Our Plan: The Towns (Or, Learning From Devon)
So far I spent a good deal of time examining higher level policies that can be implemented across the province, or in our big cities. But what about those Albertans who live in towns? Towns are those human settlements which have populations between 1000 and 20,000 people, large towns are those places with between 20,000 and 100,000 and cities contain 100,000+.
In Alberta close to 450,000 people live in towns according to the 2011 census. What’s more, towns have an outsized role to play in the sustainability shift due to larger carbon footprints and higher proportions of farmers and those involved in agriculture, an industry that has a large part to play in the solution to the climate crisis. Towns are important and that is why we have devoted a third of our plan to them. For this section I won’t be looking at policies local town halls can implement in the way I have done earlier but instead I am going to take an in-depth look at the Town of Devon’s Green Strategy It is an ambitious plan to make Devon a carbon neutral town, much like Vancouver but on a reduced scale. This plan is the product of some fine labour from Mayor Stephen Lindop and Devon’s Council. I will look through this town of 10,000’s plan, discuss the various elements of it and most importantly, lay out a way for other Alberta towns to follow suit and why they should follow suit.
In the Executive Summary of the Strategy, the goal is outlined clearly: “The Town of Devon is aiming to become the first net zero-energy community in Alberta by 2050.” This ambitious goal is backed up by a flexible strategy document that combines a mixture of short term and long term priorities as well as the requirement that it be reviewed annually to bring it up to speed with advances in tech, government programs, and other elements.
The Town of Devon Green Strategy outlines six key priorities which I will be focusing on in my analysis. They are;
Energy Efficiency of Buildings
Devon’s Strategy also incorporates the importance of community and business involvement. Without the buy in of the whole town, the strategy will simply remain a good idea. That’s why the Strategy includes ways for folks to become involved and provides a number of tips for everyday efficiency gains. The Green Principles that guide the drive to make Devon net zero are: demonstrated leadership in environmental and economic sustainability, ecological protection and enhancement, providing a high quality of life for current and future generations, public awareness and participation in an environmentally and economically sustainable culture, and finally, incorporating environmental and economic sustainability into decision-making and planning.
One of the noteworthy aspects of the Green Strategy is that it offers recommended action both for municipal operations as well as for the larger community, this is imperative in getting buy in across the board in Devon and serves as inspiration for other Albertan towns. “Municipal Action” refers to those policies that are specifically implemented by the government whereas as a “Community Action” is not directly the government.
Now, let’s dig into the key priorities and how Devon plans to fulfill them.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY OF BUILDINGS
Goal: “Create a quantifiable reduction in the combined average energy used by buildings in Devon by 2020”
According to the Strategy, municipal buildings account for nearly half of the GHG emissions a given municipality will generate, making increased efficiency a huge place for energy reductions, not to mention cost reductions. In meeting its goals, Devon has made plans to closely monitor the emissions from its own holdings as well bringing in residential and commercial properties into its energy efficiency programs and exploring these programs for any and all new developments.
Regular audits of energy usage in Municipally owned buildings and a strong push toward making these buildings more efficient to stand as an inspiration for the Town.
Best practices for energy efficiency are made available in every municipal building.
Communication and research are done with other municipalities to ensure that technology and practices are at the cutting edge.
Create a home energy use guide that will be made available on the Town’s website. This will include big tips like retrofitting as well as smaller ones like how to be a sustainable consumer.
“Local media, social media, events, and the Town of Devon website shall promote energy efficiency best practices.” as well as forming partnerships with local interest groups and creating the Devon Environmental Sustainability Award.
Devon will pursue financing mechanisms and energy efficiency programs to support the community.
2. RENEWABLE ENERGY
Goal: “Increase the capacity of renewable energy in Devon by 2020”
While this goal isn’t as specific as some may desire it does send a message to the community in Devon that the Town is committed to renewable energy and will work to expand the infrastructure for renewables as well as providing an environment for residents and businesses to do the same.
Take advantage of Edmonton’s status as one of the best solar energy sites in Canada and the world. This could come in the form of implementing its solar program on a brownfield site nearby with a long term ground lease, this will reduce the need to impact already existing green space.
Implement geothermal heating and cooling options for new Town administration buildings and explore land for future geothermal development. This will be a long term plan.
Use renewable energy in community energy projects
Carry out research on technological advancements in renewable energy.
Goal: “Reduce energy used/GHGs from transportation infrastructure and Town of Devon transportation by 2020”
Transportation is a big contributor to carbon emissions, particularly in small towns with more of a reliance on traditional transportation methods like cars and trucks versus mass transit and bikes. This requires infrastructure investments for sustainable transportation as well as making public transportation a more viable option for folks.
Increase the efficiency of street and traffic lights as lighting accounts for 15% of emissions from the municipal sector.
