Some Highlights from Sustainable Orillia Month.

Each year, Sustainable Orillia sets out to build greater awareness and support for a sustainable future for the residents of the region. Our purpose is to ‘mobilize participation in the creation of this sustainable future for all residents of our community, present and future.’ And with the support of the City, Sustainable Orillia Month has become one of our most important tools in making that happen. Over the past four years, Sustainable Orillia Month has evolved into a campaign of interesting and informative programs and events, reaching more Orillians and dedicated to raising awareness among everyone in our community.

Programs like our Annual Electric Vehicle (EV) Weekend. This year the event was held on September 17th and 18th at ODAS Park. Over two days more than 450 interested visitors came through the displays, asked questions, took test drives, and two even placed orders for their new EV’s – on the spot. The event has become the largest EV event in the region, and we expect it to keep growing in the years to come – as public interest grows and EV options continue to multiply. This year, for the first time, dealers were on-site for the event–including two E-bike retailers displaying and demonstrating some of their EV bicycles and scooters. Representatives from Kia, Subaru and Volkswagen discussed their models, current and coming, with potential customers. One of the highlights for many people was the all-electric Ford Lightning pickup truck, brought in by EVNet, a company that deals in second-hand electric vehicles.

Organizers Dave Van Alstyne and Danny Epstein were very pleased with the turnout and are already planning bigger things for the 2023 event. Special thanks to Dave, Danny and all of the volunteers and participating organizations for providing Orillians with a professional and comprehensive forum to learn about these transformational vehicles. EV’s are the future of transportation, and this event continues to evolve as an objective, accessible venue to ask questions and experience the future of transportation first-hand.

The following Saturday, September 24th, working with urban planner David Stinson, Sustainable Orillia launched the first of a series of Urban Walks, a real time and place workshop that focused on actual urban planning and development decisions made here in Orillia over the past number of years. This is a timely topic for us in Orillia, given the development of our Waterfront and concerns about sprawl and expanding the city’s boundaries. David led over fifty participants in a lively experience, highlighting the good and the not so good examples of urban planning decisions in our downtown and waterfront areas. Feedback and observations along the route were very positive and plans are in development to schedule a few more walks with David in the months to come. Mike Jones was Sustainable Orillia’s point person in organizing these walks, with support from the broader SO team.

2022 has been a pivotal year for our community, as the City has approved in principle its Climate Action Plan … Orillia’s Climate Future. Sustainable Orillia has played a role and will continue to play a role in advocating and implementing the requisite changes or ‘big moves’ identified in this plan for Orillia to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is also an election year for our municipalities and it is in everyone’s interest that the Council and Mayor elected this October continue to champion this plan … and so the concept of a community conference was born. On the afternoon of Sunday, September 25th over fifty engaged citizens came together at the St. Paul Centre to share some learning on what’s possible and to identify practical actions that can be adapted here in Orillia in support of the ‘Path to Net Zero’ and Orillia’s Climate Future.

All candidates for Council and Mayor were invited to participate and many did attend, some of whom participated for the entire session. Each of the seven work groups had an assigned area of opportunity, ranging from the Circular Economy to Healthy Lifestyles to Regenerative Agriculture and others. Sustainable Orillia President, Stan Mathewson, was delighted with the quality of the recommended actions and is currently reviewing and prioritizing them. These citizen-led actions will be part of a preliminary report and plans are afoot to confirm and further scope them out in sector-based workshops over the next few months. The ultimate product will be a final report for presentation to all area Councils in early 2023.

Actions do speak louder than words, and the ‘Path to Net Zero’ Report has the potential to be one of the most practical and influential outputs from what was—overall—a very busy month. On the surface, our 4th Sustainable Orillia Month would seem to have been very successful and we are pleased with the increase in participation and support—pleased and grateful.

However, we are also restless and impatient for more people to get on board. Fighting climate change and ensuring sustainability in our community requires everybody’s participation and we don’t have much time left to make those changes, if any. Everyone is needed and welcome. If you would like to explore how you can participate as a volunteer or donor, please click here.

Our heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers who dedicated their time and talent to making this past month a success. It is greatly appreciated, as we could not do any of this without you.

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