Formed from the former Energy and Transportation, Housing and Development and Investment Sectors, the merged Sector will engage the community to enhance sustainability across all of the former Sectors themes.
These will include but not be restricted to:
These broad topics will be supported, planned and implemented through research, demonstrations, policy papers, financial incentive plans, legislative review, white papers, communication and education, seminars, projects and initiatives all designed to engage the community and develop more sustainable behaviours by individuals, organizations and business.
Sustainable Orillia hosted the first Orillia Electric Vehicle Demo weekend at the Orillia Square Mall on Saturday September 28th and Sunday September 29th. This event, co-hosted by the Orillia Square Mall and sponsored by the City of Orillia as a public education experience, featured a large variety of battery electric (BEV) and plug-in-hybrid (PHEV) vehicles.
Vehicles provided by Plug ‘N Drive for test drives and rides were augmented with member owned vehicles from the Tesla Owners Club, the Electric Vehicle Society, Sustainable Orillia and demo vehicles provided by Orillia Hyundai and Green Storage. Plug ‘N Drive technicians conducted daily 1:00 pm in-mall seminars on EV ownership while EV owners were on hand to answer questions, share experiences and provide advice.
The twenty-three vehicles featured on each day included; the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius, Honda Clarity, Mitsubishi Outlander, IBM i3, Kia Soul, Hyundai Kona and Tesla models 3, S and X.
The Saturday morning opening ceremony was attended by Mayor Mike Burkett (Severn) left, Mayor Harry Hughes (Oro-Medonte) center and Mayor Steve Clarke (Orillia) right.
In door Mall displays by Plug ‘N Drive, Electric Vehicle Society and Sustainable Orillia were manned by enthusiastic volunteers from the Youth Council.
The organizers are grateful for the many volunteers who gave up their weekend and to the sponsorship provided by local business to make this a very successful event and an enjoyable experience for the estimated 2-300 members of the public that came out to enjoy the weekend. Some came from some distance away just to test drive and learn about EV ownership and we are grateful for their participation and interest.
On Saturday and Sunday, September 28-29, the Orillia Square Mall will be the home of Orillia’s first “EV Weekend.” Members of the Electric Vehicle Society of Ontario, Tesla owners, PlugnDrive—all will be there to welcome drivers interested in knowing more about owning an all-electric vehicle.
If you’re interested in owning an electric car, but don’t know where to get honest, independent advice about what the switch involves, one of the best places you can start is to talk to members of the “Electric Vehicle Society”—Ontario’s largest EV owners’ group.
It was founded in August of 1994 at a time when the only electric cars available were handcrafted one-offs. Today, members of the group help to organize education and test drive events like the Electric Vehicle Weekend coming up in two weeks. As a not-for-profit organization, it is our mandate to work with groups like Sustainable Orillia who are spearheading local initiatives to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and shift car culture towards a more environmentally sustainable future.
Representing over 1000 electric vehicle owners, the Ontario EV Society conducts Regional Chapter meetings, community outreach events, public presentations to community and school groups, advisory sessions with municipalities on fleet greening, and participates in government consultations.
The best ambassadors for EVs are those who already own an electric car, and we are pleased to announce that a new Chapter of the EV Society was formed this year in Orillia-Barrie as one of the 12 chapters spread across Ontario. To date 90% of Ontario’s population is within Chapter boundaries. As the Chapter lead for the new Barrie-Orillia Chapter and a resident of Orillia, I am delighted with the response we have had from EV owners since beginning monthly meetings in Barrie – and I welcome anyone who has an EV or is interested in learning about them to come and join us.
If you ask most people what name they think of when the subject of an electric vehicle comes up, the usual answer is “Tesla,” a brand that has raised the bar on what to expect in an electric vehicle. The reality, though, is that there are up to 50 all-electric (EV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models on the market to chose from. Currently, prices range from around $36,000 for a Kia Soul EV to $175,000 for a Tesla Model X P100D. IN spite of these costs, there are already 34,000 electric vehicles on the roads of Ontario.
