EcoEquitable is a nonprofit social enterprise whose dual purpose of textile waste reduction and women’s empowerment intersect through the art of sewing.
Our flagship charitable program, Sewing for Jobs, welcomes self-identifying newcomer women or women experiencing barriers to employment into an immersive educational experience where they learn how to sew professionally and develop soft skills, all while building their network in the community. We also have two social enterprises including the Eco Fabric Boutique, where we receive and redistribute over 10,000 pounds of fabric and sewing materials per year; and our Public Sewing Classes, where we offer educational sewing opportunities to the general public.
Our vision is equitable and sustainable communities where women thrive!
The beginning of EcoEquitable begins with a nun, a play, and a little extra space. Lucile Champagne is a French Catholic nun, a trained psychotherapist, the first female chaplain of Saint Paul University, and the founder of EcoEquitable.
In the early 2000s, she realized that her office in the basement of the Bronson Centre had some extra space. That just wouldn’t do for Lucile, so she helped begin a women’s support group that could use the room as needed. After a donation of used sewing machines and with a play coming up, it seemed natural for the group to offer to sew the costumes for the production. As the women worked together — shoulder to shoulder, not face to face — Lucile noticed something profound.
Working together towards a common goal gave the women a renewed sense of meaning and purpose. On top of that, they were talking. They were talking about child care and immigration status and social assistance and many other things — they were talking about the real issues that were directly affecting their lives. They were talking openly about these problems that are usually so difficult to discuss. Work created a safe space for these women.
Lucile didn’t waste any time. In 2002, EcoEquitable was founded as a co-op. It has evolved over the years, for example becoming a charity in order to apply for grants and donations, but the core of EcoEquitable has always been the principle that Lucile founded it on — work creates dignity.
The principles that Lucile lived her life by are the same values she embedded within EcoEquitable. She was relentlessly inclusive.
She saw the best in people — what they brought to the table, not what made them awkward or closed off. She was intensely empathetic. Her ability to truly appreciate and understand people, even if she had never lived their experience, was a gift. She was deeply uncool. Her motivation was always to do what was right, and her goal was always to help others. She marched to the beat of her own drum. She was a serial entrepreneur. In addition to EcoEquitable, she also founded a beekeeping co-op. She saw the value of community and was always brainstorming creative new ways to help make a difference in people’s lives. More than that — she acted on those ideas.
“Our vision was to build a world in which dignity and the unique gifts of each person are valued and promoted — a community whose members stand with one another in justice and hope.”
– Lucile Champagne