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(Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

Founded in 1993 by a group of young Quebecers, ASEED (Action for Solidarity, Equality, Environment and Diversity) was intended as a dynamic, action-oriented and innovative response to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit proceedings. Better known as Équiterre, the organization’s mission is to contribute to building a citizens’ movement by promoting individual and collective choices that are both environmentally and socially responsible. This mission is realized through numerous activities, awareness campaigns and programs.

Ecological Agriculture Program

The primary achievement of Équiterre’s ecological agriculture program is the implementation of a broad network of farms that supply organic food through Équiterre’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. Today this network represents approximately 100 farms and feeds more than 20,000 people. Équiterre also launched the concept of Organic Daycare Centres, a program to raise awareness while supplying Quebec’s daycare centres with local organic products. By contributing to the survival of organic, family farms, these two projects reduce the use of chemicals in farming, improve the health of consumers, and help make Quebec food safer. As part of the movement for organic farming, the program also contributes to collective reflection on today’s agriculture and nutrition.

Fair Trade Program

Équiterre launched a revolution in Quebec to promote certified fair trade products. Since 1996, the number of Quebec sales outlets for these products has jumped from just two to more than 1,500. Équiterre’s contribution in this respect includes the production and distribution of educational material, the planning of conferences and media activities, inter-organization coordination (CSQ, Oxfam, CECI, MondÉquitable, etc.), and ongoing lobbying of government, institutional and private-sector decision makers. The team also manages a pilot project to support a cooperative of Mexican organic coffee producers and participated in the organization of international forums on fair trade in Cancun (2003) and Hong Kong (2005).

Sustainable Transportation Program

Équiterre’s sustainable transportation program focuses on activities surrounding the “transportation cocktail” concept, a combination of such modes of transportation as taxis, bicycles, walking, car-pooling, public transit and car rentals and sharing. For a number of years, Équiterre has campaigned for this economical and efficient alternative to “one car one person” by producing and distributing practical information kits, organizing press activities, lobbying decision-makers, and speaking directly with members of the public at kiosks and conferences. As a result, tens of thousands of people have developed a taste for the transportation cocktail. Parallel to its social marketing activities, Équiterre also actively participates in major public debates on transportation.

Energy Efficiency Program

As part of its energy efficiency program, each year Équiterre conducts more than 1,000 home visits, during which its teams carry out minor repairs and advise low-income families on ways to reduce their energy consumption. Équiterre has made a major contribution to the implementation and improvement of energy efficiency programs across Quebec. One study demonstrated that the program allows for an average reduction of 5% in the amount of energy consumed by the visited families.

Climate change is also a priority for Équiterre. Since 1993, the organization has raised awareness among thousands of citizens about this serious problem. Recently, Équiterre organized, in partnership with five other organizations, the Centre québécois d’action sur les changements climatiques, the mandate of which is to collect and disseminate information on the subject and promote the transition to a sustainable economy less dependent on fossil fuels. To this end, the Centre has established an advisory board of experts and scientists from the private, public, para-public, municipal and community sectors. Équiterre also organized the secretariat for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as part of the 11th United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Montreal from November 28 to December 9, 2005.

Jean Gagnon © 2006 FDL