Going Green for Festival 2019

Giovanna Boniface (centre) spent last summer in a rural village in Tamil Nadu, India as a volunteer occupational therapist.  With her are two members of the local medical rehabilitation team.

By Tanner Morton

Several years ago, Giovanna Boniface committed to living more sustainability after seeing and experiencing conditions of drought, water and food scarcity, and extreme poverty during travels to Thailand, India, and South Africa.

In addition to making changes at home, the RAIC’s vice-president of national affairs has also sought to reduce waste of paper, plastic, food, and energy at the 2019 RAIC Festival of Architecture. The conference takes place at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto, ON from October 25 to 30.

“We talk a lot about sustainability,” says Boniface. “This is about reflecting our values through our actions.”

Through a series of new initiatives, sponsors, and partnerships, the RAIC will minimize waste, conserve energy, and reduce the overall environmental impact of the week-long event.

A significant change for delegates will be the festival program. Delegates will receive a mobile application for use on their telephones, instead of a printed program, to cut down on excess paper.

The RAIC also has decided not to provide bottled water at the Festival. Instead, there will be water stations for attendees to refill bottles they bring from home.

For delegates who want a bag to carry goods they pick up at the Festival, recycled tote bags will be available. The tote bags come from Common Thread, an organization that helps people with mental health challenges develop industrial sewing skills, create craft items, and earn income.

The conference name badges and lanyards, provided by Mybadges, are made of environmentally friendlier materials than traditional plastic badges. The holders are of a biodegradable PVC film that will revert into biomass and soil in five years – compared to the 400 years it takes for vinyl holders to degrade. The lanyards will also be made of 99.9% post-consumer plastic to keep new plastic out of landfills.

The badge inserts for names use 100% post-consumer recycled paper. This choice means no new trees harvested, and guests can recycle the badges again after the Festival ends.

Food waste has a major impact on greenhouse gas levels, with the average Canadian wasting over 170 kilograms of food per year. The RAIC has taken steps to avoid food waste at the Festival. Food that is still safe to consume (e.g., pastries, muffins, and bread) will be collected and donated to a Toronto shelter, Good Shepherd Ministries. The RAIC is also working to ensure that wherever feasible, food sourced for the Festival comes from environmentally responsible providers. Local products, sustainable seafood, organic, and fair-trade products are included, whenever possible while creating the Festival menu.

The conference venue has a range of green initiatives. For example, all restaurants, lobbies, and common areas are powered by Bullfrog Power, which is a 100% renewable source of energy. Guestrooms are outfitted with low-flow appliances and plumbing to cut down on water usage. All rooms employ lighting fixtures that use 75% less energy compared to standard incandescent lightbulbs.

“Architects care deeply about sustainability,” says Boniface. “The RAIC will continue to take steps to reduce the environmental footprint of our events and activities, and have a positive impact on our host cities.”