With the holidays approaching quickly, we’re looking back at a turning point year for environmental progress in Canada – made possible by your support for our work.

You and other Canadians took action this year in unprecedented numbers. You signed petitions, called and wrote to your elected officials, and talked to your friends online and offline about our efforts to protect the environment. You came to events, spoke out and marched. You donated your time, energy and money. Together we made change happen.

Below are the biggest victories from this past year that our work together made possible.

Banning Microbeads: Pressure on Government Mounts

Microbeads – tiny pieces of plastic added to personal care products – are creating a big problem for our waterways and wildlife. That’s why we demanded government action to ban them. Momentum grew quickly with more than 16,000 people asking government to act! After initial moves by the Ontario government and a unanimous vote in the House of Commons, the federal government is moving towards a ban through its Chemical Management Plan.

Kicking Out Toxics: Loblaws Leads the Way

For 10 years, we’ve worked hard to inform Canadians about harmful chemicals in everyday products while calling for industry and government action. Our efforts continue to pay off. In June, Loblaws, one of the largest retailers in Canada, announced the phase-out of the toxic chemicals triclosan and phthalates as well as microbeads from its President’s Choice and Life Brand products. Looking ahead, we will continue our work to get other industry members and the federal government to follow suit.

Saving Ontario’s Bees: We Did It

With bees dying at an alarming rate around the world, you worked with us to call on the Ontario government to put in place strict new rules on the sale and use of neonicotinoids (neonics) — a group of pesticides harmful to bees. Social media was abuzz with thousands of concerned people signing our petition to #savethebees. In June, we were able to declare victory as the provincial government announced new regulations that will reduce the use of neonics in Ontario by 80 per cent by 2017.

Moving Ontario Towards a Clean Economy

A clean environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand. That’s why in April we helped launch the Clean Economy Alliance, which includes over 90 organizations in Ontario, including businesses, industry associations, labour unions, agriculture, health charities and environmental groups. Membership of the Alliance is diverse and what unites the members is a strong support for climate action in Ontario.

The Clean Economy Alliance developed a set of principles to guide Ontario’s new cap-and-trade system, as well as recommended complementary actions to help further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a clean economy. Next up, the Alliance will continue to work to ensure Ontario’s climate strategy is effective and transparent, cuts pollution and generates jobs.

Writing History: Paris Agreement Signals End of Fossil Fuel Era

A global, people-powered movement is driving action on climate change. We witnessed this firsthand earlier this month, when three members of the Environmental Defence team travelled to Paris as official observers of the U.N. climate summit. The Paris Agreement is the first global accord that acknowledges the science of climate change. And the goals in the accord were set because social movements around the world demanded it. Closer to home, across Canada from coast to coast to coast, we’ve seen a growing movement of people demanding a transition to a clean economy. And your words, letters and phone calls have power to bring about change. At the summit, Canada spoke strong words about climate change. We’ll be working to ensure Canada’s strong words in Paris turn into strong actions at home.

Breaking New Ground: Alberta Launches Ambitious Climate Change Plan

In November, the Alberta government announced an ambitious climate strategy. Among other measures, it includes a phase-out of coal electricity, new renewable energy deployment, a carbon tax and the first-ever cap on carbon emissions from the tar sands. Environmental Defence supported Alberta’s game-changing climate plan and we will continue working to make sure the flawed pipeline review process is fixed to ensure Alberta’s emission cap is not violated and that pipelines don’t threaten our air, water and communities.

Safeguarding Our Water: Great Lakes Protection Act Passed

The Great Lakes face increasing threats including climate change, algal blooms, and invasive species like Asian carp. To help address these problems, in October the Ontario government passed a strengthened Great Lakes Protection Act, which included several of our recommendations. This new law will help to better protect the waters millions of Ontarians depend on to drink, work, and play. It also includes new targets to help reduce or eliminate harmful pollutants and address algal blooms, and it empowers communities to get involved.

Flying More Blue Flags: More Beaches and Marinas Eco-Certified

2015 was a record year for our Blue Flag program. In 2015, communities raised flags at four more beaches and marinas: Gimli Beach (Gimli, MB), Bell Park Beach (Sudbury, ON), City of Barrie Marina (Barrie, ON) and LaSalle Park Marina (Burlington, ON). We also worked with other communities across the country to ensure beaches and marinas are clean, safe, and sustainably managed. To obtain and keep a Blue Flag, beaches and marinas must meet strict standards including water quality.

Protecting Free Speech and Public Debate in Ontario

Environmental Defence has worked hard to put an end to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). These lawsuits were used by developers and corporations to intimidate and silence people and groups who opposed development proposals or risky activities in their communities. The government listened and this fall, the Protection of Public Participation Act was passed, putting a stop to SLAPPs and protecting Ontario residents’ right to speak out on issues that impact us.

Empowering Canadian Youth: A Record Year for YRE

It was a record year for our YRE Canada National Competition. We received many great entries from Canadian youth, who used their photography, videography and writing talents to investigate the issue of littering. The winners went on to compete in the international Young Reporters for the Environmental Competition, where two Canadian entries placed in the top three in their respective categories.

Thanks to you, we accomplished so much in 2015 and we have huge plans for 2016!

Be part of our success story in 2016 by making a gift in support of our work today. All gifts made by December 31st will be matched by our volunteer Board of Directors.

Stay in touch and receive updates on our work and how you can get involved by subscribing to our monthly Defender News and by joining us on Facebook or Twitter.

The entire team at Environmental Defence wishes you and your loved ones happy and joyful holidays and all the best in the New Year.

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