Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tom Rand will show you how to make the green by being green

This week I was reminded of the “Barrie Means Business” campaign. While I don’t know if that slogan is still current, certainly a focus remains bringing new business to Barrie, and helping existing businesses grow more prosperous. Given the many residents who commute to jobs outside our City, it’s a worthwhile project. Next week, an engaging speaker will be in Barrie to explain more ways businesses can increase profitability while reducing carbon footprint and becoming more secure in an energy-constrained world.
Tom Rand is an entrepreneur, lecturer, and venture capitalist. He specializes in cleantech, an enterprise approach that weds profitability and sustainability in business plans that make money while minimizing ecological impact. He has no interest in self-sacrifice or spending extra money to be “green”; instead, he demonstrates how being green is the path to earning more green. 
One example is Tom’s Planet Traveler hostel in Toronto, a showcase of low-carbon, high-return hotel services. When you think of green building, you usually picture something flashy and expensive, specially built from the ground up following new-fangled designs. But Planet Traveler, dubbed “North America’s greenest hotel”, was planted in a derelict century-old downtown Toronto building, using geothermal, solar, and heat reclamation to reduce carbon emissions by 75%. If that old wreck can become a shining beacon of ecology and profit, then almost any building can! Tom notes that although these improvements are good for the planet, energy savings brought increased cash flows that provide a huge competitive advantage.
With an eclectic education including degrees in engineering and philosophy, Tom’s outlook is different and refreshing. His current passion is managing the MaRS Cleantech and VCi Green funds, putting money into new ventures that promise a good return in a future where we can no longer ignore waste or pollution when we add up the bottom line.
Author of “Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit”, Tom has said, “It is my belief that we have yet to have a serious, public conversation about the threat of climate change, and the economic opportunities afforded by the global transformation to a low-carbon economy.”
Well, that conversation will be taking place right here in Barrie, on Thursday, April 4 at the Georgian Theatre at 1:30 PM. Hosted by Living Green, Transition Barrie, and Georgian students for Environmental Awareness and Research (GEAR) as part of Georgian’s Earth Day celebration, this exciting talk is only $15 at the door, only $10 if you reserve in advance. Visit to get your ticket now, while they are still available.
As event organizer Mike Fox promises: author, entrepreneur, investment banker, hotelier and pragmatic environmentalist Tom Rand is a passionate and engaging speaker that you just don’t want to miss!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "Environmentalist set to share valuable message".
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Art With Kids, a wonderful volunteer program

In nasty weather like this, I really appreciate an occasion to take the kids out of the house for a great activity. If you feel the same and have kids between walking age to around 10 or 11, you’re in luck: the Art With Kids program downtown on Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 to 5 is just what you need.
Working artist Cindy Waters facilitates this fun variety of art projects weekly at the Do-It-Yourself Arts Collective at 67 Toronto Street (across from Meineke). The program runs on a drop-in basis; no pre-registration is required and you can attend as many or few weeks as you like.
It’s great for the whole family. Kids dive into something new and artistic, with materials they may not have at home. (Or maybe they can do something messy, that you’d rather they not do at home!) They can draw inspiration from each other, or from the ever-changing selection of fresh, local, eclectic art on display on the studio walls.
Parents enjoy a coffee or tea and a chat while their kids are hard at work (or play) creating little masterpieces. And did I mention the healthy snacks? There is always a selection of fresh fruit & vegetables with crackers and juice, and sometimes even Cindy’s fresh baked goods.
Best of all, it’s only $3 for one child, or $5 for the whole family – which includes art & materials, snack, juice, and hot beverage! Allowances can be made if affordability is an issue, but since this is a non-profit activity, donations of art supplies or materials are always appreciated. Cindy volunteers her time to plan and run the program; as she says, “It’s soul work, I give it for free because it makes me feel good.”
Each week of the session is a different project; at our last two sessions, my girls enjoyed making collages and fancy Valentine cards, and we saw some beautiful but long-drying coloured corn syrup projects that would have been a sticky disaster at our house, but worked fine at the studio.
The fall and winter sessions were quite successful, and the program renews with a spring session from March 27th to May 29th that introduces a scheduled program of guest art instructors. And coming up in June will be the Art With Kids Expo, a kids’ art show where participants can hang & sell their own creations, featuring balloons, live music, popcorn, Shamus the Magician, and other entertainment being lined up.
If you’re like me and have no art sense, but love to see your children get creative, then I look forward to seeing you and yours at Art With Kids some Wednesday this spring!
Published in my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Get creative at the weekly Art With Kids program".
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

