If Daniel Turner and Brent Campagnola realize their short-term vision, Niagara-
on-the-Lake will be a much cleaner town by the end of March.
Beginning March 1, the two young men behind the new Sustain Niagara initiative will compete to collect the most garbage in 31 days. They plan to document their quest using social media in an effort to urge the community to get involved.
To the two young professionals, though, Sustain Niagara is much larger than the March competition.
Campagnola, 26, and 24-year-old Turner, a NOTL native, met by chance a few years ago in Ottawa. Turner was in the capital on an internship with Stats Canada, while Campagnola was attending Carleton University, studying law, business and linguistics.
In the meantime, Campagnola’s family had moved to NOTL. When Turner realized this last year, he contacted him via social media, and the seeds of Sustain Niagara took root.
Their overall goal is to improve sustainability across the Niagara Region. Through the public Facebook group they have created, they plan to draw attention to any efforts by local business and government to implement initiatives that can help to improve the environment.
But they are both thinking much bigger. “The name Niagara is so world-wide,” says Turner, “that we feel this is something that could have an influence that goes beyond the borders of the Niagara Region, the province, and even beyond Canada.”
He adds, “we are trying to find innovative solutions from across the world, just from our own research, and we hope to bring those solutions to Niagara. And we’re also looking for solutions that we see locally, and hoping to expand those globally.”
Turner and Campagnola have already begun knocking on doors across the NOTL business community, promoting their organization and talking to business owners about sustainability.
They recently sat down with Steve Irwin, owner of Vino Velo in Virgil. Irwin is planning to offer bicycle leases to local businesses for use in their daily operations. Under what he calls the “Spokesmen Initiative,” the bicycles would be customized for delivery purposes, making it possible for companies to reduce the carbon emissions that a delivery vehicle would otherwise produce. Turner and Campagnola plan to laud local businesses which implement such initiatives by instituting an Environmental Business of the Week award.
“We want to get out and speak to the people, speak to the businesses, and see what the community has to say,” Campagnola says. “Part of that will be celebrating the successes that we find, and going out to get new ideas.”
Though he hesitated to name the organization, Campagnola says another good example is one local hotel, who has eliminated the practice of supplying plastic water bottles in their rooms, by installing water purifiers to deliver clean water to the glass.
“By us connecting with these businesses,” says Turner, “it ends up getting them some positive publicity, and it ends up getting them some environmentally conscious customers, and that’s something that we think would be a great benefit.”
To Turner and Campagnola, it’s not about shaming or guilting businesses that are not environmentally sustainable, but instead celebrating those that are.
Back to that competition. To draw attention to their new initiative, they will kick things off this Sunday at Queen’s Royal Park.
“For the month of March, Brent and I are going to challenge each other, and anyone else who wants to join in, to collect as much litter as they can. We want to make this into a big social media push where, on Instagram and Facebook, we’re going to post every time we go out and collect litter.”
The goal is to not only get people excited about the competition between them, but also to inspire others to get out to collect garbage as well.
Campagnola explains the friendly competition is a way of drumming up that excitement. They will measure their individual progress by volume, not by weight. As they fill up their garbage bags, photos will be posted on their social media accounts.
Though they are starting in NOTL, the plan is to visit other areas in the region during the month, including the Niagara Glen and Rockway Conservation Area.
So far, the push has been largely through social media, and the two young men have used their own money to create some promotional materials and their recently-launched website,
Their plan is to eventually offer consulting services to businesses and individuals, free of charge. Both hold down day jobs, by the way. Turner works in the economic development office for the Town of Fort Erie, while Campagnola helps out in his parents’ exhibit management company, and will be attending law school at Dalhousie University in September.
Their shared commitment to improving their environment will be on display next month on Facebook, at facebook.com/groups/
sustainniagararegion, as well as on their Instagram account, @sustainniagara.