As an owner of a 7-year-old, electric Nissan Leaf, I am adamant that I will not go back to gas. The car is fun to drive and when you add “economical” and “inexpensive” it is a great option for my in-town driving. I do not miss oil and filter changes, rad flushes, fan belt replacements and other maintenance requirements of gasoline-powered vehicles—none of which are needed with an EV.
It is this lower operating cost that causes industry analysts to predict major disruptions in the transportation industries. Consider the impact of on-demand, electric, autonomous vehicles (Uber without the need for a driver) and the inevitable reduction in costs. It is quite possible that there is a future ahead where far fewer people will even need to own their own cars – especially in cities.
The one question I get asked the most is, “How do you charge it up and how far can you go with it?” Today’s EV and PHEV owner has the option of charging at home on a regular 120 volt household plug (the slowest method, known as a Level 1) or installing a 240 VAC Level 2 charger (much quicker than Level 1). EV owners like myself will plug into a Level 2 charger in our garages after 7 p.m. when the hydro rates are at their lowest.
The original Nissan Leaf made its debut in Canada in 2011 with a 24 kWh battery and only about a 100km range, but batteries and ranges have improved since then. Battery density has risen, the sizes have shrunk and the capability to store energy has improved. The 2019 Leaf S Plus comes with a respectable 62 kWh battery with a range of up to 363 km on a single charge.
While batteries improve, prices drop and ranges increase, charging locations also multiply. There are now over 2,500 Level 2 chargers in Ontario located in public parking garages, car dealerships, public parks and at business that want to attract future customers. More are being installed daily.
In addition, there are at least 750 high-powered Level 3 chargers in the province and that number is growing. These chargers are capable of delivering enough power at 200 – 600 volts to bring a vehicle battery up to 80% of a full charge in as little as 30 minutes.
When traveling I have found that many hotels and businesses are willing to allow an EV driver to plug into an outdoor outlet with the on board cord-set for a level 1 charge when a level 2 or 3 charger is not available so you can recharge no matter where you are.
The point of all this? With some route planning and guidance from websites that help the traveller locate chargers, there are few places today that you can’t reach with an EV or PHEV.
Along with the growing public awareness of the benefits of BEV and PHEV ownership, the EV Society believes that, in spite of the nay-sayers, they are already practical for many–if not most—people to drive.
With the knowledge gained from speaking to EV owners, a new car buyer can now walk into a dealership confidently deciding to go with an electric vehicle.
But then again, he or she will still spend most of their decision-making time on the colour choices!
See you at Orillia Square Mall on EV Weekend!
Visit https://www.autotrader.ca/newsfeatures/20190405/every-electric-vehicle-and-plug-in-hybrid-available-in-canada-in-april-2019/ for a list of EV and PHEV available in Canada.
Visit https://evsociety.ca for further information about the society.
This story started with a brief comment made by Steve Van Kessel, co-owner of Orillia’s Parry Automotive, at a Kiwanis Club lunch meeting last spring.
Following a short presentation to the club about Sustainable Orillia’s beginnings, Van Kessel remarked that his company collected plastic containers that were contaminated by their contents and shipped them to a recycler who was able to use the material.
That sounded like a “good news” story for Sustainable Orillia, but when I went to talk to him to get more detail, I discovered a whole new concept of recycling — that is, new to me.
First, the story about the contaminated plastic.
About seven years ago, Parry Automotive realized that every day they were shipping a variety of oil products, antifreeze, even windshield washer fluids out to their customers in plastic containers that, once emptied, were destined for the local landfill.
The contents of these jugs and bottles permeated the plastic to such an extent that the containers themselves could not simply be rinsed out and if they couldn’t be rinsed out, they became trash to his customers. (Consumer alert: Van Kessel tells me that the windshield washer fluid we buy for our vehicles does the same thing to its container, making them impossible to recycle. Can we find a place to refill those containers when empty?)
Deciding that this wasn’t acceptable, they went looking to find a company that would take the product — and found one!
Pnewko Brothers, a plastics recycler located in Aurora (http://www.pnewkobrothers.com/home.html ), entered into a deal with Parry Automotive whereby they would supply the company with a 50-foot trailer if Parry Automotive would pick up the used plastic containers and return them to the company.
