A longstanding environmental group, the principal of an architectural firm, and an influential broadcaster were recognized Monday as the inaugural recipients of Nelson’s sustainability leadership awards.
The West Kootenay EcoSociety, Lukas Armstrong of Cover Architectural Collaborative, and Jon Steinman of Deconstructing Dinner were chosen by a jury from among 11 nominees that included a “diverse cross-section” of non-profits, businesses, and individuals.
The EcoSociety, awarded first place, was cited for its “incredible contribution to enhancing Nelson’s sustainability” and “excelling at civic engagement, bringing together diverse communities to explore, understand, and experience sustainability.”
The group puts on weekly markets on Baker Street and Cottonwood Falls Park, puts on MarketFest on three Friday evenings during summer, provides educational events, and “even the odd rally at city hall.”
“While the old thinking was that there is a conflict between environmental stewardship and economic prosperity,” jury chair Dan Woynillowicz wrote, “the EcoSociety has successfully highlighted the important economic opportunities that accompany sustainability.”
The jury also gave special mention to executive director David Reid, who was also nominated as an individual, saying “his leadership at the EcoSociety is a key factor in its success.”
In accepting the award, Reid paid tribute to the “work, involvement, interest, and passion” over the last 20 years of people like Michael Jessen, John Alton, and Suzy Hamilton.
“They planted the seed for the EcoSociety. I’ve just been fortunate in the last few years to come along and help that plant grow and start to harvest some fruit,” he said. “I’m excited about the work we’ve been able to do as a community and the work we’ve got coming up.”
Reid said the society has founded a separate non-profit to create a regional sustainability network and set an agenda similar to Nelson’s Path to 2040 strategy. They also plan to hire a field organizer to “help all of us accomplish the dreams we’ve set out.”
Firm helps shrink footprints
Second place went to a “relative newcomer who is already leaving a major imprint.”
The jury said that under Lukas Armstrong’s leadership, Cover Architectural Collaborative is “demonstrating bold leadership in presenting people with passive house green building solutions that can drastically shrink the environmental and energy footprint of our homes and buildings.”
Armstrong and his team were further lauded for their “ability to communicate both the business and personal case for achieving sustainability in the buildings we occupy. By offering hands-on exposure to passive design and public education about sustainable living, Lucas is bringing a key solution to our sustainability challenges.”
Rob Stacey, a partner in the firm, accepted the award on Armstrong’s behalf.
“Just over a year out of the gate and we’re getting recognized. That’s intimidating,” he joked. “If anything, it raises the bar. As much as our ideology support sustainability in all its forms, we’re lucky to have good clients supporting us.”
Stacey said he looked forward to “making change that is quite difficult,” as it’s one thing to read about important ideas, “but whether we have the guts to implement them is the true issue.”
Food security pioneer
Third-place finisher Jon Steinman is the creator and host of Deconstructing Dinner, a radio and TV series that looks at food systems. The jury called him “an early leader in the field of food security,” and said he has “has helped raise awareness of the challenges we face and the solutions available to build a robust, secure, and sustainable regional food system.”
Along the way, he has “always placed a strong emphasis on participatory community engagement and education and has a talent for bringing global issues home, demonstrating how local and regional food systems contribute to community sustainability.”
Steinman said the recognition capped an exciting couple of weeks, in which he also learned his TV series won its country category at the Taste Awards, the Kootenay Co-op announced the official start of Nelson Commons, and a co-housing project he’s involved with on the North Shore is ready to be occupied.
He noted that he arrived in Nelson from Ontario ten years and two weeks ago. “It’s what led me to choosing this career that focused on sustainability and raising awareness around our food system,” he said. “This community inspired me to pursue this path.”
Outgoing city councillor Candace Batycki, who presented the awards, said the city has put a great deal of effort into sustainability planning in recent years, but implementing that work needs to involve both local government and the community at large.
“Nelson is blessed with innovative, active, passionate and creative people who take sustainability seriously,” she said. “This is about recognizing and celebrating the hard work and leadership of so many.”
The awards come with prizes of $1,500, $1,250, and $1,000.