How is Winnipeg Trending on Environment Issues?

The environment is a hot topic – and Winnipeggers haven’t been silent on the issue.

We witnessed just how passionate Winnipeggers can be when 10,000 people joined the youth-led climate strike for action at the Manitoba Legislative Building in September. While the rallying calls of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg have recently raised global awareness of climate action, local youth leaders have been building their networks, skills and momentum for some time to shift our community’s priorities.

The climate strike was timely – coming right after our provincial election and leading into the federal election with eight in 10 Manitobans saying climate change was either the main issue of the federal election campaign or one that will guide their voting decision.

Issues affecting the environment – particularly climate change – cannot be ignored. Winnipeg is no stranger to extreme weather, but climate change is challenging our hardiness by disrupting our normal patterns. For example, earlier this year Winnipeg endured a record-setting dry spell followed by a record-setting amount of rain in September.

The environment is an issue that Winnipeggers care about, but what are we doing as a city – and what can we do – to combat an issue driven by global actions? Using data from Peg indicators, we’re shining a spotlight on the progress we’ve made to date and opportunities to increase our city’s sustainability.

How do transportation choices impact our environment?

Transportation is part of our daily lives; we move around our city for work, school, appointments, social activities and more. Our transportation choices have profound impacts on our community as they’re linked to both our natural and built environment.

Where we live can affect whether we’re motivated to use active or public transportation. Downtown dwellers are less likely to drive or own a vehicle as they often work and play close to home. Public transport is more easily accessible in Central Winnipeg and less so in far-flung suburban communities. It’s no surprise automobile use is significantly lower among people who live downtown and active transit use is notably higher.

As we work toward more sustainable cities and communities, we must focus on the design of transportation networks and urban planning to make different modes of transportation easier to access for everyone – not just Central Winnipeg.

How can we encourage active transportation?

Winnipeg is increasingly prioritizing the development of cycling infrastructure and we’re finding new ways to move around the city. In the winter, many people use the Red River Mutual Trail to skate to and from work in the winter. In the summer months, you may even spot a unicycle or two.

When cities provide well-maintained and interconnected bike lanes and walking paths, people are more likely to use active transportation – a carbon-free method of transportation that has zero impact on air quality. The average number of Winnipeggers who actively transport has marginally decreased over the years as automobile and public transit use has marginally increased. However, the recent expansion of separated bike lanes could shift this trend; The Forks recently released data collected by a sensor located at the South Main entrance showing a 24% increase in bike ridership from 2016-2018, a promising statistic highlighting the increased participation in active transportation in our city.

How much water are we using?

As we grow and build more accessible cities, we also need to consider the pressure urban expansion puts on our water supply.

Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the Sustainable Development Goals and there is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. We are fortunate in Winnipeg to have access to clean water; millions around the world struggle with diseases associated with inadequate water for consumption, sanitation and hygiene.

Humans need roughly 50 litres per person per day for basic needs such as drinking water, bathing, sanitation and food preparation. The average Winnipegger may use triple that, but we have become increasingly efficient and cut our average water usage nearly in half since 1990.

Water consumption is linked to both the natural and built environment. Quality and quantity of water can affect organisms and ecosystems, while homes and businesses can contribute to reduced water consumption by installing water-efficient appliances and fixtures. Not only do we need to take care of our planet to ensure access to water and sanitation, we need to look at creating sustainable homes. This includes reducing our waste.

Where is our waste going?

Note: When measuring residential waste, our indicator defines waste as garbage generated by both single-family households and multi-family buildings and doesn’t include institutional, commercial, industrial, construction and demolition waste.

Winnipeggers should be proud of our progress in this area. We see a healthy trend in our city when it comes to waste – the amount of residential waste going to landfills is decreasing and the amount of residential waste going to recycling is slowly increasing.

Diverting waste from landfills is crucial to the health of our environment. Landfills are one of the largest human-related sources of methane, a major greenhouse gas. Reducing waste in landfills limits the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere (primarily methane and carbon dioxide) and increases the conservation of resources through reuse and recycling.

Winnipeg is making strides toward a healthier, more sustainable city. It’s a topic many Winnipeggers are passionate about, but this passion needs to be more than a feeling. We need to take action to maintain and protect our environment. Measuring our progress on indicators such as active transportation, water usage and residential waste helps us understand where we’ve made strides and where we have work to do. What action will you take next?

For more information on indicators tracking environment and more, visit www.mypeg.ca.

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