THUNDER BAY -- Sue Hamel took on the role of executive director at EcoSuperor in January this year, succeeding Ellen Mortfield, who had been at the non-profit since its creation in 1995.
“I’ve been very passionate working in the field of environmental education and conservation for the past 25 years,” Hamel says. “I feel like the mission of EcoSuperior, which is to build a healthy future for people on the planet, couldn’t be more important. It’s a perfect alignment for where I’ve been and where I’m going.”
EcoSuperior currently has nine full-time staff, and is expecting to add another member to the team soon. “It’s a fantastic team; hardworking and soulful,” says Hamel. “It’s a really fulfilling place to join.”
Hamel had no idea that she would be facing a global pandemic shortly after starting her new job. She is proud of the way they have come together to find creative solutions. Many programs such as workshops were moved online, and the online store they set up to sell gardening supplies was hugely successful. “Our seeds, rain barrels and composters were flying off the shelves,” she recalls. “We were so thrilled to be able to offer that despite the lockdown.”
It’s exciting that the pandemic has made people pay more attention to their places, Hamel says. With travel restrictions and limits on social gathering places, people have turned to growing their own food, baking, and “green” activities such as biking and visiting parks.
“Ontario Parks have never seen the volume [of visitors] this high. The Lakehead Regional Conservation Authority too. The numbers are 50 per cent up compared to pre-COVID,” she says. “I really hope these healthy green behaviours continue beyond the pandemic.”
Waste and litter reduction is a constant theme at EcoSuperior, and this year, they have been promoting neighbourhood and shoreline cleanups not as a big communal event, but as small but frequent events with smaller groups of people. Shoreline cleanup at Lake Superior is incredibly important, Hamel says, because that is the water we drink.
“All of us, if we drink tap water, we’re 60 to 70 per cent Lake Superior. It’s a fun thing to think about. You are actually more Lake Superior than you are anything else,” she points out. “It’s such an important thing to be good stewards of that lake.”
A new initiative Hamel is proud of is the creation and designation of “healing trails.” Having founded Seek Adventure and Tours, a local business that organizes guided walks, Hamel is a firm believer in the importance of connecting with the environment around us, and the healing properties of forest therapy. The multi-year project will include fully accessible trails within the city, so that those who do not have a car can also use them.
A quarter of a century after it was founded, EcoSuperior is rebranding and has a new logo designed by local tattoo artist and graphic designer Sonya Lacroix. EcoSuperior is also in the process of revamping its website. In the meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram are great places to find out about what’s happening at EcoSuperior, as well as subscribing to the newsletter.