By ROB HUTCHINS, LADYSMITH MAYOR
In North America the call for sustainable practices in community development first occurred in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, most citizens and most communities did not pay heed to the rising concerns about our collective impact on the environment until this last decade. We have begun to take some steps, big and small, but far more has to be done if we are going ensure our children and grandchildren inherit the world and quality of life that we have the privilege of enjoying.
Towards Zero Solid Waste
Until 1998 the Cowichan communities either burned our garbage in highly polluting incinerators or dumped our waste in the unlined Koksilah Landfill. In 1995, Ladysmith was the first community in the Cowichan Valley Regional District to begin community-wide curb side recycling pick-up and in 2005 the first in Western Canada to institute door to door collection of organics (compostable waste). These two measures keep over 60 per cent of Ladysmith’s waste stream out of the landfill (now located in Washington State).
While driving up a hillside alley last week it was a delight to see the roadway lined with green organics cans and yellow/blue recycling containers. The compost material made from our household organic waste can be purchased by the truck load at the International Compost Group (ICG) site in Duke Point.
Water Use Reduction
Canadians (per capita) are the second largest consumers of water in the world. The citizens of B.C. are the largest consumers of water in Canada, and until 2001 Ladysmith (per capita) was in the top ten percentile of users in B.C. In 2001 Ladysmith was the first community in the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to install universal water meters. From 2002 to 2008 water usage dropped by 23 per cent, even with a population increase of 17% during the same period.
From 1902 to 1966, untreated sewage was dumped into the inner harbour just south of the Fisherman’s Wharf. In 1966, the Town built a Primary Treatment Plant at the mouth of Holland Creek with a 2700 foot outfall. During the 1990’s, over a three year period, and at a cost of $3 million, we upgraded the sewer lines in most of the old town which reduced rainwater infiltration into our sewer system. Less rainwater meant the sewer plant could handle inflows 360 days a year rather than just 210 days a year. In 1996, the Town began to compost our sewer sludge with our yard and garden waste program. We stopped buying topsoil for Town parks and gardens and created our own. In recent years we have spent over $3.5 million on upgrades to the sewer plant. This year we will be completing our Liquid Waste Management Plan, which will lead the way to the installation of secondary treatment; a key ingredient for a healthy harbour.
The Built Form of our Community
From 2003 to 2007 the dramatic increase in housing developments caused concern among many residents that the face of Ladysmith was changing. Our own situation and the growing worldwide concern about greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, population growth, and energy and food supply led to the Ladysmith Sustainability Visioning Process in 2008. The many attendees at the seven workshops provided clear direction that our citizens wanted to move Ladysmith towards a sustainable future, and the Town is listening. Our communities need to be more compact, more dense, and higher if we are going to reach our goal.
Energy Close to Home
Finding clean energy close to home and reducing our carbon emissions is critical for the future of our community. We have just begun to experiment with alternative sources of energy. Solar-heated hot water was installed at City Hall. Council recently passed a Bylaw requiring that new buildings built in Ladysmith are ‘solar hot water ready’. We are exploring options for the installation of district heating (centralized heating for multiple buildings) along Sixth Avenue, our “Institutional Row”, which may use geo-thermal or wood waste as an energy source. Over the next 18 months, we hope to install a micro-hydro generation plant in the new water pipeline from Stocking Lake.
Growing Food Close to Home
It is my understanding that fifty years ago Vancouver Island produced some 60 per cent of its food supply; today we produce less than 10 per cent. The price of a basket of food is at an all time high and expected to climb. To encourage local food production, the Town turned many of our flower beds into vegetable gardens two years ago. Hundreds of pounds of fresh produced has been delivered to the food bank. Last year, the Community Gardens on High Street was initiated to foster backyard gardening.
We have begun to take steps, but much more has to be done individually and collectively to ensure we leave our children a world fit to live in. Please visit the CVRD site www.12things.ca to find out how you can help.