2015 Annual report

Annual Report 2015

LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Science and our own experience tell us that we face very big, fast moving challenges. Climate change threatens our civilization and the social, cultural and political progress that are its hallmarks. Many established institutional structures that once served us well now seem poorly equipped to adapt to the required changes at a pace and scale that will save us from ourselves.

At Environmental Defence this means thinking differently than we have in the past. We are giving priority to investing in change that transforms the way we consume our precious resources and moves us towards a clean economy.

We are working to transform the economic decision-making in Canada to one where the cost of the consumption of our resources is included in the price we pay for things and services. This means charging taxes for pollution – like including the developmental impact on ecosystems in the price of wood and cement. It means establishing mechanisms to pay land stewards, such as farmers, for the ecological services that they provide.

We are also working to discourage waste and pollution and to create incentives for investment in efficient clean energy and a new smarter economy – an economy that once transformed will deliver lower income taxes and a higher quality of life.

However, we know that such a shift does not come easily, especially when it must come fast. That is why we are focusing on building a network of informed and active Canadians. We are investing in new information systems for higher quality interactions with more people. We are getting out on the ground in communities to enable local action. We are increasing our ability to have others use our research and materials and adapt them to their own needs and efforts. In total, we are striving to give Canadians the tools they need to affect change.

We know Canadians can lead in the creation of a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future for us and the world. We are betting that you do too.

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Bob Davies
President

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Tim Gray
Executive Director

Annual Highlights

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We Saved The Bees

 

Bees around the world are dying at an alarming rate, putting food security and biodiversity at risk. Understanding the urgent need to save the bees, we worked with other groups and called on the Ontario government to put in place strict new rules on the sale and use of neonicotinoids (neonics) — a group of pesticides known to kill bees and other pollinators — in the province. Social media was buzzing with thousands of concerned people signing our petition to #savethebees. In June, we were able to declare victory as the government announced new regulations that would reduce the use of neonics in Ontario by 80 per cent by 2017.

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Calling for a ban on microbeads

 

Microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic added to personal care products to help with exfoliation, are polluting lakes and rivers across the country. This past year, we raised the alarm bell about these unnecessary and harmful beads and called on the federal and Ontario governments to ban microbeads from products. Momentum grew quickly with more than 16,000 people taking action! This winter, bills to ban microbeads were introduced by federal and provincial legislators. The House of Commons voted unanimously to look at the toxicity of microbeads, and the province of Ontario is considering a ban.

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Loblaws kicks out toxic ingredients from its products

 

We have spent the past decade helping Canadians reduce their exposure to possible carcinogens and hormone-disrupting chemicals. Our efforts continue to pay off. More and more concerned consumers are demanding that products exclude these chemicals and companies are listening. Loblaws, one of the largest retailers in Canada, is the latest to do so. In June, the company announced its plans to phase-out the toxic chemicals triclosan and phthalates and microbeads from their President’s Choice and Life Brand products. The move showed clear leadership by Loblaws to help protect the environment and human health.

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Canadians vastly overestimate tars sands’ economic importance

 

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE commissioned respected polling firm Environics to find out if Canadians know that the tar sands contribute just 2 per cent to Canada’s GDP. The poll discovered that many Canadians vastly overestimate the tar sands’ importance to our economy. It also found that the majority (76 per cent) of Canadians including Albertans agree that given concerns about climate change, Canada should shift its energy strategy away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. The poll was covered by national and local media and it quickly spread through social media, generating a lot of discussion.

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Getting closer to meaningful climate action in Ontario

 

This year saw important steps forward on climate action in Ontario. In February, when Ontario released its climate change discussion paper, we were at the launch and welcomed the paper as a starting point for a critical conversation about Ontario’s future. In response, we released a roadmap for how Ontario couldmeet its targets for cutting carbon emissions while stimulating our economy. We also met with government officials to discuss elements of the climate change strategy.

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Greenbelt key to building the kind of cities we need

 

This winter, some developers tried to paint Ontario’s Greenbelt as the reason for high housing prices in the GTA. We fought back hard, with the facts on our side. In blogs and opinion articles, we highlighted a report that shows there is more than enough land in the GTA for single family homes, but fewer people want to live in far flung sprawl communities. We also showed that our public transit systems are packed because people can’t tolerate the constant grid-lock on our highways. Along with our allies, we demonstrated that in addition to protecting forests, farms and waterways, Ontario’s Greenbelt and its associated policies encourage more compact growth, saving residents and municipalities money and facilitating more walkable, transit-friendly, vibrant communities.

