The Thursday Q&A with sustainability guru Stuart Hickox

Stuart Hickox one change tree hugger

Photographer Stephen Harris (Studio-28) took this shot of Stuart Hickox which Hickox says represents our love of nature, and also our ultimate destruction of it.

Stuart Hickox is the founder and President of One Change, a non-profit organization which encourages people to take simple actions that reduce energy use. Hickox moved to Ottawa from his native Prince Edward Island to pursue a career in creative marketing and writing. He ran a freelance writing and communications business before becoming director of writing at the marketing agency, gordongroup. Then, a statistic that changed his life: “If every household in the United States replaced one incandescent light bulb with a more efficient (CFL) bulb, the reduction in pollution from power generation would be the equivalent of taking 800,000 cars off the road.” How difficult could it be to convince each human to change on lightbulb? One Change, now an award-winning foundation, was born.

This weekend, Hickox is speaking this weekend at the 3i Summit, (the three is are “Innovate, Interact, Initiate”) which will encourage sustainability groups in Ottawa to work together.

Hickox talked about his foundation, among other things, in our many-questioned Q&A.

OCS: Who are your style Icons?

SH: Farmers. I live in a city, but I’m most comfortable in jeans and rubber boots.

OCS: Best recent fashion find?

SH: A pair bright blue Nike “Free Run +2” running shoes. It is like running barefoot (without the pain). I even wear them at work.

OCS: Biggest fashion faux-pas, when, where and how?

SH: I was really proud one day of a new skinny navy/black striped tie I bought for a speech — but my assistant told me it made me look like I serve drinks on Porter Airlines. I admire her honesty.

OCS: Person, place or thing that makes you proudest/happiest that you live in Ottawa?

SH: I love that I can bump into someone like former PM Joe Clark (one of my heroes) in the Market and that he doesn’t need a security escort. What’s making me happiest lately is the super newly-renovated Taggart Family YMCA. It’s giving me my youth back!

OCS: Qualities you admire in a person?

SH: Empathy, creativity, courage and self-awareness.

OCS: Best restaurants in Ottawa?

SH: Koreana, on Somerset St. for my hot stone bowl bibimbap fix. The Wild Oat on Bank at Fourth for “Wild Plate” breakfast. Yummy jam on spelt toast.

OCS: Who would you invite to dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?

SH: Bill and Hillary Clinton. So many questions.

OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?

SH: Somewhere in between, though I’d say “diner” as long as I could get fish that’s grilled, not breaded.

OCS: Favourite food?

SH: My wife makes awesome chicken schnitzel. Pick-up (would be) mixed shawarma platter from Shawarma’s King. Ordering in, it’s Friday night Indian from Indian Biriyani House on Bank Street.

OCS: Wine, beer or both?

SH: Beer makes me a bit aggressive, so I mostly drink it while watching hockey. The rest of the time my glass is filled with a full-bodied red.

OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead?

SH: It may seem cliché but I admire Fred Varley of the Group of Seven, particularly Stormy Weather on Georgian Bay. At One Change, we even designed a light bulb box for an Ontario campaign based on this painting.

OCS: Favourite local artist?

SH: Christopher Griffin. I absolutely love how he picks up on things like paint blotches rolled over graffiti in overpasses, or sidewalk repairs, and brings them to life as animals.

OCS: What’s on your bedside table?

SH: A piece of driftwood from PEI (Hickox grew up in PEI), Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose and a sleep mask.

OCS: Best home accessory?

I’m obsessed lately with LED light bulbs — fam testing many different brands at home. The best so far is the Philips Ambien LED. Beautiful quality light that will last 10-20 years. People are going to fight over these bulbs in divorce court!

OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?

SH: A set of handmade thumb-back chairs that I found at the Ottawa Antique Market in Ottawa South. One of the chairs still has marks where a dog gnawed on the leg. Awesome.

OCS: Mac or PC?

SH: I swing both ways. PC at work.

OCS: Most-oft-played song on your iPod?

SH: I’m into lyrics lately, so I’m listening more carefully to stuff by Andrew Bird, Curt Cobain and Rufus Wainwright. My wife calls me a “pop culture pauper,” so I’m always playing catch-up.

OCS: Favourite blog or website?

SH: My kids say, “Epic Fail, Dad!” to me a lot, so I decided to find out what they mean and discovered Fail Blog. And together, we like to watch Rémi Gaillard pranks on YouTube. We need someone like that to shake up Ottawa (though I fear my sons are in training).

OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?

SH: Twitter for work. Facebook for friends and family.

OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?

SH: Two things: A friend signed me up for Two bottles of Ontario wines are delivered to my house by mail every month. The wordy descriptions are almost as satisfying as the taste. And, if I could, I would have a eucalyptus steam bath every day. And not feel guilty at all.

OCS: Favourite place to spend time?

SH: With my sons at Walden (my cabin in PEI). We love to roam among the trees, talk to the birds (it really works!) and keep the wood stove going.

OCS: Describe a perfect day off (it can be anywhere in the world).

SH: Either sitting with my farm neighbours drinking steeped tea in their kitchen in PEI or visiting the Muir Woods giant redwood forest reserve in California. Those trees really put things in perspective.

OCS: Best book you read in the past year?

SH: I read a lot of marketing/social entrepreneurship books, but I think I enjoyed the pure escape of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series the most.

OCS: What is your earliest memory?

SH: My dad taught me to climb out of my crib at about 16 months. I remember because of the shock of hitting the floor.

OCS: Proudest moment?

SH: It’s pretty raw. 12 years ago yesterday my wife and I had identical twins — born 15 weeks early. Both were very sick but one was not going to live long. I don’t know how we did it but we decided to name him (Angus) and we held him until he died. It’s not really “pride” I feel about this, but I’m so glad we lived fully in that moment. It has made us both stronger. Now I’m scared of nothing. Meanwhile, Jasper is thriving.

OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?

SH: The only people I care about being remembered by are my kids. And I want them to be able to say that I lived honestly and did my best to make the world a better place.



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