Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sustainable Region

I’ve been sick at home the past few days, so that has given me sometime to do some research. As you may know Metro Vancouver released a Sustainability Report at the end of January. You can download a copy from their site. I want to highlight some of these trends in the report.

-Per capita water use is decreasing and the volume of water delivered has remained relatively constant. That means that if we can keep this trend going, we are keeping our water use sustainable.

-We are still sending harmful toxins into our rivers and oceans via our sewage system. Flame retardants and harmful laundry detergent chemicals are still widely used and concentrations of these contaminants are in wastewater effluent and the waterways.

-We are throwing out more garbage per capita now than 10 years ago. 39% of our waste still goes directly to a landfill. Also of note, multifamily (aka condos) are the least like to recycle (22% ), while 44% of business waste is recycled.

-Thanks to the ALR and the Livable Region Strategic Plan Green Zone. Between 2001 and 2006 the urban footprint of our region did not expand. Rural resident areas are being replaced with more intense development. Each year we lose about 0.1% of ALR farm land. Also since 2006, some land has been removed from our Green Zone. Four types of land make up the Green Zone: watersheds and floodplains; ecologically important lands, such as forests, wilderness areas, wildlife habitat and wetlands; outdoor recreation and scenic lands, such as major parks and recreation areas; and renewable resource lands, such as agricultural and forestry areas.

-Only about 20% of all net housing completions in our region are single family homes. This is a good indicator of compact community design. I should point out that about 38% of all houses are single family in the region. In the South Fraser, Delta and the Township of Langley have the highest amount of single family homes at around 61% while the White Rock and the City of Langley have the most apartment dwellers at about 50%. (2006 Census)

-Since 1996 our distance traveled to work has drop from 7.7km to 7.4km. This trend is different than the rest of Canada. In the same time period, people are choosing to drive less to work in a single occupancy vehicle from 70.6% to 67.3%.

-Our air is generally better than it was in the past. Levels of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and particulates have declined, but concentrations have been relatively constant in recent years. Ozone levels appear to have decreased slightly in the early nineties, but have generally shown an upward trend since that time. Burning fossil fuels causes ground level ozone aka smog.

-We have more park lands today than in the past and the amount of people that take advantage of them has increased.

-Though the current economic time the cost of housing is adjusting, but our region is still becoming less affordable. We also have a shortage of rental units. We have seen a huge increase in our homeless population in the last six years from 1121 to 2660. That is why projects like the Langley Gateway of Hope are important.

-36% of all greenhouse gas emissions are from driving and 30% from buildings in our region. According to this report, the current federal and province plans will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our region must rely on itself to reduce emissions. Documents like the Surrey and Township of Langley Sustainability Charters are important first steps.

-There are 112 species at risk in Metro Vancouver. One a happy note, the amount of tree canopy has not changed significantly in our region.

-The amount of actual farmed land has remained consistent since 1996 and 15.7% of farms in our region are organic. Sadly to support their families, 50% of Metro Vancouver farmers rely on paid work off the farm.

-Per capita energy use in our region is stable. Also, 73% of energy used in our region is from non-green sources like natural gas (heating, driving, power, etc.)

-42% of Metro Vancouver residents volunteer.

We have a lot of good things happening in or region, but we have a much work to do to make our region sustainable and livable for future generations.

From the 1996 Local Government Act

849 (1) The purpose of a regional growth strategy is to promote human settlement that is socially, economically and environmentally healthy and that makes efficient use of public facilities and services, land and other resources.

(2) Without limiting subsection (1), to the extent that a regional growth strategy deals with these matters, it should work towards but not be limited to the following:

(a) avoiding urban sprawl and ensuring that development takes place where adequate facilities exist or can be provided in a timely, economic and efficient manner;

(b) settlement patterns that minimize the use of automobiles and encourage walking, bicycling and the efficient use of public transit;

(c) the efficient movement of goods and people while making effective use of transportation and utility corridors;

(d) protecting environmentally sensitive areas;

(e) maintaining the integrity of a secure and productive resource base, including the agricultural land reserve;

(f) economic development that supports the unique character of communities;

(g) reducing and preventing air, land and water pollution;

(h) adequate, affordable and appropriate housing;

(i) adequate inventories of suitable land and resources for future settlement;

(j) protecting the quality and quantity of ground water and surface water;

(k) settlement patterns that minimize the risks associated with natural hazards;

(l) preserving, creating and linking urban and rural open space including parks and recreation areas;

(m) planning for energy supply and promoting efficient use, conservation and alternative forms of energy;

(n) good stewardship of land, sites and structures with cultural heritage value.

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