Campaign Highlights

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CLEAN ECONOMY

From British Columbia to New Brunswick, this year a growing number of Canadians demanded climate action. Our world is heating up and extreme weather, from wildfires in British Columbia to floods in Calgary and storms on the East Coast, is becoming more frequent. Climate action is needed and it’s needed now.

The science is clear that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground to avoid climate chaos. But the oil industry wants to triple production of the tar sands, already Canada’s fastest growing source of global warming pollution. We published a report showing that Canada cannot meet its climate commitments if tar sands production grows. We also hosted Carbon Tracker’s James Leaton, who highlighted the financial risks of investing in the tar sands as the world gets serious about climate action. And we released a report showing that expansion of the tar sands is far from inevitable due to barriers like growing public opposition and the volatility of oil prices. Indeed, the year saw oil prices tumble, followed by several major projects being delayed or shelved, including the Joslyn North mine, Statoil’s Corner project and Shell’s Pierre River Mine.

We continued to raise awareness about risky pipelines like Energy East that would enable tar sands expansion. We hosted Exposing Energy East, an exhibit featuring photographs of landscapes and portraits of people at risk from this mega-pipeline. We published a report showing that up to 90 per cent of Energy East’s oil would be exported unrefined, bringing few permanent jobs. Our cheeky video, Great Canadian Migrations, used humour to draw attention to the environmental risks of the pipeline. And we participated in Ontario Energy Board hearings, where concerned citizens across the province voiced their opposition to this risky project. We saw that public opposition can make a difference, when TransCanada abandoned its plan for a terminal in Cacounca, QC which would have threatened belugas in the St. Lawrence.

We continued to help build a growing movement of Canadians saying no to risky fossil fuels. At events like the People’s Climate March in New York City and the Act on Climate March in Quebec City, we helped citizens raise their voices to say no to tar sands and yes, to clean safe modern energy.

At ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, we know Canadians understand that we don’t need to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy. We can and must have both.

That’s why we released a report, which sized up Ontario’s climate challenge and laid out a road map outlining how Ontario could meet that challenge and stimulate the economy. We also helped launch the Clean Economy Alliance, a grouping of over 80 organizations — including business, labour, health charities, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and environmental groups — that came together to support Ontario’s commitment to develop a climate change strategy and put a price on carbon. The Alliance has agreed to a set of principles to guide Ontario’s cap-and-trade program and will be developing recommendations for Ontario’s climate strategy. We also continued to work with our clean economy partners, Blue Green Canada, to push for environmental solutions that create jobs.

Next Steps

We’ll keep helping Canadians speak out against reckless plans to expand the tar sands and the risky pipelines that enable that expansion. We’ll continue to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of the tar sands, including leaking toxic tailings ponds. We’ll work with industries and governments to develop new ways to reduce global warming pollution and shift to renewable energy. And we’ll continue to lead the effort to build a clean economy, powered by safe, modern renewable energy.

TOXICS

When buying toothpaste, shampoo, or all-purpose cleaner for your family, we like to think we’re right there with you.

That’s because we have worked effectively over the past 10 years to reduce Canadians’ exposure to suspected cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting chemicals found in every day products on store shelves.

Over the years, our lab tests have found toxic chemicals in the cord blood of newborn babies, heavy metals in makeup, triclosan in Canadians’ bodies, and harmful ingredients in men’s body care products. We also successfully advocated to get BPA out of baby bottles and phthalates out of children’s toys in Canada.

To kick off our next decade of toxic crusading, we decided to take a closer look at the cleaning products Canadians use. For our study, 14 volunteers from Toronto, Montreal and Cobalt cleaned their kitchens for 30 minutes using popular conventional cleaning products, certified green products, or products with unverifiable green claims. While the volunteers cleaned, we tested the air in their homes for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

In June, we published the findings of this first-of-its-kind research in our report: The Dirty Truth: How toxic cleaning products are putting Canadians at risk. What did we find? The volunteers who used conventional cleaners saw a startling 120 per cent increase in VOCs in their indoor air. VOCs are linked to serious health impacts such as asthma and lower IQs in developing fetuses.