This was a no-brainer for Parry Automotive; they had trucks going out to their customers every day and they came back empty. By providing some large bags for the plastic containers, they persuaded their customers to send back the empty containers for recycling rather than sending them to the landfill.
This was a value-added service to their customers for which there was “no extra charge.” The bags went into the trailer and every two to three months, a full trailer was sent to the Pnewko Brothers.
A huge problem solved — at least for Parry Automotive customers in this area!
“Why did you decide to do it?” I asked Van Kessel.
“We wanted to help our environment, and at the same time help our customers,” he replied.
And if you’re wondering what happens to those recycled plastic containers, Van Kessel tells me they’re used to make a composite wood (and plastic) product that is used to build decks.
But that’s not the end of this story.
A walk around Parry Automotive with Van Kessel opened my eyes to what this company does to reduce waste on a scale that few of us probably ever think about. And it’s been doing it for decades.
A big part of Parry Automotive is its machine shop, a place in behind the retail sales area of the business that could be said to have been the real start to the decades-old business.
For years the machine shop has been re-building engines — engines from trucks, cars, tractors, even boats, especially the mahogany runabouts that cruised the Muskoka lakes for decades.
Van Kessel showed me an area full of old engines, most of which are destined to be re-built by his skilled machinists. The “before” and “after” pictures are amazing.
An old motor looks like it must be destined for the scrap heap. When rebuilt, it looks brand new — and essentially is a new product which will perform for another 300,000 miles if looked after.
Van Kessel showed me engine components that had come out of a 1966 Dodge Charger. “They’re 50 years old, but rebuilt, they’re ready for another half century.”
“We keep in touch with antique boat clubs and with heritage car owners,” said Van Kessel. “In fact, we sponsor the Downtown Orillia Classic Car Show held on Orillia’s Mississaga Street on August each year. It makes sense for us as a lot of those car owners are our customers.”
The talk and tour of Parry Automotive that Van Kessel gave me was an eye opener. The owner finished by showing me the new parts he ships out to customers and the old parts they ship back to him in the boxes that held the new parts.
And what happens to these old parts? “We ship them back to our suppliers and they rebuild them into products that can be used again.”
Brake calipers, brake shoes, brake master cylinders, alternators, starters, steering racks, power steering pumps, air conditioner compressors, batteries — all go through this process.
We’ve all seen used car scrapyards. And eventually some of those parts end up being collected by a company like Morton Metals here in Orillia. But recycling is a given for the people who own and work at Parry Automotive.
Hats off to you, Parry Automotive! Thanks for what you do.
A closing note: I asked Van Kessel about the engines in today’s cars. “Not so easy to deal with,” he said.
Auto manufacturers are making a lot more engine sizes than they used to, so parts aren’t available for rebuilding them. On top of that problem, many engines aren’t really made to be rebuilt. It appears that even the cars we buy are being made to “throw away” when we’re finished with them.
How did we ever get to thinking a “throwaway” economy made any sense at all? Governments, are you listening? Regulation may be the only way to end this madness!
Recent developments in battery technologies and manufacturing, along with state and federal incentives, are helping transform electric vehicles (EVs) —cars and trucks — from being a niche vehicle, used by relatively few people, to being the “rational, economic choice” for many.
Most agree that the mass adoption of electric vehicles is close to the tipping point.
Tony Seba, a well-recognized expert on disruptive technologies, notes that the electric car is such a technology. He points out that, just as in 1900 when the horse dominated the Easter Parade in New York City, so today, in 2019, the gasoline engine car dominates our highways.
Yet, by 1913, the automobile had completely replaced the horse.
Given the faster rate of change in 2019 compared to 1900, the electric car will be dominant in just a fraction of those 13 years. As prices of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and battery electric vehicles (BEV) become comparable—likely around 2022—economics alone will cause this disruption.
In addition, there will be plenty of options for consumers. Automotive News recently reported that, by 2022, over 100 models of electric vehicles will be available from the major automakers and a few start-ups.
