Encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy on Vancouver Island

Good habits will save planet

June 17, 2010

Nanaimo, B.C. (published in Nanaimo News Bulletin)

Last week the provincial government released its semi-annual Community Energy and Emissions inventory.

The bottom line: we are more wasteful than most

When we compare Nanaimo to similarly-sized cities such as Victoria proper (population 81,000), Saanich (pop. 112,000), Kamloops (pop. 93,000, and Chilliwack (pop. 81,000) to our 81,000, our per-capita output was the worst.

When compared to Victoria and Saanich, it was considerably worse.

Fully 70 per cent of our emissions come from motor vehicles. While we often excuse ourselves because of the stretched-out city and poor public transportation, the reality is that half of us commute fewer than five kilometres by car or light truck.

Sure, some of us need our vehicles at work, but the vast majority of us have made higher priorities of time and convenience.

And at quite the price.

The cost of owning and operating those vehicles is more than $10,000 per copy, per year. Poorer health from a lack of exercise costs our health care system, work places, families, mental health and more.

How do we respond to the resulting financial and emotional distresses? We scream about our taxes, complain about rising electricity prices yet do little to improve our homes – and we lack the money to buy local (organic) food, and more.

Life can be better than this. It is possible to make both our planet and pocketbooks more sustainable.

What will it take to make the necessary changes? Some ideas being tried include: charge vehicle insurance and road taxes per kilometre, raise the fuel taxes, build far more dedicated bicycle lanes (separated from vehicles and pedestrians), use car sharing and car riding and vastly improve public transportation.

Cities having excellent public transportation have citizens enjoying greater disposable incomes. This is the best way for the city to reduce the number of complaints about property taxes.

Our organization is so concerned about our wasteful transportation sector that it is planning a transportation symposium in November. We could use some additional volunteers.

Without acting now, we will continue to see our current problems multiply. Shifting away from single occupancy vehicle use will create rewards of all kinds – better physical and emotional health, improved finances, better air quality, improved work and school performance and a planet worth inheriting.

With most of our trips being made within five kilometres, it is past time we used our heads by using our feet.


Ian Gartshore chairs the non-profit Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island (www.esvi.ca).

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