EoR1On April 18, 400 people gathered at the Waterloo Inn to discuss sustainability and learn from leaders in the community and each other about what this looks like in practice. It was an opportunity to share, learn, and communicate the importance of sustainability right at home in Waterloo Region where we can tangibly see the difference. In this respect, Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR)’s event was a rousing success because it showed that the “network of potential”, as our Executive Director Mike Morrice called it, has the ability to create real change in our community.

This “network of potential” really stuck with me in the days after the event as it is not only an uplifting way to look at SWR’s influence in the community, but also because it fit in so well with the growth of the community. SWR’s Regional Carbon Initiative added 20 members in the past year and has seen commitments across 16 member organizations to reduce 45,000 tonnes of GHG emissions over the next ten years. This is partly because of the network our community has created, a network which was the theme of 2012’s Year End Report. So why do networks, and Mike’s idea of Waterloo Region’s sustainability community as a “network of potential”, fit in so well with the impact we are having in this community?

First, the network is important because it enables us to learn from each other, being “a taker from everyone” as David Bois from Home Hardware said during the evening’s Observing Organization panel. Not only can David report back to management at Home Hardware the successes that other companies have had in the Region, but he can also be a valuable resource for others as Home Hardware, in turn, starts their own initiatives unique to their business model. This idea of collective progress, combined with the business and financial benefits that companies such as Waterloo North Hydro specifically mentioned has been a major impact on their business, are why this network keeps growing. If we keep working together, all of us will individually benefit.

Second, the potential of this network derives from our collective passion and the support we give each other, no matter the type of organization or size, to succeed in individual goals. Whether it’s the Commuter Olympics that Enermodal Engineering has created for their employees, or working with local University of Waterloo students to conduct a study on Crawford & Company’s travel patterns, our community is combining leadership with measureable progress.

Mike mentioned in his closing statement that we are on the cusp of something big. At the Regional Carbon Initiative’s 2009 launch event, Derek Satnik, the Chief Innovation Officer for Mindscape Innovations Group, shared with the audience that people across Canada are watching Waterloo for ideas on how to advance sustainability. This is where the true ripple effect can occur; as this affects us and we show others the benefits of incorporating sustainability into our working lives, the web gets larger and strengthens. We are all strong, resilient strands of silk in this metaphorical web. So if we continue to engage each other on our important goal –to advance the environmental sustainability of organizations across Waterloo Region through collaboration – there is no limit to the impact this ripple can have.

This is where I personally get the most motivation; the people involved in this movement, this network of young and old that has a shared drive to create a “sustainable Waterloo Region”, are very inspirational to me. I have been volunteering with SWR since October and it has personally energized me to continue to pursue sustainability in my career. As I spread this message to my friends, family and neighbours, this network will only become larger.

– Conor