Gabriola Commons

Gabriola Island, British Columbia

Once a goat cheese farm, the Gabriola Commons Community Centre is now home to a grassroots organization focused on preserving and enriching the local environment and community. After creating a community kitchen, gardens and a public transit system—the group is now setting out to prove how small-scale solar can also benefit the community.

Below, Judith Roux of Gabriola Commons talks about the history of the Commons and what renewable energy means to the community.

A source of pride

Our solar installations are a source of pride—not just to those involved in the project, but also to the broader Gabriola community. There’s a collective agreement amongst community members that the solar roof on the Commons is exactly the kind of project that we should be championing.

Doing things sustainably has been our mandate from the beginning, and the solar project is a very tangible demonstration of our intentions—it’s a way of showing how we are taking action on climate change. For us, building a renewable energy project is also the first step of a greater effort to engage the B.C. community at large—and one which we hope will make a difference.

Bullfrog understands how the Commons works and chose to invest in us. We believe Bullfrog’s involvement helped us further demonstrate our vision.

Serving the community

The Gabriola Commons is a former goat cheese farm that has been repurposed into a community-owned natural space. We host a wide range of events and services here, such as Gabriola Arts Council events, a weekly Island farmers market; and GERTIE, the volunteer-run island bus system. The bus system is using biodiesel made from local waste vegetable oil and the management is determined to replace the early buses with electric models as soon as possible.

Challenges and future projects

One of our main challenges has been tackling the costs associated with maintaining and developing the property; we have a limited revenue stream coming mainly from generous donors and the rental of our spaces. Knowing that our electrical bill is decreasing through the solar project helps free up the planning process.

Despite the challenge, we’ve begun working on transforming the agricultural buildings (which were built in the 1980s) into a performing arts centre and a community kitchen. With solar power as an energy source, we can dare to dream a little!

A mission for the future

Taking action for the planet—keeping our waters clean, our forests green, our air breathable—is the only action on the table. We can’t sit back and trust that the decisions being made on our behalf are the right ones for the planet. We have to become engaged. We don’t have the luxury of choice!

The Gabriola Commons is a grassroots organization focused on preserving and enriching the local environment and community on Gabriola Island. After creating a community kitchen, gardens and a public transit system, the group is now setting out to prove how small-scale solar can also benefit the community. Bullfrog Power and the Regional District of Nanaimo have partnered with the Commons to help make the new solar project possible.