Recent Items – 1999
May 19, 1999, By Cees Mond, Daily News Staff
A green lifestyle will land a Dawson Creek resident a 1999 Minister’s Environmental award in early June, the Daily News has learned. While the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks would neither confirm nor deny the award because of a self-imposed ban until June 1, Don Pettit confirmed he has been invited by the ministry to come to Victoria to receive the award in the Individual Citizen category.
The Ontario-born Pettit moved to Dawson Creek about 20 years ago and will be honoured for his ongoing commitment to environmental issues, evident in his self-designed and built house on the edge of town.
Pettit’s home, in the middle of a 10-acre forested parcel of land, is solar-electric powered, collects and treats all of its own water, uses a composting toilet and features an innovative heat-efficient design.
“I’m living the lifestyle that I’m promoting,” said Pettit who was pleasantly surprised with the award he’ll be getting.
“I’m pleased and honored — somewhat flabbergasted really — but it’s nice to be recognized. ‘
In addition to living his chosen lifestyle, Pettit actively promotes green living through his column Environews, close to 350 of which have been appearing in the Peace River Block News for the past eight years.
Five years ago, Pettit created the Citizens’ Advisory on Environmental Research (CAER), a grassroots group that he continues to chair, partly funded by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. The group worked with the ministry and Domtar Inc. to find a suitable treatment option for 10,000 tonnes of PCP-contaminated waste near Dawson Creek. This unique partnership between the government, industry and the public was successfully concluded last year.
Pettit then created a new mandate for the group, involving raising money for local positive environmental projects that brought together a wide range of people. The group, with the backing of some 25 local organizations, has been successful in securing a $75,000 Forest Renewal BC grant, a $100,000 Youth Services Canada grant and a $30,000 B.C. E-team grant. The money is being used to restore and create a new green belt through the city along the creek after which the city is named. The project is ongoing and will benefit from an additional Youth Services Canada grant this year.
In 1993, Pettit established The Green Store, a Dawson Creek retail outlet for environmental products and services. Besides offering environmentally sound products, Pettit also used the store as a place to run courses and seminars on topics such as solar power, composting, “drug” free gardening and water conservation.
Lacking a broad enough population base in Dawson Creek to sustain the store, it was sold in 1995 to a Grande Prairie, Alberta company where it continues to thrive today.
Also in 1995, Pettit co-ordinated a national conference on the environment in Dawson Creek, called Tools for Action. Under a contract with Health Canada, Pettit raised $50,000 to bring some 50 grassroots representatives from across Canada for the three-day event.
Dawson Creek resident Donna Kane nominated Pettit for the award.
“I’ve always been aware of the different things he’s done for the environment,” Kane said. “I know he’s always been out there.”
Kane said she understands 13 people and organizations will receive the award this year, four of which are individual citizens such as Pettit.
“Obviously, down there (in Victoria) they thought too that he deserved the recognition.”
Judging from his track record, Pettit said, it”s obvious he has received support from countless local people. To me, it brings to mind the many, many people that work very hard for the environment but who may never get the recognition,” he said. “There’s a lot of people doing a lot of neat stuff in the Peace Country.”
Earlier area recipients of the awards, established in 1981, are Wayne Sawchuck of Chetwynd in 1998, Gerri Young of Fort Nelson in 1997, and Leo Rutledge of Hudson’s Hope in 1994.
In 1992, the Peace River South School District received the Minister’s Environmental Education Award. A local action group, the Save Swan Lake Society of Dawson Creek, received the principal public environment award in 1987.
While he is being singled out this year, Pettit said the award draws attention to everyone who works for the environment in the Peace region, “even individual people who go to recycling centres every month.”