How do we become a One-Planet City?
We can tackle food waste, share more, improve our community, encourage repair (rather than tossing something out), change our diets, commute differently, buy more carefully, use less toxic stuff, grow more food — and reimagine the way we live.
Getting to a one-planet footprint isn’t just doable – it’s necessary.
On average, Vancouverites use three times more land and sea resources than our global fair share. Our consumption patterns contribute to climate change and environmental degradation.
Ironically, studies on happiness show that — beyond a certain level — consumption doesn’t tend to make us happier. It can also lead to significant income disparities between people and communities.
So, what’s in Vancouver’s ecological footprint?
Our ecological footprint is the amount of productive land and sea resources we use to meet our daily lifestyle needs. In a world where the planet’s ability to provide for us is finite but our appetite for more “stuff” is growing, we are consuming more resources than what is sustainable.
Bill Rees invented the concept here in Vancouver. As a city, we can now measure our greenhouse gas emissions as well as our footprint using the ecocity tool.
The City of Vancouver has set a goal of reducing our footprint 33% by 2020 (from 2006 levels). Most environmental impacts can be addressed by targeting five domains: food, mobility, buildings, goods and leisure (particularly air travel).
The numbers tell the story of where to place our greatest effort: analysis of 2011 footprint composition in Vancouver identified priority actions including: improved energy efficiency in buildings, lower paper consumption, reduced food waste and less red meat consumption.
And this means shifting our economic, social and cultural context. We also need to watch out for rebound effects where the gains we make in one area are reinvested in a new high impact activity. For example, energy efficiency savings in a building retrofit reinvested in developing a new additional building or using savings for air travel.
There are surprising facts we find out when we look at the footprint:
- Textiles, coffee, and cocoa are lower in terms of quantity of landfill waste but have a higher footprint per tonnage. Textiles waste in Vancouver is increasing rapidly – instead we need to reduce consumption.
- The embodied energy of private vehicles and their use contribute significantly to the footprint. It’s important to reduce the total number of personal cars – and we can do this by developing complete walkable neighbourhoods and through improved transit, vehicle-sharing, biking and walking.