Interview: Jay Stanford, City of London, ON
FCM spoke with Jay Stanford, director of environmental, fleet and waste services with the City of London, to find out more about the city's recent sustainability initiatives and hear about some of the key projects to be showcased at the 2015 Sustainable Communities Conference.
FCM: First, tell us how would you define a "green" or sustainable community?
Jay Stanford: A green community recognizes and demonstrates that environmental sustainability is as important as the economy, health, culture and diversity of a community. A green community is healthier, more affordable, and is a more desirable place to live.
FCM: Could you give us some background on sustainable development initiatives in the City of London?
Jay Stanford: Sustainable development is increasingly embedded into our policies, projects and programs. This stems from efforts in the early and mid-1990s, when we undertook significant community engagement as part of our Official Plan, and developed a formal Environmental Plan. London also created one of the first municipal plans on air quality. These fundamental pieces have evolved over the years and have supported two recent initiatives: the City of London Strategic Plan (2011-2014), which includes sustainability outcomes for water, wastewater, transportation, solid waste, and the natural environment; and the newly drafted London Plan that will guide city growth for the next 20 years. Thousands of Londoners provided input on this plan over a two-year period, as part the Rethink London process.
FCM: Can you tell us more about the city's overall approach to managing environmental initiatives?
Jay Stanford: London's approach focuses on both the natural and built environments, and these two areas are linked through studies, programming and actions in several service areas, such as environmental and engineering services, planning, and parks and recreation. Community and business collaboration is essential to planning, creativity and successful implementation.
FCM: The City of London recently achieved Milestone 5 in the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program. Can you describe the plans and actions, and some key programs or projects that helped the city get there?
Jay Stanford: London joined the PCP Program in 1994, and we reached Milestone 5 in 2013. Our greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts can be traced back to the Vision '96 — Planning for Tomorrow activities and, more recently, to the 2003 Air Quality in London — Moving Forward Locally plan. In July 2014, council approved our most recent Community Energy Action Plan. Reducing energy use and costs is the driver for many of our initiatives — residents and businesses spent $1.5 billion on energy in 2013. Our projects include a building retrofit program, a landfill gas capture system, LED traffic signals, and partnerships with local utilities and homebuilders to help residents lighten their carbon footprint
FCM: FCM looks forward to visiting London for the 2015 Sustainable Communities Conference. What experiences and achievements will you share with delegates?
Jay Stanford: We've been working closely with FCM to create an interactive, collaborative and thought provoking 2015 SCC program. Our aim is to demonstrate how a number of sustainability plans can be implemented quickly and can operate with a philosophy of continuous improvement. We believe that London's initiatives are practical and transferable to other communities. Delegates can see a preview of some of these projects in our 2011-2014 Report to the Community, particularly in the sections titled "A Green and Growing City" and "A Sustainable Infrastructure."
FCM: In developing and implementing sustainability plans, how did you engage the community and how did they respond?
Jay Stanford: The budget, resources and desires for increased community engagement has grown dramatically over the last 10 years. Everyone recognizes the need and, most importantly, the real value of consultation and collaboration. Traditional methods such as meetings, workshops and displays have expanded to include innovative online tools, focus groups, charettes, tools for community groups, social media, educational forums, and our mobile environmental awareness centre, CityGreen. Overall, the community appreciates that staff are more accessible and the response has been really positive.
FCM: What were some of the challenges you encountered along the way, and how were they addressed? What are some lessons learned throughout the process?
Jay Stanford: We've learned that community engagement is both rewarding and resource intensive. More and more, public outreach happens on evenings and weekends and competes with busy lifestyles. We've got to seek out our audience, rather than expect them to come to us. Festivals, events and community functions are a great way for us to connect with citizens. We also see the benefits of reaching residents and businesses online and through social media, so we've invested more and more in short videos, photographs and other content over the last five years. One of the most critical roles that the city plays is to "connect the dots" between our local initiatives and our community stakeholders.
FCM: What role did partnerships and networks play in helping to achieve sustainability goals?
Jay Stanford: Partnerships and networks have been at the forefront of developing and implementing our plans and programs for years. A guiding principle for the Community Energy Action Plan was that it should be the community's plan for London, not the City of London's plan for the community, and we followed this approach over the three-year development phase. We take great pride in working side-by-side with residents, visitors, students, employees and employers. Our London Clean & Green, for example, started in 1996 with about 30 volunteers, who spent three hours cleaning the city. It now runs for about 70 days in the spring, with thousands of volunteers and over 40 businesses cleaning and greening London.
FCM: What are the anticipated environmental, economic and social benefits of London's environmental initiatives?
Jay Stanford: That's a big question! Focusing on our Community Energy Action Program (CEAP), we aim to generate cost savings from energy efficiency; earn revenue from local green energy production, and create jobs through product and service providers. As for environmental benefits, we are targeting GHG emission reductions that align with the Province of Ontario's goal of a 15 per cent reduction by 2020 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2050, from 1990 levels. The plan outlines the actions to be taken by the city and many of our key energy stakeholders over the next five years. If London were to use energy at "business-as-usual" levels (2010 rate of energy use per person), total energy costs could reach over $1.9 billion by 2018. By comparison, in implementing the CEAP, London's total energy costs could drop by more than $250 million per year by 2018.