We have been positively overwhelmed with all the nominations that we have received for our very first Ottawa Eco Awards - and we are so honoured to have had the opportunity to learn about all the people, places, animals, and plants of Ottawa that inspire you.
Ottawa Eco Award recipients transformed their communities with activities including distributing free seeds, bug parades, reusing and reimagining hard-to-recycle waste, diverting Halloween pumpkins from landfill, advocacy, public education, food security learning, planting pollinator gardens, and more.
It is our honour to present the Ottawa Eco Awards 2023 to the following recipients:
Land and Water Defender Award: Gabrielle Fayant, Co-Founder of The Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G) and the A7G Helpers
“Among various initiatives and services for Indigenous youth, the A7G helpers support the roles of Indigenous Peoples as stewards of the land; in particular, they acknowledge how colonialism, residential schools and ongoing processes separating Indigenous individuals from their community and the land, are foundational to issues of climate change. They recognize how this has transformed Indigenous Peoples from stewards of the land, into land and water defenders. A7G is dedicated to community, land-based advocacy movements and has recently been looking to further increase food sovereignty and Land Back. They have community feasts and are putting their 1x10 metre community garden plot to good use, offering opportunities for youth to care for the land; they are also eager for opportunities to expand. The helpers atA7G are all Indigenous youth volunteers who work tirelessly for our communities and within movements for Mother Earth and Indigenous Peoples – honouring our traditional responsibilities to all our relations, including our more-than-human kin.”
- Breena Johnson, Ottawa Community Member
Active & Accessible City Award: Mélanie Ouellette, Founder of the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library
"Melanie started the Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library Facebook group a couple of years ago, and it is flourishing! It now has over 3000 members. She also has an accompanying website with a ton of information and assistance for beginner native plant gardeners. The purpose of her initiative is to inform Ottawans of the benefits of planting native wildflowers, trees and shrubs in their backyard gardens instead of exotic plants. She has started a website, seed exchange, and has facilitated people in Ottawa to get started with native plant gardening. She has truly fostered a sense of community and has encouraged Ottawans to meet up, get together, and share planning & native plant gardening tips, and exchange native plant seeds & plants."
- Taryn Adams, Ottawa Community Member
"Mélanie is successfully running Ottawa Wildflower Seed Library - a grassroots organization that promotes gardening with native plants, organizes plant and seed exchanges, and shares native gardening advice. It was thanks to Melanie that I and many other Ottawa residents have converted their lawns into pollinator-friendly habitats."
- Ottawa Community Member
Climate Champion Award: The late Sherri Watson, Co-Chair of the Environmental Action Group (EAG)
“Sherri was an excellent organizer and knew how to listen, how to communicate and how to draw the best out of others. Her self-admitted gift for using “the red pen” was particularly convenient when editing our many letters of advocacy over the past three years. She was a mentor to many of us… Among the myriad of activities Sherri undertook and at which she excelled, was the role of co-chair of the Environmental Action Group, or as she liked to call us, her EAG Family. She was dedicated to and worked unstintingly for the natural environment and a wide range of environmental issues, for social justice, for the Unitarian congregation, Ajashki and much more… We continue to work for the future of the planet, and in her honour, we can all attempt to channel her persistent determination."
- Ottawa Community Member
Climate Champion Award: Ajashki Food Security and Climate Change Learning Centre
"First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa is showing strong leadership by supporting the Ajashki Food Security and Climate Change Learning Centre conceived by Elder Verna McGregor. This Special Reconciliation Project will now expand to include the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Service in a Land Back Initiative so they can build Affordable Housing for Indigenous People on this Campus beside Ajashki."
