Pathway 4 in Profile: Easing Climate Change

By Riley Braun and Bruce Chenuz

When you think about sustainability, one of the most important concepts is recognizing how connected we all are. None of us live or act in total isolation.  In one way or another, we are all connected to each other, and our actions often have far-reaching effects.

Pathway 4 is focused on how we can each play a role in protecting our planet.

Pathway 4:  We contribute to the solution on climate change

Target:  By 2029, community greenhouse gas emissions are decreased by 30% from 2009 levels.

Climate change (or global warming) is a term used to refer to changes in our modern climate that can be caused by natural processes or human behavior and activities. Pathways 4 focuses on the human influences that affect climate change – such as transportation and solid waste – as well as actions that impact climate change through natural processes – things like increasing the number of trees and shrubs planted in the community.

Going Green

Local groups like Branches and Banks and the Cochrane Community Garden Society are doing their part to contribute to the solution on climate change.  Over the years, Branches and Banks volunteers have planted almost 32,000 trees along the banks of Cochrane’s rivers in an effort to restore and protect the environment. This natural approach to carbon capture can make a real difference for the planet.

The Value of Recycling

The Recycling Depot in Cochrane provides a way for all Cochrane and area residents to play a part.  Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, the Depot offers a convenient way to reduce our negative environmental impact.

Items that can be taken to the Recycling Depot include:

  • Glass
  • Grass and leaves (June – September)
  • Metal
  • Milk containers (if non-refundable)
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Polystyrene (Styrofoam)
  • Bikes
  • Clothing
  • Eye glasses
  • Inkjet cartridges
  • Automotive antifreeze
  • Motor oil, containers and filters
  • Electronics

Go Natural With Xeriscaping

In Cochrane, xeriscaping is becoming an increasingly popular option for people who want to protect our environment and conserve our resources.  Since April 17-23 is National Soil Conservation Week, and planting season is just around the corner, it’s a good time to think about what we grow and how it affects our environment here and around the world.

Bow Point Nursery stands out for its commitment to sustainability. It was started over 20 years ago out of a need to provide the area with plants that could thrive in Alberta’s harsh climate and limit the use of resources. Ken Wright began the nursery under the mission of providing only native plants, grown from native, locally collected seed. This practice saves water, protects the environment, and makes nature function more efficiently.

Xeriscaping in Cochrane

Xeriscaping in Cochrane

Ken urges growers to “take a leap of faith” when taking the next step in growing plants. Most people water too much, which is often bad for plants and a waste of resources. Many growers go to great lengths to maintain their yards through pruning, watering, fertilizing, and killing unwanted pests. Ken wants people to “relax and enjoy” plant life. If plants can’t survive in their natural conditions, they are not suitable to grow. This way, growers don’t waste time on plants that may die in a harsh climate.

Also, the fact that native plants resist insects, disease and weeds makes them a more suitable fit than imported plants that are more prone to problems. He also points out that less grass means less water and less time spent mowing.

Located about 25 km southeast of Cochrane at 244034 Range Rd 32, Bow Point Nursery likes to think long term.  As a result, they like to sell plants that can even outlive the planter. Some of these plants are Pines (Coniferous), Dwarf Paskapoo (since these outlive the Poplar, which also needs a lot of water) and Dogwood. All of these plants never need to be watered. They often have a life span of up to 100 years or more. An example of this is seen at Crowsnest Pass, where the Limber Pines have been estimated to be more than 500 years old.

How is it that these native plants do not need any water? How is this possible? The answer is in our soil. In Cochrane the soil is mostly made of clay. Due to clay’s natural traits, it is full of moisture and does not need extra water. The native plants can draw the moisture and water from rainfall to make up any water that it may require. This is where you need to trust and simply stop watering. In the long run the native plants will be better off, since watering them often dwarfs growth.

What is considered native? Ken says that any plant that is currently growing within 100 kilometres of the Bow Point Nursery can be considered a native plant.

Native plants do not need water and are more durable than plants introduced from other places. Also, in most situations they are around the same cost as introduced plants. Which poses questions such as: How much time and money are you spending to maintain your introduced plants? How often do you have to water your plants?

The Town of Cochrane has set out guidelines for native plant growth. At least a quarter of new growth in residential areas is required to be from native sources. All growth in commercial green space must be from native sources.  Besides the natural strength they hold, native plants give animals shelter and provide them with a food source. This promotes a healthy and strong ecosystem.

Native plant growth is also important in controlling pests and building a strong environment. These plants help to control the spread of weeds and provide a great way to preserve and enhance nature without having to use harmful chemicals. Native plants can help sustain Cochrane’s beauty and ensure that agriculture is not hurt by the spread of harmful weeds.

As a leading source for native plants and sustainable ideas in the Cochrane area, people wanting to pursue better choices for the environment should contact Bow Point Nursery. The success of the nursery is an example of how looking ahead and at the bigger picture will lead to a better Cochrane in years to come.

You can read more about Bow Point Nursery’s work in two recent profiles about the company:  Bow Point Nursery Profile and Bow Point Nurseries.

Climate Change Actions You Can Take

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has many suggestions for how individuals can help contribute to the solution on climate change:

  • Check lights. Identify frequently used light fixtures that use incandescent bulbs; order fluorescent replacements bulbs
  • Check the temperature setting on your water-heater. Reduce the setting to 120F or 49C (typically the “warm” setting; or halfway between the low and medium settings).
  • Check the settings on your appliances. When you can, select the energy-saving setting on your refrigerator, dishwasher, washing machine and other major appliances.
  • Purchase only energy-efficient products.
  • Check your thermostat settings. During the heating season, set the thermostat lower, especially at night or when rooms are unoccupied. During the cooling season, set the temperatures higher. If you have a programmable thermostat you can automate the daily settings.
  • Check showerheads and faucets. Determine whether any of your showerheads are models that use more than 2.5 gallons per minute. If so, order low-flow showerheads.
  • Turn off appliances that you are not using. Switch off TVs, computers, lights, etc. that are not being used and unplug those items on “standby” (that use electricity even when not being used), including TVs, video and audio systems, computers, and chargers (for cell-phones and other electronic equipment).
  • Check car tires for proper inflation. This can improve gas mileage. The appropriate air pressure typically is listed on the door-pillar on the driver’s side, on the inside of the glove-compartment door or in the vehicle manual.
  • Write a letter to one of your elected representatives at the local, provincial or federal level. Tell them you believe climate change is important.

Riley Braun and Bruce Chenuz are students with The University of Calgary who recently volunteered with Sustainability Partners Uniting Resources (SPUR).