Cartoon by Kristy Dyer

Okanagan Towns: Here’s your slingshot, go for it

Kristy Dyer is a new columnist to Black Press Media who writes about sustainability and environment

You can’t make much impact on carbon emissions in your town simply by making minor energy upgrades to municipal buildings. And thinking outside the box can be difficult.

Laws & zoning, overlapping jurisdiction, unions, and just plain old tradition create a lot of “no”.

But business as usual is what got us global warming. Below, I describe small Davids who have brought Goliath to his knees with resources the size of a slingshot. I’ve drawn examples from a large number of US towns. Keep in mind that we can do it better — they don’t have federal support (thanks Trump!) or a carbon tax funding.

Dawson Creek, BC (pop 12,000) changed its building-code bylaws to require every new house to be built “solar ready”.

South Daytona, Florida (pop 12,000) created a grey-water irrigation system and run it as a utility. Property owners pay for the service (including connection fees) just as they would a water utility.

READ MORE: Kelowna community group urges the city to do more in the fight climate change

Kearney, Nebraska (pop 30,787) has 18 citizen boards and commissions, which require a lot of photocopies. IT trained people to use online collaboration tools and cut paper usage (the “paperless office”), also saving a substantial amount on paper and ink.

READ MORE: Gallery applauds as Salmon Arm council approves energy plan

Naperville, IL (pop 150,000) Cities are hit each summer with a double whammy: downtown you get a “heat island effect” which raises the outdoor temperature 1-2 C. Then as climate change makes it hotter, everyone turns up their refrigerated air, drastically increasing energy use.

Naperville looked at climate temperature predictions and started planting trees which will mature 20-50 years from now.

I used to laugh at the term “urban forester” but planting trees is not as easy as it sounds. Without an aggressive program, trees die or are removed for causing infrastructure damage (hitting power lines, buckling sidewalks, invading water pipes, or just old “might fall on something”) faster than they can be planted. Trees also have to be carefully chosen for future conditions (drought, disease & insects).

Coral Gables, FL (pop 50,000) Florida and North Carolina suffer from governments who believe that if they hide under the covers, the monster won’t get them. The words “climate change” and “global warming” are banned in any official communication. Despite that handicap Coral Gables carried out a study and is now considering changing the city’s funding structure. 25% of incoming funding comes from property taxes on multimillion dollar oceanfront mansions. Those homes (or rather the “oceanfront”) won’t exist in 2050. This foresight is critical because most US funding for public education comes from property taxes.

READ MORE: Vernon residents invited to city climate action booth at Sunshine Festival

Boulder Colorado (pop 100,000, 30% students) For public bussing to be successful, there needs to be a lot of riders. To defend itself in the city budget, it has to show some revenue. Increasing fares makes it harder for car-free people to use it, and drives away people who have the option of driving. Boulder Colorado solved this twenty years ago, by selling their students to the bus system. The university collects fees from students, every student ID works as a bus pass, and the university pays $4.5 million a year to public transit. This works as a powerful disincentive: students don’t bring cars to the city: parking is difficult and expensive and they already have a “free” unlimited bus pass.

READ MORE: Climate crisis hot topic of the night at Revelstoke election debate

Columbus, Wisconsin (pop 4,991) received a $40,000 grant from its energy wholesaler. Faced with the fact that it was the only money they had for climate change and it was a one-time offer, they didn’t use it to buy LED light bulbs. Instead they funded the first year of a new employee: economic development+sustainability. The new hire recruited companies with sustainable policies to relocate to Columbus and found more sources of funding. It looks like it’s going to be a permanent position.

I’m looking forward to what our towns and small cities can do with small budgets and big ideas. Hit me with it.

Missed a column?

Dyer: What should you do with the climate action plan?

About Kristy Dyer:

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Join the Regional District on Instagram Live

The Regional District of Central Okanagan parks interpretive programs are going online

COVID-19: Diabetes Canada donation bins becoming garbage dumps amid pandemic

Diabetes Canada has asked residents to stop overflowing bins with donations and garbage

Okanagan College students receive emergency funding

Funding is available to domestic and Indigenous students from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training

Lake Country ceases tourism operations for 2020, Okanagan tourism continues to suffer

The District of Lake Country voted to suspend tourism on March 31

COVID-19: City of Kelowna defers property tax penalty, other city charges until September

The city is deferring interest and penalties to September, for those who need it

Okanagan College grading system critical despite COVID-19 pandemic

On heels of petition penned by student, VP academic says grading system necessary for accurate assessments

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Spike of visitors to Princeton-area stressing grocery supply chain and healthcare teams

‘We are really not set up to have this many people at this time of year.’ Area H Director Bob Coyne

Summerland to offer mental health webinar

Event will examine ways of coping during COVID-19 pandemic

Van crashes into Kamloops home

Police say the driver went into medical distress before the crash

Salmon Arm Silverbacks remember Humboldt Broncos on anniversary of fatal crash

Sixteen people killed, 13 injured after semi collided with team bus on April 6, 2018

Most Read