The spotlight will be shined on ways we can support the environment during the district conference of Rotary International District 5360 being held in Cochrane on May 14.

District Governor Martin Parnell says they're receiving a strong response to the first in-person conference in three years and is delighted Cochrane is the host.

He's particularly pleased the environment is the theme. 

"In Rotary, it's our new seventh area of focus," he says. "We thought, let's take this as a theme, and let's see what we can do with it."

They have attracted international, national, and local speakers to discuss a range of environmental issues, from water to air to grasslands, sustainability, and reducing our carbon footprint.

Using a format similar to TEDx Talks, 10 guest speakers will make a 20-minute presentation, followed by a 10-minute Q&A.

Outside the Alliance Church, "Tents of Friendship" will be established with information on a variety of initiatives.

Five of them will be held in tents of ShelterBox Canada, which provides emergency shelter to families who have lost their homes to disaster or conflict. The organization is currently in Poland providing emergency shelter for Ukrainians displaced by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

ShelterBox is the charity of choice for the conference.

"We feel it's a great opportunity of highlighting one charity that we can support during the conference. ShelterBox was a natural fit because of what they do around the world when there are environmental disasters and also help in places like Ukraine. It's very close to our hearts. They are a partner with Rotary, and they're also global, so we're very happy to have them on board as our charity of choice."

ShelterBox Canada executive director Stephanie Christensen is among the speakers. She'll be talking about how disasters are changing, and how the new challenges we are facing (global pandemics, overcrowding, food scarcity, and more) are impacting how the humanitarian system provides emergency relief.

The Zero Heroes is a sustainability club at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy, in Canmore, that aims to measure, mitigate and offset their environmental impact. They'll be making a presentation on CO2 EASY, a sustainable event planning software designed to educate attendees on the greenhouse gases they emit by attending events and how to offset them.

Among the young speakers is Cochranite Jade Janzen, 16, who founded Lives with Less Plastics in 2018. She'll be discussing simple steps we can take to reduce consumption and environmental footprint.

Also from the Cochrane area are Daryl Kootenay, a traditional singer, dancer, artist, speaker, and youth leader from the Stoney Nakoda Nation, and Stephen Simms, of ASMS Performance Consulting Ltd. 

An ice cream social wraps up the day at MacKay's Ice Cream in the Historic Downtown.

"A big part of Rotary is about creating relationships, getting to know people, and having fun," says Parnell. "The end of the day is not just, well let's have ice cream, it's let's meet people, let's have a chat, let's sit down over your favourite flavour. I think that's going to be a great way to end the day."

Up to 400 people can be accommodated at the one-day conference being held at the Cochrane Alliance Church. It's open to all interested people, not just Rotarians, and the registration deadline is Friday, May 6.

Whether or not you're a Rotarian, registration is $100. It's $20 for youth. 

Here in Cochrane, the Rotarian movement continues to grow. The first club was chartered 30 years ago and its work in the community, district, and across the globe is well respected. Its satellite, the Young Professionals club, will soon be chartered as the Rotary Club of Cochrane Rocky Mountain. It also has youth clubs based out of Cochrane High (Interact) and Glenbow Elementary School (EarlyAct).

District 5360 covers 75 clubs in central and southern Alberta, plus Kindersley, SK. and includes Rotary, Rotaract, Interact, EarlyAct clubs.

You can find all the details on the convention here.

Rotary conference art