BURYING THE MEGA-QUARRY
A rabble-rousing group of media-savvy farmers, filmmakers, artists, chefs and enviros inspired a new wave of foodie activism that defeated what would have been North America's largest open-pit mine, in Melancthon Township. It was saucily brilliant of celebrity chef Michael Stadtländer to turn sipping soup into a mighty form of protest, 30,000 strong, at Soupstock.
LIGHTS OUT FOR COAL
Ontario kisses its final two coal-burning plants goodbye a year ahead of schedule, making us the first North American jurisdiction to be virtually coal-free.
HOPE FLOATS ON GREAT LAKES
Ontario enacts vital H20 legislation, the Great Lakes Protection Act, to help safeguard water quality, coastal wetlands and biodiversity. Be thankful next time you turn on your tap.
Ten years of fighting later, singer/activist Sarah Harmer, along with the Niagara Escarpment Commission and friends, managed to halt a 26-million-tonne limestone quarry and save endangered salamander breeding grounds.
MORE TOXIC TRANSPARENCY
In the past, if you wanted to know what businesses in your nabe were dumping and pumping into the air, you were limited to educated guesses. Now, via Toronto Public Health's ChemTRAC, you can punch in your postal code and - bam! - data on 25 priority toxins at your fingertips. Knowledge, my friend, is power.
WEIRD WASTE HAS A HOME
We almost lost it to budget cuts, but city council saved your right to carry your dusty batteries and odd unused, unwanted household objects - the ones you have no idea how to dispose of - to Community Environment Days.
WE'RE NOW A FAIR TRADE TOWN
By unanimous council vote, T.O. is now officially on course to be North America's largest Fair Trade Town, joining 1,100 cities worldwide that are publicly committed to buying fair trade coffee, tea and sugar, improving lives and reducing pesticide exposures for millions of workers.
PIPELINES LOSING LIFELINES
The PM and friends thought blowing down environmentalists and First Nations over Enbridge's Northern Gateway would be a breeze, but BC polls tell a different story. And south of the border, leak after leak of Alberta crude has forced the province to promise a 40 per cent cut in CO2 emissions.
VIVE LE QUEBEC VERT
A record-breaking 300,000 people at last year's Earth Day events in Montreal set the tone for an avalanche of green victories. New Parti Quebecois preem Pauline Marois announced the shutdown of the province's only nuclear reactor, a moratorium on shale fracking and an end to all talk of reopening our shameful asbestos mines. Plus, as of January 1, Quebec and California are the first jurisdictions on the continent to bring in mandatory cap-and-trade regs.
WE BECAME IDLE NO MORE
The ultimate in new wave people power. The #IdleNoMore hashtag sparked a tsunami of activism across the country, continent and globe as newly invigorated citizens stood up to tell the Conservatives we're not going to take their trampling on First Nation and enviro rights any more.
REVVING FOR EFFICIENCIES
By late 2012, the feds announced they would mirror U.S. fuel efficiency standards for cars built from 2017 to 2025, soon to be saving millions of barrels of oil a day and slashing GHG emissions by 50 per cent over 2008 models. Treehugger.com called the U.S. plan "the single biggest action taken by any presidential administration to combat the climate crisis."
RED-LISTED FISH OFF THE HOOK
Loblaws, Canada's biggest grocery, is on course to offer up 100 per cent sustainably sourced seafood by the end of 2013 (all the way down to its cat food), and seven out of eight food chains now get passing grades from Greenpeace.
SECOND CHANCE FOR MARINE LIFE
Don't you love it when a courtroom drama has a happy ending? Like when a judge forced the government of Canada to come up with a plan to protect endangered killer whale habitat? That means a whole lot of BC coast - and species - should get extra protection. Couple that with a new whale-friendly national wildlife area off the coast of Baffin Island and a landmark 178-nation vote to protect five shark species against the finning trade and we're positively buoyed.
BIG FOREST WIN
After a three-year Greenpeace campaign (and the loss of high-profile clients including Mattel, KFC and Disney), the world's third-largest paper producer, Asia Pulp & Paper, vowed to stop deforestation of Sumatran tiger habitat.
The 1 million Canadians disabled by enviro sensitivities can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they should now be able to access tax credits for retrofitting the homes that make them ill. Canadian author Varda Burstyn fought and won this battle with Ecojustice's help.
CARBON TAX IN ODD PLACES
The country typified by seas of sweatshops free to pollute at will has surprised a lot of folks with the momentous announcement that it'll be slapping a carbon tax on pollution. Word is, China, the world's largest carbon emitter, is finally trying to get a grip on climate change before Mother Nature taxes the bleep out of the People's Republic.
FLAME RETARDANT FLAMEOUT
The heat's been cranked up on hazardous and embarrassingly ineffective flame retardants since exposé after exposé outed them as toxic failures in 2012. As a result, California is reforming the standards that make these chemical products so pervasive in North American furniture. Good news for couch potatoes continent-wide.
FASHION HOUSES LOSE WEIGHT
On trend again this year: major clothing and sportswear heavyweights vow to lighten up their toxic load. Zara, H&M, Nike, Levi's, Victoria's Secret and so far 12 other apparel makers and retailers have committed to eliminating all releases of all hazardous chemicals throughout their supply chain by 2020.
RISE OF GMO LABELLING
California's GMO labelling proposition may have been defeated last year - in a close vote - but 20 parallel campaigns are now being mounted across the U.S. Rumour has it Big Food execs at Walmart and beyond are growing battle-weary.
HEAT ON HORMONE TOXINS
Just last month, the European Parliament voted to list all hormone-disrupting chems linked to cancer and infertility as "substances of very high concern" under their chemical regs. New restrictions are on the way within two years max. Meantime, California's just announced it'll label BPA "toxic," and the mandatory warnings that come with that should spell the end of BPA-lined cans.
DIVESTING FROM CARBON DIRTIES
Looking for the next frontier of climate activism? What's being described as the largest student movement in recent years has been spreading like wildfire as students on 200 U.S. campuses push their institutions to divest investments from climate-screwing fossil fuels. Cities and churches are saying yes to divest, too. And momentum is spreading north as Canadian doctors and campuses take up the cause.