The report received media coverage across the country. It also made it clear that it’s time for government and industry to clean these products up. Because the last thing Canadians should worry about when fighting grime, is fighting for their health.

Our toxics work is more than just testing products. We also educate the public, so they are able to choose safer, non-toxic options. We provide tips and tools so Canadians can protect themselves from toxic chemicals, no matter where they work, live, or play.

In November, we hosted, in partnership with a number of scientific and academic groups, Risky Business: Hormones, Frogs & You — an evening with Dr. Tyrone Hayes at the University of Toronto. During the talk, the UC Berkeley professor spoke about his experience researching endocrine-disrupting chemicals, the challenges he faced when he tried to share his findings, and how this relates to current debates surrounding the relationship between science and industry.

University and college students across the country also helped to spread the word about how toxic chemicals can impact Canadians’ health. Thanks to the support of the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation, our Kick the Toxics off Campus Initiative provided students with mentorship and funding to run their own toxics campaigns at their schools. The initiative saw the involvement from students from OCAD University, York University, St. Francis Xavier University, and Niagara College.

From university campuses, we then headed to beauty schools and salons around Toronto. Hair stylists, makeup artists, and estheticians are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures in their workplaces because of the harsh chemicals they work with. We provided students and professionals with information about what toxic chemicals are hiding in various cosmetic products, and how they can affect the health of salon workers, and the health of their clients and the environment. Thank you to Live Green Toronto for making this program possible.

Next Steps

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE is working to get new regulations passed in Ontario that would label products containing carcinogens or reproductive toxicants, so consumers know what’s in a product before they buy it. We will also continue our work to educate consumers, and to work with companies and government to strengthen policies to better protect Canadians’ health.

LAND

A decade ago ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE helped establish Ontario’s Greenbelt, which protects farmland, forests, rivers and streams from urban sprawl. This year the Greenbelt Plan is under review and we helped Ontarians make their voices heard about the need to strengthen and grow the Greenbelt.

We published a report, Ontario’s Greenbelt Under Threat, to inform Ontarians about the risky plans for a redundant airport, an unnecessary highway proposal and the dumping of contaminated soil on Greenbelt land. And we released a map showing the alarming rate that prime farmland in southern Ontario is being paved over.

We also released a report highlighting that compact growth is better for the finances of residents and municipalities. In the report, we shared examples of smart growth planning, such as in Kitchener, where compact growth is being planned along a new light rail line. And we called for recommendations, such as freezing urban boundaries and increasing intensity targets, to prevent more sprawl and createmore transit-friendly, walkable, vibrant communities thatmore of us actually want to live in.

We continued to speak up about the weak federal Rouge National Urban Park legislation that fails to establish nature conservation as the priority in park management and ignores provincial, national and international standards for protected areas.We continued to push for the passing of legislation in Ontario to protect citizens from harassing lawsuits aimed at silencing public debate.

Through our work with the Cornerstone Standards Council, we helped launch the world’s first voluntary sustainable aggregate standard.

NEXT STEPS

We will help Ontario residents make their voices heard about the need for strengthening and improving the Greenbelt and Growth Plans. We will highlight the risks of the proposed Highway 413, which threatens to pave over farms, forests and rivers. And we’ll keep working with municipalities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe that want to grow the Greenbelt.

WATER

All around us, our lives are touched by water. We rely on clean water to drink, grow our food, support wildlife and fish, and for industry and recreation. ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE knows the vital role water plays in Canadians’ lives and works to protect it for current and future generations.

The Great Lakes are continuing to face increasing threats such as plastic pollution, toxic algal blooms and invasive species like Asian carp. To help address these problems, in February, the Ontario government re-introduced the Great Lakes Protect Act (GLPA), which included several of our recommendations. Our work didn’t stop there. During the year, we also collaborated with U.S. organizations to find solutions to the intense and frequent algal blooms plaguing Lake Erie during the summer.

Through our Blue Flag program, we worked with communities across the country to ensure our beaches and marinas are clean, safe and sustainably managed. This year, we raised flags at four more beaches and marinas: Gimli Beach (Gimli, MB), Bell Park Beach (Sudbury, ON), City of Barrie Marina (Barrie, ON) and LaSalle Park Marina (Burlington, ON). To be awarded a Blue Flag, beaches and marinas have to meet strict international standards.

