City's former sustainability manager says Olympic Village had more green potential

The City of Vancouver’s former sustainability manager believes governments should be based on “bioregions”.

Tom Osdoba was in town this week and made these comments at an October 19 event, moderated by Vancouver environmentalist Rex Weyler, that was titled Reconciling the Economy with the Bio-Physical Reality of Nature.

“We have to talk about how to live in this bioregion,” Osdoba told the 100 or so people convened in Room 700 of SFU Harbour Centre. “We have political leadership here where they may be interested in that, but frankly I think they will need to sacrifice their careers to get there. And we should be encouraging them to do that.”

Bioregions are areas defined by their ecological and geographical features, such as vegetation, climate, landforms, and hydrology.

Osdoba was on a panel with a number of renowned locals, including UBC professor Bill Rees, who came up with the ecological-footprint concept; Work Less Party founder Conrad Schmidt; and Vision Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer.

“The decisions we can most influence are the ones we can influence first—the local ones,” Osdoba added during the lively debate.

In March 2007, Osdoba was fired by then city manager Judy Rogers, after serving almost three years at city hall. The 45-year-old Minnesotan is now managing director at the Center for Sustainable Business Practices at University of Oregon’s Charles H. Lundquist College of Business.

After the event at SFU, Osdoba told the Straight he had “mixed feelings” about being back in town, but said he felt that Vancouver now has “the status to show that it really wants to lead again” in sustainability.

In 2005, Osdoba ensured that the Southeast False Creek area would use sewer heat for water-heating purposes thanks to his Neighbourhood Energy Utility plan. Now Osdoba said he’s pleased to say that model can be replicated elsewhere, despite earlier resistance to his idea. (The plan came close to being nixed in favour of wood waste, but sewer heat prevailed.)

In terms of the Olympic Village as a whole, Osdoba said a 10-year span of development would have delivered the “best practices” available for that land, instead of the three-year timeline the city has had to work with alongside developer Millennium Properties Ltd.

“It was too big a project, too fast to really hit best practices,” Osdoba said. “It’s good. But there’s nothing special about LEED Gold any more. In terms of how far we could have gone, it’s 2009 and it is a 2005 best practice.”