Celebrating their 20th anniversary, the Niagara Region Environmental Awards are one of the longest-running Environmental Awards programs hosted by any municipal government in Ontario.
In 1979, Dr. Edgar Lemon retired to Niagara-on-the-Lake from his position as a research professor in agronomy and environmental physics at Cornell University. During his retirement, Dr. Lemon made an enduring contribution to environmental conservation.
Dr. Lemon is best known in Niagara for his research into the use of constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment. During the 1990s, Dr. Lemon initiated and led a research project examining the use of constructed wetlands to treat wastewater at the sewage lagoons in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This research demonstrated that constructed wetlands can treat wastewater effectively during Canadian winters using natural processes, without introducing harmful chemicals into the environment. The constructed wetland technology was subsequently commercialized by a member of the research team and is in use at several locations in Niagara and elsewhere.
Dr. Lemon was also an active member of the Ecological and Environmental Advisory Committee (EEAC) from 1989 to 1997. He played a lead role in preparing, "Energy from Waste - A Review and a Comparison with Landfill and Composting", a major report prepared by EEAC and released in 1992. This report was referred to in subsequent waste management work in Niagara. In 1998, he made a presentation to Regional Council on climate change and its implications for Niagara.
Over the years, Dr. Lemon also made a significant contribution to public awareness and understanding of environmental concerns in Niagara through presentations to various groups and through his letters to the editor on current environmental issues. Dr. Lemon passed away in March of this year.
Donna Lemon, Edgar Lemon's wife, and Tom Braybrook, who worked with Dr. Lemon on the constructed wetland project
The Niagara Environmental Corps is a student-led, student-focused initiative at Niagara College. Formed in 2006, the Corps now has over 135 members. The goal is to empower students to become proactive in solving environmental problems and building healthy communities. In 2007, NEC joined forces with Niagara Research to gain experience in environmentally-focussed research initiatives with Niagara businesses and community organizations.
The Environmental Corps' activities include:
Varsha Jayasankar's environmental awareness began at home with efforts to conserve water and energy. She was instrumental in having her family install low flush toilets, showerheads, faucet adapters, and energy saving lights, thermostats and light dimmers among other devices. She has been very careful in recycling household waste in proper containers and is instilling the habit in her five-year-old sister. She is in charge of composting the household's yard waste. Varsha always walks to school, promoting this with her friends, and car pools to other events. She prefers to clean her room and the bathrooms with vinegar and water. For lunch, she carries a metal spoon and avoids juice in plastic pouches. She insists that her family use reusable bags for groceries. She has observed the 'Earth Hour' meticulously for the past two years.
Varsha's Science Projects have had 'environment' as the central theme. At the 2008 Niagara Regional Science and Engineering Fair, her project examined "Effects of Automobile Emissions on Plants". In the 2009 Science fair, her project "Anti-Oxidants, Do They Help Extend Fruit's Shelf Life?" investigated the use of naturally occurring antioxidants versus chemicals to extend the shelf life of fruits. Both projects won several awards, including third place in the Junior Level out of 82 projects.
E.A.R.T.H., the environmental club at E.L. Crossley Secondary School in Fonthill, was formed in the spring of 2008.
Vandermeer Greenhouses has initiated a biogas project that will significantly reduce its ecological footprint. An innovative anaerobic digester facility has been constructed and recently began operation. The facility will use grape pumice, chicken manure, greenhouse clippings and other organic wastes to produce biogas, which then will be used to generate electricity and heat to meet the energy needs of its greenhouse operations. Surplus electricity will be sold back to the grid.
The project will be the first in the world to use grape pumice to produce energy. Grape pumice, a by-product of winemaking, can raise water quality concerns due to its low pH. The anaerobic digestion process will produce a solid residue, which can be used as an organic fertilizer. The project already has drawn public attention and should encourage others to consider similar initiatives.
Niagara Action for Animals was selected for this Award for its work to enhance the quality of the natural environment while continuing its efforts to raise awareness of animal abuse. NAFA is a registered charity founded in 1989. With a grant from the TD Friends of the Environment Fund, NAFA launched a campaign in Port Weller School to educate students about Malcolmson Eco-park in St. Catharines. Students produced signs that have been installed in the Park to inform visitors about the wildlife in the park and the importance of protecting flora and fauna.
NAFA has an ongoing recycling program that invites members to drop off old cell phones and ink cartridges for recycling. The money raised goes to NAFA's spay/neuter and education work. The NAFA house is run by Bullfrog Power and NAFA's front door proudly displays the Bullfrog logo to all passersby. Finally, NAFA holds outreach events to spread the word about lowering our carbon footprint by adopting vegan/vegetarian diets.