In October, 2016, Wheatland County adopted an environmental policy committing the municipality to being a leader in environmental accountability, which to us, means taking responsibility for municipal actions that may impact the environment. The four keys to implementing this commitment are: balancing the environment with the social and economic needs of the community; leading by example; understanding and responding to the specific environmental needs of our residents and natural environment; and engaging and enabling stakeholders to protect the value that our natural environment provides. The policy led to the hire of an Environmental Coordinator and development of a County-wide Environmental Program, and Wheatland County is now on its way to maximizing environmental sustainability in its operation and within the municipality.
In 2016, a survey of Wheatland County staff was performed. When asked for suggestions as to how the County could reduce environmental impacts, 28% of staff mentioned improving fuel efficiency (moving to fuel-efficient vehicles, making carpooling an option for staff, reducing idling, using the appropriate vehicle or machine for the job, and considering alternative fuel). When asked how the County impacts the environment, 25% of respondents mentioned fuel use (consumption, inefficient vehicles, fleet), and 32% mentioned air pollution (emissions, exhaust, carbon footprint, equipment operation). When air quality showed up third on the staff-developed list of priority environmental issues facing Wheatland County, it was clear that a great way to “lead by example” in our operation and achieve buy-in with one of our first staff-directed environmental programs, would be to implement an idling awareness campaign and facilitate a carpooling initiative.
Enter CRAZ. CRAZ made implementation of the new programs a breeze (pun-intended); offering ideas and suggestions towards the development of a fun carpooling challenge for staff commutes, and providing materials and expertise for the Idling Awareness Campaign. On May 11, 2017, CRAZ staff members Mandeep Dhaliwal and Tanya Carlson were kind enough to attend our Wheatland County Safety Day and share information about the importance of reducing idling with all Wheatland County staff. This event also provided the perfect opportunity to showcase the Idle-Free vehicle stickers (given to us free-of-charge from CRAZ), and Idle-Free Zone signs (template provided by CRAZ), that will now be placed in our fleet vehicles and displayed at County properties throughout the municipality as a reminder to minimize our idle time. I am looking forward to sharing positive updates about the staff uptake of both programs in the near future.
Making gains towards environmental stewardship is of key importance to Wheatland County; an initiative made much easier through the contributions and priorities of partner organizations like CRAZ. Moving forward, we hope to contribute to awareness about critically important topics like air quality, while making positive changes within our own operation, and supporting environmental stewardship within our municipality.
Alyssa Cumberland, Environmental Coordinator, Wheatland County
If you have questions about Wheatland County’s Environmental Program, please contact Alyssa.Cumberland@wheatlandcounty.ca