Voting for green

The Whitehorse municipal elections are less than a month away. There are many issues for both candidates and voters to consider. Recent media reports note that there is a bit of budget shortfall.

The Whitehorse municipal elections are less than a month away.

There are many issues for both candidates and voters to consider.

Recent media reports note that there is a bit of budget shortfall.

Some of the infrastructure could also use some repairs.

The new portion of Hamilton Boulevard has a bump in it.

The bicycle lane on the downhill side of Two-Mile Hill is falling to pieces.

These issues must be addressed but they are nuts and bolts stuff.

It would be nice to have an election that revolved around ideas that improved residents’ health and the environment.

Let us not just keep it to residents. It would be fun to extend it to visitors as well.

The big issue affecting out-of-towners is whether tourists should park for free in front of the MacBride Museum.

Free parking spots for personal vehicles just encourage people, even tourists, to drive from one spot to another.

There should be regular parking meters in front of the museum available to one and all.

Tourists can park for free at areas such as the Visitor Reception Centre and then walk to the various downtown attractions.

That’s right, walk.

Nothing like stretching one’s legs after a long drive up the Alaska Highway.

If the tourist is from within Whitehorse there is always the option of taking the bus or bicycling to get to the museum.

One election issue that would benefit residents is being championed by the Raven Recycling Society.

It is about the need for a blue box system.

This is when households put recyclable material such as newspapers, jam jars and egg cartons in a blue box.

These recyclables are picked up by the municipality or a contractor and taken to a recycling sorting facility.

There they are sorted into various categories, baled and shipped off to processors to be made into new items.

To make the blue box system work various levels of government, businesses and non-profit societies would have to work together to ensure its success.

The end result could be most beneficial to waste diversion.

Blue box systems save residents from having to drive down to a recycling centre to drop off their recyclables.

And blue boxes tend to increase the amount of waste diversion that occurs.

When Whitehorse introduced the green compost wheelie bins for every house, the amount of compost diverted shot through the roof.

Something similar could happen with recyclables should a blue box collection and processing system be established.

With winter approaching it is time for the city to get serious about air pollution.

When the atmospheric conditions are right Riverdale and Downtown can get blanketed in a layer of wood smoke, exhaust fumes and diesel particulates.

The city does have no wood burning days in Riverdale when the wood smoke gets particularly bad.

A vehicle anti-idling bylaw, especially in the downtown core, would also help reduce the winter smog that can blanket the Yukon’s capital city.

Another contributor to the winter air pollution is the diesel generators over at the Yukon Energy dam site.

Thanks to rapacious power demand in the cold months of December through February Yukon Energy has to fire up the diesel generators.

The fumes from these are not pleasant, but mines, offices and homes all need electrons.

The city and Yukon Energy could team up and announce when the diesel generators are running.

This would permit those who have the option of reducing their electrical consumption and using alternative forms of heat.

For example, quite a few households have duel methods of home heating.

These range from electric baseboards to forced air furnaces.

Some choose to heat with electric baseboards due to the belief that it from hydro power and thus green in the sense it is not release greenhouse gas emissions.

This argument disappears each time Yukon Energy cranks up the diesel generators to supplement the power from the hydro dams.

Thanks to transmission line loss and inefficiencies in using diesel to create electrons to power baseboards it is estimated that using diesel generated electricity to heat a home is about 35 per cent efficient.

A well-tuned home oil furnace can easily reach 85 per cent efficiencies.

While both the diesel generators and the oil furnace generate smog and greenhouse gases it would appear that using the furnace generates less of them.

It is time for the city to implement a program of radio public service announcements.

These would announce not only when no wood burning days are occurring in Riverdale but also for when the diesel generators are being used to create power.

Residents of Whitehorse who have the means could reduce electrical consumption and perhaps negate the need for the diesels to be used.

It might help clear the air of smog.

Whether it will clear the skies of the hot air generated by the municipal elections is highly debatable.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based

part-time environmentalist.