Thoughts on Green talks at the Burnaby Board of Trade

I volunteered last week to help collect public input on the City of Burnaby’s draft Environmental Sustainability Strategy. The strategy has been in the works since early 2012, and is being overseen by the mayor and various topic-specific steering committees. On Tuesday night, planning staff set up displays at the Burnaby Board of Trade’s Green Talks event, and we volunteers went around with iPads encouraging attendees to complete an online survey about the strategy. If you live, work, or go to school in Burnaby, I suggest you take the opportunity to provide your input, which you can do here until May 31.

I volunteered to help with collecting input on the strategy because I’m interested in urban environmental issues and thought I could learn something by participating. That’s already turned out to be true, because one of the benefits of volunteering at this particular event was getting to listen to the Green Talks speakers for free.

Julia Smith, co-proprietor of Urban Digs (a newish farm in Burnaby’s Big Bend area) was one of the speakers I enjoyed most.  Julia emphasized her commitment to animal welfare and explained the different ways she tries to walk her sustainability talk. She raises pigs and ducks fed on organic-only waste produce collected from the farm and local wholesalers (no commercial feed). The farm also has laying chickens and produces a wide variety of organic vegetables. This summer, Urban Digs has a farm stand that’s open to the public on Thursdays from 1 to 6 pm. Julia’s talk made me curious so I later visited Urban Digs with a friend to buy some veggies. Julia invited us to say hello to the animals while we were there.


Other interesting speakers and projects included CowPower, an enterprise that supplies renewable electricity to BC Hydro using cow manure from an Abbotsford farm, BCIT’s Rivers Institute and Left Coast Naturals, a Burnaby-based company that manufactures and distributes organic bulk food and brands.

Aside from the speakers, volunteering at the event also left me thinking about the physical diversity and size of Burnaby, and the challenges that poses when drafting an environmental strategy. A tricky business when your planning boundaries encompass dense residential and commercial neighbourhoods such as Metrotown, as well as farms, industrial areas, salmon-bearing streams, Burnaby and Deer Lakes, Burnaby Mountain, and the Fraser River foreshore.

It also made me want to know more about municipal environmental strategies. How common are they? Do all the Metro Vancouver municipalities have one? How do they compare? What metrics do they use? It would be interesting, for instance, to compare Burnaby’s strategy, once it’s done, to Vancouver’s Greenest City Strategy, or to Surrey’s equivalent (assuming it has one).

It’s all making me wish I’d signed up for the course on urban sustainability my department (SFU Urban Studies) offered this summer. But since I didn’t, I’ll just add these questions to my long list of things I’d like to research. Maybe something to follow up on in a future post…

Kudos to the Burnaby Board of Trade for organizing a stimulating event.




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