- Ottawa Community Member
Nature Champion Award: Julianne Labreche, Master Gardener
“Julianne is an active volunteer and leader in Ottawa's horticultural scene, a strong advocate for wildlife-friendly gardening. As a volunteer with Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton, Friends of the Farm and the Ottawa Horticultural Society, Julianne often serves in leadership roles. Currently the president of the Ottawa Horticultural Society, she is also the editor of the Master Gardeners' monthly newsletter, Trowel Talk. In 2018, as "armchair mayor", she advocated for Ottawa to become a "bee city". She has made her garden a Monarch Waystation inspiring neighbours around her to do likewise. She is an accomplished writer and public speaker, authoring many articles on the subject of ecological and wildlife-friendly gardening, and speaking to groups across Ontario on similar subjects. In 2022, Julianne masterminded a intergenerational day of fun and education on pollinators with a native plant sale; fun activities for kids; and Indigenous story-telling. Julianne has also written a lovely children's book called "Mr. Toad and Friend", and was instrumental in developing the partnership between Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton and Kitchissippi United Church, creating an educational pollinator garden at the church. Julianne is a font of knowledge and an inspiration who leads by example."
- Rebecca Last, Coordinator, Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton
Refuse-Reduce-Reuse Champion Award: Brittanny Belanger, Founder of Earthub
"Brittany is the founder of an environmental organization called Earthub. Earthub is a Canada wide organization with multiple chapters. She lives in Ottawa. Earthub collects difficult to recycle items and finds end users who can reuse or reimage these items in order to divert them from landfills. She does this as a volunteer after working her very full time job as an engineer. Brittany also does speaking engagements regarding Earthub as well as providing environmental awareness around the Ottawa and Kingston areas. Brittanny has been an inspiration to many."
- Rebecca Hannaford, Earthub Kingston-Chapter Lead
"As the founder of Earthub, an entirely volunteer-run environmental organization, Brittany inspires me. Her determination and dedication to diverting everyday items from the landfill is a perfect example of how individual actions matter and can make a huge difference. Since its inception in 2019, Earthub has diverted 361,473 items from the landfill. Items are instead slated for reuse. Brittany is also a vocal advocate and educator in the dangers of plastics and alternative products we can use instead. All this while also working a full time job!!"
- Sarah Felice, Program Administrator for Earthub
"Marianne Ariganello is a passionate, high-energy, high-impact individual, working as part of the Ottawa South Eco-Action Network (OSEAN). She has been the driving force behind their Pumpkins for Pigs events each fall, that divert Halloween pumpkins first to use for people as food, then as food for animals and finally ensuring whatever is left is composted. She also set up and runs the cloth diaper program, providing cloth diapers for families to try out and helping them source their own. She does all this with a young family and also while working four days a week! She is truly inspiring!"
- Lynne Patenaude, Ottawa Community Member
Most Cherished Greenspace: Britannia Park
“It's the only place where I feel an escape from the city, while still being in the city. Perfect combination of trees, water and views across the Ottawa river."
- Ashley Medema, Ottawa Community Member
Most Citizen-Friendly City Space: Strathcona Park
“Strathcona Park is a wonderful green space, situated alongside one of the defining rivers of the Ottawa area, the Rideau. The park's lovely old trees provide a cool and shady area in the summer, and the park offers interesting features for people of all ages, walking paths, benches, gardens, views up and down the river, the 'Ruins' for children to play and space to picnic, relax, and play on the grass.”
- Jane's Walk Ottawa-Gatineau
Most Beloved Urban Bird Species: The Evening Grosbeak
“Once common in flocks in the Ottawa area, this bird is now on the endangered species list. Despite an eruption of this vulnerable species, they desperately need our help. According to Environment Canada, window collisions are the main cause of the decline of this species.”
- Deborah Doherty, co-chair Bird-Friendly Ottawa
Most Treasured Tree Species: Burr Oak
“The Burr Oak is the most resilient and most native tree species in Ottawa. Please protect everyone of them!”
- Ingrid Kjarsgaard, PhD. Carleton University
Thank you all for your participation in the Ottawa Eco Awards, and a heartfelt thanks to the recipients and nominees for all the work they have done, and continue to do, for the city of Ottawa.