2021 Award Winners
The Canadian Museum of Nature is proud to present the winners of the Nature Inspiration Awards.
Supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
16 years old
Project: Clean Water for All
Growing up on Lake Huron, one of the largest freshwater bodies in the world, Autumn became concerned about clean water in her community at an early age. By age eight, she was learning about water issues in her community, the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory First Nation reserve on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. At age 13, she raised her concerns directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This event was a milestone on her journey for clean-water advocacy. In 2018 and 2019, she was designated the Chief Water Protector for the Anishnaabek Nation, which represents 40 First Nations in Ontario, and took her message to the international stage, speaking at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City, U.S.A. For her efforts, Autumn has received numerous recognitions and awards. Among them are medals for volunteerism from the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and a Water Warrior Award from the 2019 Water Docs Film Festival. She was named to the Union of Concerned Scientists list of 2019 Science Defenders and was featured in a short documentary film The Water Walker. Autumn's clean-water messages have reached politicians, media and classrooms and have attracted global attention—inspiring action to ensure clean water for all.
Supported by BDO Canada LLP.
Project: Grand parc de l'écoterritoire de la Falaise
In 2015, librarian Lisa Mintz became concerned about clearcutting of the St. Jacques escarpment in Montréal. Without any environmental experience, she created Sauvons la Falaise with area residents. Her success in mobilizing fellow environmentalists and community groups led to the 2020 announcement by Montréal's mayor of a 60-hectare urban park. Sauvons la Falaise started Lisa on the successful path of environmental activism. She is now affiliated with six environmental organizations, either as a founder or Chair, including Sauvons-l'anse-à-l'orme, Technoparc oiseaux, and Transparence. An avid birder, she has worked to protect the threatened habitat in Montréal of a small breed of heron—the Least Bittern, and initiated a court case in 2016 that led to a small federal preserve being created around its nesting site. She is active in the Green Coalition, an umbrella organization for more than 80 environmental groups in Quebec, and is now the Executive Director of UrbaNature, a group committed to nature education. Through talks that she gives on the theme of Ten Steps to Change the World, Lisa inspires individuals to help improve the environment in which they live.
Project: The planting of native Canadian maples—part of our natural and cultural heritage
For the last 20 years, Ken Jewett had dedicated his life and personal financial resources to the planting of native maple tree species across Canada. Through a foundation he created, Ken has given over $2.5 million to individuals and groups for planting initiatives and promoted environmental education on the importance of the native Canadian maple.
Driving through rural Ontario today, one often sees magnificent rows of tall sugar maples along roadsides, farm laneways and property boundaries. These trees come from a historic government incentive program to prevent erosion along farmland, which led to quintessentially Canadian maple-lined roads in rural Ontario. In 2002, seeing that these ancient roadside maples were in decline and at risk of disappearing, Ken founded Maple Leaves Forever (MLF). This charitable foundation supports and promotes the planting of native Canadian maples in rural Ontario—native trees being naturally adapted to local climate and site conditions, having evolved to be resistant to severe weather events and most local pest problems.
Under Ken's leadership, MLF pioneered a Thank You Rebate program for rural landowners to assist them in planting maples. Canadian-grown maples are made available for planting through 22 nursery partners. To date, over 130 000 native maple trees have been planted in Ontario through this program—equivalent to over 2000 km of maple-lined roadways and laneways. The City of Ottawa, the Townships of Clarington and Port Hope, and the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority are also Winners of this rebate in support of their efforts in native maple-tree planting.
At the national level, Ken discovered that the National Capital Commission sourced maples from Oregon for planting around the National Capital Region. He led a seven-year campaign to encourage the sourcing of native species, which resulted in the 2015 decision by the NCC to switch to native maple trees. "The maple tree, the maple leaf, maple syrup, it's part of our whole Canadian heritage," says Ken. "I saw native maple trees disappearing and being replaced by cultivars and invasive species. I've made a pledge to try and stop this, and to help farmers and landowners plant native maples along their roadsides and laneways."
Supported by Ontario Power Generation.
