Manitoulin Island businesses awarded for reducing environmental impact

·4 min read

Two Manitoulin Island businesses were recognized as forward thinking sustainability leaders by reThink Green. Country 103/Hits 100 radio station and Split Rail Brewing Co., along with three other Northern individuals and organizations, were feted at a virtual ceremony hosted by Sudbury-based reThink Green as part of that organization’s annual Sustainability Awards on April 21.

Country 103 was recognized as an Environmental Champion. “We are the first green radio station in Canada, so basically a pioneer in green energy,” said Craig Timmermans, CEO and owner. “We’ve taken the station 100 percent off the grid. It’s proof of concept that solar energy does work and you can go off grid. We actually have so much excess power that we’re going to put in an EV charging station as well.”

This was the radio station’s first award for their environmental impact. His reaction was “very heartfelt,” he said. “My wife said to me, ‘you’re almost tearing up.’ It’s just, to get that kind of recognition was very impressive.”

Mr. Timmermans said there’s more to come. In addition to building a 100 percent off-grid home this summer, they want to take the transmission tower site, which is still partially on grid, completely off-grid. “As well, we have a lot of excess heat because of the transmitters. They generate a lot of heat, and one of the projects we’d like to do is a sustainable greenhouse that will use all the excess heat and excess electricity to heat the greenhouse and have a community food garden.”

Split Rail Brewing Co. was recognized as Green Economy North Member of the Year. The brewery is a long-time member of reThink Green’s Green Economy North program. “We’re thrilled,” said Barbara Erskine, acting general manager.

“Switching from bottles to cans and working that out as a more sustainable way to package our beer, and also saving on fossil fuel emissions by purchasing our own canning line rather than having a mobile canning line come up from southern Ontario are some examples where they’ve worked with us in the past,” she said.

The mentorship and support from reThink Green has been key for them, she added, as well as great partners from around Manitoulin Island. “The great farmers who are tasking the spent grain we have as a by-product of brewing that we can use that to establish our own little circular economy where they grow food, maybe grain, we use grain then give them the waste product and they grow more food. We’re loving that idea and the fact that we can get that done and we have the local cooperation to do it.”

Green Economy North is a milestone-based program to help members transition to a low carbon future. The first milestone is getting to understand what’s involved. The second milestone is measuring your footprint, which is the stage Split Rail Brewing Co. is currently at.

“Our next task is to establish our baseline energy usage and thereby figure out our emissions and see where we are at right now,” Ms. Erskine said. “From there, once we identify where we’re at we can start to look at what’s a realistic target to shoot for in terms of reducing our emissions or improving our energy efficiency. This is the pathway we’re on now. It’s a journey.”

This was the second year for reThink Green’s online Sustainability Awards, which aligns with the organization’s aim to reduce the waste and carbon emissions that come with traditional event management.

reThink Green is an environmental programs incubator headquartered in Greater

Sudbury with a mission to provide programs, offer events, and encourage knowledge-sharing and collaboration among businesses, municipalities, and other stakeholders. It endeavours to people, ideas, and resources throughout Northern Ontario to help create more sustainable communities.

“Awards like these are even more important in times such as this,” stated Rebecca Danard, executive director of reThink Green. “Given all of the challenges and changing struggles faced in the past year these individuals and organizations found deeper passion in their work and ongoing commitment to environmental action.”

“The world, and the North, is forever changed,” pointed out reThink Green’s David St. Georges, communications director. “So too must we change our approach to carbon reduction. This is why we shifted our model to highlight projects that are taking the next steps to a carbon neutral future. We need to do more, and they are already doing it.”

Lori Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Manitoulin Expositor

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