Going green: Momentum builds for environmental action

in Environment/Opinion by

Earth Hour was on March 30. Earth Day was April 22. Earth Week was April 21-27. But ask Pat Warren, chair of the Kawartha Lakes Environmental Advisory Committee (KLEAC), and she’ll have this to say: “Every day is Earth Day.”

She’s not alone in this belief. Momentum is building for environmental action. Over the past six months Council, City staff, and environmental heroes of all ages have been stepping up.

Here are 10 environmental initiatives worth celebrating.

1 – Healthy Environment Plan (HEP): In March, as our local response to a worldwide climate emergency, Council adopted its first Healthy Environment Plan (HEP). It sets out strategies for agriculture, buildings, energy systems, land use, transportation, water management and waste diversion with the goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2005 levels.

2 – Designating Councillor Tracy Richardson as Environmental Champion.  Richardson arrived on Council with a demonstrated commitment to the environment (she and her husband own and operate Richardson’s Pineneedle Farms, a large grower and distributor of native nursery stock). She’s been tasked with pushing forward the HEP agenda, and to equip her to do that has been assigned to a particular set  of boards and committees: KLEAC,the Parks Advisory Committee (which is now City-wide rather than just Lindsay), Transit Advisory Committee, both the Otonabee and the Ganaraska Conservation Authority Boards, and the Board of Health. She will be in the know about what’s happening, can ensure council is apprised, and can connect those who should be connected.

3 – First Step to an Active Transportation Master Plan: In April, council, on a recommendation from three of the city’s Directors (Marshall, Shanks, and Rojas), added development of an Active Transportation Master Plan as a “decision unit” for the 2020 budget. A Master Plan can help ensure there’s the infrastructure for walkers and cyclists.  (If more of us walked or cycled around town rather than driving there would be fewer emissions, less noise, less need for parking spaces, and we’d all be healthier.)

4 – Exploring a Styrofoam and Single-Use Plastic Ban: Kawartha Lakes currently accepts Styrofoam in our recycling stream. It’s sent to the Northumberland Material Recycling Facility. In 2018 we sent 10 tonnes of Styrofoam, costing the municipality approximately $10,000 for transporting, sorting and landfilling. Single use plastics are a big problem. They pose a serious climate change hazard and Canada recycles just 9% of its plastic (3.2 million tonnes ended up as garbage in 2016.)

Recently, on motions from Councillors Seymour-Fagan and Yeo, City staff have been directed to conduct a study on the feasibility of bans on Styrofoam and single-use plastics. Subsequently, some members of the Environmental Advisory Committee met with David Kerr, manager of environmental services and will be assisting by researching and reporting on what other municipalities and countries are doing to address the problem. 

5 – Earth Week Activities: There was a broad range of activities during the week including Community Clean-ups that — at the suggestion of Frank Smith of Toward Balance Support Network — piggybacked on the #TrashTag social media movement. In a clean-up in Pontypool 1,500 pounds of waste was collected in just three hours. Councillor Richardson, who participated, reported that 80% of the waste was single-use plastic and Styrofoam.

6 – Student activism on Climate Change — Climate change marches were held March 15 and May 3rd. Both were organized by Grade 7 Central Sr. student Alexis Benns. (Full disclosure: daughter of Advocate publishers.) For the May 3 event she recruited students from her own school and they were joined by Weldon students and roughly 55 community members.

Explaining her motivation, Benns had this to say: “I felt compelled to take action on my own. I studied the impacts that climate change will have on the Earth and human lives, as well as what species have already gone extinct due to climate change. I was also surprised to learn that Canada is actually warming at twice the global rate. With all this knowledge, I decided to organize a climate change march.”

7 – Climate Change Education: Since completing Al Gore’s Climate Reality training workshop two years ago Deb Pearson and Ginny Colling (both also members of the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee) have given dozens of presentations. In the past few months audiences have included Frost campus students and the Lindsay Garden Club.

8 – Bee City initiatives: We are officially a Bee City. To encourage these pollinators the Kawartha Library hosted “Seed Ball Making” workshops at three branches. Plans are set for a June 9 event at Settler’s Village in Bobcaygeon that will include a Pollinator Film Festival and Bee Nest-making. Pollinator Week kicks off at Memorial Park on June 17th where the Bee City Logo Signature Garden is being installed. June 22 the Pollinator Pathway Garden Tour will run from 10 am to 4 pm. (Passports can be picked up from Municipal Service Centres.)

9 – Review of Integrated Waste Management Strategy: The current strategy has resulted in a variety of successful programs including clear bag and backyard composting programs and a mattress recycling pilot that diverted 1,000 mattresses from landfills in just three months.

David Kerr, manager, Environmental Services says, “We want to keep this movement going forward in the new strategy, exploring options around waste management that will help meet our targeted goals.”

The City is looking for input. There will be a public meeting on June 26 — an opportunity for open discussion on waste management for our municipality. The meeting will take place from 6-8 pm in the Victoria room at City Hall.

10 – Environmental Heroes: At the June 4 Committee of the Whole Meeting Mayor Andy Letham and KLEAC Chair Pat Warren presented Richard Fedy and John Bush with the 2018 Environmental Hero of the Year Award for the City of Kawartha Lakes. Fedy and Bush are co-presidents of Environmental Action Bobcaygeon, the only volunteer environmental organization in the city. They worked hard to make their town a progressive model for active transportation.

At the same meeting, the three winners of the 2019 Environmental Youth Hero Awards will be determined. (Stay tuned for that announcement).

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Jamie is a retired teacher and serves on the Kawartha Lakes Library Board and the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee. For The Lindsay Advocate he has revived the 'Friends & Neighbours' column he once wrote for the Lindsay Post.

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