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Vancouver's Greenest City Action Team Releases Recommendations

By Roger Valdez

44 recommendations to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world.

Vancouver, BC’s Greenest City Action Team—which includes Sightline board member Gordon Price convened by Mayor Gregor Robertson last week revealed its “Urgent Quick Start Recommendations.

At first I thought this was going to be a laundry list of boring policies with a lot of foot notes. Instead, the recommendations, developed ahead of the 2010 Olympic Games, are kind of a catalog of interesting ideas to make cities more sustainable. Vancouver’s goal: to become the Greenest City on Earth by 2020.

I won’t criticize the document for not addressing BC’s intense election battle going on right now and the possibility that BC’s best-in-the-world cap and trade program may be central in determining winners and losers.

Instead I will call out a few of the ideas I hope Vancouver will follow up on between now and 2020:

An adaptive street LED street light program. Street lighting is really important for compact communities providing a much needed sense of security and safety for residents. But all those lights burn up a lot of energy. I had the good fortune to visit the Lumec lighting lab in Quebec several years ago. They have a lighting fixture that can save up to 50 percent on energy use. Energy saving lighting is a win-win.

Priority permitting process for green buildings. This is an interesting idea that could be yet another incentive for encouraging retrofits and green development.

Make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. There is a whole list of ideas here from reducing speed limits for cars to establishing exclusive bike corridors in the city’s core. When I went to school at the University of California Santa Barbara there were dedicated corridors – bike freeways. You could stand near by and hear the hum of the bike wheels during rush hour. Canada is already a leader in making biking a priority. I hope Vancouver will test out this idea.

Create a public bike sharing program. Bike sharing has worked in Europe and might even be catching on in the United States.Vancouver is a city that could make this work and perhaps learn enough to help start programs in Seattle and persuade Portland to restart the program they put on hold last year.

Create an edible landscaping policy. I love this idea. I don’t know how it solves climate change but it certainly would be nice to have breakfast on the way to work just by stopping by a few hedges and trees. The City of Issaquah, WA, has already implemented this on Gilman Boulevard and offers tours.

The Quick Start Recommendations are truly an ambitious set of ideas. The next step is to make some of them happen in Vancouver and then replicate the best ones throughout Cascadia.

This piece originally appeared in Sightline Institute's blog, The Daily Score.

Photo credit: flickr/flequi, Creative Commons License.

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So nice to see some clear & realistic task-oriented solutions peppered throughout! I was also excited to see the little shout-out to the plans for high speed rail to connect Vancouver with Portland and Seattle - keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

Posted by: Heidi G on 9 May 09

I'm confused as to why you don't see an edible landscape as relating to climate change. I usually think of Worldchanging as a team of system thinkers looking at all the interconnections of our actions. With an edible landscape people can have access to food that doesn't have to be shipped thousands of miles to reach them. This not only impacts the use of fuel and thus climate change, but also relates to social justice in that it increases who can have access to high quality fresh food while also increasing the biodiversity of the urban landscape which is a great thing in otherwise rather inhospitable concrete landscapes. All these things relate to climate change.

Way to go Vancouver.

Posted by: Deanna Lloyd on 11 May 09

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