Green Innovation Awards for 'zoo poo' energy and urban 'mini-farms' culminate ClimateSpark Social Venture Challenge

TORONTO, Feb. 8, 2012 /CNW/ - ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc. and Young Urban Farmers Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) are the 2012 winners of the Toronto Community Foundation's Green Innovation Awards. Rahul K. Bhardwaj, Community Foundation President & CEO, made the announcement at last evening's ClimateSpark Launch Gala. The winners will share a $50,000 grant.

This year, through a partnership between the Community Foundation, Toronto Atmospheric Fund, and Centre for Social Innovation, the winners were selected from the finalists of the ClimateSpark Social Venture Challenge. The crowd-sourcing challenge attracted 61 contestants, who were put through their paces by an online community of over 3,000, and 20 expert reviewers.  Ten finalists participated in a custom-designed, intensive business mentoring workshop and then had the opportunity to pitch a panel of grantmakers and private investors.

The Green Innovation Awards grant program is designed to help aspiring, Toronto-based entrepreneurs develop new and innovative green products and/or services for the Toronto marketplace. This grant program is a response to findings in the Toronto's Vital Signs® Report, published annually by the Community Foundation, which cites the need for greater investment in green technologies, products, and services. Toronto is below target on per capita emission rates, residential waste diversion, and overall pollution levels.

"ClimateSpark is a perfect example of how 'two thousand heads are better than one' at reducing local climate change and air pollution.  It is exciting to use open-innovation and collaboration approaches to stimulate, incubate and support home-grown social ventures that can make a difference for the planet," said Julia Langer, CEO of Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF).  "Crafting and running the challenge is a chunk of work, but the reward is being able to invest in the city's most creative and dedicated social ventures." TAF will be supporting two of the ClimateSpark finalists.

ZooShare is a non-profit renewable energy co-operative that is developing a 500 kW community-owned biogas plant on the grounds of the Toronto Zoo. The plant will turn the Zoo's annual manure output as well as food waste from GTA-based grocery stores into electricity, heat, fertilizer and cash for the Zoo. ZooShare is planning to invest $5.4 million to design, develop and build a biogas plant at the Zoo.

Started in 2010, Young Urban Farmers CSA is working to convert residential yards in Toronto into sustainable sources of fresh vegetables distributed through a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program. CSAs are a unique social and economic arrangement between local households and farmers who work together to share the responsibility of producing and delivering fresh food.

"The ClimateSpark Social Venture challenge is about harnessing and strengthening the potential of everyday citizens to make a difference in the fight against climate change. Projects like ZooShare and Young Urban Farmers CSA demonstrate the extraordinary creativity of people in our city," said Eli Malinsky, Director, Programs and Partnerships, Centre for Social Innovation.

"We needed the right partners to increase the impact of our Green Innovation Awards and build on the early successes. The social venture and collaborating experience of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and Centre for Social Innovation proved to be very valuable," said Bhardwaj. "We were impressed by the high calibre of this year's proposals and are confident that each winner has significant potential for market success."

The Green Innovation Awards are funded entirely by a small group of Toronto Community Foundation Fundholders dedicated to social venture solutions for environmental challenges.

Toronto Community Foundation
With more than 325 endowment funds and assets under administration of more than $250 million, the Toronto Community Foundation is one of Canada's largest public charitable foundations. Our mission is to connect philanthropy to community needs and opportunities, all with a vision to make Toronto the best place to live, work, learn and grow, through the power of giving.

Toronto Atmospheric Fund
The Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) has been sparking action on climate, air pollution and energy use in Toronto for more than 20 years. Internationally recognized for its innovative and effective programs, TAF has helped the City save more than $55 million on energy costs and helped citizens to live greener lives in healthier communities. Starting with a small endowment from a sale of surplus City lands, TAF has directly invested more than $50 million in this city while keeping the original endowment intact, all at no cost to taxpayers. TAF works with a variety of partners, including corporations, federal and provincial governments and community organizations, to leverage its investments in climate change action to improve our City.

Centre for Social Innovation
The Centre for Social Innovation is a social enterprise with a mission to catalyze, inspire and support world-changing initiatives. CSI has developed a unique expertise in the design, creation and management of functional and energizing community workspaces for social innovators looking to connect, work, create and transform. CSI incubates a limited number of social innovations that meet the criteria of entrepreneurship, collaboration and systems-change.

For further information:

Simone Dalton, Media Relations & Communications Officer
Toronto Community Foundation
sdalton@tcf.ca
416-921-2035 ext. 218