Antigonish Sustainable Development

The town and county of Antigonish are located in the province of Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast. The county has a population of about 22,000 people, with just over 4000 of them living in the Town of Antigonish itself. As home to St. Francis Xavier University and the longest-running Highland Games festival in North America, Antigonish already has an international reputation. But if area residents have their way, Antigonish could soon be known for a lot more than excellence in education and bag piping.

In 2007, the town, county, and a number of local organizations discussed a model to make Antigonish a sustainable community and regional leader. In July 2007, the Framework for Antigonish as a Leading Sustainable Community was released to the public - a plan developed locally with a group of individuals representing organizations, businesses, municipalities and the community.

The plan was developed under the umbrella of a local non-profit organization, Antigonish Sustainable Development (ASD), which is made up of a group of volunteer representatives from civil society, businesses, cultural groups, and environmental organizations.

As a participating organization in ACSI, the group gained access to leading sustainability expertise from The Natural Step Canada and other organizations. Using The Natural Step and other models for sustainable development, ASD’s framework includes working with organizations seeking to become sustainable, a community-wide capacity building program and the creation of an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) by December 2008.

ASD invited local businesses, the two municipalities, and other organizations to become change agents in their community and help develop momentum for sustainability. Twenty local organizations signed up for the first round of the Early Adopters’ program, which began in September 2007. As the adopters began to receive recognition as innovators, other organizations followed their lead. ASD has already begun a second round of the adopters program; the Early Minority Champions program has attracted an additional fifteen participants. This brings the total number of Antigonish adopters to 35 and makes it one of the largest sustainability networks in any Canadian community.

The program assists each organization to develop sustainability visions, identifying and implementing quick hits [best practices], conducting a sustainability assessment and developing an action plan. ASD facilitates the process for adopters through the delivery of instructional sessions, meetings and the provision of resources to organizations. ASD has compiled all of the ‘quick hits’ to create a 75-hit toolkit to inspire other local organizations to take similar actions. This list is being shared with other organizations seeking to become more sustainable.

“One outcome of this process is the creation of a peer network where organizations are going to be talking to other organizations through regular meetings. Our aim is to bring them all together to discuss ways to implement sustainability initiatives within their organizations and within the community.” Kuli Malhotra, Executive Director of ASD, explained.

It didn’t take long for the early adopters to start attracting attention in Antigonish and beyond. Just six months into the first round, Early Adopter Bergengren Credit Union was nominated for small business of the year sustainability award by the Resource Recovery Fund Board of Nova Scotia, and ASD won a 2008 community-based award from the Eastern Region Solid Waste Management.

Above: ASD Early Adopter Bergengren Credit Union receives the Small Business of the Year Sustainability award, 2008.