36th EOY Awards Dinner – Recipients and Pictures

The Hamilton Environmentalists of the Year Awards recognize the dedicated efforts of citizens, businesses and organizations to improve the environment in our community.

The Dr. Victor Cecilioni Award for the Environmentalist of the Year recognizes long-term efforts that create a significant impact in the community. This year’s recipients were Bill and Judy Wilcox, the founders and driving force behind Hamilton Victory Gardens. In 2007, Bill and Judy started a garden at a west mountain church and donated the produce to food banks. Four years later they started the first Victory Garden. There were six sites the following year and by 2014 there were a dozen Victory Gardens across the city. With the help of over 350 volunteers, Hamilton Victory Gardens generated 45,000 pounds of produce last year, in the process changing neighbourhoods and people’s lives in multiple positive ways. Last year produce donations went to five meal kitchens and five other food banks. A ‘sweat equity’ program was also launched which allows marginalized individuals and opportunity to exchange volunteer hours for fresh produce. Victory Gardens also supported the Good2Go Food Box program and the Food4Kids summer program last year. Inspired by Cuba’s urban gardens that provide half of Havana’s produce, Bill and Judy’s work directly combats poverty, builds community resilience, enhances food security and health, reduces transportation emissions, and provides volunteers with both skills and the opportunity to make positive change. Those volunteers include students, seniors and people directly helping to feed themselves and their families.

A Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Mary Ellen Scanlon for over thirty years of personal and professional efforts to enhance sustainability and the environment as a planner, project manager and community volunteer. Her professional work has included Hamilton’s sustainability planning including Vision 2020, natural heritage policies, active transportation and the Red Hill Valley watershed action plan. She spent the last eleven years of her working career as the Great Lakes Advisor to the Ministry of the Environment working on projects successfully implementing the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan. Her volunteer work has included key roles with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (now Ontario Nature), the Ontario Roundtable on Environment and Economy, the Carolinian Canada Coalition, and the Hamilton Community Foundation. Now retired, Mary Ellen is on the board of the Mustard Seed Food Co-operative.

Stephanie McLarty received an Award of Merit for starting and developing REfficient, an on-line marketplace where companies can buy, resell and recycle surplus telecom and audio visual equipment. REfficient was Hamilton’s first certified B Corporation and in 2014 was one of 84 companies world wide recognized as Best for the World for environmental performance – a listing also achieved in 2013. REefficient has the goal of diverting one billion pounds from landfill and includes a cell phone recycling program that rewards donors with the planting of trees. It now has customers in twelve countries and last year ensured over 30,000 products were reused.

This year’s winner of the Betty Blashill Award was Donald Brown, a long-time board member of the Canadian Organic Growers Hamilton chapter and a key player in nurturing the first of the city’s growing number of community shared agricultural operations. He joined Hamilton COG shortly after its founding in the 1980s and was its treasurer for more than a dozen years, also contributing his financial acumen to the national organization’s annual Guelph Organic Conference. Don’s financial oversight helped in the establishment of Plan B Organic Farm in the 1990s, and later assisted Positive Power, the local effort started in 2001 to support wind energy production. Now in his 90th year, Don remains active as part of an informal social justice and environmental discussion group called “The Hopefuls” that lobby politicians and organize letter-writing campaigns. A recent meeting focused on Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything.