Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sometimes, good work is recognized

Members of Living Green, flanked by LSRCA members.
Over the past decade and half of volunteering and activism, I’ve learned that working to help our ecosystem and our fellow humans is often a thankless task. That’s why it’s especially rewarding when we actually receive recognition, as was the case earlier this month.
Each year the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) salutes and celebrates the Lake's "Watershed Heroes" and this year, Living Green was honoured to receive the new Pioneering Green Community Award.
We were recognized for our active involvement in planting trees through our newly-formed Urban Canopy Coalition. Over the past year the UCC has raised money to replace dead trees on public lands in Barrie, and partnered with the City and the LSRCA to plant over a thousand new trees including oak, maple, pine and tamarack at the Huronia Buffer site. To further prevent erosion and improve the environmental health of our green species, we have also begun to plant willows, shrubs, and trees on the river banks at Sunnidale Park.
This coming year, with our partners, we plan at least two more tree plantings in the spring and fall, and will continue to interplant native pollinators in Queen’s Park along Toronto Street. Last year we were fortunate to receive a large donation from Barrie Chiropractic, and we are looking for new donations from businesses, large or small. Contact if you would like to donate or volunteer with the tree planting.
As UCC founder Gwen Petreman points out, we are still learning the many benefits of trees. Recently our knowledge of the importance of trees to the life of bees has expanded. Bees collect tree resin to make a material called “propolis” which they use to seal up the edges of their hive. But now we know it also has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties that protect the hive’s bees from many potential pests. Since bees pollinate about 1/3 of the food we eat, preserving trees means protecting bees which means feeding humans. We’re all connected!
Living Green’s other initiatives include regular clean-ups of Queen's Park, maintaining the environmental focused website operating Off the Rack thrift store with the Barrie Free Clothing Centre, hosting Green Screens and passing along traditional skills via the ReSkill Institute. 
Another LSRCA “Watershed Heroes” award went to the students of the Eco-Team at Newmarket’s Alexander Muir Public School in recognition of their successful ban of disposable water bottles and fundraising $2,500 for a filling station for reusable bottles at their school. I was thrilled to learn that this group of elementary students had succeeded in overcoming the powerful bottled-water lobby that so far has stymied many similar initiatives in our local municipality and school board, and gives me hope that future attempts here may yet succeed.
It also gave us the idea of hosting our own Living Green awards ceremony to recognize the best Barrie-area school eco-clubs. I know there are some great initiatives going on at local schools, and I’m sure there must be some local businesses that would love to put their name on a trophy or an awards ceremony. If you or a business you know is interested in sponsoring that kind of event, we’d love to hear from you!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie (and Innisfil) Examiners as "Living Green's nod from conservation group means a great deal
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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