Public pressed to think about sustainability

The time is now for Red Deer citizens to start thinking about sustainability and what they can do as individuals and as a community.

The time is now for Red Deer citizens to start thinking about sustainability and what they can do as individuals and as a community.

In 2010, the city will begin developing its municipal sustainability plan and ReThink Red Deer, a group of local citizens interested in smart urban planning, hosted a Citizen Sustainability presentation Tuesday evening to launch public discussion.

“What we’re trying to do now is just educate our members on how to be involved in that process, understand what sustainability is, how it applies to your own life and how we can work together to make sure that when our city is ready to plan for it we’re engaged and involved in the process,” said Rene Michalak, ReThink co-ordinator, at the presentation at Red Deer College that attracted about 15 people.

Citizens have been neglecting nature, taken their quality of life for granted, and that has to change, he said.

“The people have to rise up again and take responsibility for how decisions are made as we live together in cities,” Michalak said.

“It’s basically re-establishing our relationship with what keeps us alive — our land, our water, our air.”

Nina Gales, regional sustainability co-ordinator with Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and manager of corporate affairs with the Town of Olds, said the public has to be involved in creating sustainability plans.

“Citizens know best what kind of place they want to live in,” Gales said.

The more people involved, the more people will become passionate about the plan and the more success a community will have, she said.

About 25 to 30 per cent of Alberta communities have sustainability plans.

Gales said thanks to the plan Olds has put in place, recycling in the town is double the provincial average and 34 per cent of its municipal waste has been diverted due to its residential curbside composting program, a partnership between the town and Olds College.

“We’ve actually exceeded the 50 per cent level of waste diversion and are getting close to about a 70 per cent municipal waste diversion which is considered among the highest in the country.”

Olds is currently creating a demonstration site near its town office to show citizens and developers what sustainability looks like at home, for example, by using solar lights to reduce energy consumption or native plants to conserve water in landscaping.

“We just finished a recycled rubber pathway as the first step. It shows how you can reuse materials.”

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