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Online tool challenges Oak Bay residents to become climate champions

Coolkit program includes structured workshops for the community
Oak Bay is ideal for the Coolkits program, in part because of work by the district and volunteers already underway, such as the ecological restoration and maintenance at Cattle Point. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

A new tool helps Oak Bay residents become climate detectives and advocates in their own backyards – and have fun while doing it.

The Coolkit program launched Tuesday (April 19) after approval by council at its April 11 meeting, when Coun. Andrew Appleton characterized the community as “chomping at the bit to get started on this.”

Council approved a joint initiative with the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning at the University of British Columbia and its forestry department, to engage and educate residents about reducing their carbon footprint. The Coolkit program aims to engage community members of all ages with a focus on impacting climate change in an active way.

And the tasks can be fun and engaging, for example the squirrel test: Can a squirrel make it from one end of the block to the other and cross the street at least twice, without coming down to the ground?

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UBC professor Stephen Sheppard, the principal investigator for the Coolkit team, explains the program as a do-it-yourself tool kit of exercises anyone can do in their own backyard or neighbourhood.

“It’s self teaching in a way, learning about what climate change means on the ground,” he said.

The program is designed to involve everyone from individual residents, to families, entire neighbourhoods, organizations and local governments in determining what climate action they would they would like to focus on.

Oak Bay, like many municipalities, has declared a climate emergency and this initiative speaks to that, said parks manager Chris Hyde-Lay.

“It’s a call to action for the citizens of Oak Bay. They’ve got a lot to be proud of,” he said, noting the district’s 33 per cent tree canopy, walking and cycling plans and infrastructure, widespread electric vehicle use and ecological restoration projects going back decades.

The engagement program aims to get even more people involved and create a buzz participants will share.

Oak Bay approved a budget of $121,700 for the program to include public workshops, with the first expected to take place May 14.

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The three workshops in May and June include first an introduction – sometimes as simple as a walk and talk – identifying areas residents can relate to climate change such as tree cover, local food and flood prevention, Sheppard said.

“People learn a lot; they already have a lot of concern, but they don’t know the best thing to do.”

A second workshop includes visioning – it’s collaborative and informal. The third session focuses on climate action plans, picking priorities and projects tailored to a block or neighbourhood working together.

The goal is to create climate champions who will spread that knowledge.

Workshops may fill up fast, but residents can also access the online toolkit at

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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