Sustainable Orillia Report To Council

By John Swartz

Last Monday’s Orillia council meeting featured a deputation reporting on activity by the Sustainable Orillia (SO) group.  SO chair, Stan Mathewson along with Fred Larsen and Gord Ball outlined the success the first public event held in May had getting people involved and generating ideas for further action.

The City granted $10,000 and SO picked up another $3,000 to fund the weekend kick-off event and the balance sheet showed they did not overspend. So they were not before council asking for top up money, but they did have a request for $15,000 from the City for their 2020 activities.

Sustainable Orillia was set up as a mayor’s task force to develop long-term actions regarding climate change which can be employed in the community and at City Hall. They want to do this by gathering information and practices from others who have experience and knowledge and promoting those ideas. The launch weekend generated 197 suggestions and ideas and soon they will be publishing 50 Shades of Green.

“The 50 Shades of Green are a wide range of initiatives,” Mathewson told council. “We looked at the 197 ideas, plus few have come along since, and we said, which are the ones that are doable, what are the resource requirements to do it, what’s the time frame, and what’s the impact?”

“Some will look at, for example, projects the lands and water group is doing on tree planting in the spring; we’re going to see, working with Lakehead, if we can understand the impact of that; so we’re not just planting trees, we’re going to understand what the impact will be down the road in terms of GHG reductions or anything else.”

The big target for the group is finding ways to reduce green house gas (GHG). There are other targets, but GHGs are thought of as the biggest, immediate problem, and SO is looking into a number of practices most wouldn’t associate as part of the problem.

“Others might be simple things the average person can do immediately. Tony Telford is a big fan of this one – bring back the clothes line. He’s saying due to the electrical costs of drying your clothes, if you can reduce that a little bit by bringing back the clothesline, let’s do that,” said Mathewson.

“Some of them may come back as recommendations to council, once we’ve done the research on a business case or policy case.”

Current Activity

“We are currently in the process of doing the detailed planning so we know exactly what the resource requirements are and how we’re going to implement them.”

Mayor Steve Clarke added some examples of his own.

“In business I’m quite familiar with (restaurants), composting; the reduced weight in our bin we were charged on per pound, we actually save money on garbage collections,” said Clarke. “Even the City is looking at LED lights. There’s a capital outlay, but there’s also a relatively short return on investment.” He then asked the deputants if they are working with other groups, particularly the City’s .

“I’m going to be visiting EAC this week, the Active Transportation,  last week WMAC. We talked about some opportunities to work together with these special events,” said Mathewson. “We also want to look at other partners across the community, business partners, the university and the college, other organizations.”  He turned the microphone over for Gord Ball to explain two projects already in motion.

“There’ something like 50 churches in Orillia and we want to talk to them and engage the churches in greening their facilities,” Ball said. They are working with the Orillia District Association of Churches. The other project is research in nature, investigating the Sundial Creek, which most people don’t know exists. They tracked it from its source. Part of it takes the form of ditches along Sundial Drive. They discovered there are Brook Trout regularly observed in the creek. The goal is to rehabilitate it.

“We had meetings in people’s living rooms, just ordinary folks who are starting to get involved in asking questions; “what’s happening to Sundial Creek? Why is it not being protected to the degree it could?  What can we do?” Ball said.

The Money

Council was asked to include a $15,000 grant in the 2020 budget. They outlined it would be used to cover expenses like normal office supplies, internet fees, insurance and accounting. It will also help them prepare applications for federal and provincial grants. One of those is a $100,000 Federal Sustainable Development Grant.

“That allows us to hire some staff, a project coordinator, some communications people and it allows us to have additional money for research and for special events and community events that can really help generate the information and education about sustainable growth,” Mathewson told SUNonline/Orillia. He believes they’ll get the money.

“I think we’re 70/30. If you look at the criteria, I think we’ve a really good chance. We don’t know who the competition is. I think we’ve got a good case.”  The grant is for local groups to help further the government’s 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development goals. There are four criteria aims Sustainable Orillia needs to check off to qualify.

“One, to build partnerships in the community to advance that agenda. Secondly, to build awareness with the community, and individuals in the community, and businesses and organizations about what we’re doing and how it supports what Canada is trying to achieve with sustainable development goals. Thirdly, they want to ensure what we are doing has a component that, as they say, leaves no one behind; so it helps the disadvantaged on many fronts towards sustainable development. Lastly, to bring in traditional and Indigenous knowledge in the decision making,” Mathewson said.

The other grant they are chasing is a Trillium Grow Grant. This would give the group $83,300 annually for three years. Mathewson wasn’t able to give odds on getting the grant.

“We’re just starting that process. I think we’ll know better once we’ve had our initial coaching session and done the workshop. If you look at the criteria it’s for organizations like ours that are just starting out and need to grow, and that’s exactly where we are,” Mathewson said, “we’re an organization focused on green , but it’s new and it needs some help to grow.”

Fred Larsen added the Trillium Grant isn’t tied to a specific project SO might have.

“In none of these cases do they actually pay for the projects that you are doing. It’s to bring on the staff and personnel and create initiatives,”

SUNonline/Orillia also asked if they plan to be a presence in the election.

“We are non-partisan, dedicatedly non-partisan, and we don’t want to even have an implication that we have any partisanship. We need everybody on board, so we are strictly avoiding that. Having said that, I know our youth council is preparing some stuff for their particular youth group and their mock election. I think they want to understand how the various parties position themselves with respect to things that are important,” said Mathewson.

Fred Larsen added some detail to the latter point.

“I think they are looking to try to get an all-candidates at one of the high schools. They also want to have some of their youth members go to other debates and ask questions,” Larsen said.

Upcoming Activity

They aren’t waiting for the grants to forge ahead. There are some events scheduled to happen soon. September 28/29 in partnership with PlugnDrive, the Ontario EV Society and Orillia Square Mall they have EV Demo days at Orillia Square Mall, meant to give people a chance to ask experts about electric vehicles and try them out because the chances are high anyone’s next car purchase will be an electric car.

In November they are organizing seminars on topics. One is called Return On Investment of Sustainability Workshop, which is meant for businesses and non=-profits to learn about things they can do in the course of operation to incorporate green practices which will help the bottom line. Another is called Net Zero Housing, which will highlight things already in use people can adapt for their homes, and new technologies home builders can employ.

Sustainable Orillia is using their website to promote new or better ideas and they have their Tip Of The Week (published in SUNonline/Orillia) and short essays about things people in Orillia are already doing that work.

In addition they are promoting the City’s and the Environmental Advisory Committee’s tree give-away September 28 at City Hall. The 25th is National Tree Day and 150 Sugar Maples will be given away on a first come basis starting at 9 a.m. You will have to provide information showing you are an Orillia resident, there’s a form to fill out and you can do that in advance of the 28th.

CORRECTION: National Tree Day is September 25, The City’s event is the 28th.


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