Economics. BEVs are more efficient and cheaper to maintain and operate than gasoline-powered vehicles.
No Green House Gases (GHGs). There are no tailpipe emissions. Ontario’s electricity is almost all generated from non-fossil fuel sources, so there are also almost no GHGs created when you drive a BEV in Ontario.
Efficiency. Energy costs money. So it stands to reason that the most efficient vehicle is likely to be the most cost-effective. The following graph demonstrates that a BEV is nearly 6 times more efficient than an ICE and over 3 times more than a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle.
If you are like the author and drive your Tesla Model 3 21,000 km in a year, your energy costs, including charging at Tesla Superchargers during long trips, would cost you around $300.
Performance. Most people know that the Tesla P100D is the fastest accelerating production car on the planet and, in fact, is a big 4-door sedan that is quicker than many pure race cars. Even more modestly powered BEVs have surprising acceleration due to the relatively high torque of the electric motor at low rpms.
Handling, braking, steering and ride are also important, and BEVs are on par with comparably-priced ICE vehicles.
Oh, and did I mention that they are QUIET?
Range Anxiety. Often cited as the main obstacle to mass adoption by consumers, range is a consideration. However, if you are like the vast majority of automobile owners, you drive an average of 41 km per day (Natural Resources Canada, Office of Energy Resources). This means that you would be able to drive a BEV with a range of 300 km for 7 days before having to recharge.
“OK,” you say, ”but what if I want to visit family in Montreal—or Calgary—and I live in Orillia?” That is a consideration, so let’s talk about charging vs. filling the gas tank.
Charging. Over 90% of your charging will be done at home if you live in a single family home. If you live in an apartment or condo, the facilities for charging may not be available—yet. However, public charging stations are widespread.
Plugshare is an app that will lead you to the nearest charging station. There are more than you think.
Granted, even with the fastest charging stations such as the Tesla Superchargers, it does take more time than filling your gas tank. (By the way, when you set up your navigation on a Tesla, it automatically tells you where you need to stop to charge along your route.)
How much more? In a recent test, a Tesla driver took a trip of over 3,200 kilometres and spent five hours charging. (Remember that you can eat, shop, or sleep while your car charges.)
A 3,200-kilometre trip at 800 kilometres per day is a four-day trip. If you stop every four hours to take a break, eat and get gas, each stop will likely be at least 30 minutes. You will have used one hour per day times four days: four hours.
In short, the Tesla took only an hour more than you would if you filled up with gas and then ate, shopped or rested.
Price Difference. Currently there is a premium to purchase a BEV over a comparable ICE vehicle. However, there are many studies that show over five years, the extra cost of purchasing the BEV will be more than offset by lower operating, maintenance and repair costs. For example, a Tesla Model 3 and BMW 3 cost about the same to buy new, but over five years the Tesla will cost about two-thirds the cost of the BMW.
Also, you will need to buy a charger for your house and installation typically will cost a couple of thousand dollars. However, even with this cost — which will now be an asset to your home — you will still be many thousand dollars ahead after five years.
Maintenance costs. While this is considered in the section above on price difference, it is worth focusing a bit on this aspect. A typical ICE vehicle has several thousand moving parts while a BEV has a couple of dozen. The result? No engine oil changes, no transmission service or repairs, no pulleys or belts or cam chains to replace. Brakes can last 10 times longer because EVs have regenerative braking so you hardly have to use the brake pedal. And on it goes.
My Tesla 3 will need annual brake cleaning because of the road sand and a coolant change after four years. That’s it.
Range in winter. All vehicles use more fuel in winter than summer. However, BEVs suffer more than ICE vehicles. An ICE vehicle might lose 10 % range at 0 Celsius but a BEV will lose 20% or more. Why is this? An ICE vehicle uses its inefficiency (conversion of fuel to heat instead of motion) to heat the interior of the car, a BEV must use battery power to heat the interior.
