The majestic Bow Valley in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is full of captivating natural sights, wildlife corridors, recreational opportunities and human populations. With support from Calgary Foundation, this organization is mitigating the environmental impact of humans by educating residents and visitors about environmental stewardship and sustainable practices.
Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley
Education, research and outreach programs are keys to protecting the ecological integrity of the Bow Valley and
the wellbeing of the people living there. That’s why they’re the focus of the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley.
The organization runs a public resource centre in Canmore that includes a library and displays on wildlife and sustainable communities. It offers programming aimed at youth, residents, local businesses and visitors to promote sustainable communities and environmental stewardship.
Over the past year, the institute held a series of interactive drop-in sessions called Next Steps Cafés themed around sustainability topics including solar energy, waste reduction and energy and water conservation practices.
“We’re focused on empowering residents to be environmental stewards of this landscape,” says Cheryl Hojnowski, executive director of the institute.
The cafés included workshops on rain barrel-making (with barrels donated by the local Rocky Mountain Soap Co.), electric bicycles and solar-panel installation.
Hojnowski, who took the helm of the institute after the successful cafés had been completed, says she admires the effort to break broad sustainability topics down into manageable pieces.
She hopes to use what the institute learned from the cafés in a collaboration with The Rockies Institute, whose mission is to “work with communities, businesses, and individuals to co-create a climate-resilient future,” to create a series of workshops based on a participatory model.
“This participatory model is a new thing, particularly on the climate-change front,” Hojnowski says. “It can be hard to get individuals to take steps, so the conservation community is looking at experimenting with ways to engage the public to successfully take those actions.”