District of Highlands Community Hall (Kendra Wong/News Staff)

Highlands challenging B.C. municipalities to reduce ecological footprint

Municipal Survivor Climate Challenge uses online tool to calculate footprint

The District of Highlands has put together a unique challenge for other Vancouver Island and coastal B.C. communities.

The Municipal Survivor Climate Challenge is a fun and friendly local government competition where each participating council will measure their average ecological footprint using an online calculator.

The councils will then take steps over the next year to reduce their footprint.

“It gives us a comparison of how others are doing in our country and what we can do to improve ourselves,” said Highlands Coun. Ann Baird.

Baird serves on the CRD Climate Action Committee and was the one to propose that the District participate in the challenge.

“It’s kind of a fun challenge but it’s highly educational for municipal leaders to see where our footprints come from in our own lives,” Baird said.

READ MORE: Royal Roads spearheads $2 million climate change resilience initiative

The online calculator asks participants questions about their transportation, electricity use, where their food comes from and recycling habits, among other things.

Based on data, it then tells the participant how many Earths would be required if everyone lived like them, how many hectares of land are required for their lifestyle and their carbon footprint in tonnes.

The District of Highlands mayor and council all took part in the challenge and an average of their numbers was taken. The results showed that 2.4 Earths would be required if everyone lived like an average Highlands councillor, 4.14 hectares of land and 6.94 tonnes of carbon dioxide would be emitted.

The District is proposing that bragging rights will go to the council that starts with the lowest number of Earths, has the largest reduction over one year and has the lowest number at the end of one year.

A fossil award will go to the council with the highest average.

So far, the City of Colwood has accepted the challenge as well and Baird said she has heard interest from other councillors in the region.

Baird said this challenge could also help municipalities become more resilient as a region as they figure out what practices can be changed to help lower their footprints.

In her household, Baird said she and her husband Gord Baird — who is also a District of Highlands councillor — have used solar electricity for about 10 years now. They have also made the conscious decision to eat local food and no longer take planes anywhere.

READ MORE: Climate change-related events coming to Sooke

“I haven’t flown for about 20 years now and I flew a lot when I was younger,” Baird said. “Once I realized what a footprint that was I said, you know what, I’m going to vacation locally now.”

Baird said people may choose to change their lives in different ways in order to reduce their footprint.

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that global emissions must reduce 45 per cent by the year 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050 in order to keep global average temperatures under a 1.5 C rise. In order to do so, people have to change their habits.

“The challenge is not just a one time calculation…it’s like, here’s our starting place and we’ll see where we are in a year,” Baird said. “Councillors in the region will be able to see what we can do to reduce our footprint.”

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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