Environmental Impact of Producing the BEV. Almost everything that man does has a negative impact on our environment. BEVs are no exception. Batteries in BEVs use rare earth metals and the mining and processing of these do have environmental impacts including the generation of GHGs. The batteries are recyclable and as yet it is not known just how long they will last.
Studies on Tesla Model S batteries since 2012 suggest that they will last between 25 and 32 years before being significantly degraded. Most research indicates that, over the complete life cycle of the vehicle, the BEV will contribute substantially less GHGs to the atmosphere than an equivalent ICE vehicle.
I can still recall being at Tesla School while we waited for our new Model 3 to be prepped. Every so often, one of us would be called and told that our new car was ready, and the instructor would say, “Great! One less tailpipe!”
I can’t begin to tell you how great it is to drive a BEV. It is fun. It is anxiety-free. It is quiet. The performance is unbelievable. And it is GHG free!
Are you ready to tip that balance and join the EV revolution? I sure hope so.
For most of us, two of our greatest concerns—after a full stomach, a bed, and a roof over our heads—are energy (heat and light) and transportation!
How do we keep the lights on? The house warm? How do we move from point A to point B? With all of the changes on the horizon, what will our energy and transportation future look like in just 5 or 10 years?
Historically fossil fuels have been the answer to our energy and transportation needs. But as our population increases, so do our demands. In 2019 we know increased use of fossil fuels over the past two hundred years is now creating a crisis for us on planet Earth. Climate change is upon us. The sooner we move away from this source of energy, the more success we will have in at least reducing the effect of increased CO2 in our atmosphere. Our lives cannot be truly sustainable until we end our use of carbon-based fuels.
So what can we do in our community that will make a difference and start the movement to change?
It can be a daunting task. To live more sustainably can cost money, be inconvenient, and require compromise. We find it easier to point to things other people should do than to make decisions about changing our own ways. But if change is truly inevitable—and every indicator says it is—should we not try to get ahead of the curve before the curve throws us off the road?
In the past ten years, energy from the sun and the wind has become a reality in our lives, and alternative energy will continue to be. It is said that many more jobs can be created in the pursuit of alternative energy than currently exist in the fossil fuel industry. (https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/05/energy-jobs-reports-say-solar-dominates-coal-but-wind-is-the-real-winner/). We’ve also discovered that we can increase our conservation efforts—and save money doing so!
But there is so much more we can do! We all can put solar on the roofs of our houses. Solar hot water heating is feasible now. There is evidence that battery technology improvement is just around the corner! Cost-efficient energy storage is the missing link! (https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2019/01/10-disruptive-battery-technologies-trying-to-compete-with-lithium-ion-batteries/ )
We are on the brink of an era which will see solar and wind become the main sources of energy for our needs. The faster we move into that era, the faster we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Imagine the vision Sustainable Orillia has. Neighbourhoods in Orillia where every house has solar panels to provide electricity, heat comes from pipes imbedded in the ground (geo-thermal), every garage has an electric vehicle charging station, and a clothesline! Bike and walking trails connect every part of the city to our downtown area. We have the technology now to make this vision a reality.
Currently most of us own one or more vehicles and they are one of the most expensive parts of our lives. Gas, insurance, maintenance—all add up each year. And yet we feel we these are necessary expenses. Part of the reason we can afford cars is because we do not yet pay the total economic, social and environmental costs of driving them. If we had to, we would then ask, “Do we really need them?”
And there are real questions we need to ask. Do vehicles need to be as large as they are? Do so many of us need a truck or an SUV?
Is there a better way? Orillia has a public transit system and taxis. What if we offered more ride-sharing services—Uber and Lyft? What if we could share a car with our neighbours, or call an automated vehicle whenever we need a ride?
We may be on the verge of a revolution in our relationship with our cars.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are making their way into our lives, making travel pollution free. Electric buses will soon quietly travel our streets. Hi-speed electric rail systems will come to southern Ontario, revolutionizing our travel.
And there’s “active transportation”—walking and cycling. Orillia and area has a well-established bike trail system that travels east-west and north-south through town and connects to the surrounding communities. Can we expand it a little more? While it may be a seasonal answer only, there are significant health and social benefits to our making better use of these alternatives to our cars.
