2009 Winner - Sidney Ribaux
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Sidney Ribaux, the first recipient of the 3M Environmental Innovation Award, at the future site of the Centre for Sustainable Development in Montréal. The centre, to be built to the highest green standards, will house Équiterre, which Ribaux co-founded, and other environmental and social organizations. (Photo: Jean-François Bérubé)
Sidney Ribaux was a 23-year-old law student deeply concerned with the environment and social injustice when he co-founded Équiterre in 1993. The Montréal-based group, which began as a volunteer initiative devoted to issues such as climate change and energy, has since become one of Quebec’s most influential social and environmental organizations.
Inspired by the 1992 Earth Summit, Ribaux and his friends decided to address global problems — such as environmental degradation and inequity between the North and South — at the local level. Indeed, over the past 17 years, Ribaux has shown that individual deeds can lead to important political change. For his fresh approach, he has received the first 3M Environmental Innovation Award, awarded by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and 3M Canada.
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Chip Allan (left) of 3M Canada presents Environmental Innovation Medal to Sidney Ribaux (right)
Équiterre’s mission is to build a citizens’ movement that encourages ecologically and socially sound consumer choices. It revolves around four programs: community agriculture, fair trade, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation.
A father of two who has never owned a car, Ribaux is particularly proud of Équiterre’s work on promoting fair trade products. “In 1997, there were two retailers in Quebec selling certified fair trade products,” he says. “Now you can find these products in practically every grocery store in the province.”
Équiterre’s network of community-supported organic farms is equally expansive. More than 100 Quebec farmers supply produce directly to more than 20,000 consumers, up from a single farmer in 1995. “We all have a family doctor,” says Ribaux, lightheartedly. “But we should all have a family farmer, too.”
Under Ribaux’s leadership, Équiterre’s list of accomplishments continues to grow, from successful campaigns on climate change (Quebec has one of the most ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction plans in North America) to offering free inspections to low-income households to reduce energy consumption.
“Sidney Ribaux’s efforts to help us take positive environmental action through the choices we make on a daily basis,” says Chip Allan, 3M Canada’s Executive Director of Community Relations, “are as innovative as they are practical.”
For the past seven years, Ribaux has also worked on the Centre for Sustainable Development, a “green” building to be located in downtown Montréal and the future home of Équiterre and other like-minded organizations. “In constructing a building with state-of-the-art environmental technology,” he says, “we want to encourage others to build more efficiently and ecologically.” It’s yet another way of promoting responsible choices — from the ground up.