Sunday, July 21, 2024

Making Meaford Greener Has Required Champions

By Stephen Vance, Editor

Meaford is about to reduce its streetlight energy consumption by more than 60 percent as they get set for the installation of new LED lighting. Not only will the conversion to LED lighting save energy costs, but it will also reduce streetlight maintenance costs by 80 percent. Talk about a bright idea: who says going green doesn’t pay?

The municipality has 720 streetlight fixtures that currently gobble up nearly $95,000 per year in electricity costs. After the conversion those hydro bills will drop to roughly $39,000 per year.

Even better is, although the project will cost more than $400,000, it won’t really cost any of us a penny, as the repayment of the loan over ten years will essentially come from the energy cost savings.

This municipality made a commitment a few years ago to become a greener community, and we are certainly moving in that direction with projects like the streetlight conversion, but it hasn’t always been easy to have the green voice heard at council.

Much of Meaford’s progress to date can be attributed to the efforts of former councillor Lynda Stephens, who for many years was a significant enough thorn in the side of her fellow councillors that every now and then progress would be made. Stephens championed the growth and expansion of our recycling and compost programs, but championing also meant having to roll up her sleeves and doing a lot of the work at public events, to ensure that refuse was being appropriately sorted and the public was slowly but surely educated. Stephens most certainly caught an eye-roll or two from her fellow councillors, but eye-rolls or not, the results of all of that needling and prodding were impressive, as for the last few years Meaford has been among the top municipalities in the entire province for waste diversion.

Stephens lost her reelection bid in last year’s municipal election, but councillor Jaden Calvert has assumed the role as council’s environmental and social conscience.

Like Stephens, Calvert raises issues that might not otherwise be considered by council. When council debated allowing ATVs on our roads, Calvert raised questions about fuel emissions; when council was discussing the merits of a proposed indoor pool partnership with a local condo board, Calvert asked questions about salt water pools compared to traditional pools. He doesn’t always win over his fellow councillors, but he raises the questions, often provides some important facts or context, and he is persistent; and persistence is perhaps the most important quality to possess if your mission is to be the environmental and social conscience of a small town council.

I know from experience that it isn’t always easy to be an alternate voice. It isn’t always easy to find the energy to fight against the tide. You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in your issues, and you have to be willing to be chided, mocked, or outright vilified. Fortunately, we’ve had persistent environmental and social champions on our councils here in Meaford, and even over the course of the last seven years that I’ve written about Meaford politics, you can see the shift in tone amongst councillors and municipal staff. Enviro-friendly initiatives have become the norm, and receive less resistance than in past years.

Meaford’s council should be applauded for approving the LED streetlight conversion, as they should be applauded for a host of recent enviro-smart initiatives, but the unsung heroes like Stephens and Calvert who are willing to be those annoying needles in the sides of their fellow councillors deserve a standing ovation.

We’ve seen that environmentally responsible projects can work all around – they can save money, and reduce environmental impact. We’ve seen that the sky doesn’t fall if every now and then you listen to one of those enviro-freaks, so let’s build on that: for our pocketbooks, for our air, for our water, for our children’s future.

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