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Are We Getting Any Greener?

Pizza, restaurant, Kingston, OntarioIt has been quite some time since I last took the stage atop my environmental soapbox, but with news of Kingston’s green-ness spreading far and wide, the time has come for a brief, yet honest discussion about our stature as a sustainable community.  In a star studded, green carpet affair, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently awarded Kingston with a Sustainability Award in the category of water.  The City of Kingston’s website lists rural participation in “Our Well Aware” workshops as the reason behind the shared honour.  Even so, in light of the extremely poor quality of Kingston’s beaches this summer, as well as the infamous gas guzzling Poker Run, the Limestone City’s ability to manage water resources is also a contentious issue.  So with all possible puns intended, should we liken our sustainable achievements to a glass that’s half empty, or one that’s half full?

More recently, Kingston was named a finalist for a Communities In Bloom award, which recognizes sustainable achievements across a broad list of categories.  Sue Hitchcock, the coordinator of Kingston’s Communities in Bloom program, outlines why Kingston is being considered as a serious contender for this year’s award:

Our entry was substantial. Kingston has so much to brag about when it comes to it’s sustainable development efforts, including: building on brownfields as we did with the K-Rock Centre, our very successful new Green Bin program, our strong community partnerships represented on bodies like the Kingston Environmental Advisory Forum and FOCUS Kingston – our list of achievements in this area is extremely long.

On the contrary, the K-Rock Centre design should have achieved platinum LEED certification, and I have recently noticed fewer neighbours placing their green bins out on collection day.  If I had my druthers, attaining the sustainability crown should require Kingston to put forth considerably more effort than we have thus far.   Where are our recreational waterfront paths, bike lanes, drive thru bans, green parking, pedestrian friendly streets?  How can we achieve higher participation in recycling programs, car pooling, public transportation, and environmentally-oriented home upgrades?  Does the average Kingstonian even care about sustainability?

If we truly want Kingston to be the most sustainable city in Canada, it is going to require a massive buy in across the community.  While I’m not opposed to celebrating our progress, or blind to the wind turbines and numerous other projects on the horizon, the Limestone City must strive to be a much deeper shade of green.  Are you ready for a greener Kingston?  Thanks to southernpixel for today’s image of the Jones Valley Urban Farm.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

4 thoughts on “Are We Getting Any Greener?

  • September 24, 2009 at 4:53 pm
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    Oh, indeed. Hear hear, etc. There’s no way that Kingston is “sustainable,” and if it’s the greenest in some categories, it only means that everywhere else should be really worried. Our transit is abysmal, urban sprawl continuing apace, building standards (not a municipal thing, to be sure, but) aren’t nearly strict enough – simple things like hot water recycling and gray water reusage, to name a few. New homes are cheap cheap cheap and leak heat like sieves. New subdivision design doesn’t include things like bike shelters, central recycling facilities, etc. The green bin program was a fabulous START, but we’re certainly not ahead of anywhere else in that regard. The waterfront is a joke, and you only have to look at the new Kingston Center to see the commitment to accessible pedestrian-friendly construction (none of the handicapped curbs they promised were ever implemented, for example.)

    Oh, I do go on… :)

  • September 24, 2009 at 5:52 pm
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    I think Kingston and Kingston-ites need to have a serious discussion related to urban planning. Many cities (Portland, Oregon, and many others) have started to bring back the ideas of dense urban centres that are both bicycle friendly and served by either Trolley-Buses (read: electric buses) or Trams (or Fuel Cell buses as in Vancouver). Personally the new developments near the highway are just more sprawl, a cookie-cutter car-intensive development. If we really want to be green, it needs to start in the Planning Office.

    Also, please see: Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, Ontario Smart Growth Network, and this article on combating urban sprawl.

  • September 24, 2009 at 6:26 pm
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    Leadership is an important part of this too. Just in the last week or two I’ve seen many police cars and City of Kingston vehicles idling for more than the 3 minute allotted period. It’s also hard to miss the fact that there are still very, very few recycling bins downtown. I think there is one on Wellington St. next to the parking garage and maybe a few at Confederation Basin. These two things seem so basic, it’s kind of embarrassing.

  • September 24, 2009 at 6:37 pm
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    @Renee Agree with you on the new home builds issue. I think that the city is afraid that new home prices would increase if greener practices were enforced, and then we would essentially be looked at as a place that’s too difficult to develop. Closed for business? Still though, I would rather spend a bit extra to buy a green home, than have to retrofit through gov’t programs. Don’t get me started on the limitations of the programs…too late. My uncle and aunt recently built a new home in the area and were denied subsidies towards a geo-thermal heating system because it was a new build. Their contractor explained that it would be cheaper for them to build and install baseboard heaters, then tear them out after a month, apply for the gov’t credit and go geo thermal. Ridiculous.

    I should point out that a friend of mine did her masters thesis on how the Kingston Centre should be developed. She now refuses to drive by the place…it is so wrong for so many reasons. Hardly accessible, let alone sustainable. I wonder what genius plan they have for transforming the south west corner?

    @4jeg Thanks for the links. Very good stuff there.

    @Danielle Police are immune to idling laws, speed limits and rules of the road in general. Forget driving and talking on a cell phone, our police are surfing the Internet from laptops while they’re driving.

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