Businesses from across Vancouver Island were recognized for their exceptional environmental and social achievements and leadership at the seventh annual Ecostar Awards Gala, held November 10 at the Inn at Laurel Point.
The event is hosted by Synergy Sustainability Foundation and featured 15 awards distributed to representatives from diverse industries and backgrounds.
During the Gala, winners were revealed and called up on stage to accept their award, which was made from recycled chopsticks and 3D printed recycled plastic courtesy of ChopValue and Travtron 3D Printing.
The winners are:
Clean Oceans – Salish Sea Industrial Services Ltd.
Salish Sea Industrial Services specializes in responsible marine construction, including coastline cleanup, ocean habitat creation, and derelict vessel removal and disposal. This Indigenous-owned company has removed 189 abandoned vessels in Victoria harbour and along the Salish Sea coastline, including 67 in the past 18 months.
They are currently working in partnership with the Ditidaht First Nation to remove 20 tonnes of debris from a remote beach along the West Coast Trail and are monitoring the return of aquatic life to Esquimalt’s West Bay after voluntarily restoring the area in 2020.
Climate Action Winner – Eluma Beauty Inc.
Eluma Beauty is a carbon-neutral cosmetics company that has shaken up the typically waste-heavy industry. Eluma has decreased their emissions by 56% in 2021 alone, has achieved a 92% waste diversion rate, and has kept 184,000 products out of the landfill this year thanks to their refillable products, sustainable palette system, and alternative packaging materials that include seed paper, sugarcane by-product, biodegradable bamboo, and recyclable aluminum.
Community Leadership – The Land Conservancy of BC (TLC)
TLC is the first land trust in Canada to acquire a culturally and scientifically significant property with the intention of transferring it to a First Nation as an act of reconciliation. SISȻENEM, an island off the coast of Sidney Island, will be transferred to the W̱SÁNEĆ people through TLC, providing access to a natural environment to practice ceremony, harvest food and medicine, teach language, and pass knowledge from generation to generation.
Ecological Stewardship – Rugged Coast Research Society
Rugged Coast Research Society has removed almost 70,000 kgs of marine debris from sensitive marine habitats on Vancouver Island shorelines since 2020, providing training and jobs for 55 people from coastal communities during COVID-19. 85% of the debris was recycled or repurposed at the Ocean Legacy Foundation’s recycling facility in Richmond, BC.
Ecopreneur of the Year – Katie Gamble of Nature Bee
Katie Gamble started Nature Bee in 2018 as a final project for her business degree at UVIC. She has now sold over 500,00 beeswax wraps and has expanded her product range to include biodegradable Swedish dishcloths and concentrated cleaning tablets under the name Nature Bee Clean.
Greenest Hospitality Experience – The Parkside Hotel & Spa
The Parkside’s sustainability initiatives, which include rooftop pollinator and vegetable gardens, a sustainability mobility plan for employees, and white roofs to keep the building cool, have resulted in a 29% water usage reduction and 7% electricity consumption reduction over the past two years. Most recently, they have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2030.
Greenest Office – Schneider Electric – Victoria
Schneider Electric’s Victoria office has 100% energy efficient lighting installed and occupancy sensors throughout the entire building to conserve energy. All office equipment and kitchen appliances are also Energy Star certified.
The business is a Green-certified Vancouver Island Green Business Collective member and Surfrider Foundation-certified Ocean Friendly Business. Since joining VIGBC in 2021, Schneider has conserved almost 6000 cubic metres of water, 16,000 kWh of electricity, and diverted nearly 260,000 kg of waste.
Greenest Retailer – SUPPLY Victoria Creative Reuse Centre
SUPPLY has diverted over 3,000 pounds of materials from the waste stream for community reuse through their storefront and workshops, providing more accessible and sustainable art materials to thousands of artists, students, teachers, non-profits, and art groups.
Innovation – Power To Be
Power To Be helps over 1400 young people, families, and adults living with cognitive, physical, financial, and social barriers access the benefits of being in nature. Their new 12,000 sq ft program and operations hub is designed to be fully accessible and gender inclusive while minimizing environmental impact by using rainwater, sunlight, and geothermal energy to produce a positive net energy output.
Inspirational New Venture – Iyé Creative Collective
Iyé Creative is a food justice and grassroots collective nurturing reciprocal relations and mutual aid systems. In their words, “we observed a need and took action in a way we felt we could influence – through amplifying the voices of our diverse community members, and encouraging reconnection to ancestral food, land and culture. We are facilitating the co-creation of a more regenerative food future for ourselves and generations to come. We do this through reducing barriers for community members to access quality nutrition – specifically by supporting local farmers, providing their produce to community members, and teaching workshops.”
Leadership in Design and Construction – BC Transit
BC Transit’s redevelopment of their eight-acre site of their new handyDART centre provided an opportunity to improve ecological health, introduce innovative environmental stewardship and community engagement approaches. Local schoolchildren helped plant the first 500 of 8,000 native plants along the riparian zone of the relocated Craigflower Creek, which is the first project on Vancouver Island to receive Salmon Safe certification.
The centre will also achieve LEED Gold standards, eliminating fossil fuels from its operation and incorporating 1/3 of an acre of rain gardens to mitigate stormwater. Three acres of new parkland were also established for public enjoyment and to create hands-on, nature-based learning opportunities.
Local Food – Harvest & Share Food Relief Society
Harvest & Share Food Relief Society provides first-choice, fresh, spray-free produce to food banks, community kitchens, and food distribution organizations in addition to holding workshops and other opportunities for engagement in local food production. Their aeroponic system is space-efficient, spray-free, and recycles 90% of water.
Regenerative Tourism – Nootka Marine Adventures
Nootka Marine Adventures is a leader in regenerative tourism, taking bold actions that range from using solar power and composting to promoting catch and release fishing and inspiring a love of wildlife with minimally invasive wildlife and heritage tours. They donate $100,000 annually to the Nootka Sound Watershed Society to support salmon populations, contributing to the successful addition of 1.8 million Chinook and 150,000 coho salmon each year.
Regenerative Tourism – Strathcona Park Lodge
Strathcona Park Lodge’s mission is “to teach the wonder, spirit and worth of people and the natural world through outdoor pursuits” and was designed to inspire ecological stewardship and a respect for the natural world that ripples out into the community and beyond. Their off-grid eco-lodge has hosted hundreds of thousands of students through their youth programs as well as the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training program.
Social Impact – City of Victoria – Get Growing, Victoria!
Get Growing, Victoria! has partnered with over 67 community organizations to distribute over 272,000 food seedlings and 650 cubic yards of garden materials throughout the City of Victoria, empowering over 10,000 households annually to grow their own food and engage in their local food system. This program not only improves food security, but also supports mental health, enables people to take climate action, and fosters a sense of empowerment and self-agency.
Waste to Resource – Salt Legacy
Salt Legacy creates outdoor adventure bags from donated journeyed sailcloth. Proceeds from their sales help drive Salt Legacy’s Speaker Series and Eco Champion initiatives, which are built around storytelling and education. “Our brand is our community. They are the storytellers, the connection seekers and inspirational leaders working towards a more sustainable future for our planet.”
The host of the annual Vancouver Island Ecostar Awards is Victoria based non-profit, Synergy Foundation. Since its inception in 2013, Synergy Foundation has focused on innovative projects and programs that have pushed the envelope, supported hundreds of businesses, and turned great ideas into action. Synergy focuses its programs on green business (www.vigbc.ca), circular economy (www.project-zero.ca), and food security (www.get-fed.ca). Their mission is to share ideas, spark innovation and activate change to steer our economy and communities towards a more regenerative future.