Enviro policies that don't break the bank
There are plenty of good environmental policy ideas out there that cost next to nothing to implement and could please voters across the political spectrum.
So why aren’t we hearing more about such “green” ideas during the election? Who knows? But if you like any of the following policies, try asking your local candidates where they stand.
Let’s start with 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani, a Pittsburgh junior high school student who came up with a pretty novel science fair project. Suvir wanted to find a way to reduce the amount of ink and paper his school division used. After pondering the situation, he came up with an ingenious, but simple solution: change the school division’s standard font.
Suvir calculated that if his school division chose a less ink-intensive font – “Garamond” – they could save $21,000 annually. Shortly afterwards, he calculated that if the United States federal government, and state governments across the country, merely changed their fonts to Garamond, they could save a staggering $370 million each year.
Imagine how much Canadian governments could save by copying this idea.
The next great initiative is from Japan. Back in 2005, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wanted to reduce energy consumption in an effort to meet greenhouse gas emission targets.
As Japanese businessmen were known to wear full suits throughout the summer – even on the hottest days – many businesses cranked their air conditioners to compensate. This led to more electricity production from the nation’s coal-fired power plants.
To address the problem, Koizumi held a press conference in a light dress shirt (no jacket and tie) and encouraged businesses to follow the government’s lead and introduce a more casual dress code during the hot summer months.
The initiative was a success. A Ministry of Environment report noted that 32.7% of businesses surveyed reduced their air conditioner use during the period. As the government also reduced its air conditioner usage, it saved a small fortune on electricity bills.
Finally, consider an example from Ottawa. Since 2007, the City of Ottawa has designated two “giveaway weekends” each year. During these weekends, citizens put unwanted items – that still have life in them – on the curb with a sign that says “free.”
So if you had an extra chair or lamp that were in good condition, but you no longer wanted them, you could haul them to the curb and someone could take the items. Whatever items people didn’t pick up, you would then put back inside.
In 2009, I recommended to Winnipeg’s mayor that he should copy the idea. Not only did Winnipeg get on board with the initiative, Halifax and several other communities have also followed suit. Giveaway weekends not only keep tons of perfectly good items out of landfills, they’re great for low-income people and deal seekers.
Imagine if the federal government designated two national giveaway weekends each year. For the cost of a government press conference to announce the idea and the time it takes to post a few guidelines on the government’s website, Canada could have the largest and most cost-effective recycling program in the world.
Hopefully you can see there are plenty of “green” ideas that governments could pursue that don’t cost taxpayers a lot of “green.” With any luck, whoever forms government in October will pursue these types of ideas.
Craig works for the Manning Centre in Calgary and is the Author of The Government Wears Prada
This column was published across Sun newspapers on October 13, 2015