Environmental/Utilities Issues

April, 11 2023 Published by Golden Horseshoe Chapter - By Dave Williams

The Greening Revolution for Condos – Where are we as Canadians?

From the Volume 15, Spring 2023 issue of the CCI GHC Condo News Magazine

A few years ago as a condo director I suggested at a board meeting that we should consider advising our residents to wear bright colored-jackets when walking their pets at night. Our community had its own streets (no sidewalks) and with dark clothing the “walkers” as well as the “walked” were hard to pick up in car headlights. The idea was to keep our residents safe.

The “Condo Property Manager” suggested that “there was no point in doing anything because “we cannot enforce it.” I guess to a point that is true but very short-sighted and certainly short-term managing.

I wasn’t suggesting that a rule be adopted but rather that we publish the suggestion and others like it in a community bulletin. In other words, communicate the idea as a reminder.

What is the point here? Well simply this. Like, walking in the dark, Condo boards cannot legislate or force residents to pursue the right environmental objectives. What they can do is communicate the facts about the environmental needs facing the planet today and then let their residents decide for themselves what is right for them.

Communications like this need to be repeated/re-enforced over and over. It is called building awareness and helping people to understand.

Again, less about control and more about managing.

Environment + Social + Government = Sustainability… are we there yet?

Prior to writing the winter article, my understanding of how critical our environmental situation had become was at best minimal. Shame on me! At that time, maybe 6 months ago, the media coverage on the subject was maybe once a week if that. Now the available books/articles/commentaries available on the environment are plentiful. In other words, the excuses of not knowing are fast being removed.

Here are but a few facts from a great little book “Imagine It, A Handbook for a Happier Planet”. (Laurie David and Heather Reisman)

Did you know that:

  • If everyone in the world ate just one less hamburger a week, it would take the equivalent of 10 million cars off the road every year? (NRDC)
  • In 2019, “Break Free from Plastic” a global movement advocating for a future free from plastic, surveyed 51 countries regarding discarded plastic. Of the plastic collected, products from Coca Cola were the debris leaders followed by Nestle and Pepsi Cola. (Imagine it a Handbook happier planet)
  • There is an informative but sad ranking of the fish that we eat. A few organizations have worked to scientifically “grade fish” by Least Mercury, Moderate Mercury, High Mercury and Highest Mercury. (Imagine it).
  • Emissions vary geographically and are overwhelmingly urban. Asia is the largest emitter. However, emissions per capita tell a different story with North America in the lead……yes that includes Canada. We in North America and Australia emit 3 times the average per capita. {Mark Carney Value(s)}

So, there is a lot of good information available on the subject of “the space we call our earth” and its future. Is this information getting to people fast enough and how can Condo Boards help?

Why is it important for us to digest this information?

I think that we as Canadians (big geographically, small relative number of people), would probably assume that we are not the problem. It does appear that we are not yet trying hard enough. In fact, in the short to medium term, it could be individual effort that might help to offset the longer time needed by the bigger emitters.

The steps that we as individuals can take in our daily lives are much easier to accomplish for example than a country that must get away from coal fired energy generation. We can adopt re-usable shopping bags, a water cooler in our homes to replace plastic bottles, a hybrid or electric vehicle.


Sometimes it might be 2 steps forward and one back…

*“Despite having declared a climate emergency and calling for a phase-out of natural gas-fired electricity generation, Windsor City Council has now endorsed the construction of two new gas plants.”*

Wait… what? Read on!

So, the story goes on to identify that swapping gas guzzling cars for electric, and gas fired furnaces for heat pumps etc, there will be a new higher immediate demand for power.

The bottom line in Windsor is that the city will be able to electrify many of its own operations with the new plants and these gas plants will be hydrogen ready as that technology comes on-stream. All of this to say that bringing on two new gas fired plants will appear to be a step back but in fact will quickly reduce overall emissions.

The problem here is that people will read only what they want into this, and Windsor will not get credit for what could be a good path to follow.

The city is identifying that more immediate power will be needed to accomplish the end goal… that being electrification. (Toronto Star)

*Federal-Provincial squabbling puts net zero goals at risk (Globe and Mail January 27th). So, while the step forward here is that the governments are at least talking about the subject and maybe even laying plans to meet the 2050 deadline for net zero industrial emissions, there is pushback. In this case, “Alberta Premier Danielle Smith loudly opposes federal plans for oil-and-gas-sector retraining to prepare for the shift to lower-carbon energy in the coming decades.”

It is a jobs-in Alberta issue. (Globe and Mail January 27, 2023 ROB)

*EV revolution hits a bump in the road. (Toronto Star February 9th 2023). “In a city long known as Canada’s unemployment capital, there are too many good jobs to go around.” “Windsor is struggling to find enough skilled labor to support the auto sector’s transition to a cleaner future.” The take-away here is the shortage of labor and the need for retraining of folks for these jobs.

The industry is ready to go with the technology, the willingness to invest but can’t find enough skilled workers. (Globe and Mail February 9th, 2023 ROB)

All Steps ahead

Quebec’s Lion Electric is leading the way with Electric School Buses and commercial urban trucks. This is good news not only from an environmental point of view but also for the sole purpose of making students of all ages aware of the need for environmental discipline. (Globe and Mail February 18th 2023 ROB)

What has all of this got to do with the Condominium World?

Many of these projects are on the go but will take time. On an individual consumer level, low hanging fruit is getting rid of plastics, minimizing household carbon emissions (think battery operated lawnmowers and leaf blowers), think some form of battery-assisted auto or truck. It goes without saying that every small step will help.

Every morning I walk my dog and am amazed at the number of people that start their cars and trucks to warm up the cabin for transitioning to work. Not only are they wasting gas but they are emitting unneeded carbon into the atmosphere. It is this kind of practice that we need to eliminate. You might say that this damage is minimal, but it could come down to bunts and singles winning the day against carbon emissions. My point? I am sure if these persons were made aware, that they would see the “light.”

To that end, it is critical that the message be conveyed to as many people as possible. Does your condo corporation have a regular information bulletin going out to residents? Are you able to post information notices in building lobbies, electronic media boards? Have you as board members investigated providing charging stations in the garage and/or on property?

At the consumer (resident) level, society is very much at the “building awareness” stage. The first order of business is to make people aware of the problem and how it relates to them. Secondly, to help these same people become aware of the solutions.

We are always happy to hear from our readers with ideas or criticisms. You are always welcome to reach out to <williamsdavem7@gmail.com.

Dave Williams is a retired corporate executive and graduate of York University.


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