A “Green” Vancouver

A city spearheading a green future

Yasmine Elsayed (she/her) // Contributor
Kit Vega // Illustrator

Vancouver is internationally recognized as a primary example of environmental sustainability in urban settings. Introduced in February 2009, the Greenest City Initiative aimed to make Vancouver green by 2020 through strong ecological policies, extensive green spaces and a focus on public transportation and cycling infrastructure. Although difficult, Vancouver’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in its widespread adoption of renewable energy sources and active community engagement in environmental initiatives. As we delve deeper into the reasons behind Vancouver’s acclaim as one of the greenest cities globally, it becomes evident that its status is firmly rooted in measurable actions and outcomes.

With the summer of 2023 being the worst in Canadian history, many climate change activists brought the concern to the streets to make it well known that the current measures that the City of Vancouver is taking were insufficient. Protestors in 2023 called on the City of Vancouver to make a stronger plan to combat climate change and its future effects. A protest of this caliber was not the first; this protest echoes similar sentiments expressed by students in 2019, inspired by figures like Greta Thunberg, who demanded stronger action from adults to protect the environment for future generations.

A climate change advocate and Capilano University alum describes that while Vancouver might be green, it is not enough. “Vancouver certainly looks very green primarily due to its trees and natural beauty, but the city itself and surrounding municipalities certainly do not strike me as the greenest city,” they shared, emphasising that Vancouver could do better. “The giant sewage plant that is constantly dumping in the ocean. The E.coli levels were insane. A lot of waste goes into the ocean, so swimming at the English Bay in Kitsilano is unsafe. This will likely get worse due to climate change as it rains and the tide changes. Many streets are dirty, and the traffic is insane — major car pollution. In terms of recycling, Vancouver is doing a pretty good job as far as collecting trash and recycling goes. But I am not convinced that it goes to the right spot.” 

According to the CBC, “The province has emerged as a leader across North America, with the wide range of materials it accepts to its province-wide recycling program and the percentage of those materials that gets recycled and turned into other products.” However, in the same article, the CBC addresses Vancouver’s landfill in the Delta, and says that it “has an end date of 2037. It opened in 1966 and currently has 225 hectares filled with garbage. Even though RecycleBC processes 90 per cent of what it collects, on average only 78 per cent of products manufacturers create are recovered to be processed.” 

Furthermore, the anonymous source highlights Vancouver’s lack of preparedness for extreme weather events, such as snowstorms, citing a comparatively low snow removal budget compared to other Canadian cities. “Vancouver should take appropriate measures and take this seriously. Vancouver does not compare to other cities.” The CBC describes the budget compared to other provinces; BC seems to have the lowest, “Vancouver and Surrey both budget around $4 million a year for snow removal, while everywhere else in Metro Vancouver is under a million dollars. But in every other major Canadian city, the figure is much higher, topped out by Montreal at $187 million last year.” 

While Vancouver has gained international recognition for its efforts in promoting environmental sustainability, recent protests and critiques from climate change activists and concerned citizens shed light on the city’s ongoing challenges. Despite initiatives like the Greenest City Initiative and advancements in recycling, concerns persist regarding pollution, waste management and climate change preparedness. The voices calling for more decisive actions and the importance of continued commitment to addressing these issues and implementing practical solutions are getting louder. 

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