Denice and John at ZooShare’s “Thanks A Million!” party October 2014.
ZooShare Investor Denice Wilkins is a lifelong environmentalist, protector of turtle eggs (ask her about Turtle ICUs) and even owns an organic blueberry farm in Tweed, Ontario. Denice and her husband, John Wilson, built and designed their passive-solar home.
When did you become passionate about the environment?
“You’d think Detroit would be a weird place to become so interested in nature, but you don’t have to live in the country to become passionate about the environment,” Denice points out. The Michigan-native founded a neighbourhood environmental club at the age of 10, in which duties included: alleyway trash pick-ups and stuffing neighbours’ mailboxes at dawn with messages like ‘Keep America Beautiful’, written in red and blue. She and her friends even wrote to the Governor of Michigan and told him about their environmental concerns “and he wrote back!” exclaims Denice. Meanwhile, in Quebec, Denice’s future husband (John Wilson, pictured above) was catching frogs and snakes and appreciating nature “the country-way”. While Denice went on to get a degree in Environmental Education, John became a wildlife photographer and cinematographer. “He shot his first wildlife film in The Galapagos, during an 8-month motorcycle trip through South America,” Denice reveals. The pair even made films together in Iceland and South Africa.
Why did you decide to invest in ZooShare?
“We always wanted to invest in socially responsible investments, and so when I heard about ZooShare and the idea of ‘impact investing’, I really loved it because we didn’t want to profit from things we think are wrong: tobacco, nuclear missiles, etc…” laughs Denice. “And responsible investing is about the environment, social justice, gender equality…[Those concepts] are a part of our lives, our careers, our passions…and so ZooShare fits beautifully into that…It all weaves together…I’m very passionate and concerned about the state of the planet, from extinction to climate change to the myriad of problems that are impacting the planet right now…And I really believe in the power of one: The power of one person to make a difference, and the power that one idea can have to inspire a group of people to make a larger change…When you feel so powerless…It’s easy to become apathetic and say ‘there’s nothing we can do…we’re on the Titanic and it’s going down’, but investing in ZooShare is a way to do something, and that just helps me feel a little bit better about things.”
What are some conservation projects you think other ZooShare supporters would be interested in?
Denice’s husband, John, was really ahead of the curve when he designed their passive-solar home 35 years ago: “He was an early adopter of energy efficiency,” explains Denice: “The house is oriented to the south, with lots of large windows to let the light in. The windows on the North side are smaller and fewer. We only have one level that is above ground and the rest of the house is below ground, which keeps the house insulated. On a sunny day we don’t need any heat source on at all…Until the sun goes down, then we start our wood stove…We’re not off the grid, but we have a solar hot-water heater, and our home is Bullfrog powered.
(Flikr Photo Credit)
Denice and her husband also own Wilson’s Organic Blueberries, an acre and a half farm in Tweed, Ontario, where people can pick their own organic blueberries (July through August). “We also help pick blueberries for people who don’t want to pick their own,” mentions Denice.
In addition to being a member of ZooShare, Denice has another special connection to the Zoo: “One cool thing I didn’t mention is that I am on the board of the Quinte Field Naturalists, and one day we received a package from the Zoo about their turtle conservation efforts. We worked with the Toronto Zoo to put a turtle nesting beach on my property.” Denice learned about Turtle Nest Protectors, simple contraptions that prevent rapidly growing raccoon and skunk populations from devouring turtle eggs, which are in decline due to habitat loss. Although Turtle Nest Protectors are easy to make, Denice recognized that most people wouldn’t bother making them, “so we sell them inexpensively,” she adds: “Turtle Nest Protector is a boring name, I prefer ‘Turtle ICU: Incubation Care Unit.”
“Turtles are very site-loyal,” Denice explains, “if a turtle nested in your yard last year, it will probably come back. And please help a turtle across the road! The ones that are killed on the road are generally females going out in search of a place to nest. If it’s safe and you can pull off the road, help the turtle go in the direction it was heading.”
You can read more about Denice’s Turtle Initiatives here.
The ZooShare biogas plant will recycle manure from the Toronto Zoo and food waste from Canada’s largest grocery chain into renewable power for the Ontario grid. This process will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 2,100 cars from the road each year, and will return valuable nutrients to the soil in the form of a high-quality fertilizer. To build this project, we are selling bonds that earn a return of 7% each year for 7 years.
If you are a ZooShare member interested in being profiled for our Member Spotlight, please email Frances for details.