There are changes we can make through our own choices. But some will simply happen. These will be “disruptive,” creating major changes in the way we do things. Think automated trucks: no more truck drivers! And fewer customers for motels, truck stop restaurants, and fuel stations. The adoption of electric vehicles will mean many automotive jobs simply disappear. Not only are electric vehicles far more energy efficient than internal combustion engines, they also have more than ten times fewer moving parts. The result? Repairs and maintenance are significantly less and durability is greater—and that means your local garage will become endangered.
Another example of change? In just nine years UBER moved from being a start-up company in the U.S. to providing more rides than all the taxis combined.
Our future is almost now. It will be different partly because of actions we take and partly because of technologies and economies that thrust change upon us.
The good news is that many of these changes will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels—and that will be good for the planet and every living thing on it.
Change is not always easy. But we would be foolish not to embrace change, especially when there are real and profound advantages in doing so.
Science and research is moving forward–and will without us. Fortunately, most people are onboard with the technology being improved and invented each day. The missing piece is regulatory changes allowing new technologies to flourish. Instead we continue to see protections for old technology. Our political leaders must be persuaded to embrace change as well.
Organized voices can show the way. Join Sustainable Orillia’s initiative for change.
No consideration of a Sustainable Orillia is complete without addressing the importance of how actions taken with respect to housing can contribute to environmental sustainability.
Extreme weather related to climate change is costing everyone. Insurance payouts in Canada because of more frequent and violent weather events have risen from $400,000 ten years ago to $1 billion and is the reason premiums are rising dramatically. Home repair companies are doing very well, especially those specializing in fixing leaky basements.
Continued improvement in home-building design and materials that reduce energy consumption will help to cut greenhouse gasses. For new housing, the City has a certain amount of control through the building codes. As greener, more efficient new-home building practices are identified, building codes should be modified to require their use. Across Canada and elsewhere, builders are discovering that they can build Net Zero Energy (NZE) homes. These homes use a minimum of energy and, in addition, produce energy which equals consumption. The end result is a home which uses up to 80% less energy than a conventional home, producing very low year round utility bills; superior heating, cooling, ventilation; excellent levels of indoor air quality; and a minimal environmental footprint. Lower bills and more sustainable! Win-win, for sure.
Retro-fitting older housing can be more challenging, of course, but even there we are seeing that installing energy-efficient lighting, windows, and appliances can achieve savings over time which pay for the cost of the changes and then save the homeowner money every month thereafter. Better insulation can help. Some homeowners may even be able to install solar panel technology to generate electricity or use geothermal energy to generate heat. The communities of the future may well have all housing generating its own electricity for its own consumption. The missing piece at the moment is storage battery technology—but that may soon be available.
Long-time Orillia councilor Ralph Cipolla often refers to the need for “appropriate housing.” Some residents require housing which is governed by rent controls. Seniors looking to downsize will look for smaller, accessible units. Some seniors will look to band with other seniors in a collective type of home ownership. People with adult children living at home need space, while some families will seek to build a “granny flat” to accommodate an older parent. These issues are within the control of the city, and recommendations can be made to allow an appropriate inventory of a variety of housing to meet these demands.
The objective must be appropriate and sustainable housing available for all citizens, now and in the future. To meet the needs of a diverse population, it is necessary to recognize that people have a range of requirements:
All housing needs must be met in a way that gives maximum consideration both to affordability (a requirement for all people, really) and, in a sustainable community, to the environmental impact of the housing stock.
To determine what housing will be needed into the future, it will be necessary to:
Our goal is to encourage the citizens of Orillia and the City to embrace the concept of a better and more sustainable environment. For housing, this can be done by
Ideally, the housing future in Orillia will have everyone in our community living in homes with reduced energy demands and a reduced ecological footprint—homes, which as a result, cost the homeowners or renters less to live in and maintain.
To have a broad spectrum of input on this subject, we encourage people to register for our initial event on May 24th and 25th. After that we will encourage people to become part of this movement toward a more sustainable community, a more sustainable planet.
