Meet: Tom Harington, Sustainable Brand Advisor
Tom is an experienced strategist and Envision Sustainability Professional. He has several years of educational and fieldwork experience focusing on resource securities and coastal sustainability, earning a Bachelor of Arts from Dalhousie University majoring in Environmental Sustainability, Sociology and Social Anthropology. He is known for building strong relationships while providing professional and efficient consulting services for his clients.
As a Sustainable Brand Advisor at R&G, he understands the relationships and potential of leveraging sustainability within the economy. I caught up with Tom to chat about sustainability trends, balancing economics with environmental and social responsibility and recipe recommendations for the cooking impaired.
☝ this is Tom
Hey Tom! Can you start by briefly describing your role at R&G?
My role is to identify solutions to sustainable brand challenges, and opportunities for the R&G team to apply our knowledge and expertise to help sustainable businesses overcome obstacles. It’s my goal to bring organizations with a sustainable purpose into the R&G family. Show them what we offer, why we’re amazing and how we can push their sustainability efforts. That sustainability niche is what makes us who we are and it’s why we’re the best at it.
How did you end up in this kind of career?
It’s a very long and confusing story, so I’ll give you the short version. I first studied sustainability at Dalhousie University. Then I did my Envision Sustainability Professional course through the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. After that, I did a lot of freelance work with environmental organizations like the Ecology Action Centre and other nonprofit organizations. I met Sarah and Liz through being a part of Circularity Forum, which eventually led to the position I have now at R&G.
I’m not familiar with the Envision Sustainability course. Would you be able to give me an overview?
My specific training was for the auditing component that is a part of a project’s certification process. Envision certification is about taking a holistic approach to large project management from birth to death. The kinds of projects could be anything from a mining site to a large port.
The Port of Vancouver is a good example of a project that is Envision certified. One part of that certification process was to look at the highways coming into the port. They talked to all the neighbourhoods that would be affected by redoing the highway and identified that noise was the largest concern. In response, they built sound barriers and even created walking paths and a green environment on the other side. That’s an example of just one small section of preproduction. The whole certification process is like that—only more.
🚢 Port of Vancouver
So from your perspective, who is leading the way in sustainability that people should keep their eye on?
Since its recent legalization, I’m interested to see how the marijuana industry in Canada adapts to using cleaner energy. It takes a lot of electricity and heat to generate their end product. Those facilities are massive and use indoor growth in a country where it’s cold for 6–8 months of the year. I’ll be looking at what energy savings they will implement to cut down their costs and what effect that will have on the industry. They also use a lot of plastics in the packaging and distribution, so there are opportunities there as well. As the market matures, it will be interesting to see how they innovate.
I’m always watching to see what Tesla is doing. Specifically, I want to see what will happen with electric trucks and the broader EV market. Most of the major car manufacturers are getting their EVs on the market and the network of fast charging stations continues to grow. Also keep an eye on how car shares and other companies adapt to having EV fleets. It’ exciting because the prices are going down and there are more options for people than ever before.
⚡🚘 Atlis XT
Finally, I’m paying attention to what renewables the big resource using companies based in the oil and gas sectors start putting their money in. They are investing a lot of capital and R&D into renewables as they begin to pivot. It’s not going to happen overnight, but as these companies transition, societies across the world will have to transition as well. The technological innovation that will happen over the next 50 years will determine what will be left for future generations. I’m pretty hopeful.
What first sparked your interest in sustainability?
I got into it through photography. I love taking photos of landscapes and nature. My parents grew up in Zimbabwe, so when I was younger we would go back there to visit family. My first memories are of seeing elephants and being in the African bush. Taking photos, surfing and diving help me make that connection with nature.
My “a-ha” moment happened while I was surfing in Bali, Indonesia. In the off-season, the trade winds blow the other direction and the amount of garbage that turns up on the beach is disgusting. While surfing, I went under a wave and when I came up the tip of my board was like a medical waste bag. It was so nasty and I couldn’t believe the amount of trash being dumped in the ocean. I asked myself, “What can I do to start figuring this out?” So I came back home and went to university to study sustainability. I realized that there are small things you can do as an individual, but small changes within a larger company or organization can have a huge impact. A 3% reduction in greywater use for a mining site amounts to megatonnes over its lifetime. These types of small changes translate into economic success for the company and environmental success as well. Real sustainability is when you can balance the environment, economics and society altogether.
🌊🤢 Bali's plastic tide (photo by Zak Noyle)
Now for the real hard-hitting questions. What do you do in your spare time besides being tall?
Photography, surfing and hanging out with my son and my lovely lady. Trying to spend as much time with family is really important. I have family out west, in England, Africa and Australia. So getting to see family when I can is important.
Getting outside and walking around cities is fun too. There are some amazing places and so much history in architecture and infrastructure. I went to France this past October. Walking around Paris got me thinking about how people built some of those buildings with mostly their hands. It’s humbling.
Also cooking. I love good food and cooking.
Any advice for easy recipes for the cooking impaired such as myself?
Just do some simple tacos. Put whatever your heart’s desire in them. My personal favourite is to get some chicken and put in a little Indian curry spice. Fry that up with maybe some pita bread and eat it with salsa and guacamole.