Sprouting environmental action in your local community: The West Island gets its first Éco-quartierThree years of hard work and we are finally there. If there's one thing I can say to you with certainty it is to NEVER give up. This edition of my blog is personal as I share with you an environmental success which I've had the chance to be a part of: the creation of the West Island's first ever Éco-quartier, opening April 14 2007.
"So what?" you say... Well it was certainly not a walk in the park to get to this point. Being a nature lover and an avid environmentalist, I am sold on the idea that environmental stewardship (the careful and responsible long-term management of our natural resources aimed at preserving and enhancing the quality of our environment) can only bring positive growth to our society. But even today, not everyone is conscious of the importance of good stewardship. We are still far from having a green majority in our governments; be they municipal, provincial or international. Environmental progress happens slowly, but it is happening. For example, Montreal's borough of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce can rejoice that in this year's provincial election it was the riding that had the highest green votes in all of Quebec with 16 per cent!
What is the magic recipe for sprouting environmental action in your local community? The founders of Co-op La Maison Verte would agree: GET INVOLVED. You are never better served than by yourself, or as Gandhi once said, be the change you want to see in the world. In 2004, Valérie Sabbagh and I founded SOS Planète, an environmental awareness non-profit organization, in response to a clear void in municipal support for environmental action in the western part of the island of Montreal. For those of you who come to the Co-op regularly, you might have seen our basket collecting wine corks. SOS Planète collects wine corks and old frames to make artisanal corkboards, using the money raised to fund our environmental projects.
For three years SOS Planète knocked on all the doors in the community, trying to motivate the municipalities to adopt pro-active decisions regarding important environmental issues such as sound waste management and ecological integrity (for example, trying to minimize the impact of suburbia on local natural habitats). We became involved with other community groups in neighborhood roundtables, visited to the Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi, the Centre Local de Développement, and many town meetings. We went to as many public events as we could, all on volunteer hours. At times, we wondered if we would be able to keep our morale up, but we never let go because we discovered other great projects sprouting in communities all over the planet that had ordinary people trying to bring change to the world on a local scale.
Last December the tables turned: Pierrefonds-Roxboro, a newly integrated borough to the City of Montréal, decided to step-up to the plate by investing in the Éco-quartier program. SOS Planète took part in the biding process to manage the Éco-quartier office, and we won!
What is an Éco-quartier? Created by the city of Montréal in 1997, the program allocates funds to local environmental groups in different boroughs to manage an office from which they can do environmental outreach and awareness projects in the community. There are now 19 Éco-quartiers on the island of Montréal, and Pierrefonds-Roxboro will be the 20th. Each Éco-quartier office has four principal mandates: sound waste management, cleanliness, urban ecology and beautification, but don't confuse them with the Éco-Centers, which are the places where we bring our hazardous wastes and large items for proper recycling or disposal.
If there is an Éco-quartier in your neighborhood, that is where you will find your recycling and composting bins, as well as information about various environmental initiatives. If we look at the latest statistics on recycling in Montreal (2004), the old borough of Pierrefonds-Senneville was below the Montreal-wide average of 34 per cent with a 26 per cent participation rate. It is important to mention that all municipalities in Quebec will have to reach 65 per cent by 2008 according to the Government of Quebec (see: www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/matieres/mat_res/ ).
The work that Éco-quartiers accomplish is very important, and it could never be realized without the help of community volunteers. If you care about your environment and about the quality of life in your community, why not GET INVOLVED at your local Éco-quartier or environmental group today?
As for us, we definitely have something to celebrate! On April 14 from 2 - 4 p.m. SOS Planète and the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro welcome you to the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Éco-quartier open house: 13 Centre-Commercial, Roxboro (Bus 68, Gouin corner Centre-Commercial). For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Change is possible, but we must never give up... If you have a local environmental success of your own, I invite you to share it here!
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