Work on the Piper Creek Restoration Agriculture Project will continue in 2017 with the food forest planting./Advocate file photo

ReThink Red Deer hits decade of common good approach

Sustainability, reinvigorating democracy part of vision

A local organization that promotes a sustainable, common good approach in the community will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2017.

Rene Michalak, one of the founding members of ReThink Red Deer, said one of the group’s purposes is to re-energize the democratic process, and it so happens that municipal elections take place in October.

The group is hoping to host its first election forum, Michalak said Thursday.

“A big part of what we do is reinvigorating the democratic process, getting people involved and aware, being an active participant in community building.”

ReThink Red Deer has had its green hand in many initiatives over the past decade. “It started around awareness around whether we’re planning for cars or for people, and it’s grown from that into more of a sustainability focus, and all the different ways that a community can be sustainable,” Michalak said.

The 10th anniversary will also have relevance to Canada’s 150th birthday because of a federal Canada 150 grant for its 15,000-sq.ft. food forest and pollinator garden at the old Piper Creek community gardens just south of the city.

They are just finalizing the plant selection for the pollinator garden, getting everything ordered and getting volunteers in place for planting in May, he said.

The edible forest is on a tract of stressed land between the Red Deer landfill and a Red Deer County industrial park. It is part of on-going five-year Piper Creek Restoration Agriculture Project, now in its third year. The forest will include trees and shrubs that bear apples, berries and other fruits. Michalak is leading the project.

“Our theme for our 10th anniversary is seeds — because we planted seeds over this last 10 years, some have sprouted into viable projects, other things ended up weeds, or were composted back into our resources.”

Michalak said interest in ReThink Red Deer is picking up and more people are wanting to volunteer. “We’re really hoping to groom project leads, like if people have a particular thing they want to develop or create that they can’t do on their own. … The intent of the society is to help bring to life environmental projects.”

Some of the bigger projects that stand out over the decade include their Pathways 2 Sustainability conference in 2011, the Little Green Thumbs program in schools that’s been going for four years, the Piper Creek project, and their promotion of zero waste through the Garbage-Free February initiative, he said.

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