Products received the Green Toronto Award in the Market Transformation category. Founded in 1994, Grassroots has become one of Toronto's leading retailers of environmentally responsible products. Its mission is to provide people both the products and information they need to reduce waste and lead a healthy, environmentally sound lifestyle. The store's range of merchandise runs a full gamut, from biodegradable household cleaners to organic clothing. By creating consumer awareness and offering environmentally friendly household goods, Grassroots continues to change the marketplace.

The Green Toronto Award in the Community Projects category went to the thINK FOOD/Phones-for-Food project, a recycling and fundraising initiative designed to both alleviate hunger and divert waste from landfill sites. It raises funds for local food banks through the process of recycling used printer cartridges and cell phones. The project was developed at Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank in 2001 and now operates across the country, benefiting hundreds of local food banks. Used cartridges and phones are collected, sorted and sold to the re-manufacturing industry, which turns them into refurbished products for consumers. The funds raised go to local food banks

Two awards recognized projects focusing on urban agriculture and production of healthy food free of pesticide residues. The Stop Community Food Centre's Urban Agriculture project was recognized in the Environmental Awareness category. The Centre has been running the project in partnership with Toronto's parks and recreation department since 1998, protecting the environment by cultivating locally, organically grown vegetables and heritage plants. Food from the project is contributed to food banks and other meal programs.

FoodShare's Sunshine Garden received the award in the Health category. The 7,000-square-foot urban market garden, on the grounds of Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, was set up in 2002 as a partnership between FoodShare Toronto and the Centre's educational and rehabilitation services. The project provides employment training for participants and encourages interaction between the institution and the community.

Each of the Green Toronto Award winners received $5,000 to donate to the environmental organization of their choice. More information is available on the Green Toronto Awards Web site, www.toronto.ca/environment.

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