While the bigger issue of climate change and the plastic crisis in our oceans seems overwhelming and beyond our ability to change, there are many things we can do in our communities to make a positive difference. These ‘little’ changes don’t have to cost much and really are just a matter of choice and changing habits.
Today, many of us have a colourful collection of shopping bags and we are in the habit of folding the bags after emptying them in our kitchens and putting them back into the car, ready for the next shopping trip. This habit, once it becomes permanent and once it’s adopted by the entire community, will reduce plastic bag waste in our communities. It’s a little change with a big impact.
The Mayor’s Task Force, Sustainable Orillia, wants to identify local changes we can make now to avoid larger problems in the future—and in the process, build a better community.
Follow Your Money
In crime stories, fictional or real, it is often important to “follow the money.” When searching for sustainable practices in our lives, it is equally important to “follow the money.” The Private Development and Investment Sector Committee is investigating how we can bring about positive changes to property development, planning and management, construction waste issues, waste recycling strategies, and the carbon market.
One way we can have an effect is to practice sustainable investing. If we stop to think about it, we can easily create positive change when we band together and choose to buy, or not buy, a particular product. History gives us many examples. In the 1700s the British abolitionists launched a campaign to buy only sugar not made by slaves. This simple message, avoiding sugar produced by slaves, helped lead to emancipation. Today’s ‘Fair Trade’ coffee campaign, which many have heard of, supports the paying of fair prices to small farmers by big corporations—but did you know buying “shade grown, bird friendly” coffee, supports the preservation of habitat many of our local birds rely on when they go south for the winter?
As consumers we are powerful and ‘vote’ with our money every day. As investors we have the same power to bring about incremental change. Do you remember the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh where more than 1,000 people were killed and 2,500 injured? News coverage of the aftermath revealed clothing for several popular brands was made there. Suddenly many did not feel so good wearing that cute outfit we picked up cheap while shopping. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-22476774 )
The World Economic Forum suggests that, for public companies to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development goals, the key pillars must include environmental and social responsibility. As investors, when we know we have choices, and when we have good information about which companies are
taking their environmental and social responsibilities seriously, we can make better decisions about which companies we invest in. Our investments can align with our own values, making us responsible investors. (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/how-to-measure-progress-sustainable-development-goals/ )
From a “risk perspective,” every year there are companies getting into trouble with scandal or disaster. If a company is known to have liabilities such as poor worker safety, chemical spills, or excessive pollution, investors need to be aware that liabilities such as these could affect stock prices—and your investment portfolio. Research focusing on environmental, social and corporate governance issues is not only conscientious, but also crucial to evaluating the underlying risk of an investment and ensuring it will continue to meet our needs.
If these issues are important, you can choose to invest in companies working to be a part of the solution rather than compounding the problems of waste, climate change, inadequate wages, pollution, and low employee safety standards. Dr. Tessa Hebb of Carleton University found in a 2015 study there is strong evidence that investing in “responsible” funds reduces investment risks, making it possible to align your investments with your priorities for society and the environment and still experience strong returns. (https://carleton.ca/3ci/wp-content/uploads/SRI-Funds-Risk-and-Return-Analysis-final-22052015.pdf )
The Sector committee members will also examine ways we can support sustainability with local developments. For example, we can influence improved energy efficiency, densification, the application of technologies that store or reduce carbon, and even support the development of “sustainably focused’ business parks. An example of the latter is the potential Hydro One development In Orillia which would provide safe and clean jobs at an operation that would be a wealth generator for the city.
Densification zoning in the downtown core has recently been a local hot button item, but is all densification bad? Preventing urban sprawl preserves valuable farmland. People who can telecommute have less need to drive, and tend to walk more, support local retailers and service businesses, and have more time for family and friends. Incorporating green spaces into densified centres creates an environment that is cooler and more livable. These things happen when local politicians give our municipal administration the guidance and tools to plan accordingly. Citizens can give them reasons to see sustainability as a priority.
In all these areas of investment, we have choices. In a sustainable community, we will choose wisely, and our choices will make a difference to the way we and our neighbours live.