Planting seeds of knowledge with ‘rotten broccoli’

Environment & Animal Welfare

Photo: (left – right) Eddie Ayoub, Art City Artistic Director, and Josep Seras Gubert, Green Action Centre Sustainability Project Coordinator.
Green Audit pilot program works with youth-serving organizations to change habits and build climate change resilience.

Changing behaviours when it comes to our daily practices is key to building resilience in the face of climate change. Our youth are in the best place to form new and long-lasting habits – and green audits at youth-serving agencies are helping to bring awareness and change.

‘Rotten Broccoli’ a.k.a. Josep Seras Gubert at Art City. Photo taken March 12, 2020.

Cue ‘Rotten Broccoli’ a.k.a. Josep Seras Gubert, Sustainability Project Coordinator with the Green Action Centre. This Winnipeg-based non-profit promotes green living through environmental education and practical solutions and is conducting the audits.

“‘Rotten Broccoli’ is my nature name,” Seras Gubert tells the 10 kids gathered at a waste reduction demonstration held in early March at Art City, a community art studio dedicated to providing space and tools for people to express themselves creatively. This waste demonstration is just one part of a green audit, which also includes compiling a sustainability profile, conducting energy audits, and producing key findings and an action plan to improve.

Youth from the after-school program pick through five black garbage bags; although just one day’s worth, it totals 10 kilograms of waste. The youth consult with ‘Rotten Broccoli’ before depositing sorted items into the correct receptacles: compost, reuse, recycle or garbage. It is a hands-on and mindful learning experience for a task that would otherwise not be given much thought. And it’s the first step in changing behaviour.

Art City staff and volunteers also rolled up their sleeves to pick through the trash. Completing the audit was a goal of the organization’s current strategic plan, says Eddie Ayoub, Art City Artistic Director.

“This green audit is being done in a fun way that engages the kids. It’s very consistent with our approach,” Ayoub says.

Three youth-serving agencies – Art City, as well as Rossbrook House and Broadway Neighbourhood Centre – recently participated in this green audit pilot program, funded by The Winnipeg Foundation. Funding for up to six additional audits was recently approved. The audits are part of a local vision to create a collective of the greenest youth service agencies in the country. Youth serving agencies in Winnipeg serve more than 20,000 children and youth annually – meaning they have a lot of opportunity to create healthy habits.

Tracy Hucul, Green Action Centre’s Executive Director, hopes the audits will inspire the organizations to incorporate green practices into their programming and operations, which will in turn expand into local communities.

“The green audits help everyone understand what they need to know [to live more sustainably], shows them it’s easy, and demonstrates the difference it will make,” she says. “Education and outreach on how to build resiliency must be ongoing for clients, participants, and staff.”

The Green Action Centre is part of a larger non-partisan coalition called the Manitoba’s Climate Action Team (CAT), which was formed to educate citizens, business owners and policymakers about the importance of changing behaviours to build resilience to climate change. CAT’s other partner organizations include Climate Change Connection, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba Office, Wilderness Committee, Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, Prairie Climate Centre, Transition Winnipeg, University of Winnipeg’s Sustainability Office, and the Manitoba Eco-Network.

“This type of evaluation encourages critical thought. The kids will have an awareness of what is going on and will start policing.”

Eddie Ayoub, Art City

The green audit pilot program included an introductory session where CAT members sat down with representatives from Art City, Rossbrook House and Broadway Neighbourhood Centre to set the context for the audits. Prairie Climate Centre provided information on the real impacts that climate change is having on a local, national and global scale. Climate Change Connection and Green Action Centre provided the youth-serving agencies with everyday examples of transportation and green living options.

The green audits are a tangible example of CAT’s overall goal; to provide education on the importance of changing behaviours to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Each green audit will result in a report that contains key findings and a list of recommendations to implement aimed at reducing negative climate impacts and greenhouse gas emissions. The recommended actions will include short-term and low-cost measures, along with longer-term measures requiring more substantial investment.

After the dust settles, the results of Arts City’s waste reduction audit are in: the 10 kilograms of “garbage” is successfully reduced to 3.8 kilograms – with the difference diverted to the compost, recycle and reuse bins. According to ‘Rotten Broccoli’, if Art City made simple changes, they could divert 775 kilograms of waste to the compost and 1,395 kilograms of waste to recycling on an annual basis.

“[The kids] hold us to account,” Ayoub says of changing habits. “This type of evaluation encourages critical thought. The kids will have an awareness of what is going on and will start policing.”

For info: (website)| @ClimateActionMB (Twitter)

Recipient: Green Action Centre
Program: Green Audits of Youth Serving Agencies
Grant: $45,000 drawn from the Strategic Initiatives budget

This story is featured in the Spring 2020 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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