The Greenest Awards

Canada's green innovators win $75,000 at EcoLiving Awards gala

Scotiabank rolled out the green carpet on June 2 to hand out the inaugural EcoLiving Awards at a star-studded gala that left an audience of environmental and Bay Street heavyweights as choked up as the winners. The first awards in Canada aimed at encouraging innovation in home energy efficiency attracted the heads of Pollution Probe, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Canadian business leaders and media, to an exclusive event at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The awards were decided by an independent panel of expert judges, who reviewed entries from all regions of the country to select finalists and winners in three categories: Business Leadership Award ($50,000); Innovator Award ($15,000); and Student Leadership Award ($10,000).

Emcee Evan Solomon set the tone for the evening at the Art Gallery of Ontario when he commended the finalists for carrying on the pioneering spirit that built Canada in the first place. “I cover a lot of MPs and politicians,” said the host of CBC Television’s Power & Politics, speaking to an audience that attracted finalists and the heads of top environmental groups from across the country. “You expect them to be the innovators but in fact the real innovators are right in this room.”

The night’s $50,000 prize was awarded to BUILD a not-for-profit program that hires and trains ex-inmates to retrofit homes in low-income areas of Winnipeg with energy- and water-saving materials. Shaun Loney, executive director of BUILD explained that the initiative has collectively saved one million dollars in utility bills for struggling families, decreased greenhouse gas emissions and given opportunities and a sense of belonging to vulnerable members of the community.

Loney shared an impassioned story of one staff member who’d spent a lifetime in foster care and had trouble finding his way. He sharpened his building skills through the BUILD program and now works as a manager. He’s now supporting his daughter as she battles leukemia, riding two buses every day to visit and read to her. “Everybody has a place in the world,” Loney said. “Energy efficient solutions have an undeniable positive impact on our environment, and we like to think that the work we do at BUILD also makes a meaningful difference in the community.”

Winners also took home stunning crystal statuettes designed by sculptor Mark Raynes Roberts, whose Glasslands collection focuses on environmental issues.

The Awards are an important part of Scotiabank’s flagship Canadian environmental program, EcoLiving which includes a magazine and website introduced in 2010 to help Canadians reduce their energy bills and take advantage of government rebates by making greener choices for their homes,

“Increased interest in saving on energy costs together with concern about our environment has made efficient energy use a growing priority for Canadians,” said Anatol Von Hahn, Group Head, Canadian Banking, Scotiabank. “Each of these winners has demonstrated leadership and innovation in the development of products and services to reduce energy consumption in the most important space to most of us — our homes.”

Entries came from a variety of sectors, from large corporations to universities to shoestring start-ups. The judges included Tom Rand, author, Cleantech advisor and practice lead at the MaRs Discovery District; Thomas Mueller, founding director of the Canada Green Building Council; Andre Fauteux, journalist and publisher/editor of La Maison, Lisa Rochon, architecture critic for the Globe and Mail and Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence Canada.

“Change is best led by example, and the Scotiabank EcoLiving Awards are a crucial contribution to showcasing how home energy efficiencies are within the grasp of every Canadian,” said Laurie Simmonds, CEO and President of Green Living Enterprises. “We are proud to support Scotiabank in its efforts to embolden Canadians as they pursue sustainable lifestyle choices.”

Home-energy innovators take note: check the EcoLiving website to enter the 2012 EcoLiving Awards.