By Don Landry
If Christy Bertrand’s environmental work is any indication, you don’t have to know what you’re doing to start making a difference. You just have to want to know. Everything else stems from that desire.
Christy Bertrand (right) with Lisa Wilde, Executive Director, Emily Murphy Centre (Photo by Brilliant Images Photography & Films at The Thrift and Vintage Fashion Show, Stratford Trashion week. Used with permission.)
“People want an opportunity to do these things,” says Bertrand of the concepts that can go a long way towards a brighter climate future. “They just don’t know what to do. So let’s show them, let’s get excited.”
She knows of what she speaks. Bertrand, herself, is excited, immersing herself currently in an environmental project with the Emily Murphy Centre, a second stage housing facility for women in Stratford. It’s the latest endeavour for Bertrand, who has been learning as she goes – and making a difference – for years.
“I breathe the air,” she says with a laugh and a shrug when asked why she has been so present on the local eco scene, ensuring she has time to give beyond her full-time hours as a Customer Service Liaison at the Conestoga Career Centre.
“We’ve just gotten to a point where it’s not sustainable,” she says of the climate change imperative. “That’s just the math. That’s not a feeling, it’s just the math.”
Bertrand says she never lets a thing like not knowing what she’s doing stop her as she champions a different way of doing things in Perth County, because she has tons of energy for learning. And in architecture and engineering, she locates her muse. “I find buildings fascinating,” she says.
With the Emily Murphy Centre project, Bertrand has spent a year just trying to sop up as much knowledge as she could, connecting with engineers from the region, asking questions about how to make the building a more efficient, energy-saving space. She got – and was thankful for – the encouragement of the centre’s Executive Director, Lisa Wilde, as she embarked on the mission.
“I’m sitting there going ‘I don’t really know a lot, I’m really interested but I’m not an engineer, I don’t understand what we need. I’m basically gonna be learning as we go.’ And it didn’t matter.”
“I spent, probably, a year looking for people who knew more than I did to get involved in this project. I wrap myself up as the sort of ‘connector’ or ‘communicator.’ But not the person who could manifest this without great support.”
Bertrand is aiding the Emily Murphy Centre as it currently goes through an energy audit with experts looking for ways to help make the 20-unit residential building more efficient. The centre had already switched to an energy (and money) saving lighting system. Now there is a desire to make it that way in the areas of heating and cooling.
She is hopeful that can be done, and points to a retro-fitted residential building she knows of in Oxford County, where she says each unit had a low, low energy cost of “$54.00 a year.”
That makes it a much more energy-passive structure, something Bertrand would like to bring to Perth County.
“I know in Perth County we don’t have a highlight,” she says. “We don’t have any sort of real showcase buildings that talk about energy efficiency. So I thought we should bring one of those into Stratford. We’ve got reason to have that building here to teach our kids about these opportunities.”
Bertrand comes by her love for the environment through family ties, nurtured by experiences living in and visiting far-flung places. Her mother grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, and her father in rural Quebec, so Bertrand has a natural affinity for life on the land. Her grandmother, she says, valued canning and quilting, an appreciation that was handed down to granddaughter. Living on Vancouver Island when she was younger, Bertrand saw many households that were not so reliant on the grid, and that is a notion that has stuck with her.
Settling in Stratford ten years ago, Bertrand immediately plugged into an organization called Perth County Green Works, a catalyst in fuelling her desire to do more, as the group toiled to equip Optimism Place Women’s Shelter and Support Services with solar panels to heat hot water tanks there.
Christy Bertrand with Perth County Green Works board members, the Executive Director of Optimism Place, and other community members who facilitated the installation of solar panels on Optimism Place women's shelter
“There was a really interesting group of people who were passionate about the environment,” she says, looking back. That was a kind of springboard for Bertrand, who leapt in to assist despite having reservations about what she had to offer.
Looking forward, Bertrand will continue her volunteer work with the Emily Murphy Centre, as well as helping the Festival City Rotary Club (she is President-Elect of the Morning Club) push forward with environmental initiatives.
“I’m also sort of spearheading the growth of information sharing on environmental causes and opportunities through Rotary,” she explains. “I see a great desire to do things.”
“They’re good people,” she says fondly. “They’re really supportive of anything that I wanna try or do. Some admit they just don’t know what to do.”
The good news there is that they don’t have to. They just need the desire, and the rest will come.
That’s something Christy Bertrand knows firsthand.