September 8, 2016 | By Ian MacAlpine, Kingston Whig-Standard
Original article

Sustainable Kingston announced two new pilot programs to help the non-profit group’s effort to make Kingston Canada’s most sustainable city.

The group held an open house Thursday in its new digs, a second-floor office in the LaSalle Mews, and welcomed about 30 dignitaries, including Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson and Sustainable Kingston board chair Vivian Paquin.

Executive director Ruth Noordegraaf said earlier Thursday that Sustainable Kingston is expanding its community responsibilities and now has the space to do so.

“We also have worked really hard in the last six months creating a new mission statement and we’ve also looked really closely at the pillars and came up with a new approach where we’re not just looking at the core pillars of sustainability but looking at six priority areas that are much more tangible and measurable in the community,” she said.

“We’ve created a new system and a new focus and we have a better understanding of what we as an organization should be doing.”

The move to a new office is part of the new focus. Its former office on Sydenham Street had more storefront access, but the new office measures about 1,300 square feet and has more meeting and work space for community groups to use at a nominal fee.

“We have created this office as a hub for community change,” said Noordegraaf, who has been leading Sustainable Kingston and the full-time staff of four since January of this year.

The office will be able to accommodate small non-profit groups with meeting space or work space for one or two employees. A small agency, Informed Opinions, is already working out of the space.

Rates per month range from $40 for use of the space one day a week to $140 for up to seven days a week access.

The goal of the low fees is to support groups working on community initiatives by reducing the financial burden and risks associated with traditional office leases.

Noordegraaf also believes the new arrangement will promote collaboration and idea sharing among community groups.

The new office has a boardroom that can also be used by community organizations.

“It’s not only a way for us to be more of a social enterprise, it’s also allowing other organizations to use our space.”

Its other initiative, Sustainable City Lab, will address local sustainability issues by engaging and supporting post-secondary institutions and students in the creation of knowledge, resources and innovative solutions.

Alia Tulloch, plan manager at Sustainable Kingston, said the new program promotes community engagement.

“These two pilot projects that we’re launching really grew out of our stakeholder engagement.”

Tulloch said some of the groups with which Sustainable Kingston has worked over the years wanted the group to move away from doing hands-on projects and provide more opportunities for local organizations “to make changes in the community, help share knowledge and create networking opportunities.”

Tulloch added that post-secondary institutions and students play an important role in their communities, and the communities can provide opportunities for student learning.

“For community groups like us, it gives us a chance to access university resources that aren’t typically available, like databases and skilled researchers.”

The lab activities will include resource development, a micro-grant program to support student initiatives, highlighting student research, and exploring partnerships with post-secondary faculties and departments.

Sustainable Kingston hopes to tap students’ knowledge and passion for sustainable issues.

“Students bring a lot of creativity and excitement,” Tulloch said.

imacalpine@postmedia.com

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