Thinking green does not cost anything. As Denny Richard, Director of Sustainable Development for the Town of Bouctouche, puts it, “it’s just another way of thinking, new criteria for doing things.”
“Thinking Green” is the motto of Bouctouche’s green plan. Going through the process of creating this plan brings together representatives with many viewpoints, from youth, to business and industry to the general population. Uniting new perspectives creates new ideas and priorities, albeit with limited financial and human resources. The benefits can be astounding.
Bouctouche’s recent environmental history reaches back to the 1990s when the natural feature of their 12-kilometre sand dune was highlighted. The protection of the dune became a strong symbol for the population,” says Denny Richard. The Irving Eco-Park Interpretive Centre and a two kilometre elevated boardwalk were constructed. Land was reserved for parking and thousands of people began flocking to the beach. Actions to reduce B&Bs and inns environmental impact were implemented.
Bouctouche’s new path of ecotourism, now the town’s economic driver, was under way.
What distinguishes a green plan from a standard municipal plan?
“The green plan,” explains Mathieu D’Astous, environmental consultant and developer of Bouctouche’s new plan, “respects the principles of sustainability, looking to create a balance or harmony with the environment. Its goals are the social, environmental and economic benefits, basically a triple bottom line.” Part of the process of developing a green plan is to bring new awareness to the citizens while simultaneously getting feedback and suggestions to build the plan. To that end, public consultations with a dozen community groups, schools and public meetings were held.
The most difficult challenge is to change people’s habits to live more lightly on the planet. Public events celebrating Earth Day and an Eco-Festival (this year Sept. 18-20) and other activities attracted the same small segment of the population, observed Denny Richard. So, he obtained funding through the NB Environmental Trust Fund and Young Canada Works to hire a student. Last summer, she went door-to-door, meeting the residents and giving out a kit. The Eco-kit contained two reusable bags, a compact fluorescent bulb and info about the separation of waste and composting. Information about Efficiency NB’s energy audits was included too, A new website, the Green Tool Box, also has lots of tips. The town puts an accent on events gathering people together and promoting a sense of belonging and pride in their community. Continuing education of the mayor, councilors and employees of the town is done, and of course, the citizens.
By the way, Denny consulted Blackle, a new search engine by Google which is more energy efficient due to the black screen.
The green plan recommended an improvement of the urban forest. Limited human resources lead to creative thinking, resulting in a partnership between the town and the Université de Moncton Edmundston campus’ Forestry faculty. A student forester developed a 20-year plan to improve the green infrastructure. Phase 1 of the plan to increase biodiversity and to ensure succession (new generations of trees) is under way.
Another partnership between the town and the K.C. Irving Chair of Sustainable Development, U de M, was created for land use planning. An inventory of fragile ecosystems and habitat mapping will help better assess where and what future development should occur.
Transportation: The council wants to look into a shuttle service for commuters to Moncton and, during the day, use the same service to bring ecotourists to Bouctouche.
Economy: energy efficiency
The municipality began a sweep of their operations. Energy audits resulted in the installation of heat pumps in some municipal buildings with a pay back time of three to five years; and $10,000 has been saved annually by conservation at their sewage lagoon. An investment in LED Christmas lights, payback in two years, reduced the electricity bill from $600 to $17. Signs describe what is green and what is blue for the separation of wastes.
Internally, a greenhouse gas inventory has been completed: Step 1 of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Partners for Climate Protection five-step program. Steps 2 and 3 will set targets for GHG reduction and make an action plan to implement them.
Eco farming at the outskirts of Bouctouche is on the rise. Produce is brought to the popular Farmer’s Market each Saturday.
The council has displayed enough interest in wind energy for the town’s self-sufficiency to have secured funding for a study, gathering wind regime data for one year. The results will be the potential energy and financial feasibility of such a venture. This is another partnership with the FCM, the NB Environmental Trust Fund and the K.C. Irving Chair of Sustainable Development.
The goal of the municipality of Bouctouche is to become a truly sustainable community, preserving the natural environment. The municipal leaders are eager to innovate and are always looking for new ideas to make Bouctouche a more resilient coastal town.
n Beth McLaughlin, of Moncton, has a Masters degree in Environmental Studies and is a retired teacher. Her series will appear in this space every Wednesday.