Can Ottawa be the Greenest Capital City?
On November 15, 2016, the OCED hosted a panel discussion on the Greenest Capital Challenge. The event was designed to stimulate discussion about the potential for Ottawa to compete in both a North American context and eventually an international context to be recognized as one of the “greenest” capital cities.
What is the Greenest Capital Challenge?
On several occasions this past summer the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change and the MP for Ottawa Centre, has challenged the community to organize behind a call to become the greenest capital city. In late July several organizations, including Invest Ottawa, the EcoDistrict, Ottawa Tourism and the City of Ottawa, came together to start thinking about what this could mean and how we might start thinking about this challenge.
For many this represents a great opportunity to rally the whole region behind a common cause with many potential benefits. In our first meeting we discussed how it could be part of destination development and a visitor experience. We also considered its potential positive impact on economic development and employee retention. And of course it goes without saying that we all recognize the environmental benefits that directly connect to healthier communities, socially vibrant places, less car congestion and better green spaces.
The challenge moving forward is to get people on board. It will require support from businesses, organizations, our higher education facilities, governments, utilities and community groups.
One group working to think about the issues related to this challenge is a class of master’s students from the University of Ottawa working on environmental sustainability They are completing a class project on the Greenest Capital and they are looking at five key areas: measurement; greenhouse gases; water; waste; and governance.
The Panel Discussion
Working with the EcoDistrict, the University of Ottawa students organized a series of questions for the panel discussion held last week. Meredith Brown of the Ottawa Riverkeeper; Graham Saul, the Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa; and Tobi Nussbaum, Councillor City of Ottawa each took turns providing insight into the issues facing the two cities of Ottawa and Gatineau.
Ms. Brown discussed the river and the need to focus on all releases, not just from Gatineau and Ottawa but from the whole watershed. Mr. Saul looked at greenhouse gases and connected them to efforts led by Ecology Ottawa to support Complete Streets programs and bylaws, and to plant trees as part of the Tree Ottawa campaign. Mr. Nussbaum stressed the need for better land use planning in both communities and mentioned a recent article in the Huffington Post that outlines 10 ideas for building better communities.
The panel was held at Hub Ottawa and was sold out. The audience was very pleased with the idea exchange and is looking forward to learning more about next steps on the Greenest Capital Challenge. EcoDistrict organizers hinted at next steps to follow in January, after the completion of a small research piece.
In the meantime, the students from the University of Ottawa returned to their research with fresh perspective, ready to complete their final project.