To raise awareness about the need to protect our shorelines, last summer the Blue Flag program hosted a beach cleanup event at Toronto’s Sunnyside Beach in Toronto, one of the few beaches in the city without a Blue Flag. The event, sponsored by Corona, saw 150 volunteers take part.

Next Steps

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE is working to strengthen the protection of our water and reduce pollution by getting a strong Great Lakes Protection Act passed. To address harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, we will continue to promote solutions for reducing nutrient pollution, particularly in the agricultural sector.

We will also continue to increase the number of Blue Flag beaches and marinas across the country to provide more Canadians with clean and safe places to swim.

Engaging Canadians to inspire change

At ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, we understand that when working to inspire change, there is power in numbers. Through our engagement work, we give Canadians opportunities to actively get involved and create change in their communities. Below are just a few of the ways we worked with communities across the country this past year to create a healthier environment.

Working with communities to stop Energy East

This past year, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE helped Canadians learn about and speak out against TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline. If approved, the pipeline would be the largest pipeline project in North America. And it would be all risk and no reward, especially for the communities along the pipeline route.

We were at the forefront of building opposition against Energy East in Ontario. Our goal was to support an active and effective local movement against the pipeline. As part of this work, we provided strategic guidance and support to five community groups who live along the proposed pipeline route (Kenora, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Arnprior, Pembroke, and Cornwall). Local opposition to Energy East is growing steadily and loudly.

Teaching Canadians to be Chemical Detectives

At ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, we believe that individuals should have the knowledge and tools necessary to help reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals found in every day products.

With this in mind, this past year, we hosted more than 40 Chemical Detective Workshops in Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and Port Elgin. In March, we also teamed up with Rocky Mountain Soap Co., one of our Just Beautiful pledge companies, to host workshops in their stores in Calgary, Canmore and Vancouver. During the workshops, participants learned how identify potential environmental carcinogens in their homes, what they can do to protect their health, and how they can take action.

Canadian youth receive international recognition for litter solutions

It was another record year for our YRE Canada National Competition.We received many great entries from Canadian youth, who used their photography, videography and writing talents to investigate the issue of litter in their communities and propose solutions.

The first, second, and third place winners attended our first national YRE workshop at the University of Toronto in May, where they received mentorship from professional journalists. The first place winners also competed against students from 25 other countries in the international Young Reporters for the Environment Competition. Two Canadian entries placed in the top three in their respective categories. Congrats to Elise Zheng, Alexandra Manalo and Hannah Mittelstaedt on their international awards.

Celebrating our supporters
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Vinh Le
Young Reporter for the Environment

After getting the top spot twice in the YRE Canada Competition, VINH LE wanted to get more involved with our work. A student at OCAD University, he now mentors students in the YRE Canada program, and helped to develop instructional videos that will be used in classrooms this fall. Vinh also worked with our team to raise awareness about the health impacts of harmful chemicals like flame retardants.

“As one of the oldest Young Reporters For The Environment, I took away one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Vinh said. “One, in particular, is to continue to advocate for the need for environmental awareness. I believe I’ve become a great role model for other young green and I hope to inspire many more.”

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Teika Newton
Northern Ontario activist

TEIKA NEWTON is one of Northern Ontario’s star activists on the Energy East pipeline opposition campaign. Having grown up in Kenora, ON, she’s as well-versed in the beautiful landscape of the Lake of the Woods region as she is in the dynamics of City Hall. Alongside the team at Transition Kenora, Teika has worked both on organizing people in her community, as well as contributing to the larger, cross-Canada discussions about Energy East’s risks. She inspires those around her with her energy, smarts, dedication, and passion.

“I see my advocacy against the Energy East pipeline as one small action I can take to ensure that my kids will be able to enjoy an unbroken, natural world.”

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Sarah Shenston-Harris
Engagement Team Leader

SARAH SHENSTONE-HARRIS, our Toronto Engagement Team Leader, works directly with the public on behalf of ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE to ensure that the voices of our supporters are heard. She has educated and engaged with members of the public who want to stop pipelines, strengthen the Greenbelt, ban toxic chemicals, love their Blue Flag beaches, and support our fundraising events. Sarah, who is starting a Masters of Environmental Sustainability this fall, is a dynamic future leader and, comes from a generation who recognize the need to act today to protect the environment for tomorrow.

