Green initiatives for next term


LED lightsCollingwood should be in the forefront for green initiatives in Ontario, not lagging behind. There’s no reason we should not be leaders in exploring new ways to reduce greenhouse gases, reduce our carbon footprint, promote sustainable and environmentally-friendly strategies, and reduce our energy costs.

These will be some of my top goals for the 2014-18 council, if I’m re-elected.

In the energy world, we have a great partner with Powerstream, which has already explored many of these areas and taken steps in other municipalities. We should embrace and encourage similar projects here, and use the experience and expertise Powerstream has already developed to fast-track them. I have already spoken to their representatives and know they are willing and eager to help.

I recently asked at the council table for a report in installing electric vehicle charging stations in our municipal parking lots. Powerstream has already erected similar facilities – solar-powered stations as well as the standard charging stations – in Barrie and its headquarters. The Tesla company is donating stations to municipalities. Why don’t we have them here?

It’s time we did.

Charging stations do several things. First, they encourage local people to buy electric vehicles, thus reducing the GHG emissions. Second, they encourage visitors in such cars who might otherwise be reluctant to come here because they don’t know if they can make a return trip from the GTA on a single charge. “Charge anxiety” is thus reduced, tourism is increased.

Having municipal charging stations might get local car vendors to push more electric vehicle sales in their own lots, and could encourage others to open outlets to sell them. Which means the town could potentially move to electric vehicles in the future when replacing existing, older cars and trucks – meaning we would further reduce the municipality’s GHG emissions.

I expect the report on this proposal to come to council this fall and, if it is accepted, we might even see the first station erected in spring, 2015.

Upgrading to LEDs in municipal street lights and facilities is another goal for me. This will not only save money, it will open new opportunities for lighting control. LEDs can also provide better, brighter, more natural light than many commonly-used streetlight bulbs, as the photo above shows. For safety and security, they provide better lighting.

New municipal LED streetlight systems allow for selective lighting of areas (in case of emergencies, for example), selective dimming or brightening, and in some cases special effects (imagine the downtown lights doing patterns and themed blinking during the Santa Claus parade or Elvis Festival…).

In facilities, LEDs produce much less heat, so using them in our arenas and curling club means less strain on the cooling plants (and less energy use for their operation). That means reduced pressure on air-conditioning systems in summer, too.

Plus LEDs have very long lifespans, so it means less toxic waste dumped into landfills (which can eventually leach into our water table). The operational costs of having to regularly replace light bulbs is also greatly reduced.

Of course the big bonus is the significant reduction in energy costs with LEDs. According to a seminar on this topic I attended at the recent AMO conference, the payback time for any significant upgrade is seldom more than a year, and the savings after that are often spectacular.

Savings like this are a benefit to the taxpayer: it’s money that can help fund other initiatives or projects instead of having to borrow or raise taxes to fund them.

Because this is a longer-term project that affects many areas and departments, I don’t expect to see much done on LEDs until 2015, when I hope we can begin including upgrades regularly in the town budget. I would like that paired with a report each subsequent year to inform the town and residents about the money and energy savings to date.

Another initiative I want to see developed is centred around sustainability: a local (regional) food/food producer strategy that will encourage local producers and suppliers, help them market both internally and externally, link suppliers and consumers in more effective ways, and encourage food-based tourism efforts and activities.

And in the process, it would go further to establish Collingwood in the public’s awareness as a leader in local food initiatives. It must, of course, be a regional project that includes participation from our neighbouring municipalities.

I have already met with our new Economic Development-Marketing director to discuss how to move this forward, and he is excited by the challenge. Let’s celebrate our own food, drink and produce more actively. Let the world know how good it is.

These ideas are just a portion of my vision for the upcoming term of council. It’s time for us to lead in green initiatives.

I hope that, like my other goals, you will agree, and support me with your vote in the upcoming municipal election.