Inspiring Stories
8- Laure Waridel

Laure Waridel

Class of 2016
Founder, Equiterre

Laure Waridel was born in a Swiss village in the Canton of Vaud. When she was two years old, her family moved to Québec, where her parents acquired a dairy farm. Laure spent her childhood there with her brother and three sisters. From a young age, she was sensitive to the challenges of the agricultural community and the importance of the environment — her first job  was even at an organic farm. During her Cegep studies, she did an internship in Burkina Faso and was fascinated by the work of the women of the Sahel province, who dry mangoes in the sun and export them to Switzerland through fair trade networks.

In the wake of the 1992 Rio Conference, Waridel founded a non-profit organisation with a group of friends called  “Action for solidarity, equity, environment and development” (A SEED), now known as Équiterre. Thanks to the work of the organisation, the number of shops offering fair trade products’ in Quebec increased considerably, going from as few as 2 in 1996 to more than 1,500 in 2005.

Already devoted to environmental and social causes in her youth, Warideldid a bachelor’s degree in sociology and international development studies at McGill University and a master's degree in environmental studies within the Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy at the University of Victoria.

In 1997, Waridel published her first book Une cause café, followed in 2001 by Coffee with Pleasure and in 2005 by Buying Is Voting. The author takes us through the journey of coffee from the shrub to our cup , teaching us both about the work that goes into its cultivation and about the multinationals who own the brands of coffee that we buy. She also tells the inspiring story of the Union de Comunidades Indigenas de la Region del Istmo (UCIRI), a Mexican cooperative of coffee producers that brings together 2,720 families and has supported the indigenous people since 1982 despite the hardships and manoeuvres of intimidation of local elite traders. For Waridel, “the globalisation of social and environmental justice is not just a speech. It requires moving from thought to daily action. It must be exercised every day, in what we say to politicians and companies, in what we buy and in the attitude towards the people around us” (Buying Is Voting, 2005).

In 2010, Waridel decided to return to Switzerland to pursue her doctoral studies at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in anthropology and sociology of development. Her thesis focused on the Ecological and social economy: the transition process in Québec. 

Waridel has an easy-going and outgoing spirit combined with a unique charisma — she is able to explain and influence minds towards sustainable choices. Her primary activist commitment is currently within Mothers on the Front, a movement of mothers, grandmothers, and allies that she co-initiated with the artist Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, with the aim of protecting children from government inaction on the environment. This decentralised movement now brings together about 10,000 people across Canada. She is also a university professor, researcher and policy consultant on environmental and social justice for a greener and just future for Quebec, Canada and the entire planet.