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Earth Week closes green competition

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ecology North wrapped up Earth Week with a coffeehouse at Mildred Hall School, but with a new twist: a governmental inter-department competition that involved six different teams.

NNSL photo/graphic

Deanna Leonard holds a makeshift trophy at the Ecology North coffeehouse Saturday night. - Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Deanna Leonard, a fisheries biologist with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is a member of the Green Team. The team is made up of both GNWT and federal workers who try to make government work more efficient and green.

In the case of the coffeehouse Saturday, Leonard says the team decided to put a challenge out to as many government departments as possible and see what pledges would come back and then have judging conducted by Ecology North.

"It is a big deal trying to put a pledge together because it is a mass collective effort," said Leonard, noting that 424 employees were involved and that it required a manager's sign-off as part of the deal. "With places like INAC, for example, with 175 employees, reducing the amount of paper being used is a big step to agree on."

Responses came from Leonard's own department, with 15 employees promising to switch to post-consumer printing paper and 100 per cent paperless pay stubs starting May 1.

The payroll division of GNWT employee services, made up of 20 employees, committed to printing double-sided for all paperwork as of April 30. The GNWT Department of Human Resources' 180 employees promised to stop using plastic utensils and paper plates and cups as of June 1.

The Mackenzie Land and Water Board, with 24 employees, planned to move towards paperless correspondence with board members and reviewers as of April 27.

The winner, however, was the 10-person recruitment support unit with corporate human resources of the GNWT Department of Human Resources. Members committed to a huge list of 17 items, including everything from making sure employees use the stairs at least once a day to using white boards to composting, recycling, and drinking tap water.

Linda Bussy, manager of recruitment support, declined to comment as the team hadn't officially been notified by press time that they had won.

Leonard said the effort will hopefully take place again next year.

"For my own offices, we are looking at shutting off the lights in the summer, because we probably don't need them and can probably save a lot of energy doing that," she said.

People put stickers on what they deemed to be the most efficient pledge and Ecology North members voted. What is important, Leonard noted, is to what extent the teams follow through on their commitments.

"Some teams had only put in one as a solid commitment, but we are interested in following up next year to see how well they did," she said, noting that a second category will be created in 2013 to award the teams that best kept their pledges.

A makeshift trophy, called the "Trash Formation," made by Myka Jones, will be delivered to the corporate human resources office in the coming days and will be mounted onto wood with a plaque as their reward.

"Of course that is another way to remember your commitment," Leonard said, laughing.

Earth Week co-ordinator Dawn Tremblay said the competition was a good way to contribute to the coffeehouse, which closed off another week of environment-aware events. She didn't have the full numbers available for the amount of money raised or for those who attended.

"I think it went really well and lots of turnout," she said. "I think the nature walks were a big hit and the compost workshops were well-attended, as was the solid waste forum."

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