The word “sustainability” is hard to define and some people say it’s overused. In Nelson it means SEEDS, Uphill Bakery, and Amelia Martzke, among other things. The three winners of this year’s second annual sustainability awards give us a fascinating glimpse into the innovation and energy present in this city.
One of the winners was Amelia Martzke, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at L.V. Rogers. Over the past few years she has initiated or been one of the organizers of an array of initiatives including the annual youth-run Keep the Beat music festival, a composting system using LVR’s food waste, a school garden fertilized by that compost, a student election during the recent federal election that attracted 403 votes, student rallies during the 2014 teacher strike, and a letter-writing campaign several years ago to protest the planned closure of the Trafalgar school band program.
Martzke is also one of the initiators of a unique program in which senior girls at LVR mentor younger girls, helping them adjust to high school and teenage life. This has included the facilitation of sexual health workshops and Talking Tuesdays, a weekly discussion group between younger girls and the older mentors. Martzke is also one of the initiators of a newly-formed student council at LVR, and is a member of Allison Girvan’s Corazón choir.
City councillor Anna Purcell says she is impressed by how Martzke’s activities bridge all of the four pillars of sustainability — cultural, environmental, social, and economic — set out in the city’s Path to 2040 Sustainability Strategy.
The prizes this year were given to one person or group in each of three categories: individual, non-profit organization, and business.
Martzke won in the individual category, and the non-profit winner was the Seniors Economic Environment Development Society (SEEDS) which over the past few years took over the city-owned greenhouses at Lakeside Park to grow and donate or sell 30 pounds of vegetables per week. They provide gardening education to school groups and to the community, and have created a new focus for many seniors as volunteers.
“Even though many people have told us how valuable we are, it is very nice to get this recognition,” SEEDS president Jim Parr told the Star. “We are thankful also for the support the city has given us throughout.”
“The loss of the greenhouse [destroyed in the storm last June] was a definite setback,” he said, “because it allowed us to provide greens in the winter. It was such a beautiful place in the winter — the bright light from the grow lights and the smell and the atmosphere of growing greens.”
The third recipient was Uphill Bakery, and specifically owner David Beringer’s electric cargo tricycle with which he delivers bread during the non-snow-covered months of the year.
“I am really happy that this acknowledgement has been made,” he said after receiving the award.
His colourful vehicle, the ELF — which stands for Electric Light Fun — is an attention-getter and it fits Beringer’s desire to create simple transportation that cuts pollution.
At the award ceremony, Beringer was wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Less car, more go,” put out by the American maker of a documentary on cargo bikes. He said the slogan sums up his philosophy.
“Driving such short distances in a car, none of the pollution controls work at that level,” Beringer says. “My understanding is that the catalytic converter needs to reach a certain temperature before it kicks in.”
Commenting on the sustainability awards and the variety of activities that were recognized, Beringer said, “I feel it shows the broad scope of the concept of the sustainability. It can apply to refugee children fleeing war, to growing our own food. Sustainability should be applied to every decision we make.”
Each winner took away $1,000 in prize money.