Student activist, community gardening hub, and inspiring high school teacher receive national environmental awards

Earth Day Canada (CNW Group/Earth Day Canada)

Earth Day Canada (EDC), with support from the RBC Foundation, Mill Street Brewery and UFile, is pleased to announce that Emmanuelle Melis (Youth) of Toronto, Ont.; Jean Hall-Armstrong (Individual) of Thunder Bay, Ont.; The Riverwood Conservancy (Group) of Mississauga, Ont.; Fresh City Farms (Small Business) of Toronto, Ont.; and David Gordon (Teacher) of Toronto, Ont., have been selected as EDC’s 2017 Hometown Heroes Award Winners.

“The goal of this awards program is to recognize and celebrate the efforts of local Canadian heroes who are making a difference to help the planet — often without any compensation or fanfare for their hard work,” says Deb Doncaster, President of Earth Day Canada. “This year, we added a new Teacher Award, and have been so impressed with the accomplishments of our finalists and winners.”

All of the Hometown Heroes Award Winners receive a custom-designed statuette along with a $5,000 cash prize. The Youth Award winner can donate the money to a local environmental group or cause of their choice or put it toward a post-secondary scholarship; the Individual Award winner must donate it to a local environmental group or cause of their choice; the Group Award winner can use it to support their ongoing work; the Teacher Award winner can donate it to their school to support further environmental efforts; and the Small Business Award must use it to make an operational change that results in the organization lessening its environmental impact.

The winners will be presented with the awards at a ceremony hosted by Earth Day Canada on June 14, 2017, in Toronto, to be emceed by youth eco-activist and WE ambassador Hannah Alper, with a keynote speech by children’s author Kenneth Oppel and special appearance by three-time Olympic medallist Silken Laumann, who will be receiving a separate award for Outstanding Achievement.

The Hometown Heroes Award Program was established in 2004 by Earth Day Canada to recognize and celebrate environmental leaders who foster meaningful, long-term community awareness and action.

This year’s winners are …

Emmanuelle (Emma) Melis, head of her high school Eco Team, has led successful fundraising campaigns for environmental charities and raised money to install a water bottle refilling station at her school. She also implemented composting and recycling systems in local elementary and high schools, works to raise awareness about pollinator population conservation, and is writing and illustrating a children’s book series called The Climate Change Chronicles.

Jean Hall-Armstrong, co-chair of the Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan and member of the Thunder Bay District Stewardship Council and Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, is a community worker with a focus on improving water and wildlife habitat in the Great Lakes. She participated in an initiative to remediate a site containing 50,000 cubic metres of creosote-contaminated sediment, and has worked on various habitat projects to purify the water and boost local wild life populations and biodiversity.

The Riverwood Conservancy is comprised of an active board of directors, staff and volunteers in Mississauga who lead school and public programming such as nature walks and astronomy nights while also devoting thousands of hours to restoring wildlife habitats, planting native plant species and connecting people with nature. Almost 100,000 members of the community have engaged in efforts spearheaded by the Conservancy.

Fresh City Farms produces, sources and delivers fresh, local, primarily organic produce and prepared meals with as low a carbon footprint as possible. They deliver using electric vehicles or bicycles and encourage pickup from centralized depots to minimize emissions. Fresh City’s newly built greenhouse has a solar-paneled roof, a rainfall capture system and a drip irrigation system to conserve water. The company goes to great lengths to avoid disposable packaging (they are known for their salads, soups and smoothies delivered in reusable jars). Excess food is sold to juicing or jam-making companies or simply donated to staff or local community organizations, and they regularly open their doors to volunteers and students looking to learn more about sustainable agriculture practices.

David Gordon is a teacher at Dunbarton High School in Pickering, Ont., where he runs the environmental student council. He played an important role helping students adopt a local park and revitalize it by planting a pollinator garden and 300 native tree species and installing educational signage. He also advised a group of students in launching the Greenbelt Youth Charter, in partnership with EcoSpark, in 2015 — here, 100 community guests and eight NGOs gathered to hear talks on the importance of sustaining the Ontario Greenbelt.

For more information about Earth Day Canada’s Hometown Heroes Award Program, please visit

This year’s Hometown Heroes Award finalists are …

Youth: Hayley Todesco (Calgary, AB) and Maya Burhanpurkar (Oro-Medonte, ON)
Individual: Lisa Scott (Summerland, BC) and Bruce Mackenzie (Grimsby, ON)
Group: Clean Annapolis River Project (Annapolis Royal, NS) and Rivers Collegiate (Rivers, MB)
Small Business
: Passive Design Solutions (Hubley, NS) and Sawmill Sid Inc. (Mississauga, ON)
: Ann Jackson (Russell, ON) and Pascale Baillargeon (Iqaluit, NU)