Together, We can Choose to Be Sustainable

By Reed Kirkpatrick

On June 5, the James Bay Sustainability Commons (JBSC) launched their website and blog at a well-attended public meeting held at Moka House, Shoal Point Fisherman's Wharf. Hosted by members Colleen Woods, Linda Chan, Bill Wilson, Stan Horner, Joyce Jason, and Fred and Heather Gonneville, they described in detail the mandate, mission statement, website layout and navigation, and guiding principles, while guest speaker Kris Obrigewitsch, of R~Earth, introduced us to composting as a landfill diversion strategy.

Inspired by a discussion course on Choices for Sustainable Living offered by The Canadian Earth Institute, an affiliate of the Northwest Earth Institute in Portland, the mandate of the JBSC is to promote environmentally sustainable choices in James Bay. While a sense of community is at the core of all efforts to strengthen and build community, a sustainable community must constantly adjust to meet the current economic and social needs of its residents while ensuring that adequate resources remain for future generations.

Media headlines and an abundance of scientific research papers published in peer-reviewed journals attest to our changing climate: the 4,500 year-old Ward Hunt Ice Shelf is disintegrating; the permafrost is melting; retired entomologist Bob Duncan is growing lemons in North Saanich — they are flourishing; our polar bears’ world is disappearing; BC’s forests are now a net source of carbon, not a sink. And in 2005, 1,300 experts from 95 countries released the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment warning, “a majority of the life-supporting ecosystems on our planet are under severe stress.” To further elevate this sense of urgency, Dr. Andrew Weaver recently expressed in the Times Colonist that, “We know the climate has continued to warm…it takes time for people to wake up and smell the roses.” The University of Victoria climatologist and member of the shared 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also warned in a March 2007 Winnipeg lecture that “massive climate change can only be averted if we reduce our CO2 emissions by 60 – 90% by 2050.”

The magnitude and accelerating pace of these large-scale climate changes can understandably fuel environmental fatigue: but community-based proactive initiatives can significantly offset this fatigue by focusing on local results-based projects that reduce our carbon footprint, and by promoting neighbourhood climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Guided by the principles of Reduce, Recycle, Repair and Re-Use, the JBSC will engage the community and raise awareness of the importance of practicing and learning about sustainability by developing an online resource, highlighting local sustainability projects and initiatives, and supporting sustainability by collaborating with individuals and other local or external organizations with compatible goals. The JBSC website will provide a forum where local citizens can find or make suggestions for relevant resources related to the practice of sustainability in the James Bay area and post their own sustainability projects. This online resource will also allow the community to participate in discussions related to sustainability, find out about future speakers or tours, and provide other opportunities to network. Included among the JBSC local sustainability initiatives are: growing and buying food locally, conserving water, buying or consigning second hand goods, selecting goods with less packaging that are produced with a minimum of energy consumption, biking, car-sharing, saving seeds for future crops, removing lawns to grow food, composting kitchen waste, and repairing items for re-use or trade.

According to guest speaker Kris Obrigewitsch of R~Earth, “One of the cornerstones of sustainable communities is the ability to effectively deal with organic waste. With landfills producing 7 – 10% of North America’s greenhouse gases,” composting not only diverts organic waste from landfill, it provides a valuable resource that can be used to produce power and create biofuels. The Hartland landfill receives 40,000 tonnes of organic waste annually: 2.5 Kg per week for every CRD resident. If we all composted in James Bay, this would represent a diversion of approximately 28,000 Kg per week.

Two curbside collection pilot projects in Oak Bay and View Royal, which began in November 2006, have been very successful, diverting 10 tonnes per week from landfill. In 2006, The Regional District of Nanaimo legislated a commercial ban on organics in landfill, as have Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa and Edmonton. The CRD’s waste diversion goal of 60% by 2010 currently stands at 33%.

For more information about the James Bay Sustainability Commons, please contact or visit their website at:

Please note that all are welcome to attend the next JBSC presentation July 10, 7:30 – 8:15 p.m. at James Bay New Horizons, 234 Menzies Street: Guest Speaker TBA. For more information please contact or Linda at 380-6383. Level Ground Trading will provide Fair trade coffee.

International Composting Corporation:
Composting for Apartment Dwellers:
Canadian Earth Institute:
Centre for Sustainable Community Development:

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