Community Champions returns August 15; submit your video

Image of a GERTIE bus
For a look at a Community Champions winner, and of a great video entry, see below for the story of GERTIE, a Gabriola Island community bus powered by eco-friendly biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil sourced from local restaurants.

Non-profit organizations can enter to win a $10,000 conservation award

It's that time again: non-profit and community organizations in B.C. should start getting ready for the return of BC Hydro's signature Community Champions program.

It's one way that we support sustainability and the environment. And starting August 15, we're looking for non-profits to show us how they're making a difference.

Five winning organizations will receive a $10,000 conservation award to continue their work.

Winner profile: Story of a Gabriola Island community bus, plus a look a their video

Start preparing your video submissions

Community Champions is open to non-profit organizations in British Columbia. To enter, organizations submit a short (one to two-minute) video explaining how they're making a difference in their community in the area of sustainability, conservation or the environment.

Videos from non-profit organizations are accepted August 15 to September 30, 2014.

To help you craft a winning submission, we asked this year's judges what they look for in a great video. Some tips:

  • Be specific about how you contribute to sustainability and the environment. Whether you're focused on local food, green transportation, reducing fossil fuels, or wildlife conservation, we want to know what you're all about.
  • Real voices matter. Let's hear from the volunteers or staff involved in your organization, or maybe people in the community that you've helped.
  • We especially love energy and electricity. If your project focuses on this or helps support energy conservation and electricity awareness, make sure that your video lets us know.
  • Tell a story. What's the significance of your project to the community or for British Columbia? Take us on a journey with your video. Check out this great video from one of last year's recipients, the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, for ideas.
  • Consider how your organization or project involves youth or schools. Be sure to include that in your video, as we want to see clearly how you engage with the community.

Learn more about Community Champions and how to submit your video starting August 15

GERTIE growing strong thanks to 2013 Community Champions award

On Gabriola Island, neighbours are spread out and most of the community is highly dependent on cars. Traveling from the ferries or between the north and south ends of the island meant driving or even hitchhiking, until GERTIE came along.

GERTIE is short for Gabriola's Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express, a community bus service that launched in 2013 and has served over 11,000 passengers to date. The Island Futures Society, which runs the service, won a Community Champions award in 2013 to help fund expansions and upgrades.

The bus service was initially envisioned to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the island by reducing reliance on personal vehicles, and by using eco-friendly waste vegetable oil sourced from local restaurants as fuel.

As Fay Weller with Island Futures explains, GERTIE has been truly life-changing for many Gabriola residents, and that's thanks in part to the funding provided by Community Champions.

"We initially received funding for the capital costs to launch the program, but we didn't receive funding for operational costs until Community Champions. We've been able to expand the midday runs to get people to the village to grocery shop: that's doubled the number of midday riders," she says.

Weller says that some residents have been able to give up their cars completely thanks to GERTIE, something that never would have happened without additional funding. One resident is a gardener for multiple properties across Gabriola, and now relies completely on the bus to make it to each property.

In addition to adding more midday runs, funding helped to pay for travel costs (volunteer drivers need to go to Nanaimo for mandatory training and testing) and assisted with the purchase of equipment to process more vegetable oil; they're now using up to 60 litres per week of waste oil, compared to only 30 litres a few months ago.

When asked to describe the experience of the Community Champions program, Weller says that above all, the voting process for the semi-finalists engaged the community.

"We actually started a co-operative mystery story where each day, people would receive a reminder to vote and the next installment of the story written by eight different authors," she explains. With a long-established community of talented writers on the island, supporters were kept engaged with the story and rallied around GERTIE to receive the Community Champions funding.

Thanks to the efforts of everyone who voted and their Community Champions award, GERTIE just keeps on expanding.

"We've been able to keep going without going into debt," Weller says simply.

Learn more about GERTIE and see their winning video

Ready to get started?

Learn more about the program and how to enter, starting August 15