It was during her honeymoon in Vietnam when Alexandra Hutchison discovered her calling as a champion on behalf of the natural world. Currently pursuing a Masters’ in interior design, with a focus on sustainability, Alexandra and her husband, Craig Harding, co-owners of Toronto’s popular Campagnolo restaurant, had planned to spend a few days in the area of Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO Heritage site. While Alexandra had read that the area was polluted, she did not anticipate just how damaged the World Heritage site was.

“I was absolutely horrified,” recalls Alexandra, a supporter of the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada. “I did not realize pollution existed on such a massive scale. It was just heartbreaking. And the fact that it was a protected site, I was really confused by that.”

Alexandra promised herself that upon returning home she would fight to create positive change for the environment. “When I’m sad about something, I’m a doer; I want to try to fix things,” she remembers saying to her husband. “I really felt compelled by what I saw.”

While the experience in Vietnam became a turning point for Alexandra, she has harboured a keen love and concern for the natural world since she was a little girl, nearly pursuing a career as a zoologist with Jane Goodall as her personal hero. “I saw Jane Goodall as fearless. I grew up in a small town, and I saw her as someone who was out in the world devoting her life to the things that mattered most to me.” Alexandra finally heard her hero present a talk at Roy Thompson Hall in 2012, further igniting her determination to raise awareness for animals and environmental protection.

“I really believe in Jane’s philosophy of sustainability, that you have to have a very broad perspective”

“You have to look at the macro issues. Conservation isn’t just about one species. It’s about going into communities and regions and looking at sustainability from a larger perspective, and starting a ripple effect that will encompass all species that are part of that ecosystem. For example, if you have a passion for elephants, you can’t just focus on the elephants, you have to look at everything that contributes to their prosperity, including the human populations that surround them.”

Alexandra’s observation is reflected in the Jane Goodall Institute’s long-standing approach to conservation strategies that emphasize community involvement in preserving important habitat.
Not long after returning from Ha Long Bay, Alexandra hosted a dinner and auction at Campagnolo on Earth Day. ”I wanted to show people that sustainability can be luxurious – and it was,” she says when describing the dinner where local ingredients were sourced. “To me, sustainable options are the ultimate luxury actually, to have the option to choose to do better, to be better.”

The dinner went so well, Alexandra hosted a cocktail reception in 2014, closing Campagnolo to the public so that a small group that included George Stroumboulopoulos could meet Dr. Jane in person.
Building on success, Alexandra followed up by organizing JGI Canada’s 10 Shots, 10 Chefs fundraiser last fall. It was a smash hit, serving 400 people and raising $50,000.

“It’s been the most wonderful experience,” she says of her involvement with JGI Canada. “I’ve never been more proud than I have after these events.”

By donating her time and resources, Alexandra can see the positive effect that her support has had on the organization’s cause. “Helping expand JGI Canada’s audience is the ultimate reward for me.”

One of the participants at 10 Shots, 10 Chefs called Alexandra the very next day to say how inspired he was by Dr. Goodall and that his family intended to watch Jane’s Journey on movie night. “Twenty-four hours earlier,” laughs Alexandra, “he knew almost nothing about what Dr. Goodall stood for. These are the stories that make me feel like I’m doing something that matters.”

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