It’s been three decades since a group of volunteers came together to advocate for paper recycling at the University of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Legislature.
They formed the Recycling Council of Manitoba and it’s a testament to their commitment that few of us today even think twice about tossing our old newspapers and empty pop cans into a blue box.
Over the years, the organization has redefined (or should we say recycled?) itself in response to community needs and growth in environmental awareness.
Today, it continues to advocate for change, encourage individual and community action, and grow as an organization.
“When we changed our name to Green Action Centre (GA Centre) in 2010, it was with much deliberation and intention,” says the organization’s Executive Director, Tracy Hucul.
“We’ve evolved over the last 30 years, starting off focusing on recycling when there was a great need for that, to where we are now with a slate of programs that focus on sustainable transportation, waste reduction and general green living.”
Green Action Centre offers a host of resources for those wishing to reduce their environmental footprint. From inspiring Winnipeggers to use greener transportation, to demonstrating just how easy it is to compost kitchen scraps, the Centre provides information and support via outreach programs and on its website.
And, through its annual Commuter Challenge, which encourages Winnipeggers to find a greener way to get to work, it engaged 7,200 people from 460 workplaces this year.
Interest in the Centre’s programs and activities is booming, and the organization has a place at the table when it comes to advocating for change at the municipal and provincial levels.
This fall, GA Centre is expanding its role even further. It’s launching Compost Winnipeg, a compost pick-up program geared to small businesses.
“Manitoba has one of the highest levels of waste going to the landfill in Canada, and 30 to 40 per cent of that is organics, which don’t need to be going there,” says Hucul.
Compost Winnipeg is a social enterprise intended to reduce waste while diversifying GA Centre’s revenue stream and decreasing its reliance on government funding. Establishing a composting business “was a natural fit” for the Centre, says Hucul.
GA Centre received support from the Canadian Community Economic Development Network’s Enterprising Non-Profits program to develop and pilot the business plan. This spring, they successfully tested it with a number of downtown businesses who want to continue the service.
It’s just another example of GA Centre’s ability to evolve and how far the organization has come, says Hucul.
“Sometimes people feel like change is not happening fast enough, but I think we’ve come a long way. There was a time when people didn’t give the environment much thought but today, people want to know how they can make a difference and see the results. It all starts with individual action,” says Hucul.
Green grant history
The Winnipeg Foundation has supported Green Action Centre for most of its 30 years. Grants have totaled more than $350,000; here are some highlights:
1989 $30,300 for a research report on a recycling symposium. That symposium, held the following year, informed the development of the Province of Manitoba’s recycling strategy.
1996 $27,500 for recycling and composting programs.
2000 $5,000 to launch the Commuter Challenge in Winnipeg.
2001 $10,000 to pilot a program that encouraged kids to walk and bike to school. The Active and Safe Routes to School program has received further grant support and is still thriving today.
2003 $30,000 towards development of the EcoCentre, shared office space for a number of local environmental nonprofits, including Green Action Centre.
2005 $10,000 to establish a network of master composters. Encouraging composting continues to be a major focus of the organization and the basis for its new social venture.
2008 $22,800 to develop a fundraising plan.
2010 $40,000 to sponsor The W.R.E.N.C.H. bike repair hub, now a successful independent nonprofit organization.
2013 $15,000 to support the development of CounterPoint, a mobile phone app that engages Winnipeggers to gather and share data on cycling and pedestrian traffic.
Taking up the challenge
For the past ten years, staff of The Winnipeg Foundation have hopped on bikes, laced up runners, teamed up in carpools and jumped on the bus to participate in the Green Action Centre’s annual Commuter Challenge. The week-long event encourages everyone to explore sustainable transportation options. For several years running (or walking), 100% of Foundation staff have participated.
For more information about Green Action Centre and its growth, visit www.greenactioncentre.ca/about/
The Winnipeg Foundation supported communications activities for the Green Action Centre’s 30th year. Grant monies were drawn from Community Building Funds, contributed by people from all walks of life over the Foundation’s history.