Earlier today I had coffee with the Mayor of Oakville, Rob Burton. Twenty minutes from downtown Toronto, Oakville is one Canada’s most affluent cities. As such, it’s also an above average emitter of greenhouse gases per resident.
Prime Ministers and Premiers make macro-level policy decisions. Mayors have a greater connection to citizens but limited tools at their disposal to effect major change.
I took the opportunity to ask Rob what we (residents) can each do to have the greatest impact on climate change. His answer was clear: adjust our thermostats by 2 degrees. This is especially critical during times of peak usage. In general, peaks occur between 7am & 7pm and vary throughout the year.
This reduction of peak usage is called peak saving or shaving. Like how highways need to support rush hour traffic, electricity systems need to support peak use. Electricity systems often operate well below the peak. This leaves us (residents of the province) with excess energy we need to ship elsewhere, often at a cost. If we shave the peaks, we have more than enough energy to serve our needs. Greenhouse gas emissions will fall as a result.
Tonight I will be chatting with my family about how we can shave our peaks throughout the year.
The second bit of advice Rob shared was around blue box use. When we recycle, we reduce the need for carbon-heavy extraction processes used to mine new materials. It shifts our economy from sourcing new materials to the re-purposing of existing ones. Oakville is a leader in recycling and yet we’re only at 59% uptake. That means 41% of people are still not participating.
Rob’s ask: Sort properly and clean first. Dirty materials can’t be recycled. A quick rinse and wipe is all that’s needed.
As a long-time environmental champion, Rob is on his fourth term as mayor. He’s been in this game for a while so I asked for his perspective on why people don’t do more. His belief is that people care, they’re just too busy. I can relate — life is busy.
Turning our thermostats down, especially during peak times, is easy. Rinsing and sorting our recycling materials doesn’t take long either. These are two easy ways we can all contribute.