At Tapestry, we are so excited about community bonds and the future of social finance that we often forget to take a moment to step back, reflect, and share our history. Today, on Global Wind Day, we thought it an apt occasion to celebrate our roots in renewable energy, and the amazing organizations working alongside us to build a more sustainable future.
Tapestry is not a standalone organization; we are actually building on years of experience of our parent organization, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative (TREC). TREC was founded almost 25 years ago with the mission to address climate change through collective carbon reduction. Being founded with co-operative values, TREC sought to find community-led solutions, and took inspiration from the renewable energy co-operative model that was thriving in Germany.
If you have ever driven in downtown Toronto along the lakeshore, you will have seen North America’s first urban wind turbine. Ever wonder how it was built? That was TREC’s inaugural incubated project: WindShare, a community-run renewable energy co-operative. This iconic wind turbine is jointly owned by 600 environmentally-minded community investors, a few of whom are pictured below, and Toronto Hydro.
Having seen the possibilities of community power, TREC was eager to replicate the WindShare model with other renewable energy technologies, and allow widespread involvement through community investment. TREC has helped to incubate, and continues to support, some of Canada’s most successful community-led renewable energy initiatives, including SolarShare, WindShare and ZooShare. Combined, these organizations have a portfolio of 54 community-owned renewable energy projects across the province of Ontario.
By allowing people to invest as little as $1000 to help bring these projects to life, these organizations have made participation in the renewable energy industry much more accessible to Canadians. “Often people want to find a way to make a difference, but they don’t have the means to do so. Not everyone can install solar panels on their roof, or even has a roof for an installation. Buying a wind, biogas or solar bond allows people to play a meaningful role in the clean energy transition.” says Mary Warner, Co-Executive Director of TREC. “What’s really exciting is that when these investors become involved, they suddenly want to learn more about renewables, carbon reduction, and even energy efficiency.”
This idea of raising community investment to enable community ownership has transpired into the work we do at Tapestry today. Building on what we learned in community-owned renewable energy, we now support organizations to tap into their community of supporters, raise impact investments, and use these funds to purchase or develop community assets – such as community hubs, sports & recreation spaces, affordable housing, and so much more.
As TREC incubated and saw the success of renewable energy projects, they also noticed a gap in public awareness around the possibilities of these technologies. They began to focus on children as the solution – to plant the seed of a sustainable future early on and inspire kids to see not only the environmental benefits of renewable energy but also the economic opportunities, like green collar jobs.
This advocacy work led to the formation of what is now Canada’s leading renewable energy education charity, Relay Education. In a normal year, Relay works with upwards of 10,000 kids to help them gain hands-on experience with renewable energy, learn about the connection between energy and the environment, and explore career opportunities in the field.
In addition to their elementary and secondary school programing, Relay is working in partnership with Indigenous communities to support sustainable, long-term energy solutions that are democratic, clean and inclusive. Read more about this work in the recent article in T. about Relay Education’s Indigenous Youth program.
As Tapestry continues to build a thriving community investment market, TREC will remain focused on advocating and finding solutions for a more sustainable future. The TREC team is actively working to define where that mission will take them next.