No Earth Hour blues in Barrie - Green Party provides a Super Drive and a Candlelit reception

Earth Hour approaches again, a time for us to be mindful of our energy use by turning the lights off for an hour on a Saturday evening. The big event at Barrie City Hall won’t be happening this year, but the Barrie Green Party will be hosting our fourth annual Earth Hour Super-Drive, collecting e-waste, clothing, and food.
This year’s e-waste collection has an exciting new twist: we’ll pay you by the pound for your e-waste! Bring in your old cell phones, electronics, electrical devices, or basically anything with a chip, a plug, or a battery, and we’ll weigh it and hand you cash. Of course, you’ll be welcome to donate your payment back to one of the three good causes we’re supporting with our Super-Drive; if we can fill the GreenGo Recycling truck, we’ll be doing a lot of good for the community!
This year’s clothing drive will again support the Barrie Free Clothing Centre, and their new operations, Off the Rack and the Reskill Institute. Operated by Living Green, Off the Rack sells used or surplus clothing at rock-bottom prices, while those in need can take full advantage of the free clothing room. Meanwhile, the Reskill institute helps pass along traditional knowledge to future generations in areas like mending and making clothing, preserving food, or other handy skills that seem to be getting lost in the 21st century.
And of course we continue to collect food for the Grocery Assistance Program of the Elizabeth Fry Society, to provide for those facing hunger.
The Super-Drive takes place between 10 AM and noon on the morning of Saturday, March 23 in front of Off the Rack in the parking lot behind 110 Dunlop St. W., between Toronto and High Streets, around the corner from Meineke. We’ll have the mobile weigh scale all set up, waiting to give you money for your e-waste, so start gathering it up now and bring it on in. While you’re at it, don’t forget some canned food, and clear out your wardrobe of clothing you don’t need any more so it goes to someone who does!
Without a big downtown event, the evening’s activities will be more like they were for the first Earth Hours: a candlelit hour at home with family, friends, or neighbours. If you’d like to get out of the house that evening, you can join us at our own special candlelight reception; visit for details. We have several interesting guests already lined up for you to meet and would love for you to join us.
Whatever you do, be mindful of the Earth as Earth Hour takes place, and remember how it can provide for us if we look after it.
Published in the Barrie Examiner as "Event will 'drive' home the the point of Earth Hour"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert SchalkenbackFoundation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Barrie Holding Food Security Workshop March 25

Since the dawn of civilization, food has intertwined with our rituals, celebrations and social interaction. Entire cultures are linked to the foods they embrace. From our first day of life to our departing farewell, food is an integral element of our existence. Yet increasingly we take it for granted, and when you take something for granted, you risk losing it.
Do you know where your next meal is coming from? This is a question key community stakeholders will address on Monday, March 25 as they assemble at the South Shore Centre for what may be Barrie’s first ever Food Security workshop. The day will commence with inspiration from David Miller, former mayor of Toronto.
This workshop comes on the heels of Simcoe County’s recently introduced Food and Agriculture Charter. Culminating two years’ work by the Simcoe County Food Partners Alliance, the Charter outlines a vision and principles to serve as parameters of food security.
But what does that mean to the city of Barrie?  And why has this suddenly become an issue? Why would anyone in our affluent society question their source of food? Is that not the exclusive concern of those living below the poverty level, or maybe the elderly living on fixed income and restricted mobility?
The grim reality is that affordability is only one of many issues raising concern. As our food system becomes more globalized, we lose touch with the source and content of what we eat. Plantations replacing old-growth rain forests, industrialized factory farms and giant food processing plants and are just a few of changes evolving to service an exploding global population. With these changes come underlying risks: human error in a facility supplying meat products to an entire continent; extreme weather conditions ruining a crop destined to feed an entire country; unsustainable monoculture practices demanding ever-increasing inputs of artificial chemicals and supplements to maintain production; intercontinental supply chains depending on cheap fuels and safe passage to deliver goods to market in a timely fashion.
And if that’s not enough, recent studies suggest that between 30 to 50% of food produced is wasted, a disturbing statistic when almost 1 billion people go hungry or suffer from scarcity of healthy food.
Much of the answer lies in supporting local food; it’s much easier to trust the quality and accessibility of food produced in your own back yard. This might include education and teaching people how to identify, grow, cook, and preserve healthy foods. It may involve developing policies and bylaws that support local food production. Hopefully it will include building synergies by expanding existing best practices of some of the numerous organizations already at work in Barrie.
To have your voice heard at this workshop, please visit to comment on the Food Security Workshop blog.
Written with Mike Fox, published in the Barrie Examiner