This interview is part of the FCM–ICLEI series, PCP’s Local Climate Change Heroes, which features PCP program members.
It can be difficult to bring stakeholders on board for sustainability projects, but cost-efficient solutions can be implemented with the support of council and effective community engagement, driving beneficial changes in the community.
Beaconsfield used to produce the second-highest amount of landfill waste in Montreal, but with effective waste reduction strategies, the town reduced waste by 51 per cent from 2013 to 2016. As the director of sustainable development in Beaconsfield, Andrew Duffield is proud of his role in effectively engaging various stakeholders on projects that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.
Question: What are some of your achievements with the City of Beaconsfield?
Answer: While the results of our waste reduction strategies are impressive, I am most proud of the effective community engagement surrounding the initiative and the degree to which the strategies enabled the community to work together to meet our sustainability goals.
We implemented a pay-as-you-throw waste collection system, which uses transponders attached to each household garbage bin that are automatically scanned by the mechanical arm of the garbage truck. This allows us to charge each household individually, based on both garbage bin size and the frequency of waste collection. The city’s smart garbage collection provides an equitable and flexible solution based on the real use of the service, which enables residents to control their cost as a function of their efforts to sort better and reduce what they send to landfill. In turn, the savings from the garbage contract allows the city to offer more types of collections so residents can recycle materials that have value and ensure their reuse, without increasing the waste management budget as a whole. This was made possible not only through technology but most importantly through effective community engagement. Information on the program is communicated on a regular basis to ensure that our residents really understand the value of the work they put in. It has become a point of pride with community members and partners.
Question: How did you come to work in this field?
Answer: I have a master’s degree in environmental engineering and have worked in the municipal field for most of my career. Environmental engineering helps provide me with solutions to complex problems, while working in the municipal field allows me to interact with our neighbouring municipalities in Montreal and see the positive impacts of my work.
Because I was involved in site-level work early in my career, I can see the impact of project decisions in the short, medium and long terms. There is a difference between putting a plan on paper and making it work. The implementation is as important as the end result. If we don’t communicate well and ensure that our residents have the opportunity to contribute to the overall project design, they may not feel connected to the work or see the benefits of the project once completed. Enabling the residents to understand and be involved in the decision-making process not only helps the project but also helps us to provide better services.
Question: What does the future hold for climate change in Beaconsfield?
Answer: Beaconsfield is committed to continuing to learn more about corporate and community sustainability. One of our next steps is the promotion of the city’s Sustainable Development Plan through projects that allow our community to determine the priorities together.
We will continue to implement waste reduction strategies. Smart collection allows individuals to see concretely how they can do better in the face of climate change. We went from eight trucks serving the community on a given day to four trucks. We also conducted a recycling pilot project to see if the smart garbage collection had an impact on the amount of contamination put in the average recycling bin, as well as to evaluate the reduction of truck fuel consumption and GHG emissions when recycling bins are put out less frequently (i.e. only when mostly full).
Our i3P project is a climate change initiative to define our GHG emission reduction targets, reduce our energy consumption, and identify local solutions for adapting to climate impacts. Community consultation and resident engagement will be a key aspect of that process. We are also partnering with QUEST and eight other communities across Canada to develop an energy efficiency scorecard. The scorecard will benchmark how policies and processes enable the transition toward being a “Smart Energy” community and will allow us to evaluate our progress along the way. Our participation in the development of the Smart Energy Communities Scorecard provides the opportunity to collaborate with innovative communities across Canada, which will motivate our residents to join us in the effort to become more sustainable and self-sufficient.
These initiatives will enable our community to prioritize actions together to become a more resilient community, and will help residents become actors of change.
Andrew can tell you about his experience in:
- Citizen engagement and communications
- Incorporating technology in our daily life as a tool
- Improving our municipal infrastructure and natural assets
Director of Sustainable Development
City of Beaconsfield, QC
Photo credit: City of Beaconsfield