Partnership Spotlight by Larin Guenther, OWC's Planning Manager
Milk and cookies.
Fish and fresh water.
OWC and Environment Lethbridge.
Some things are better when you work together.
While OWC is focused on bringing people together to support a healthy watershed, Environment Lethbridge is focused on environmental health and sustainability within the City of Lethbridge. With the Oldman River flowing through the middle of the City, there is lots of opportunity for the two organizations to connect and collaborate.
The OWC has been involved with Environment Lethbridge (EL) since 2013. OWC’s Executive Director, Shannon Frank, was part of the original EL Executive Committee, responsible for securing the funding from the City of Lethbridge that was granted in 2015. Since that time, OWC’s Planning Manager, Larin Guenther, has taken over Shannon’s seat on the Executive and of 2017, Larin will become Chair of EL.
This partnership has been an important one for both organizations. The OWC was integral to setting up EL’s office front when in early 2016, the two organizations moved out of the research building and into their new space at 319 6th Street South. 2016 was a big year for EL, being the first full year for Executive Director, Kathleen Sheppard and, that has been shown, a successful year in terms of environmental progress and action in the city of Lethbridge.
Fun Fact: Kathleen is really, really good at word scrambles (as was discovered at our office Christmas party). She is also a very talented stained glass artisan.
A major focus of EL this year was the roll-out of WasteLess.ca, an interactive website that demonstrates the need to reduce waste in Lethbridge. A few weeks after the release of WasteLess, some great news came in – Lethbridge City Council approved curbside recycling. It was great to see that the focus of EL was also a focus of the city’s community representatives and that Lethbridge is taking a step in the right direction to address the issue of waste.
Fun Fact: If every household in Lethbridge practiced grasscycling – that is leaving lawn clippings on the lawn to decompose instead of collecting them – in one year, the amount of space we would save in the landfill would be equal to 449 garbage trucks (http://wasteless.ca/waste-in-yql)
In addition, EL was also able to hire on Courtnay Sopko in the summer of 2016. Courtnay has been tasked with EL’s Benchmarking Project, a document that will highlight where Lethbridge sits in terms of air quality, water quality, waste, biodiversity, climate change and energy. This will be an important step in setting environmental goals in the future, by establishing a baseline to know where we are today and where we can improve. EL is partnering with the City of Lethbridge Planning department to ensure that the information in the benchmarking report aligns with the City’s planning initiatives.
Fun Fact: Courtnay worked with Volunteer Lethbridge before she came to EL. There, she helped organize volunteer efforts across Lethbridge, and also managed to mastered the art of gift wrapping.
OWC is supportive of these undertakings of EL. Targeting waste reduction helps mitigate the effects of climate change which we see having consequences throughout our watershed in terms of increasing water temperatures, droughts and floods to name a few. In addition, OWC will be concentrating on Goal 6 in the New Year - Identify water quality outcomes and assess factors impacting them for adaptive watershed management. With the work EL is doing on their benchmarking project, OWC will be able to utilize the water quality section to target the city of Lethbridge and address potential water quality issues while highlighting solutions that citizens can achieve.
2017 looks like it will not disappoint either, with big plans ahead focused on community engagement, energy efficiency, curbside recycling and of course, the completion of the benchmarking project. EL will no doubt continue to be out and about in the community, attending events in 2017 as well such as Keen for Green, Apple Fest and the Lethbridge Farmers Markets, not to mention the super successful Reuse Rendezvous. This event encourages citizens to participate in free-cycling – leaving useful, but no longer needed items outside for others to enjoy. Started by the City of Lethbridge in 2012, the annual event was handed off to EL in 2016 and we were able to have the most successful year yet! Visit EL’s website and for the latest information, sign up for their monthly e-newsletter.
Fun Fact: If you enjoy carnivals, and love the scent of vegetable oil powering a Ferris wheel (what??!!!) stay tuned for a one-of-a-kind event coming to Lethbridge in May, 2017! Here’s a little tidbit if you are too curious to wait.
Like the OWC, EL is also a not-for-profit. If you or your business or organization are interested in learning more about EL or becoming a Community Partner, now is a great time. Because… Fun Fact: 2017 is going to be great!
OWC Planning Manager