How does reThink Green build sustainable communities?
business Sustainability Support
Across Northern Ontario businesses many businesses, organizations and workplaces have participated with one or more of our support programs. They are realizing the advantages of connecting with our programs and maximizing the benefits of becoming more sustainable.
Our Green Economy North (2016-present) program works with local businesses and organizations to set and achieve sustainability targets — bringing together, supporting, and celebrating businesses as they achieve their goals. Green Economy North is one of 8 Hubs in the Green Economy Canada network and we are currently working to expand this program across Northern Ontario. Together we are demonstrating that a more sustainable economy is possible.
Greening Sacred Spaces (2016-present) is a branch of Green Economy North supported by Faith and the Common Good. It is a practical program which assists faith communities with both the educational and spiritual dimensions of greening as well as the “how to” side of reducing a faith community’s footprint.
The Commuter Challenge (2018 – present) is week-long friendly competition between workplaces. It encourages Canadians to leave their cars at home by rewarding and celebrating active and sustainable transportation. We hope to develop a year-round program to promote sustainable commuting.
reThink Events was launched in 2010 to address the environmental impact of community events. We recently revived this program with a pilot collaboration with Downtown Sudbury’s RibFest in 2019. We are looking to expand this program to address sustainability at festivals, conferences, sporting events, film shoots and more.
ReThink Green ensures that people are educated, politically engaged and participate in environmental activities in their community. Each year we host several participatory educational events in communities including Greater Sudbury, North Bay and Manitoulin Island.
The Earth Festival (2006-present) provides an opportunity for environmental groups to showcase their work and connect with volunteers, supporters and the public. The last two festivals have been entirely virtual allowing us to create more permanent online and connect with a broader audience. We are looking forward to creating more digital content and to returning to an in-person Earth Festival in 2022.
We strive to educate citizens about political candidates and their environmental policies, particularly around election time. We hosted Good Green Town Halls in 2014 and 2018 to coincide with the Greater Sudbury municipal elections. We also hosted one of the 100 Debates for the Environmental during the 2019 Federal election campaign as well as a follow-up event Every Day Advocates in 2021. We will continue to promote discussion of environmental issues in future elections.
Our Smart Green Communities (2019-present) program engages communities to develop Energy and Emissions Plans. These plans bring together hard data, our technical expertise as well as input from citizens and community leaders about their values and priorities. In creating Regional Energy and Emissions Plans for Manitoulin Island and the North Shore we engaged with 25 municipalities, townships and indigenous communities. We look forward to working with more community energy and emissions plans in the future. An ongoing legacy of this project is the Smart Green Communities Practitioners Forum which engages climate change and economic development-oriented focused professionals from across Northern Ontario.
Green Economy North and Smart Green Communities have hosted a number of educational events such as “Understanding your Hydro Bill”, “Value of a Green Brand” and “Asset Management”. We have also hosted Green Expos in Sudbury (2018) and North Bay (2019) with guest speakers, presentations, expert panels and information booths.
Resources and Training
With our resources and training, citizens and community leaders have the information and skills they need to make good environmental plans and decisions.
ReThink Green has a proud legacy of supporting a network of local environmental groups. We developed the first Environmental Resource Centre (2007) and brought together accessible online information about local environmental project and organizations (Green Connect 2010). We have hosted numerous capacity building workshops on topics from “Effective Advocacy” to “Social Entreprise.” Our Engagement Organizing project (2015-17) trained local non-profits to use data driven tools to deepen and broaden their engagement with the community and evaluate their outreach. An ongoing benefit of this network is bi-annual Green Gatherings (2012-present) which bring together environmental groups to share ideas, set common goals and generate collaborations.
We created Northern Ontario’s first environmentally focused meeting and co-working space for businesses, social-enterprise, non-profits and community groups (The Forge 2014-2020). We supported two cohorts (2015 & 2016) of The Natural Step’s IMPACT Sustainability Champions training by granting the young entrepreneurs launching local environmental projects residencies at the Forge. Although the Forge is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recently completed a feasibility study to retrofit a downtown building to create a certifiably green community hub. We are looking for the right partners and resources to move this project forward. (Photo of meeting in the Green Room)
We have undertaken a number of research projects independently and with community partners including the Greater Sudbury Energy and Emissions Profile (date), the Low Carbon Building Skills report (2019), Low Carbon Retrofit Feasibility Study (2021), Regional Energy and Emissions Plans (Manitoulin Island and North Short 2021), and Covid-19 and the Agricultural Sector in Northern Ontario (2021). We also publish Annual Reports detailing the impact of our programs and case studies about the achievements of our members. These and more are all available on the Publications tab of our website.
At reThink Green we leverage our resources to incubate community-led environmental projects to achieve greater impact. Support includes accessing and applying for funding, supervising staff, providing office space, insurance coverage and financial management.
Our first such project was the SUN Co-op started at which started at reThink Green in 2010 and then incorporated as an independent cooperative. When they were approved for a Feed-In Tariff program in 2016, they sought our support to help manage the project. Constructions of the solar farm was completed and will be providing clean, renewable energy for many years to come.
Other local organizations we have supported include Clean Air Sudbury (2015 – present), Sudbury Shared Harvest (2016-2017), Plastic-Free Greater Sudbury (2019-2021), and the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council (2019-2021). We also managed the Sudbury, Parry Sound and Muskoka catchment of the Sustainable New Agri-Food Products & Productivity (SNAPP) Program. This regional project supported Northern Ontario agriculture and food producers to create new products, enhance productivity and adopt clean technology. Our most recent project was to interview local producers for College Boreal’s research report “Covid-19 and the Agricultural Sector in Northern Ontario.”
Our first project outside of Sudbury was to work with Next Economy North Bay to produce a day long trade-show style event in North Bay in 2019. This event had workshops, a roster of guest speakers and information booths from local environmental businesses and organizations. Based on our success in working remotely on this event, we hope to incubate more projects across Northern Ontario. (Photo – NENB)
Investing in People
At reThink Green we believe in providing meaningful work that fosters environmental champions. We often hire staff through employment programs such as Eco Canada, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Workforce Development Stream, FedNor Youth Internships, Ontario Job Creation Partnership and Canada Summer Jobs.
As their position with us is often their first job post-graduation, we value the up-to-date skills and energetic enthusiasm these workers contribute to our organization. We provide responsibilities that will help them develop their skills, gain experience, cultivate connections, and build their resumes. We invest their professional development by sending them to training: often at the Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET), and even a graduate degree in Science Communications. We are committed to paying a Living Wage and are striving to achieve the 50-30 Diversity Challenge.
In addition to paid positions, we also host students doing academic placements to fulfill degree requirements. Program placements include Environmental Monitoring, Public Relations and Business Administration at Cambrian College as well as Science Communications at Laurentian University. We have also hosted participants in the Developing Indigenous Environmental Keepers program (2019) and Canada World Youth (2015).
reThink Green is governed by an experienced and dedicated volunteer Board of Directors. We also have volunteers serving on advisory committees in Communication and Business Development. We are looking forward to developing more fulsome volunteer programs in the future.
Whether they are with us for a short-term placement or a long-term contract, we strive to give all employees a positive experience that will inspire them to continue to champion environmental issues throughout their careers.