Pushing for a greener Quebec

Sidney Ribaux (Photo: Jean-François Bérubé)

If you build it, they will come.

When Sidney Ribaux, co-founder and executive director of Équiterre, won the first 3M Environmental Innovation Award in 2009 for steering his non-profit organization’s work advancing ecologically and socially sound policies and practices in Quebec, he and his team were less than two years away from the grand opening of their Centre for Sustainable Development, in downtown Montréal. Since then, thousands of curious locals and tourists, as well as architects, engineers and policy-makers, have visited the centre or followed the educational tour through this green beacon of architectural design. “Our building is probably the greenest in its category in Canada,” says Ribaux. “It consumes a third of the energy and half of the water of a similar building built to code.”

Ribaux has also had big breakthroughs pushing for stricter government policies, including Quebec’s 2011 adoption of an obligatory carbon market, which requires companies to install greener technologies or buy offset credits if they surpass the greenhouse-gas-emissions cap. That success has pushed Ribaux to focus on public transit and locally farmed food initiatives and move to have cosmetic pesticides banned in Quebec. “The real challenge,” he says, “is to decide what we’re going to work on next.”

Seeing the forest and the trees

Frank Van Biesen (Photo: David Trattles)

Frank van Biesen remains as dedicated to reducing his industry’s huge carbon footprint as he was in 2010, when he won the 3M Environmental Innovation Award for his commitment to promoting green technologies in the business.

But creating an energy management and conservation role within the forest products giant Kruger Inc. and being the driving force behind a biomass gasification system at the company’s mill in New Westminster, B.C., are just the beginning for van Biesen, Kruger’s vice-president of technology and environment.

At the company’s mill in Gatineau, Que., van Biesen championed a recovery technique that captures heat lost in two of the facility’s three main paper production lines and returns it to the system, in the form of hot water or heated glycol, to power other processes. “This contributes to lower costs and reduced greenhouse- gas emissions,” he says. The innovation was also recognized by the Association of Energy Engineers, which awarded Kruger the 2012 International Energy Project of the Year prize.

The accolades are welcome, but they’re simply a by-product of van Biesen’s drive to trim Kruger’s energy consumption by 15 percent over five years. Since 2010, when the reduction initiative began, the company’s energy use has declined by 5.2 percent, with a 2.4 percent drop in 2012 alone.

The drive to recycle

Michel Séguin (Photo: Michel Séguin)

Three years after launching a project that saved millions of automotive products from heading to local landfills, Michel Séguin is as ambitious as ever.

“We’re always looking at how we can do more,” says Séguin of Go Eco, the program that won him the 2011 3M Environmental Innovation Award and allows Canadian Tire customers across Quebec to recycle used automotive products through the retailer.

Séguin, an independent Canadian Tire dealer in Laval, Que., is working to expand the Go Eco program, adding more recyclables to its roster, including windshield wipers and carpets. Go Eco already accepts items such as motor oil, filters, car batteries and antifreeze.

Thirty-five Montréal-area Canadian Tire locations are also benefitting from a more comprehensive recycling program piloted by Séguin. More than 95 percent of all materials produced by the stores, including old merchandise and office supplies, is now reclaimed.

But it’s thanks to the unprecedented success of the first program, Go Eco, that Canadian Tire is now looking to move the recycling initiative beyond Quebec’s borders. “We have been working for six months on a plan to adopt it in two other areas of the country, ” says Séguin. “But there is a long road of hard work ahead before we get there.”

Mapping culture for a brighter Arctic future

Fraser Taylor (Photo: Bonnie Findley)

Since winning the 2012 3M Environmental Innovation Award, Fraser Taylor, with his team at Ottawa’s Carleton University, has carried on reinventing the map.

Taylor designs works of cyber-cartography that blend information about local cultures, especially in Canada’s North, with multimedia to create interactive atlases. “Inuit, for example,” he says, “are very careful and constant observers of their own environment.” His work shows that the Inuit’s intimate, practical, current knowledge — of ice patterns, for instance, or human and animal migration or even teachings passed down for centuries — can be an invaluable asset to Arctic science.

Taylor is currently working on a proposal to ensure that the traditional knowledge of the Inuit and other circumpolar peoples is integrated into the Arctic Spatial Data Infrastructure (Arctic SDI). A massive compilation of what the world knows about the Arctic, digitally organized according to geographic location, the Arctic SDI is endorsed by the Arctic Council, which Canada is chairing this year.

“Just as railways, roads and airports were critical in the 19th and 20th centuries,” says Taylor of the Arctic SDI, “these knowledge infrastructures are the key infrastructures of the 21st century.”

The 3M Environmental Innovation Award was established in 2009 by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and 3M Canada to recognize outstanding individuals in business, government, academia or community organizations whose innovative contributions to environmental change are benefitting Canada and Canadians.