Sustainable green Santa

Chris Benjamin is making a list of who’s naughty and who’s nice in Halifax.

Ho ho ho. Time to paint Santa green.

For a Sustainable Santa, Christmas shopping is a chore. Finding sustainable merchandise for a global economy is hard enough; figuring out who has been naughty and nice to the environment is a nightmare. Even David Suzuki has a travel itinerary that generates more carbon emissions than an Alberta cattle field. But there are individuals and institutions that committed environment-lovers---those in the eco-know---love deeply; or, in some cases, love to hate.

Here are Sustainable Santa’s naughtiest and nicest for 2008, according to local environmental activists entrepreneurs, and green citizenry:


The most oft-mentioned nice nominee is Terroir Local Source Food Market (and catering) on Charles. Hali environment-lovers are tickled green to walk into a space with an old-time corner-grocer feel, stacked to the white ceilings with local produce and meats. “They are leading the way back to the independently owned store down the street,” says farmer and food-lover Jen Scott.

Blessed are they with a year-round farmers’ market. The Halifax Farmers’ Market, North America’s oldest, lives on Lower Water and thrives as a co-op of some of the world’s most productive people: fishers, farmers, distillers, artisans. As one market regular tells me, “The year-round market is often taken for granted until one lives in a city without a year-round market.”

Just Us! continues to generate sustainable waves with its use of the Natural Step, a method of evaluating production and distribution to maximize sustainability. This year the largest and most consistent local supplier of fair trade goodies switched to fully compostable containers (made from highly renewable bamboo) for all beverages and food. I hope they don’t mind getting their own products as stocking stuffers.

The Wooden Monkey on Argyle is one of the best places to dine finely with a green conscience. The menu is organic and local and the ambiance uses sustainable materials, including post-Hurricane Juan salvaged wood. The Monkey also promotes other sustainable local businesses with its annual calendar, featuring low-impact recipes and environmental information. (Call 444-3844 to get your copy.)

Sustainable transportation junkies have a couple more options this year. CarShare HFX, “dedicated to providing greater mobility and personal freedom to people living in Halifax; and to reducing carbon emissions and pollution,” was just launched by social entrepreneurs Pam Cooley and Peter Zimmer. Without viable public transit, Haligonians can at least share the economic and environmental burdens of car ownership.

The Halifax Cycling Coalition (celebrating its first birthday Dec 13, 6pm at Brick Oven Pizza on Spring Garden) has finally given our fair city a unified voice for cyclists. HCC works to reduce traffic congestion and infrastructure spending while upping our health and air quality.

Car Free Day has finally come to Halifax courtesy of the nice girls and boys of Fusion Halifax’s Sustainability Action Team. “We focused on the ferry terminal and bus terminal downtown, and handed out small, sustainable-themed thank-you gifts to people who were taking sustainable transportation to work,” says Derek Simon, a member of the group. Next year, they hope to shut down a street and have a block party.

Two very kind organizations dedicated to green buildings make the list. The Atlantic chapter of the Canada Green Building Council is a strong voice for green building. The council of industry professionals promotes LEED certification, and this year they hosted the first-ever green building trade show in the region.

Halifax is also home to Healthful Homes Realty, “Canada’s first real estate brokerage dedicated to the purchase and sale of greener, healthier homes.” Jan MacAuley founded this business to align her environmental values with her entrepreneurial acumen. She hopes to make every home sustainable so that any home owner can reduce the impact of ye olde mi casa, and those who know green building say she’s making a Herculean effort.


To the surprise of the cynical (like me), there were only a few naughty nominations. Not surprisingly to anyone paying attention, Halifax Regional Council receives a near-universal nod for the destruction of trees, reduction of green space, facilitation of car culture and questionable interpretation of democracy while widening Chebucto. They also eliminated the bike budget. Council gets a big lump of asphalt in its stocking.

The Rodney MacDonald government has also been naughty. Last year it gave us the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, with some ambitious targets to combat climate change. This year the same government has failed to take any meaningful action, and resisted the demand-side energy management strategies that would facilitate emissions reductions in this province.

In the private monopoly category, Nova Scotia Power’s coal addiction is still killing us (and indigenous and Afro-Colombians), and its refusal to give rate relief to low-income residents is killing some of us faster than others.

Send your naughty suggestions to

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