“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
reThink green is encouraging municipalities, businesses and individuals to re-imagine what their impact is on the environment.
Simon Blakely is the Program Director for two programs called Green Economy North and Smart Green Communities.
“We’re an incubator environmental program. The organization is not for profit and was formed in Sudbury in 2006 and part of my mandate is to help grow the program services across northern Ontario.”
Blakely says people need to realize that, “Climate Change is real.”
“I’ve done quite a lot of studies myself including a Masters, an Undergraduate and I’ve practiced for over 16 years and have read a lot of research and publications. It’s real and we have to address it. But it doesn’t have to be a negative conversation about how it’s going to be so disruptive and that we’re going back to the dark ages. In fact, you could have a modern, if not a more advanced lifestyle by adopting more sustainable practices in everything we do.”
Blakely says it means readjustment to what you thought might be necessary for your everyday life.
“Just on a household level, people have decided to go down to one vehicle, especially because of how the pandemic has reshaped what we need to do in our everyday lives. More people are home more often now and beyond that people are saving money on not having to pay insurance for that second vehicle or using money on gas to fill up both cars or not having to spend money on maintenance. And then you can build into that lifestyle even further by looking at ways you can commute to work differently; can you walk or cycle?”
Born in the area of Leeds, England, Blakely says he was always interested in planning and development and that led him to a job as a Land Use Planner and he says, “I was always focused on redeveloping the green areas for those spaces. I would go to these developments and just see the clearance of all the trees and natural features and it was replaced by concrete everywhere. I just found that really ugly and isolating for people. I always just wanted to help transform the environment in a way that was positive.”
Blakely joined reThink Green last year and the Sudbury-based organization is looking to expand its services around the north.
“The Green Economy North program is to enable businesses, the not-for-profit sector and really all aspects of the public sector an opportunity to transform their operations. For a membership fee, they receive an annual energy walk-through.”
“We look at what issues there might be, how we can improve the building envelope and its overall energy performance and provide a reference to the utility bills and recommendations on some of the lower hanging fruit all the way to the long term interventions. It’s then up to whichever board or business owner at that stage to really consider how that would apply to them," he said.
Blakely says they also evaluate grant funding opportunities and the incentives that are available. He says, “We really try to connect the money to projects so that people can really see the value in making that transition. The broader part within that is helping establish Green Teams and facilitating networking opportunities among other green businesses. We could even help connect different aspects of supply chains for instance, if they are all making positive steps to reduce emissions through their operations they can support each other again and benefit in kind that way. So really it’s a supportive and enabling network.”
Blakely says they have 25 members within this program which include mining and utility companies, to churches to media companies to retail. He says, “It’s a diverse group whose common link is they were being led by someone or had someone in their organization that wanted to make those changes.”
“From a business or industry standpoint there is a term called ‘biomimicry’ which looks at how all kinds of chemical plants and different means of manufacturing can effectively shift what they do in ways that can replicate more of natures natural systems and processes rather than the artificial, oil-driven processes that we’ve known since the post-war period,” he says.
Blakely says within this group, “The mining companies would all conceded that there is still more work that needs to be done. They are partnering with academic institutions and are often looking at different ways they can help restore the natural landscape once they have finished their work, and I think that’s a big priority. Particularly in northern Ontario in which we are hopefully going to see some work done on The Ring of Fire mining operation, we need to look at the longer-term impacts of extracting these resources, like lithium for ion batteries, we need to make sure that once that is done, the environment and the people living in that region can benefit from employment in that space for years to come.”
When asked about any push back he gets when meeting with companies and businesses about joining their programs he says, “It makes me want to work harder to prove people otherwise. We have to be determined in this space. It is a long-term project, the Pan-Canadian Framework which ties into the Paris Agreement or whatever might supersede that later this year in Glasgow, quite clearly says that in order to create a sustainable lifestyle for the future, we need to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Looking where we are now, the only way we can achieve those long-term targets is by establishing milestones along the way. That’s what we’re here to do, help find those milestones.”
And Blakely says there has been a shift in focus for that next generation of industry leaders.
“I think we’ve seen younger, upcoming entrepreneurs that are looking at the future and see the pivot that is happening and they want to be a part of that and help these business sectors grow in those areas. Some of the fastest-growing companies in the world are green companies or tech-based companies and there is definitely something promising in that.”
Blakely adds, “We have a business forum coming April 14th – 15th that will include guest speakers who will hopefully bring greater awareness to what we do.”
Interested businesses and participants are invited to contact Simon Blakeley via the groups email address at: [email protected]
If you have a story suggestion for the “Jobs of the Future” series, send Matt an email at [email protected].