Focusing on innovation
Despite its founding affiliation with the provincial government and large business institutions, The Emerald Foundation is as much of a DIY effort driven by sincere integrity and passion for the environment as the many projects and organizations it supports and celebrates.
“The Emerald Foundation is a very small organization, there are two of us,” says Carmen Boyko, the foundation’s executive director who works alongside communications manager Gregory Caswell.
Rounding out the bare-bones roster for this non-governmental, not-for-profit organization is a crew of volunteers who oversee, advise and even judge for the foundation, and the 26th annual Emerald Awards would not be happening next week without them.
“When a judge gets ready to leave in their third year, they often nominate a couple of people who would be good replacements,” Boyko explains. “We go through an interview process and see where their skills are and try and maintain an amazing balance. Right now we’ve got everything from consultants, to engineers, to the mayor of Westlock, to teachers to past recipients.”
This year’s Emerald Awards will shine the spotlight on nominees in 12 categories, from large and small businesses to school-aged children. While the provincial foundation celebrates the awards in our two urban centres, most of the recipients and work being done are spread out through every corner of Alberta. And the focus is always on innovation.
“The great thing about going and meeting all these finalists is you learn things you’d never thought of or think about,” says Boyko, who was present while videos of the finalists were being shot this year, including the mattress recyclers Re-Matt. “So to me, mattress recycling, I read it and thought, ‘That’s cool,’ and then you go and you meet them and you find out the springs were not actually an easy thing to recycle. They really had to think about what they were going to do because nobody wanted them in their bedspring-state, and for them to come up with a process that would allow them to recycle all of that metal in a way that somebody can take and use and repurpose again was brilliant.”
In 1992, McLennan Ross, a local legal firm, Deloitte & Touche, and then-minister Ralph Klein came together to establish the foundation in order to facilitate the Emerald Awards and celebrate environmental achievements in this province.
“One might not immediately think accountants and lawyers when you think about the environment, but at the same time, there are those that see the need and the value and those were—lucky for us—the ones that came together,” says Boyko. “It was probably five years ago when the board said, ‘Well, we’re recognizing and celebrating, now we need to inspire. We need to go beyond and we need to inspire the next generation,’ so out of that came our Youth Environmental Engagement program.”
This program gifts micro grants to youth-led and driven efforts and is just one of several ways the Emerald Foundation has expanded to include and focus on those inheriting the environment. The foundation has developed Emerald Days, where they go out to the recipients’ communities to expand the attention and celebration of efforts there. They’ve also launched the EcoHero Blog Series and a speakers series so award recipients are able to carry on sharing their stories and visions in hopes of inspiring others.
“Environmentalists are incredibly humble and don’t talk about their achievements and innovation as much as they should,” says Boyko, insisting her and Caswell take it upon themselves to make sure as many know about the incredible effort underway as possible.
Tue., June 6 (4 pm)
The 26th Annual Emerald Awards
Royal Alberta Museum