Women Leading Sustainability in Westmount

This week, Westmount was represented at the Sustainable Communities Conference in Ottawa by Jayme Gerbrandt and Patricia Racette, respectively the City’s Inspector in Horticulture and Aboriculture, and Division Head, Environment. On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we highlight these women and their work as leaders in many of the City’s sustainability initiatives.

Did you know:

  • Westmount was among the first cities in Quebec to adopt a strict ban on pesticides and herbicides, one of the leading threats to biodiversity.
  • Operational activities in Westmount’s parks are guided by a Master Plan that ensures biodiversity and heritage protection are top of mind in all decisions.

At the forefront of everything Jayme and Patricia do is education. Bringing awareness to residents as well as challenging the City’s operations against the latest innovations in sustainability builds a communal mindset that allows for change. Speaking to the benefits of Westmount’s tightly-knit community, Jayme states: “Working in a small municipality, you have the chance to move innovative projects faster and be more creative in the implementation. We don’t fear going through all these different steps — we have the ability to try new things.”

Did you know:

  • Every property owner in Westmount has the right to one free tree each spring, an initiative that educates residents while also contributing to the City’s bountiful canopy.
  • Westmount’s compost programme is a full-circle initiative. Waste collected from both public and private gardens is distributed as compost free of charge to residents and used to fertilize soil beds around the City.

Both women admit that nearly all of the colleagues and contractors with whom they interact on a daily basis are men, despite many key roles being occupied by women at the City of Westmount. “Women don’t have a mirror to imagine themselves in these jobs,” Patricia says, but the reality is that women are poised to contribute greatly to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Patricia highlights the management aspect of her role that many don’t consider when applying themselves in a STEM field, and Jayme credits the artistry and creativity involved in horticulture as key to her sense of fulfillment.

Did you know:

  • The Green Bin programme, implemented in 2009, reduces groundwater contamination and methane production by diverting food waste from landfills. In 2020 alone, the City collected and diverted nearly 586 tons of food waste.

After 15 years, Jayme continues to show up excited to work every day: “[My work has] an immediate impact, but also an impact for the future. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s a pleasure.” Patricia, who began working at Westmount right out of her Master’s in Environmental Engineering program in 2019, sees a bright future ahead: “I’m really hopeful because our generation is more interested in the subject. People are passionate and are starting to understand what it means to live in a sustainable way.” Jayme adds, “This community cares a lot. It’s nice to be in a place where everyone is engaged and has pride in the community.”

Did you know:

  • The summer terraces project not only encourages healthy habits among residents by providing a place to connect with neighbours and enjoy the outdoors, but also includes flowerbeds filled with edible plants for residents to pick and use. Fruits and vegetables from these and other locations that are not picked by the end of the season are donated to the NDG Food Depot.

According to the UN, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science “aims to connect the International Community to Women and Girls in Science, strengthening the ties between science, policy, and society for strategies oriented towards the future.” Westmount chooses to participate in this international day as an occasion to educate the public on a frequently asked-about topic, and to celebrate and reinforce our achievements. A significant gender gap persists at all levels of STEM disciplines worldwide, and while women continue to increase their participation in these fields, they are still under-represented. At Westmount, we are proud to have many examples of women in STEM who contribute greatly to our community and hope their stories inspire more.