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Environmental Defence Canada

[Space Is] had the opportunity to speak with Corinne Berman from Environmental Defence about the role that events play in their organization. She provided us with some interesting insight, expanding on their goals, missions, and values when it comes to organizing events. Read below for tips on how to make your event greener.

Environmental Defence typically organizes events that include a panel discussion about one of their programs. Their primary goal is always to enhance their campaign work and increase public awareness on specific issues. Audience engagement is key, and whenever possible, raising money is a secondary goal. As an organization that inspires change in government, business, and people, Environmental Defence works to create a greener and healthier life for all. Most recently, the film screening of “Smog of the Sea” – a Jack Johnson movie about plastics in the ocean – was quite a success. The panel connected the topic with plastic pollution in the Great Lakes and Environmental Defence’s campaign to create a deposit return program for plastic bottles in Ontario.

How to make your event greener and socially & environmentally responsible

  1. Offset if possible. For example, Bullfrog Power sponsors Environmental Defence’s annual gala. And, try to choose venues that have sustainable practices..

  2. Don’t give away unnecessary stuff. And if you do give something away make sure it is sustainable – for example, at the event itself, do not have bottled water, but give away reusable water bottles instead. Choose sponsors who are like minded, and are working to decrease their carbon footprints.

  3. Go with local + organic caterers. It makes a big difference when all the food for an event is local, and even better when you know that best practices are used.

  4. Look at the production chain. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Don’t produce extra paper. Just print the essential posters, programs, and that’s it. Ask yourself, are place cards or programs necessary?. And be sure to print on FSC certified paper with non-toxic ink. You should also try to reuse whenever possible – like centrepieces, podium signs etc.

  5. Choose a venue on a public transit line. It’s best for an event to be as accessible as possible for guests.

Describe your ideal or favourite event space. Have you found it? What are some features of different spaces that you enjoyed?

“University for talks or lectures, and the Toronto Reference Library for the Gala. We really enjoy Daniels Spectrum, Artscape Sandbox, MaRs, and the Ivey Business School facility in the financial district.” The ideal space depends on the event including scale and target audience. “The reason we like the Toronto Reference Library for our Gala is because, in addition to being a unique space with beautiful natural lighting, it provides a separate space for the cocktail reception and the main room is perfect for 250 to 400 seated guests..”

What is a conscious event for Environmental Defence?

“Environmentally, we do everything we can to decrease our carbon footprint. We use local, organic and sustainable food, we offset our power use, we avoid printing more than necessary and we ensure that our events are transit friendly. Socially, we try to find venues that are more interesting; We are looking at involving marginalized communities for our catering – in Toronto there is Newcomer Kitchen, a non-profit that invites Syrian refugee women to a cook, and there are Indigenous caterers such as Nishdish. We also prefer to use smaller more independent caterers. We try to ensure our panels have equal representation of men and woman as well as representation for diverse communities.”

Why are conscious events important for Canadians?

“In Canada, people are asking more critical questions about organizations operating in the environmental and social justice space - they want to be more personally connected with causes that resonate with them and are more critical of inconsistencies. And, once they’re engaged in a cause, they’ll become active supporters signing petitions and attending events and amplifying our message. But for them to be involved, you need to prove to them that you truly represent their values So if your organization espouses environmental protection, then your events should reflect that value.

So how can you not make an event more responsible? For example, Environmental Defence rarely promotes giveaways because they don’t want to promote consumerism and the products are often made in countries with poor human rights conditions “We have to walk the talk – it’s part of who we are.”

For more on Environmental Defence:


Vancouver, British Columbia

Toronto, Ontario

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