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
Project: Sea-ice monitoring
SmartICE is a source of inspiration for transformational change in Arctic communities. This community-based organization offers climate adaptation tools designed to incorporate sea-ice monitoring with Indigenous knowledge, empowering communities with the tools, training and support they need to tackle changing ice conditions. Co-created with the Nunatsiavut Government, SmartICE is the first in the world to integrate Inuit traditional knowledge of ice safety and travel, with advanced data acquisition and remote monitoring technology. The co-designed training curriculum will mean that Inuit can combine their traditional knowledge and observations with satellite-image interpretation to make ice-travel safety maps. By 2023, SmartICE anticipates that it will expand to 30 communities across Inuit Nunangat, as well as in at least six First Nations communities that rely on freshwater ice travel in Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Its innovative tools include a new mobile sensor, SmartQAMUTIK, that measures the occurrence and thickness of slush, ice and snow. In recognition of its work, SmartICE earned a United Nations Climate Solutions Award in 2017 and a Governor General's Innovation Award in 2019.
Supported by Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR).
Canadian Wildlife Federation
Project: Wild Outside
Wild Outside is a national program for youth aged 15 to 18, to develop their leadership skills and inspire them to make a difference in wild outdoor spaces. The program, created by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, inspires a passion for conservation work, community service, awareness of the natural environment and a deeper appreciation for wildlife as participants get outdoors and explore natural areas in and around their cities. Wild Outside benefits from relationships with hundreds of community partners across the country, as well as more than 80 registered volunteers who supervise and lead activities at in-person events. Activities can include hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, dogsledding, building bat boxes, planting pollinator gardens, removing invasive species, cleaning up litter and more. The program supports community partners and local businesses, which has been especially impactful during the pandemic. In March 2021, Wild Outside held its first annual conference—virtually—with panels and presentations, as well as 70 guest speakers. Wild Outside has even inspired some participants to start their own small businesses and has helped a few win awards for their service to the community.
Supported by NASCO Building Cleaning Inc.
Kingfisher Interpretive Centre Society
Enderby, British Columbia
Project: Salmon conservation through education
For four decades, the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre Society has been a leader in salmon conservation. The society was founded in response to the near extinction of salmon stocks in the Shuswap River. Today, it has grown from a small community-run salmon hatchery into an ecosystem-stewardship learning centre that provides environmental education at its 10-acre site, including up-close observation of returning salmon. Since 1981, the centre has educated over 40 000 local school children and the site welcomes around 8000 visitors each year. It serves as a community hub for salmon education and hosts professional development days for schoolteachers, presents environmental conferences, organizes public events, and even provides salmon eggs for classroom incubators. Its watershed-model learning tool has been replicated at other international locations and educational institutions. Traditional ecological knowledge is also offered to the participants, offering insight into local Indigenous culture. The centre works with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and is supported by local, regional and First Nations groups, as well as a contingent of dedicated volunteers.
Supported by The Mosaic Company.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Project: Sustainable clothing linked to the planting of trees
Founded in 2012, tentree sells sustainable outdoor-lifestyle products to customers across the globe, while planting 10 trees for every product sold. By building restoration (planting trees) into its business model, this successful Canadian clothing retailer has taken a novel approach to sustainability. The business has now planted more than 60 million trees across the globe, thereby providing jobs, food security and ecosystem restoration. Its "buy one, plant x trees" model has been adopted by hundreds of businesses over the last decade. As of 2020, tentree has become carbon neutral—in addition to planting trees, it supports verified carbon projects to offset its emissions. The company's outerware is created using the most sustainable materials possible, including Tencel, organic cotton, recycled polyester and hemp. These initiatives have resulted in a dramatically smaller carbon footprint, as well significantly less water usage. tentree has also shown innovation through the creation of Veritree—the world's first blockchain-based auditing tool for global reforestation projects. The platform is part of a coalition to bring transparency to tree planting with the World Resource Institute, Trillion Tree Pledge, and other restoration programs. tentree is certified by the Better Business Bureau, making it a recognized ecological enterprise at the global scale.
Supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Supported by BDO Canada LLP
Not-for-Profit Organization (Small and Medium) Award
Supported by Ontario Power Generation
Not-for-Profit Organization Award (Large)
Supported by Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR)
Community Action Award
Supported by NASCO Building Cleaning Inc.
Sustainable Business Award
Supported by The Mosaic Company