“I believe that by building personal connections and creating memorable experiences, engagement helps foster environmental activism on important
Canadian issues.”

GREEN CHAMPION

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AWARD BESTOWED IN HONOUR OF RECIPIENT’S NATURAL CONSERVATION WORK AND SERVICE TO CANADA’S ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNITY

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KEVIN THOMASON has been an environmental advocate for over 20 years. As President of the Sunfish Lake Association for over a decade, Thomason played a key role in regional efforts to promote a greenbelt plan for the Region of Waterloo and urged regional council to approve policies to protect farmland and preserve natural landscapes. Thomason actively promotes support for the Region of Waterloo’s Light Rail Transit system, which will facilitate compact growth and prevent sprawl. Thomason is a co-founder of Smart Growth Waterloo, which encourages efficient growth in the region. As Vice-Chair of the Grand River Environmental Network, Thomason works with citizens concerned about issues along the Grand River, including air quality. A steadfast supporter of ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE’S Greenbelt campaign, Thomason is a true environmental leader.
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A Partnership Built on Faith in Change

Like ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE, our partner for the past 20 years, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada, believes that we all have a role to play in positive transformation of the world. Their dedication to our planet includes impressively building the first certified LEED© Gold buildings in London and Peterborough, and supporting the work of many environmental organizations like ours. Their unwavering support has helped us raise public awareness of pressing environmental issues like BPA in baby bottles and the risks of the proposed Energy East pipeline. Recently, we were able to inform thousands of Ontarians about the dangers of tar sands expansion, the risks a pipeline spills pose to healthy communities, and the need for Canadians to shift to a sustainable, clean economy, thanks to their support. We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with the Sisters of St. Joseph, and look forward to working together over the next 20 years.

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Ryan Foster (monthly donor)

“I first learned about ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE three years ago when I heard about their work in exposing the threats that tar sands expansion poses to our climate and communities. Since then I’ve always been inspired by their unwavering dedication to climate justice, from opposing extreme energy projects and challenging our economy’s reliance on fossil fuels, to effectively engaging the public in the climate change crisis and advocating for the solutions to it. It’s my honour to support their tremendous and hopeful climate and clean energy campaigns, as well as all of their work to protect Canadians’ environment and health.”

OUR 2015 Gala: An Evening of Inspiring Change

What better way to celebrate our 30 years of leading environmental change, than with our closest 250 friends? Our Gala was a chance for us to thank those who were instrumental in getting us to where we are and those who will take us to where we need to go. The evening was filled with thought-provoking discussions about the economy and environment, driven by our “Greens vs Greenbacks” debate with Tzeporah Berman and Jeff Rubin. Don Ferguson was an entertaining host and guests were treated to an intimate performance by Jim Cuddy and Anne Lindsay. Thank you to the Gala Committee, guests and sponsors for your unwavering commitment to creating a sustainable future.

Oyster Festival

Thank you to Rodney’s Oyster House and the Ontario oyster community for another amazing Ontario Oyster Festival. For 26 years, the Ontario Oyster Festival has donated proceeds of this great shucking day to ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE to help fund our water programs. Special thanks to all the vendors for contributing products and services and all the volunteers who ensured this year’s festival was the greenest yet.

Thank You

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE thanks all of the individuals and organizations who generously supported our efforts between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. Our work protecting the environment and human health would not be possible without you by our side. Thank you! See the complete list here.

Our Staff

NOT PICTURED: Carlos White, IT Manager; Mary Ford, Operations, HR Manager

Board of Directors
HONOURARY BOARD


Robert Bateman; Ray Civello; David Suzuki; John Swaigen; Donald Wright

CELEBRITY PARTNERS

Randy Bachman; Robert Bateman; Erin Brockovich; Bruce Cockburn; Gillian Deacon; Sarah Harmer; Kari Matchett; Jennifer Podemski; Tamara Podemski; Sarah Slean

EXPERT ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Marcy Burchfield; Dr. Miriam Diamond; Dr. Roberta Fulthorpe; Dr. Danny Harvey; Dr. Bruce Lanphear; Ralph Pentland; Michael Perley; Dr. Shanna Swan; Dr. John Stone; Ray Tomalty

Financials

For the full audited financial report, click here.

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Download the 2015 Annual Report in PDF format here.