The Natural Step Canada – a made in Edmonton story

On the morning of July 20, a few hours before the “The Way We Green” plan went before Edmonton City Council, I was pleased to join Edmonton’s sustainability leaders at The Natural Step Canada’s Sustainabili-TEA. The breakfast event generously sponsored by the City of Edmonton was held at the Royal Glenora Club in the beautiful Edmonton river valley—the perfect setting for a morning focused on sustainability.

The Sustainabili-TEA brought three of The Natural Step Canada’s passionate forerunners—Chad Park, Pong Leung, and Colin Baril—home for a celebration of sustainability achievements and a look at the road ahead. We were also joined via recorded video by the late Ray Anderson, the Founder and Chairman of Interface, who delivered a powerful plea to rethink how businesses relate to the environment. It is convenient to look at sustainability planning as an esoteric, distant process conducted by experts at the national or global scale, with little effect on immediate day-to-date life. The Sustainabili-TEA presented that rather the opposite is true; with evidence of real change led by individuals occurring at the local level right here in Edmonton.

Reza Nasseri from Landmark Group of Builders added to the morning’s stories of possibility by sharing Landmark’s sustainability journey. Since partnering with The Natural Step Canada in 2008, Landmark has strategically incorporated sustainability into its operations and products. Landmark’s innovative vision and dedication has resulted in the company becoming the leader for sustainability in the home building sector.

Jim Andrais from “The Way We Green” task force for the City of Edmonton’s Environmental Strategic Plan explained the path travelled to achieve consensus among community leaders for a sustainable future for the municipality. (The Way We Green was officially adopted in the afternoon of July 20). Gordon Howard, a member of the city’s Green Energy Task Force, insightfully likened The Natural Step Canada’s influence in Edmonton, and across the country, to the prowl of a boat: “This very first point of the ship cuts the water and makes way for the ship to move forward. It leads the way into uncharted waters. The Natural Step has gone ahead and led the work that has allowed plans like “The Way We Green” to move forward. A lot of work has been done to get Edmonton to this point, and The Natural Step has been there all along the way.”

The next steps? In Edmonton, we must ensure that we do not lose momentum. The issues we face in Alberta today are not going to disappear. We need to make smart choices. We need to envision sustainability as a common goal. In Canada, we need to continually support the organizations that train our country’s sustainability leaders, advise our companies on their sustainability paths, and counsel our cities on the possibilities for a brighter future. At the end of the Sustainabili-TEA, attendees thanked The Natural Step Canada for its influence by offering this not-for-profit group of sustainability champions the financial support to help them continue to shape our country’s future.

Written by: Natalie Pepin