What a week! Last Tuesday we hosted Sustainable Waterloo Region’s 2nd Annual Evening of Recognition, and released our 2010 Report, titled “Celebrating a Community Built on Action”. Again this year we were thrilled to have over 300 sustainability-focused people from across Waterloo Region join us to mark the achievements of Regional Carbon Initiative (RCI) members and recognize members’ GHG emissions reduction accomplishments from the past year. For me, and many of us on the team, the event was an opportunity to see how far this community has come in one year. In 2010, RCI membership almost tripled, while our nine Pledging Partners collectively increased their GHG reduction commitments to 1,700 tonnes, which is equivalent to taking 377 cars off the road. For more details, see the news release here.
The success of the evening can be attributed in large part to our incredible volunteer team, as well as the efforts of Helena, who organized the entire event and Matthew, who led the creation of our year-end report again this year.
More than celebrating the quantified progress of RCI members though, I was reminded this year about the energy & enthusiasm a local event of this magnitude creates. In other words, what is it like to get this many people in a room to mark progress towards sustainability? In a word: electric. The energy in the room was contagious. And the most encouraging part for me was the number of people that made a point of telling me how inspired they were as they left.
So, while I do think it’s important we honestly recognize our limited and incremental progress to-date, it is a start we can be proud of. I realized last week what a motivator it can be to see others start to take action. All in the same ‘barn-raising’ fashion that one of our speakers and 2010 Report contributors (Rosemary Smith of the KW Community Foundation) mentioned in her address.
One of my personal highlights from the night was right at the end: I called on several types of collaborators and asked each to stand up to be recognized. These included members of our Board, Sustainable Waterloo Region volunteers & staff, Regional Carbon Initiative members, funders, etc… Once we had just about half of the room standing up, I reiterated: these are the people that make up the action-oriented sustainability community that we had spent all night talking about! These are the people that energize me. And it’s this community-based leadership that is really getting to work when it comes to improving the sustainability of our local economy.
In the absence of the policy changes necessary for larger-scale progress, such as a market-price on carbon, we have communities like ours – people & organizations from all sectors – working together to measure and report on our collective progress. And as I mention in the 2010 Report: at Sustainable Waterloo Region, we’re still only two years in. The best is yet to come; but the pieces are in place to ensure we continue to increase our impact.
Already, I’m excited for next year’s Evening of Recognition. I’m excited for the number of members we will have to report on, the GHG reduction commitments they will have made, the sustainability-focused projects that they will have implemented, and the GHG reductions as a result of these efforts. I have no doubt we will have plenty more to celebrate in a year’s time.