SIFE Okanagan’s Green Division
This post comes from Dr. Kyleen Myrah:
SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) is a global non-profit student run organization operating in over 40 countries with the involvement of 1,500 college and university campuses and over 42,000 students. The SIFE Okanagan team operates on four campuses – Kelowna, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Penticton – armed with has a mandate to address relevant economic, social and environmental issues by empowering others to improve their quality of life and standard of living. Students achieve this by implementing socially responsible outreach projects that have a notable impact on a specific need and target audience in their community.
An important part of the SIFE Okanagan program has been their green division which involves the development and implementation of projects with an environmental focus. Two of these programs will be highlighted here: The Green Business Awards and Instill Life.
The Green Business Awards provide economic opportunity for local entrepreneurs, and empowers them to implement and advance sustainable initiatives through knowledge transfer and recognition. Three years ago the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce identified a need in our community to recognize local businesses for their sustainable initiatives. SIFE Okanagan approached the chamber of commerce with the idea to recognize sustainable businesses through an awards program. SIFE Okanagan initially developed, and now implements annually the green business awards in partnership with the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce. The Green Business awards takes businesses through an in depth application process, and a committee of SIFE Okanagan’s business peers assist in nominating sustainable leaders. To ensure recognized businesses are of necessary standard and quality, a panel of business leaders and industry experts perform on-site audits. These audits are derived from the green business awards application which SIFE Okanagan created in partnership with green step consulting. Recipients are awarded at an annual Green Business Awards luncheon. Hosted by SIFE Okanagan, this event acts as a platform for recognition and gives businesses an opportunity to voice and share their initiatives.
As a result of SIFE’s partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, the team was able to put their new knowledge to work as consultants to local businesses beginning the green process. The Go Green Presentations were developed by members of the SIFE Okanagan’s green team and were utilized to coach businesses on where to start the greening process and how the smallest of initiatives positively affect their bottom line. The success of the Green Business awards in Kelowna, allowed SIFE team members in Vernon to create a partnership with the Vernon Chamber of Commerce to add a green award to their existing Business Excellence Awards. This upcoming year, the Green Business Awards are moving to the Penticton area, providing even more leadership in the sustainability area.
Instill Life educates eco leaders of the next generation through an interactive learning model integrated into elementary school classes. Nikos Theodosakis founded Instill Life to inspire students to create positive change. When Nikos started Instill Life, the program was delivered to a single elementary classroom in Naramata. After Partnering with SIFE Okanagan Instill Life last year empowered over 180 students in seven classrooms in Penticton and Kelowna. SIFE Okanagan students expanded and built new curriculum, and is not currently working to expanding the program to more classrooms and more regions, such as the Vernon area.
Over 16 weeks SIFE team members taught grade 4 to 6 students the importance of sustainability through several hands on class sessions. In the first session SIFE team members transformed the classroom into a Greek restaurant to interactively teach students the importance of community gardens, buying local food, and helped brainstorm ways to live greener. The students’ knowledge was measured through interactive worksheets, session specific pre and post tests, and their own personalized elevator pitches. Throughout the program, students are reminded of their own ability to create meaningful change. To demonstrate this, the children created their own still life painting with the purpose to turn these unique artworks into personalized greeting cards.The cards were then sold in the community by the students with help from SIFE Okanagan, and all proceeds were micro-lent through Kiva.org to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Students were each given the freedom to choose which entrepreneurs would receive the proceeds, and were encouraged to choose businesses with a sustainable focus. The Instill Life program empowers youth, their families and communities with the knowledge and ability to make sustainable choices and create positive change.
SIFE Okanagan has received significant recognition for their sustainability initiatives. These include:
1) The Scotia Bank Green Challenge National Champions, 2010
2) 2010 Mayor’s Environmental Achievement Award for “Most Sustainable Group” in the City of Kelowna
3) Youth Grant for the Instill Life program, 2011. Sponsored by TELUS and the United Way and handed out to individuals and groups of young people in the south and central Okanagan who are working to make their communities better places to live.