Nine years ago Monika Marcovici helped establish Board of Change — an organization working to grow a sustainable business network in Vancouver. Also a mom to seven year old twins and 13 year old step-daughter, Marcovici dedicates her spare time to the organization and personally strives to live a consciously green life. We wanted to know why she feels living sustainably is so important.
Have you always been environmentally minded?
It really started for me after I finished my engineering degree at Waterloo (in Ontario) and moved to British Columbia. Before, I had no concept of having to worry about the environment — that the government wasn’t taking care of it. When I moved to BC, it was during the protests at Clayoquot Sound where 800 people got arrested. That was my wake-up call. It was like, “What, the government isn’t going to do the right thing for the environment?” I thought that was what they did. The idea that society had to rise up and get arrested in order to make things right was shocking. I joined some environmental groups, saw people getting arrested, and my naive view that police were here to protect us forever changed. They were doing the bidding of the corporate sector. So, I woke up to this 20 years ago.
What is Board of Change and what do you do there?
Myself and the co-directors volunteer to create a (sustainable) business network. Vancouver has the Board of Trade, which is a very conservative business network. It is THE network to join and make business connections. We noticed a more progressive wave of businesses becoming abundant in Vancouver, and they didn’t have a network that matched their values. That’s what the Board of Change does, and we have events to inspire businesses to consider different ways of operating in our current economy.
Why was this important to you?
Because I want to see economic decisions made based on more than a single bottom line. We can’t think that way anymore. The world is going to hell in a handbasket! Even now in BC with the Kinder Morgan Pipeline decision — we’re making decisions that barely make sense economically. And the long term — what’s important for future generations and the environment — isn’t even on the table. I see these decisions being made and I think, “Don’t you people have children? Don’t you care at all what happens in the next 20–40–60–80–100 years?” Businesses are led by people, and people are waking up, so we need to get more and more of them thinking about the way their businesses operate.
Vancouver has a strong community of sustainable businesses and when you hang out at these events you feel like, “Okay, everybody gets it,” but as soon as you’re back in the real world you realize only a small minority of businesses operate that way. I think the tipping point will come though. Hopefully people will get with the program sooner than later.
You’ve been running the board for nine years, how has it changed since you started?
When we started people were always asked, “What is this and why are you doing it?” Now people know and are enthusiastic. Our events are very high energy, people are making connections and they enjoying coming. Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing it, but now I feel like we can’t stop because people are want it. We’ve created this group, and this energy, and people want to know that there is an alternative to the Board of Trade. I feel like it’s become part of the landscape of the city.
Do you work in addition to volunteering with Board of Change?
I used to do a lot of sustainability consulting, but to be honest once the twins were born that went on the backburner. That’s why I was able to have time to work on the Board of Change — and I spend way too much time on it but my volunteer work with the board is more organic — if I need to take time away I can.
How do you talk to your kids about the environment?
Well, there’s talk but it’s also about teaching them to have an appreciation. Since they were three they’ve gone — for one day a week — to an outdoor school with fresh air learning. We go walking in the forest, to the beach to look at shells. My kids love being outside, so when I tell them that there are people who don’t care, who are polluting (I simplify it by saying there are mean people who want to put oil in the ocean). They get upset and angry, and want to try and fix it. So, I’ve taken them to beach cleanups, protests, and marches. They understand that we need to stand up for nature and the environment — it isn’t going to take care of itself.
So you think it is important to engage kids at a young age?
I think it is, because it is going to be a reality for them. To be able to develop thinking around it early on so by the time they’re voting they have a solid grasp of the issues. And an understanding that they have power. Just because the government says they’re going to approve site C doesn’t mean it has to be that way — we can create change.
It seems like you live a pretty green life.
Well it’s funny, in some circles we seem pretty hippie and granola because we send our kids to outdoor school and have an electric car, but in environmental circles we’re seen as corporate types because my husband has a successful print shop and we live in a nice house.
Do you ever feel like the green actions we take are pointless in the grand scheme?
No, and we can’t give up because that’s basically saying, “Okay kids, you’re screwed. Your future is worth nothing.” I can’t do that, I have to try. And you never know what you can do when you do try!
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