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Town setting sustainability goals - but needs help reaching them

Sally Caudill, environmental care coordinator for the Town of Canmore, understands all too well the familiar groan when words like environmental sustainability start getting passed around.

Sally Caudill, environmental care coordinator for the Town of Canmore, understands all too well the familiar groan when words like environmental sustainability start getting passed around.

An often intangible concept, Caudill has been tasked with coming up with an action plan to get the municipality closer to that very goal.

The result is the Environmental Sustainability Action Plan or ESAP, another ingredient in the alphabet soup of town operations.

But ESAP and Caudill have taken it beyond cushy idealisms and created targets and goals for environmental sustainability that can be measured and tracked.

This past month she was in front of the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association with a presentation on the plan and a message – the Town can’t reach these goals alone.

“We cannot tackle sustainability alone, we are looking for opportunities to collaborate and support,” Caudill said. “We are interested in a community effort.”

She noted as an industry BOWDA has already had significant engagement with the municipality and its processes.

The action plan addresses energy and climate protection, resource conservation and waste management, water management, toxin reduction and community engagement.

Each area of the document addresses directly what is the desired future state, the current reality, identifies goals and targets in the short, mid and long term, puts forward strategies and actions and follows up with performance measurement, reporting and accountabilities.

Caudill said it felt important that each chapter of the action plan begin with what the municipality itself can do.

It is a corporate goal that Town operations become carbon neutral by 2050 and already it purchases 60 per cent green power and has its own 20 per cent biodiesel fuelling station.

Continued goals, she said, are to see all facilities using solar power and alternative energy options.

For the community, she said, the goal is to see green house gas emissions from electricity and natural gas consumption be redeuced to 50 per cent of 2007 levels by 2050.

“This is an absolute reduction, regardless of population,” she said.

To reach that goal this year, that would be 4.3 tonnes of CO2 per capita. By comparison, in 2007, emissions sat at 8.9 tonnes per person or 12.3 tonnes per person for the permanent population.

In 2010, it was nine tonnes per person or 13.2 tonnes for the permanent population. “Our CO2 emssisions are definitely on an upward trend if you look at it per capita,” she said. “This goal might look radical, but really it’s not… it is on par with the Harper government climate change goals.”

She pointed to the Town’s Green Building program that requires developers to meet a minimum standard for new development.

“My question really is, what’s next for you? Can you get on board with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and what would that look like?” Caudill said, adding a lot of work has been done when it comes to energy efficient furnaces and windows. “Clearly, if you want to make gains around emissions, that will not be enough.”

When it comes to garbage and recycling, Caudill said the Town distinguishes between three waste streams – residential waste, industrial, commercial and institutional waste and construction and demolition.

The community goal is to landfill 0.30 tonnes per capital per year by 2035. By comparison, in 2008, 0.79 tonnes per capita was land-filled, or 1.15 tonnes for permanent residents only. The Canadian average at the same time was also 0.79 tonnes and in 2010 that amount dropped to 0.49 tonnes per capita to landfills, or 0.71 tonnes for permanent residents only.

“Moving forward has been good news… it is a fairly amazing drop compared to where we were in 2008,” she said.

Caudill noted the biggest difference came in the construction and demolition waste stream, partly due to the slowdown, but also in part of the work of BOWDA and the community to do diversion on site.

“You really are to be commended; you have had a huge impact on what we send to landfill,” she said to the development industry group.

The goal in the action plan for construction and demolition waste is to see 0.10 tonnes per capita per year by 2035 and already in 2010 the figure was at 0.13 tonnes per capita or 0.19 tonnes for the permanent population.

As for water management, Caudill said there is a difference between production and consumption. The long-term goal for total production of water by 2035 is 256 litres per capita per day, which is equivalent to 52 per cent of the maximum allowable diversion under the Town’s existing licences.

The municipality’s goal is to maintain water losses from the distribution system at 10 per cent or less. In the early 2000s, that number reached as high as 32 per cent, but a program to detect leaks in the system saw it drop to 15 per cent in 2006.

Caudill said due to budget cutbacks, the program was suspended and in 2010 losses reached 19 per cent.

“A big thing we have to do is get distribution losses under control,” she said.

The goal for industrial, commercial and institutional water consumption is to reduce annual figures by 30 per cent from 2008 levels by 2035.

The long-term residential goal by 2035 is to reduce per capita consumption to 111 litres per day. Currently, residents consume between 142 and 200 litres.

The average Canadian consumes 343 litres, average American consumes 383 litres and the average in Sweden and France is 200 litres.

“Our residential use is quite good,” Caudill said.

To further conservation efforts in water management, Caudill pointed to promotion of native plant landscaping and making low flow fixtures a standard in new construction.

For more information or to read the Environmental Sustainability Action Plan, go to www.canmore.ca


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