Inspire. Educate. Transform.
One tenant’s journey to increase climate action in our communities.
Zamani Ra is on a mission to change the mindset around climate education and personal impact, one conversation at a time. She is the Executive Director of CEED Canada (Circular Environmental EDucation), a not-for-profit environmental awareness organization. Zamani’s workshops make climate action simple, convenient and culturally relevant for tenants in social housing.
In her own words, “CEED provides environmental education where we focus on civic engagement with underserved communities. We are looking to transform where we’re living by doing this work.”
Back to the beginning
When major floods happened at her west-end Toronto Community Housing building in 2017, Zamani wanted to know why. An inspection showed items like “flushable” wipes and personal hygiene products caused the floods. This inspired her to educate neighbours on what garbage should go where, and why it matters. These first workshops started the curriculum at CEED Canada.
“What we do here matters… not just in our buildings, but to other people and places.”
— Zamani Ra
Cultural relevance is key
Zamani creates impact with culturally-relevant workshops. In other words, the topics and actions are carefully tailored for the participants. “We do research to determine where you come from (outside of Canada). We take that information and embed it into our workshops. It unlocks the ability to figure out where to tap into the [climate] conversation, into the work, and the action.”
Zamani notes that, as a person originally from the Caribbean, where sea levels are rising, “The work I do in Canada can contribute to a decrease in greenhouse emissions, lower sea levels and slow beach erosion.”
Growing one step at a time
As the interest in CEED grows, Zamani is working on financial grants and networking opportunities. She just took part in the City of Toronto’s “2022 Women4ClimateTO Mentorship Program.” The six-month program ended with participants pitching climate-related initiatives to judges. Zamani won first prize!
“I’m the winner, but the juicy stuff is being a part of this group and connecting with this international network of women,” she said, beaming. “I’m so happy to be part of this strong network of women and exchange of ideas.”
Part of the conversation
Listening to Zamani, you can tell that CEED is more than an organization. She lights up when she talks about her work, even when discussing the challenges she’s faced.
“It’s [the] bureaucracy and the lack of equitable lenses when looking at climate work,” Zamani says. “There is pushback from people in power who don’t understand the complexities of people they serve.”
A critical part of Zamani’s work is to create and strengthen relationships with partners and leaders in related sectors. To get a place at the table where the decisions are made. To push for decision makers that look like her and her neighbours.
“Environmental stewardship is a very White-led conversation. My mother and grandmother were farmers who did environmentally conscious activities…I don’t see them in this narrative,” she stated. “People doing this work for centuries don’t have a voice at the table. We want to change that. [When] people make statements about what they want to see, people in power will actually hear that and make it happen.”
“People doing this work for centuries don’t have a voice at the table. We want to change that.”
— Zamani Ra
Zamani is working with the Women4ClimateTO and C40 Cities networks to set CEED Canada up to do work on an international scale. This will mean larger initiatives to help the City of Toronto achieve its climate goal of net zero emissions by 2040. These initiatives would also create opportunities where fellow residents would get paid equitably to continue this work.
When asked for a tip to help lessen climate impact, Zamani smiles. “Truly your most environmentally-conscious asset is your mindset.”