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Cutting emissions, cutting costs at Saanich municipal hall

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard plugs in one of the district’s electric vehicles at a charging station outside municipal hall, with sustainability co-ordinator Mark Boysen. The district is being recognized for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  - Kyle Wells/News staff
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard plugs in one of the district’s electric vehicles at a charging station outside municipal hall, with sustainability co-ordinator Mark Boysen. The district is being recognized for its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
— image credit: Kyle Wells/News staff

When Saanich says it’s taking a look at its environmental footprint, that means from the largest building to the lowliest coffee maker.

Even replacing an ancient beverage machine at municipal hall, which kept water at a rolling boil all day, has reduced that building’s power consumption by about one per cent.

“It was an energy pig,” said Mayor Frank Leonard. “And we would have never noticed that unless the organization looked at the carbon footprint of everything we do. We’re quite proud.”

For the past 18 years Saanich has been a part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program.

Earlier this year the federation recognized Saanich for achieving the fifth and final milestone of PCP, a level achieved by only eight communities in Canada.

In total, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for the district have gone down 14 per cent since 2007, a feat which sees it well on its way to the goal of 50 per cent by 2020.

Sustainability co-ordinator Mark Boysen said it will not be a problem coming through on the promise.

“I haven’t heard of that goal in too many other municipalities yet, when it comes to operations, so I think it’s very ambitious,” he said.

The district has reduced its gasoline consumption by 29 per cent, primarily by switching fleet vehicles for higher-efficiency diesel models and a few electric vehicles.

The use of heating oil in district facilities has also gone down 52 per cent since 2007, a reduction of 14,700 litres per year. Propane use has gone down by 23 per cent.

“The scope of the challenge when you think about climate change and what it means, it can be daunting,” Boysen said. “But I think that local governments, if you compare and look around at what local governments are doing, that’s where progress is being made.”

To achieve these reductions the district puts $25 per tonne of GHG emissions into its Saanich carbon fund. That money, about $120,000 per year, is then used to fund projects intended to reduce the emissions.

The approach has led to the district purchasing an electric Zamboni to replace its propane one, a move which reduced emissions by 10 tonnes annually.

LED lighting has replaced the old system at Pearkes Recreation Centre’s arena and other places, saving $33,000 per year in energy. A solar hot water system is used for the showers at Gordon Head Recreation Centre, reducing emissions by 20 tonnes.

Boysen said the scheme is an alternative to simply buying carbon offsets, keeping money in the community and also making it more reliable that the funds are doing some good.

“We know that we’re getting good value out of our dollar for residents and taxpayers by reinvesting back,” Boysen said. “We’re here for the long haul.”

By next year the goal is to have reduced emissions by 20 per cent since 2007. Plans are to have all oil heating removed by the end of 2014 and to have the boilers at the municipal hall and Gordon Head recreation, which are from the late 1960s, replaced, potentially with more solar hot water or geothermal exchange sources.

“We’re looking at the options right now, we’re getting engineering reports,” Boysen said.

To celebrate the 20 years of the PCP program, municipalities involved were invited to submit a video highlighting GHG reduction initiatives. Saanich has produced a video with Leonard explaining a few of the steps the district has taken. It will be available at fcm.ca and saanich.ca soon.

“It’s gratifying that Saanich is seen nationally as a leader on this file, it’s something that all of council believes in,” Leonard said. “It’s part of the culture of Saanich.”

kwells@goldstreamgazette.com

 

 

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