For this episode of Renewable, we took the winding road down to Riverdale to talk about communities and the difference they can make. On the surface, it’s an episode about how community grants like EcoCity Edmonton can help fund projects that engage the community and drive forward our transition to sustainable energy. But in telling that story we ended up profiling not just a neighbourhood, but a network of people all moving in their own direction, but somehow towards the same goal.
With a car full of camera gear, we pulled up to the Little Brick cafe, a neighbourhood mainstay in the heart of Riverdale. The person we were here to meet is Rocky Feroe, a retired physician and community league member who helped quarterback the creation of a “solar gazebo” near the community hall. Equal parts power plant, community hub, and energy transition tentpole project, the gazebo is the latest in a series of projects funded by EcoCity Edmonton Grants.
“This solar gazebo is part of finishing up the work of making Riverdale hall operations carbon neutral,” Rocky told us, sitting underneath the Gazebo. “The gazebo will achieve that. Right now it’s in its ugly duckling phase. It’s operational, it’s functional, and there’s a lot of beauty in that functionality.”
To an outsider, at least one without a vision of what it will someday be, the gazebo doesn’t ping as ugly. Modern and angular; sure it strikes a sharp profile against the gentle community gardens and wood shed architecture of the nearby structures, but it does so while contrasting and highlighting, rather than overpowering their charm. It’s out of context but appealing, with future upgrades bringing it further into context.
What was interesting was talking to Rocky about how grants can be used to bring together basic community amenities with loftier environmental goals. EcoCity Edmonton, a grant program funded by the City of Edmonton and Alberta Ecotrust — one of the grants the community applied for to build the Gazebo and other local projects — offers three grant streams:
- Energy Transition Acceleration Grants that “support projects that result in substantial environmental benefits related to climate change and transitioning to a low carbon economy” says the website (link below), and people applying to those are eligible for up to $50,000.
- Community Mobilization grants that support community-based projects “to mobilize large amounts of citizens through positive environmental action,” for up to $20,000.
- Community Engagement Grants that support community projects that focus on “local opportunities for change through stewardship and education” for up to $7,500.
“My feeling is the City and Province are making it so easy to take action. Right now the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues has one person whose only job is to help leagues transition their energy to renewables, and to help community members overcome any barriers to change; the change everyone wants to make but they don’t know how,” says Rocky.
We found it interesting that chatting with Rocky expanded and pushed our scope and understanding of what we thought of as a community. Yes, a community can be akin to a neighbourhood, but when the focus is a little broader, for example when a community is about like-minded people coming together, you realize that a network of people who are passionate about bringing people together is just as palpable as one based on geography. A community of communities, all building cool things for their neighbourhoods, all sharing ideas with each other.
“This solar gazebo is something any community can replicate. I’ve seen a lot of community grounds look for shade, so they build shade structures. Why not just orient it the right way and take advantage of the solar power?” says Rocky, sitting in the shade of the gazebo as construction rumbles nearby. “Get some free energy from the sun and let it pay itself off over time.”
Check out this episode of Renewable:
To learn more about EcoCity Edmonton Grants visit albertaecotrust.com/ecocityedmonton
Renewable is a series about visionaries, creators, community leaders and above all else, Edmontonians, each with a unique vision of a sustainable future in the heart of Canada’s fossil fuel industry.
The Renewable Series Team is composed of the City of Edmonton’s Energy Transition group and the creative minds at Sticks & Stones.
For more information visit Edmonton.ca/RenewableSeries