Kagawong celebrates Earth Day with clean up and featured speakers

Kagawong Earth Day clean up wrapped up with a panel discussion featuring guest speakers (left to right), Arik Theijsmeijer, Maureen Strickland and Emily Cormier.

KAGAWONG—Members of the Billings Go Green and Recreation committees hosted their annual celebration on Earth Day, Saturday April 22.

The day began at 10 am with a ‘fair weather cleanup.’ Members of the community met at the Kagawong Park Centre to pitch in and clean up our trails and roadsides. A truck load of trash was gathered by long-time residents of the area and newcomers alike.

Three featured speakers provided information during Green Talks. Topics included Community Owned Renewable Energy, The Social Economy and Green Solutions and Community Energy Planning: A Tool for Change. 

Barbara Erskine, chair of both committees addressed approximately 20 people in attendance. “Welcome to our Earth Day celebration,” she began. “A number of bags of garbage and recyclables were picked from our roadsides and trails today. It’s a dirty job but you each put your heart into it and our community looks a lot better to start off our spring and tourist seasons. Thank you.”

Arik Theijsmeijer (who works for Fed Nor in Sudbury and was employed for a period of time at LAMBAC) spoke about community owned renewable energy. Mr. Theijsmeijer is the (volunteer) president of Sun Solar Co-op: a non-profit cooperative 500 kilowatt ground mounted solar project in Sudbury. The group is interested in renewable energy and see that as the future in terms of an environmentally friendly economy; keeping financial opportunities in the community for its members to invest in ethical projects within it.

The Sun Solar Co-op hopes to apply for several energy contracts with the province. The government is making it easier to invest together to make these 20 year commitments a reality, he noted.

The projects are expected to triple in the next 18 months. “Every $1 spent on a community power project becomes $2,” stated Mr. Theijsmeijer.

Community power builds support for renewable energy and promotes good strategy for our government.

“What can you do?” asked Mr. Theijsmeijer. “Join Sun Co-op, add your name to the email list re potential investment opportunities.”

“What can Billings do?” asked Mr. Theijsmeijer. “With plans underway for the waterfront improvement, the township could apply for funding to incorporate interesting design elements including solar or wind; greening of the community to show others that we care about our community and are keen to implement solar renewable energy in our area.”

Billings Go Green member Maureen Strickland spoke next on the topic of The Social Economy and Green Solutions. Co-operatives such as credit unions are “a member owned business to serve a need in your community. They create a positive impact on social economy; surplus remaining in the community. It encourages democracy enabling members to be engaged.”

The key to its success, stated Ms. Strickland, “is building democracy in a community.”

Co-operatives, she shared, have been around for 170 years in 100 countries and have been proven to be more successful after 10 years than that of a private business.

“It must be approached from a business point of view and must be viable,” Ms. Strickland continued. “Co-operatives are willing to share with other co-operatives which is another key to their success. The community benefits while meeting a community need.”

“This is where ideas come into action to make things happen.”

Some examples of co-operatives that offer ‘green solutions’ are local food co-operatives which are the largest growing by helping change things and make huge impact. Transportation is another example to put less impact on the environment: car sharing co-ops, tool sharing as well as energy.

Emily Cormier was the final speaker for the afternoon and spoke on ‘Community Energy Planning: A Tool for Change.’ Ms. Cormier started her presentation by saying “I am thrilled to be here; I’ve never been to Kagawong before and I plan to come back.”

Ms. Cormier was hired as project manager to create a five-year energy plan for Wawa: motivating small community to move forward to get the ball rolling. The 14-month project was funded by the Ministry of Energy, with Wawa being its ‘guinea pig.’

“Change is all around us,” stated Ms. Cormier. “We must make ourselves aware to be effective in mitigating the changes.”

Ms. Cormier came up with 10 steps during the project:

1 identify the need

2 decide what to do

3 money talks re grant applications

4 create a project champion

5 develop partnerships

6 implement while you plan

7 do not re-invent the wheel

8 share your results

9 make it happen and finally

10 create a new community culture by replacing old traditions with new realities

In conclusion Ms. Cormier recommended John Kotter’s book ‘Our Iceberg is melting’ and encouraged everyone to “be a penguin.”

A panel discussion followed the final speaker’s presentation where the hot button topics being council support, scale of opportunities, and the role lower income individuals can take to make a difference.

Ms. Erskine recognized the speakers for sharing their expertise to encourage conversation and thanked members of the audience for their participation in cleaning up their community and for their interest in the featured topics.