Public input sought for climate change strategies surveys

Climate Change Survey

KAGAWONG – Public input is being requested to move forward with climate change strategies for Billings Township and the Municipality of Central Manitoulin.

“It’s very important if we are going to move forward with climate change strategies, we need to be as positive as we can,” stated Bryan Barker, chair of the Billings Climate Action Committee, in promoting the importance of everyone in the community providing their input on a survey that is currently underway. “It will greatly help in developing our community action plan and in providing a direction we can go. We’ve made a survey that’s relevant to Billings with actions that are attainable by the community. Climate change is here to stay.”

“Once we have determined the results of the survey, the outcome will be plans that will work in the future for the township and we will work as best as we can towards these standards to help guide the municipality’s Community Emissions and Energy Plan (CEEP),” said Mr. Barker.

A similar survey is being undertaken by the Municipality of Central Manitoulin. Dale Scott, a council representative on Central Manitoulin’s Climate Change Committee said, “enough participation will provide us with a good idea of the impact to our residents. We have a nice area. We don’t see the floods and wildfires that other areas have, but we are going to continue to see climate change, even on Manitoulin Island. It is affecting the entire world.”

“I think the majority of people realize climate change will have more and more of an impact on our world,” said Mr. Scott. “I think this survey is important,” he said, noting that Kim Neale, shared climate change co-ordinator for both Billings and Central Manitoulin, developed the survey with guidance and support from the committees and consultant Ethelo. “What the results of this survey will do is show what priorities residents put on climate and provide suggestions of actions we can put in place to support climate change.” 

Ms. Neale told the Recorder that by February 11 they had received over 100 responses. “122 to be exact, with 70 respondents from Billings and 52 from Central Manitoulin and we have also received feedback from five people who have completed the survey. This is more than just a survey; it’s an engagement providing educational materials about our current energy use and how we can try to reduce that and our emissions.” 

Ms. Neale’s job is funded 80 percent by the federal government and 20 percent from the province. “One hundred percent of my salary goes to help the municipalities put together this plan,” she said. Under the program there are 400 other similar positions across the country with both the federal and provincial governments providing the funding. “There is an underlying recognition that governments can’t achieve climate and energy reduction goals without local government plans being in place,” said Ms. Neale. “From the beginning the climate action committees acknowledged this. Once we have the plan in place we can apply to a number of funding programs. That’s kind of an end goal.”

One survey question asks what kind of composting program residents are interested in. In its 2028-2021 strategic plan, Billings included a feasibility study plan for composting. “We’ve been toying with what to do,” she said. “One option is a central facility, although a waste management report prepared by a Manitoulin Municipal Association committee 10 years ago determined that a centrally located composting facility was not likely to be feasible, but much has changed since then. We can’t discount a centralized location now. Other options include a barrel composter for outdoor use; another great initiative for in-home use is the Foodcycler composter. It looks like a breadmaker. Once it’s full you just close the lid and turn it on. Within four to six hours you have compost to put directly on your garden. The resulting compost is so nutrient rich you have to mix it with other soil. Both capture greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would otherwise be released at the landfill. 

“We ask survey respondents to tell us which one they would adopt. We don’t want a compost program that no one uses,” said Ms. Neale. “Across Canada, communities are only diverting 25 percent of food waste from the landfill. By promoting composting we might see an increase in that percentage, but we could get an even higher participation rate if we provide our citizens with at-home composting solutions that are innovative and easier to use.” 

Another option to vote on in the survey is glass recycling. Ms. Neale pointed out that last year a glass pulverizer was on Central Manitoulin’s budget list, but ultimately was not purchased. GLF removed glass from its recycling stream as they were not making money. “There is such a heavy material cost to truck glass off the Island. An Island-based glass recycling solution Island may be the best solution. It would be a partnership opportunity for several communities to participate, involving collection and pulverizing for spreading on landfills. Glass in a landfill doesn’t give off emissions,” she noted. 

She pointed out, “while transporting glass off Island is expensive and is a high emissions activity from transportation, glass in a landfill doesn’t give off emissions. When focusing on waste in community emissions, we can all work together.”

“The CEEP project seeks to make a difference by embedding climate change considerations into everything we do. With the survey results we can make a plan that works for the future,” said Mr. Barker. “We’re not going to change the world overnight. In Billings we have started switching to LED lights and renovations made to the Old Mill building have made it as energy efficient as possible. As we incorporate green energy changes, we want to have the feedback from a good cross section of the community both young and old. We expect there might be pro and negative comments to the climate change question and we’re encouraging as many as possible to take part. If someone can’t access the survey online they can call Ethelo and someone will help them go through it.”

Mr. Barker said originally the survey has gone through several drafts. “By no means is it a difficult survey to complete. We want seasonal and permanent residents to take part. There’s also a place for guests to complete the survey. This will help develop our community action plan that we can incorporate in our asset management plan and give us plans to implement some of the strategies as long as they are cost attainable.”

“The survey will show us the priorities residents put on climate action with suggestions for actions,” said Mr. Scott. “Yes, the survey takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete and if you want to read all supporting materials it would take another 15 minutes.”

The survey is live until February 25 at climatesurvey.ca. Those who need assistance or who don’t have access to a computer can call 705-905-4406 during regular business hours and an Ethelo representative will help them. 

Participants will be entered into a draw for either a backyard barrel composter valued or a Foodcycler to be drawn one week after the survey ends.