The City of Vancouver has successfully met three of its 20 measurable targets as part of its Greenest City Action Plan, according to an implementation update presented to city council members today (June 27).
The 2016–2017 report reveals that 50 percent of trips in the region are now taken by foot, bike, or transit. This represents a 10 percent increase from 2008, meaning Vancouver has met its GCAP goal of making walking, cycling, and public transit the preferred mode of transportation for the majority of its residents.
The update also states that citizens now drive an average of 4,060 kilometres a year. This represents a 32 percent decrease from the 5,950 kilometres travelled per person per year recorded in 2007, exceeding the city’s goal of reducing this number by 20 percent before 2020.
City officials credit this progress to improvements by TransLink, the redevelopment of the Arbutus Greenway, the prioritizing of pedestrian-friendly spaces, and the launch of its bike-sharing program, Mobi, which, in one year, has led to an estimated 1.2 million kilometres traveled by two wheels around the city.
Greenhouse gases drop, green jobs on the rise
In addition, there was a 20 percent decrease in the total tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted from all buildings from 2007 to 2015. This decline is attributed to the approval of the Zero Emissions Building Plan, which emphasizes energy efficiency in newly permitted structures, and rezoning bylaws that require homes to be built to a higher energy standard.
The figure meets the GCAP target of reducing 2007’s 1,630,000 greenhouse gas emissions per square metre from existing buildings to 1,300,000 by 2020.
Other successes outlined in the report include a 43 percent decrease in greenhouse gases emitted from newly constructed buildings; a 42 percent increase in community garden plots, farmers markets, and other sustainable food assets; and a 49 percent increase in local green jobs that have been created since 2010.
The city states that it is working to streamline its zoning and development protocols to minimize permit process times in an effort to encourage the construction of eco-minded buildings such as Passive House–standard dwellings.
Single-use items pose challenge to waste reduction
The update also revealed a 27 percent decrease in the amount of solid waste sent to landfills and incinerators since 2008. The city is aiming to reduce its landfill-bound solid waste by 50 percent (from 480,000 tonnes to 240,000 tonnes) by 2020, a target that may easily be met if officials choose to ban disposable items such as paper coffee cups, 2.6 million of which are sent to Vancouver landfills every week.
Nonbiodegradable takeout containers and plastic bags are also culprits, and along with throwaway coffee cups, have been the subject of a Single-Use Item Strategy proposed in February that aims to minimize waste in order to reach Vancouver’s GCAP and Zero Waste 2040 goals. Public consultation on the matter is expected to begin this summer.
“They’re so convenient, but single use items have a lasting impact on our environment long after their short use,” the update reads. “They use up a significant amount of resources from our planet that are often not reused or recycled. They create a huge amount of waste in our landfills, and cost Vancouver taxpayers more than $2.5 million a year to clean up, as litter in our parks, green spaces and shorelines.”
The report also points out that 40,000 tonnes of textiles, 19,000 of which is clothing, goes to landfills or incinerators in Metro Vancouver every year. “Clothing is a valuable material and resource that should be donated, reused or repaired whenever possible,” it reads.
Overall, the city recorded improvements in all areas related to zero carbon, zero waste, and healthy eco-systems, though it has a significant ways to go in terms of community-based greenhouse gases, solid waste, and per-capita water consumption should we wish to fulfill the entire list of GCAP 2020 goals.
Implemented in 2011, the Greenest City Action Plan is multi-pronged strategy that aims to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020. It proposes a number of policies and measurable targets in order to achieve this in areas related to climate leadership, transportation, clean air, and more.