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David Suzuki Foundation

David Suzuki Foundation works to protect the natural environment, and help create a sustainable Canada. Their Charged Up program is about people power — people coming together in their communities to create a low-carbon future.

The Still ON team sat down with Sherry Yano, Manager, Renewable Energy at David Suzuki Foundation to talk about Charged Up and how that program team works with groups, individuals and communities across Canada to reduce climate risk and diversify our energy, jobs and economy through the transition to renewable energy.

Tell me a little about the Charged Up program. When did it start? What drove the decision to begin a grassroots movement for a low-carbon economy?

The David Suzuki Foundation is really lucky to reach about 1 million Canadians a week. We also have a very committed group of over 1,000 volunteers across the country, many of whom are very interested in climate and energy. We’re always being asked: How can we get involved? Can we work on something together to make a difference in our home community?

Back in 2017 we did some polling of our community and found that people were really fired up about renewable energy. In fact, 98% of those polled were overwhelmingly supportive of renewable energy but among them, 90% could not name a single renewable energy project. So although renewable energy was something that had a lot of support, we realized that in order for Canadians to make the energy transition that we need to meet our Paris commitment, energy issues need to be more relevant to people’s daily lives. So we built a program, Charged Up, that would provide people with options to take action in their home communities, and to vocally call for high-impact policy change at the local, provincial and federal levels.

Charged Up launched on February 28th of last year. Since then, we’ve worked with many different groups and done a lot of storytelling with communities. There are thousands of renewable energy projects in communities all across Canada and we want Canadians to hear those stories – to put a face to the transition, show it’s happening, and let people know they too can be part of it. We want people to write themselves in to our collective energy transition story. Charged Up matches people with the resources they need to deploy renewable energy projects. We also talk to them about energy efficiency — which is so important — about how they can reduce energy waste in their transportation sector and their buildings. And when it’s not possible to transition quickly to renewables, how switching from high­-carbon to low-­carbon fuels can help.

We match people with the capacity to take projects on. Whether with mentors, or tool kits, or simply if they have questions. Like how to negotiate a power purchase agreement. Or how to get something through their city council.

The program is also about building a movement both digitally and in person. We’ve just hired a community organizer in the West to develop community hubs, events and to support our volunteers. Now we’re looking for another in Eastern Canada.

Finally, Charged Up is about political advocacy. It’s about asking the people we reach, if they want to weigh in and tell their government what they want in terms of climate policy. Perhaps they don’t want rollbacks like they’re experiencing here in Ontario, or they want ways to innovate and stay ahead of the curve and invest in a low­-carbon future. We can help them do that.

What types of groups are getting involved?

We’ve traditionally had more women in our community than men, but our fastest growing demographic right now is youth. We also have long term relationships with indigenous leaders and communities who have been so important for us in terms of learning. Indigenous communities are on the leading edge of renewable projects across the country. We also interact with community leaders and city builders. And of course we work with progressive businesses, like renewable energy and green energy companies.

How do you measure impact? What does success look like?

For us, part of it is the number of people who opt in to the movement. Our original goal was to get 80,000 Canadians active in championing the move to renewable energy over the coming five years. That can be being active in their home community, or at the policy level. But we were surprised because we haven’t even finished year one and 40,000 people have already opted in to take action and to sign up, which is really encouraging.

Where does Charged Up fit within the larger goals of the Foundation?

At DSF, we have three areas of focus: biodiversity, which is mainly about the protection of critical ecosystems and species; environmental rights, which is aimed at getting the right to a healthy environment enshrined in the Canadian Constitution; and the third piece which is climate solutions. That’s where Charged Up sits.

A unique aspect of the David Suzuki Foundation is that because of David, and because of the work of my colleagues, we’ve traditionally connected with many, many Canadians. So we can work with people and organizations across the country to build collective movements that allow us to come together and take shared action. People power is crucial. And Charged Up is about helping to build an inclusive energy transition movement, amplifying diverse voices and providing options to take action together.

The Spotlight ON series highlights key organizations making a difference in the world of clean energy and climate action. Connect with the team at We’re Still ON to shine a Spotlight on your organization’s clean energy work — email us at contact@still-on.ca.

What initiative/project/organization would you like to share?

We're excited about our new public engagement project, Charged Up. Through Charged Up, we're working with people from all walks of life to address climate change and seize opportunities to transition to renewable energy.

Communities throughout Canada are bringing on renewable energy projects that use the sun, wind, waste and heat from the Earth to power our homes, schools, vehicles, businesses and cities. By working together to deploy more renewable energy, use it more efficiently and call for meaningful climate and energy-transition policies, we can create jobs, reduce our utility bills, diversify energy production, improve human health and protect the climate.

How is it helping advance the low carbon transition?

Charged Up is a nationwide project about people power — people coming together in their communities to move toward a healthier, sustainable and resilient future.

The project has four main components:

If you have a story that needs to be told, or resources that would be helpful to others, or are interested in advancing renewable energy projects in your home community, or advocating for policy change, we would love to hear from you.

How can others get involved? What type of support are you looking for?

For more info, and to sign up, please go to www.davidsuzuki.org/chargedup. We're all ears. Would you like to lead a regional hub to advance renewables in your community? Interested in public speaking and teaching others about the value of a renewable energy future? Maybe you want to start your own project but need help with first steps. Whatever you may be looking for, please sign up. We look forward to working with you.