On June 13, 2012 Niagara residents, community groups and school programs were awarded for their contributions to the environment.
The Niagara Region Environmental Awards are one of the longest-running Environmental Awards programs hosted by any municipal government in Ontario.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Earl Plato, Ridgeway
Earl Plato is the founding member of the Bert Miller Nature Club, an organization that strives to improve, protect and sustain the wildlife and natural resources of the Niagara peninsula, and to build awareness of those resources among Niagara residents.
Mentored by legendary Niagara naturalist Albert Weatherstone ("Bert") Miller, Earl has had a lifelong passion for sharing his love of Niagara's wildlife. Earl shares his experiences and expertise through his blog, Nature in Niagara, and has also been a steward of the Marcy's Woods property, a private nature reserve committed to environmental preservation. He has led many schools on tours through the pristine property and is the contact for the private owners to arrange tours.
Even after so many years, Earl is still committed to sharing Niagara's stories with people from around the world. Last year he purchased an electric scooter so that he can still travel down the Friendship Trail and make note of the changing seasons of nature to share with the community through his weekly news articles.
Niagara Region is proud to recognize the tireless and passionate efforts Earl Plato has made in educating the world on Niagara's beautiful landscape through this lifetime achievement award.
Green Non-Profit in Niagara Award
Commonplace Eco-Village, Thorold
Commonplace Eco-Village is a registered environmental charity with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Niagara homes, food production and transportation by 90 per cent by 2014.
Already charging ahead with this goal, they have built and recently opened a demonstration house which is completely off the grid, built from local straw bales and uses the latest eco-technology. Located on a parcel of land in Thorold, the house will showcase sustainable technology from solar and human-powered transportation options to small-scale permaculture agriculture.
Commonplace Eco-Village has participated in numerous projects around Niagara, including a recent project to draft-proof low income homes in Niagara through a federal Eco-Action grant.
The charity's vision is to help people create lifestyles within the global ecosystem by researching and demonstrating environmentally friendly and affordable alternatives to conventional housing, waste treatment, water usage and energy generation.
Green Business in Niagara Award
Walker Industries, Thorold
Walker Industries is a multi-faceted group of companies involved in construction, emulsions, environmental project management, waste management, renewable energy projects and green building that is making a difference in Niagara through its EARTH 1st environmental program.
EARTH 1st moves beyond environmental compliance to focus on environmental performance; it actively seeks ways to improve the environment around our facilities. It challenges Walker Industries employees to innovate and find ways to enhance the environment. The program also empowers employees to make decisions that improve processes and operations through education and training.
Through these principles, Walker Industries is striving to find unique ways to sustain and restore environmental quality in Niagara. Some of its more recent green initiatives include renovating one of our office buildings resulting in a GHG reduction for that building, a $500,000 donation to Woodend - the Living Campus to revitalize the campus for thousands of students from the Niagara region to enjoy educational and environmental experiences.
Greenest Family in Niagara Award
Kim Story & Family, St. Catharines
Kim Story and her family were recognized for their persistent and passionate work in changing their community for the better by pushing for better recycling programs.
While living at their St. Catharines apartment complex, Kim and her family came to the realization that the complex needed a thorough recycling system. Because Kim knew that a recycling program could be successful in the townhouse complex, she tirelessly appealed to the owner, manager and superintendent, without results. However, Kim continued to educate and inform others regarding recycling, reducing waste and reusing going so far as to bag her recyclables and bring them to her in-laws in Niagara Falls to participate in the recycling program.
Kim stayed dedicated to her passion for recycling and was finally able to win a small-scale recycling system. Kim is still actively promoting the virtues and advantages of recycling to her family, friends and neighbours.
Sharon Keller, Fonthill
We all have a responsibility to educate our youth in the proper care of our planet, and as a science teacher at E.L. Crossley Secondary School in Fonthill, Sharon Keller has gone above and beyond in the promotion of environmental responsibility to Niagara's young people.
The head of her department, Sharon is deeply involved in the success and growth of her students, and is the school leader when it comes to environmental initiatives. Since she helped form the E.A.R.T.H. (Environmental Advocates Ready To Help), Sharon's tireless work has increased environmental awareness both at her school and in her community. Eco-mentors, improved energy efficiency at the school and water bottle filling stations are only a few of the dramatic changes she has helped bring to E.L. Crossley.
E.A.R.T.H.'s winning in the Secondary Age Young People's Award as well as Sharon's receipt of the Voluntary Award drives home what a strong and positive influence on the environment that can result from the hard work of dedicated individuals like Sharon.
Young People's Award, Secondary Age Category
E.A.R.T.H., E.L. Crossley Secondary School, Fonthill
The collaboration and passion for the environment that embodies E.A.R.T.H. (Environmental Advocates Ready To Help), E.L. Crossley Secondary School's environmental club, speaks to the difference a dedicated group of passionate students can make in the life of our planet.
Spearheaded by Voluntary Award recipient Sharon Keller in the Spring of 2008, E.A.R.T.H. has been hard at work promoting the reduction of ecological footprints in Niagara. E.A.R.T.H. is involved in countless initiatives at their school and in their community throughout the year. They have been involved in Earth Week ceremonies, school ground greening initiatives, and a "Make Every Day Bottled Water Free Day" project that saw the installation of three new water bottle filling stations at E.L. Crossley. Their tireless efforts protecting and preserving Niagara's environmental health has netted E.A.R.T.H. Ontario EcoSchool's gold certification for the past two years.
The dramatic impact E.A.R.T.H. has had, and continues to have, on the environmental health of not only its school but also its community stands as a testament to the dedication, passion and diligence of all the students and staff at E.L. Crossley who are making a positive difference in the lives of Niagara residents.
Young People's Award, Elementary Age Category
Green Team, Quaker Road School, Welland
Students at Quaker Road school are learning what it means to be environmentally conscious through the efforts of the school's Green Team.
Through funding from World Wildlife Federation and ACER, guidance from Climate Action Niagara and huge parental and staff support, Quaker Road has been able to implement two environmental projects in the 2011-2012 school year. In Fall 2011, large rocks from Walker Bros. Quarry were situated in the rear of the school grounds to create an 'outdoor classroom'. Teachers and students are beginning to use this space for educational purposes (e.g. science, art and language lessons). Being outdoors and being able to observe the world around them is very inspiring for many of Quaker Road's students.
Also, in Fall 2011 ACER guided approximately 30 students, 20 parents and two teachers in the art of tree, shrub and ground cover planting. Both deciduous and coniferous trees were planted to create a 'mini-forest' on the east side of the school property. Students are learning the benefits of planting trees and as a result are becoming more earth friendly. Students appreciate the beauty of what they have planted and want to be part of the maintenance process. Once a year, the Green Team will measure the growth of the tree.
Quaker Road Green Team's efforts are showing their fruit as students are increasingly bringing 'litterless lunches', turning off unneeded lights, and using reusable water bottles. The passion and enthusiasm Quaker Road's students have for the environment shows how much positive change Niagara's young people can bring about.