Cassandra Wood, Centretown News

Earth Day targets CO2 footprint

By Liam McPherson

With the arrival of warmer April weather, Centretown is gearing up for Earth Day, a popular day of awareness about living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

This April 22, Centretown residents are encouraged to reduce their own carbon footprint by using bike paths or public transit, recycling, installing more efficient lighting or simply taking a walk outdoors.

City officials will also be participating, but Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney said the day is more than just a photo opportunity. It’s a chance to show her constituents what she plans to do to help reduce Ottawa’s carbon dioxide emissions and encourage more sustainable living.

“Earth Day is a day to gather and celebrate community and citywide initiatives working towards cleaner air and water, as well as the protection of our natural ecosystems,” said McKenney. “We are constantly working on improving active transportation and transit opportunities for Ottawa with a specific push for complete streets and a well-connected cycling network.”

She added: “Through municipal funding and assistance, we have also been helping more residents gain access to workable space for their own garden.”

McKenney said Earth Day is “a time to acknowledge community champions and to rejuvenate for the upcoming year,” adding that she is “always looking to engage with the residents, employers, and business owners of Ward 14 to find solutions to living green.”

Centretown resident Dylan Peters said that the sentiment of the day should be not only about taking stock of how eco-friendly Centretown is, but how much greener Centretown can become with greater effort. “In Canada, we sometimes don’t appreciate how much we have, which results in us creating a larger carbon footprint. Earth Day helps me understand the ways in which our communities can help manage these solutions.”

Peters, who plans to “read by candlelight” on Earth Day, hopes other Centretown residents will tweak their lifestyle to leave less of an environmental footprint. “People could use fluorescent light, reuse their grocery bags, or buy reusable ones” he added. “It’s not that difficult to make easy changes which have way more long term gain for you in the end.”

Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi said that 2017 is an especially important year to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. “As Canada turns 150, celebrations across the country are highlighting the beauty of our great outdoors.” Naqvi said that because Canada is a home to such beautiful natural features, Earth Day should not only be about making changes in one’s own lifestyle, but about protecting Canada’s natural wonders for years to come.

“Earth Day is an important opportunity to appreciate and educate ourselves about our community’s unparalleled natural beauty so we can protect this vital resource for future generations.”

McKenney, who sits on the city’s environment committee, agrees.  “There are lots of really exciting examples of green initiatives throughout Somerset Ward, including community gardens, a growing cycling network, great parks with great trees, and buildings implementing innovative green technologies to reduce their impact on the environment. With that being said, there is definitely room for growth.”

Along with other councillors, McKenney recently commissioned a report investigating the potential benefits of a “congestion pricing” model for Ottawa. “The report is a first step to examine specific congestion pricing tools to help reduce traffic congestion and increase transit ridership through the city,” McKenney said.  “As the active transportation and LRT networks grow, we are attempting to ensure development occurs appropriately with density in places where people can move around without needing a personal vehicle.”

Despite her best efforts to reduce Ottawa’s carbon footprint, McKenney said she sometimes struggles with reducing her own.

“For me it is often the little things that can add up. I try to be conscious about my daily decisions and how they may harm the environment, but I am also a year-round cyclist and am lucky to benefit from Ottawa’s growing active transportation infrastructure.”