Reducing Toronto’s Environmental Footprint (CJN Janaury 2011)

This article originally appeared in the Canadian Jewish News on January 20, 2011

In 1975, Mark Mietkowitz and I were co-councilors at Camp Massad, near Torrence Ontario and a year apart at the Community Hebrew Academy in Toronto. I could not have imagined that 36 years later we would be columnists in the Canadian Jewish News.

Mark’s recent columns touched on various aspects of water in Israel, and the innovations that Israeli entrepreneurs and scientists have brought to take what would seem to be a disadvantage in a desert climate and turn it into a world beating export industry.

Perhaps it was a way to welcome me to the writing staff, for my new monthly column, The Sustainable Jew. As my earlier Sukkot essay in the CJN stated, this column will look not only at the issues around environmentalism from a Jewish perspective, but will highlight what people are actually doing about it, interesting perspectives from a thought leadership perspective and how they are either making money, reducing costs or complying with various regulations.

I’ve recently been participating in a crowdsourcing challenge called ClimateSpark. [] This competition was designed for entrepreneurs who have creative ideas on how to reduce the environmental footprint of the City of Toronto and the GTA

Crowdsourcing is a concept first popularized by GE as part of its Ecoimagination effort. [] Environmental footprint Is the measurable impact that our consumption of electricity, natural gas and water, as well as products and services which extract raw materials and convert them to usable products and transport people goods and services from one location to another

Julia Langer, who leads the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and Deepak Ramachandran who is on TAF’s Investment Committee, has been the brains behind ClimateSpark and has succeeded in building a community of over 500 registrants of which almost 200 are actively reviewing and rating the business ideas which get re-ranked in realtime. Of the 33 companies participating only the top 9 will proceed to a Dragon’s Den type competition. The winner gets $10,000 and all 9 gain exposure to the Toronto Venture Capitalist community.

One of the expert bloggers Matthew Leibowitz, Investment Director at BEST Funds raised an interesting point in his blog entry “What Excites Investors Today”, the concept of the opportunity to “expand outside their backyard”. []

I wonder if Matthew knows that the UJA Federation of Toronto is twinned with the Eilat/Eilot region on Israel, which is becoming the hotbed of concentration of sustainability entrepreneurs. The 4thannual Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference is sponsored by the UJA Federation of Toronto [] as part of its ongoing 22 year relationship with the region and will bring sustainability experts from around the world to Eilat from February 22 – 24.l

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the top 3 finalists were given the opportunity to do their dragon’s den style pitch to investors attending the conference? What if top Israeli entrepreneurs were able to bring their innovations to Toronto just in time to offer a counterpoint for Jewish business students on campus who are battling against Israel Apartheid Week. This provides the Canada Israel Chamber of Commerce and Government of Israel Economic Mission to Canada an opportunity to use this crowdsourcing opportunity to enhance two-way trade between Canada and Israel .

With a new Minister of the Environment, and a strongly engaged Ontario provincial government, and an election potentially coming for both, having Canadian entrepreneurs pitching in Israel, and Israeli entrepreneurs pitching in Canada and demonstratably increasing two way trade, can be a big win-win for all political parties.

I’m somewhat concerned TAF’s innovative work may be swept up in the flurry of City budget cuts, even though they don’t draw a penny from the taxbase. TAF has planted a wonderful seed: read what they have done, [] and participate in ClimateSpark by commenting and offering your own reviews of the business value of the solutions proposed by local entrepreneurs. [] Then, take another moment to contact your local Councillor with a short email or phone call to say you believe TAF is important and why

At the same time, please contact your friends at the UJA Federation, Canada Israel Chamber of Commerce and the Israel I Economic Mission in Toronto, to let them know whether you support this creative way of expanding the trade link between Toronto and Eilat,

Fred Winegust can be reached at

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