Climate Action Coaches available to help islanders lower their carbon Footprint

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By ANDREA PALFRAMAN

TRANSITION SALT SPRING

With 250 recommendations for actions we can take as islanders to address the climate crisis, the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Plan can be a bit of an overwhelming read.

Starting in October, Transition Salt Spring will be offering a helping hand to people who want to take action but may not know where to start. With funding support from the Salt Spring Foundation and VanCity, the new Climate Action Coach program was created to put the Plan into action. It will do this by helping islanders access the many rebate programs that reduce emissions and build our community’s resilience in the face of climate change. 

But first, let’s introduce you to our climate action coaches, Rob Lowrie and Maia Carolsfeld.

Maia recently finished her master’s degree in carbon management at the University of Edinburgh. She’s busy putting together communications materials that will introduce islanders to the new program and hopefully help deepen our personal commitments to climate action. 

“I am really excited to be able to take action with Transition Salt Spring as a climate action coach,” says Maia. “I feel that a lot of what can be done in a small community is reflective of what can be done on a global scale. And I think Salt Spring has all of the amazing pieces: this island is a really awesome example for communities everywhere.”

Since development of the climate action coach program got rolling in early August, Rob Lowrie has been busy reaching out to local business owners. “At this stage in my life, I’ve probably created a fairly large carbon footprint,” says Rob.  “I’m committed to working in earnest to work that off, by encouraging others to become more aware and take action — because it’s urgent. We have to address this now. And I feel I have some of the skills to contribute.”

Climate action coaches will offer one-stop shopping for resources available to islanders to reduce their carbon footprint at home and in their businesses. The idea behind the initiative is to provide a central place for islanders to learn about the many regional, provincial and federal programs available. These include rebates to retrofit their homes, add rainwater catchment systems, buy electric vehicles, and if Transition Salt Spring secures the funding, even incentives to change out wood stoves to more efficient models.  

“We act as navigators,” explains Rob, who has decades of experience as a broadcaster. “Often it’s hard for people to invest their time and attention into figuring out what’s even out there. We’re taking that off of their shoulders by helping them get information more quickly and in ways that are easier to understand. We hope this will inspire them to take that next step to actually make the changes they want to make.”

He adds: “One exciting part of the program is Transition’s new pilot rainwater catchment incentive that we are delivering with the proud support of the Capital Regional District and Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance. Here, people can install eligible rainwater catchment systems on their property and get a rebate for a portion of the costs. After a brutal summer drought season, it’s a no-brainer that we should be investing in rooftop rainwater catchment to take the pressure off stressed aquifers.”

Transition Salt Spring is also building relationships with other incentive program managers like those offering significant rebates to install heat pumps. They are also even applying for funding to launch a wood stove upgrade rebate for Salt Springers. Emissions from fossil fuel-based home heating like oil and propane can be reduced 100 per cent by switching to heat pumps and switching out that 20-year-old wood stove for a more efficient, less polluting one that uses firewood more efficiently. 

The climate action coaches are collaborating with the managers of the Clean BC program with their library of incentives for everything from efficient double-pane windows, solar panels, and air sealing — all of which can reduce climate impacts and home-heating costs. 

Transition Salt Spring had a big-sized presence at this year’s fall fair, where islanders met and chatted with our climate action coaches and volunteers.

“Along with all kinds of information for people to take home,” says Rob, “we had a demonstration heat pump, along with a booth where people took photos as a Climate Action Super Hero. We were pretty excited to meet community members and share what we’re learning about all of the opportunities to decrease our environmental footprints and increase our savings.”

One challenge in dealing with such a massive problem as climate change is knowing where to start. Maia recommends the Lighter Footprint app, being developed with the support of VanCity and the BC Institute of Technology.

“It’s an exciting tool that gives you a more localized view of your carbon footprint, as opposed to other tools which tend to use national or international data.” 

A lot of these incentives focus on homeowners, but there are also options for renters within the Climate Action Coach program.

“First of all,” said Rob, “we can introduce you to a whole lot of other people who want to take climate action. And for people with modest incomes, we can point you to BC Hydro’s free energy saving kits that include many household measures you can take, whether it’s water-saving shower heads, kitchen and bathroom faucet aerators, or weather stripping: it’s all in the kit.”

Climate action coaches are also reaching out to local service providers and contractors both on and off the island to assemble a list of businesses that are available to help islanders reduce the juice and their footprints. Qualified contractors or installers are invited to contact Maia and Rob.

“One of the questions that comes up again and again in our outreach is, ‘What’s the point?’ says Maia. “People wonder why individual action is important when big companies are responsible for doing the most to change the climate. But, your own individual influence actually goes a lot farther than you think. 

“Climate change is a massive systemic problem. As with all systems, there’s a lot of little cogs. And so an individual is as much part of the system as the big players. I know that my influence impacts the people around me: what I choose to do influences the people that I speak with and influences my family, my friends, their acquaintances, and it ripples out from there. So I would say ‘Don’t underestimate your individual impact.’”

To contact Maia and Rob, send an email to climatecoach@transitionsaltspring.com. You can also register for our upcoming Climate Action Coach program kick-off webinar called All About Heat Pumps, delivered in collaboration with CleanBC, by going to https://bit.ly/3hpvBcX. 

One Cool Island is a regular series produced by Transition Salt Spring on how we can all respond to the climate crisis together. Andrea Palframan is a volunteer communications contributor for TSS. To support our work and read the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Plan, go to transitionsaltspring.com.  

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