That the Town of Devon reviews its current bus fleet and collects data in the aim of making the fleet more efficient and better able to serve.
Create better and safer pedestrian links in Devon and to other municipalities in a push to increase biking and walking as transportation options.
When demand for electric vehicles and hybrids reaches a level where charging infrastructure is feasible this infrastructure should be developed and developed so that it can also serve as a draw for non-Devon residents, furthering Devon’s sustainable status.
Consider instituting an anti-idling bylaw.
Add transportation costs and information onto the Town of Devon website to allow residents to compare various transport options.
Encourage active alternative transportation.
Make information on Devon’s trail network more accessible.
Goal: “Devon residents divert 65% of their waste from going to the landfill (recyclables and organics) by 2020.”
Waste is considered “low-hanging fruit” for municipalities to reduce GHG emissions according to Devon’s Green Strategy and accordingly they allow prime opportunities for Towns like Devon to reduce emissions through better waste separation and treatment.
Explore waste to energy options like biosolids to energy or organic waste to energy.
All municipal buildings implement advanced waste separation bins which allow them to lead by example in changing waste perception.
Devon will undergo a waste audit to determine where it has deficiencies and can improve as well as what areas it should enforce more. This will lead to more policies once data are collected.
Continue to meet with other capital region municipalities to determine best practices and policies like bag limits or waste to energy expertise.
Explore digital tools for residents to better know how to organize waste as well as coordinating Town and citizen efforts.
The Town of Devon will explore, with industry, ways to institute waste to energy facilities and a potential bio-energy facility.
Reorganize waste bins to distinguish different kinds of waste in order to better aid recycling and diversion efforts.
Provide all residents of Devon with kitchen catchers at a discount rate so that everyone can participate in proper waste procedures.
Provide continuous education opportunities to residents of Devon through the Town of Devon website’s Green page.
5. NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
Goal: “To minimize the potential of air pollution so residents and non-residents breathe clean air that supports healthy ecosystems, while addressing climate change, to increase water conservation and protect aquatic ecosystems in Devon, and that the health of land in Devon is maintained and enhanced, ”
Being a small Town, Devon is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty around it which offers not only material value but social and physical value as well. This Strategy focuses on Land, Water, and Air.
Create a digital inventory of the town of Devon’s trees using an asset management system or digital tagging (such as a QR code) and consider subscribing to the program Open Tree Maps as a supplement to the digital inventory
Continue a feasibility study in place for a municipal tree farm.
Create a community garden.
Review and develop policy centred on biodiversity on public land and the interaction between nature and the Town.
Explore remediation opportunities for municipal brownfields.
Encourage landscaping practices that make use of regional present vegetation and integrate well with the surrounding natural area.
Protect the North Saskatchewan River by managing wastewater.
Develop a durable snow storage space.
Explore incorporating natural infrastructure for storm drainage and runoff.
Review and develop policy to protect aquatic ecosystems.
Devon joins the Partners for Climate Protection, a pan-Canada organization for municipalities of all sizes who are committed to reducing GHG emissions, this would Devon access to unparalleled resources and best practices.
Devon becomes an Alberta Capital Airshed member to help track air quality in the region and better it.
Land, Water, and Air:
Provide information on invasive species and diseases.
Work with existing volunteer groups to improve Devon’s natural spaces as well as create groups and programs to do so.
Explore external funding for community nature projects.
Make water best practices available on the Town of Devon’s website’s Green page.
Encourage volunteer involvement in water conservation and ecosystem conservation.
Promote public awareness of indoor and outdoor air pollutants and best practices for managing them.
6. GREEN ECONOMY
Goal: “Businesses in Devon participate in environmentally sustainable best-practices to decrease their environmental impact and new and innovative green business opportunities are explored.”
Participation from the whole community is an essential part of Devon’s Green Strategy. Buy in from local businesses and organizations in addition to resident buy in will be what makes this plan successful in the end. Because of this, growing the Green Economy and incentivizing environmental commerce forms the last of the six Strategy keys.
Explore clean technology companies as part of the Economic Development Strategy.
Explore incentive programs for businesses to “green” their operations and share best practices with them.
Continue the Devon Environmental Sustainability Award for local businesses who represent excellence with their environmental action.
Promote green purchasing options on the Town’s Green page in addition to information for sustainable consumerism.
Promote best practices for consumers like reusable bags on the Green page.
The Town of Devon’s Green Strategy is an ambitious but doable plan that sets out clear priorities for future councils, residents, and businesses alike. This clear dictation of the Town’s environmental goals will allow people to plan around them and embrace them, easing the transition. The Strategy also makes sure to incorporate flexibility so as to allow for alternatives to some of its proposed actions as well for allowing a better course of action to take place. The Strategy is comprehensive and accessible, a true model for towns everywhere.