- Our Town
Communty initiatives can improve air quality
Here on Bowen, we have less traffic and more trees than in the city, so breathing clean air is one of the straightforward benefits to island-living that we can count on. However Peter Frinton, Bowen’s representative to the Sea to Sky Clean Air Society, says there’s much more we can do locally to ensure the air we breath is free of pollutants.
Many Bowen Islanders heat their homes with wood stoves. While this is a relatively cost-effective method of heating, it is also a source of fine-particulate air pollution.
“This is the stuff that gets deep into your lungs,” says Frinton, “and it is a straightforward health issue.”
According to the Lung Association of Quebec, in nine hours an uncertified wood stove can emit as the same amount of pollutants as a car driving 18 thousand kilometers. The city of Montreal is contemplating a move to ban wood burning outright by 2020.
Frinton says that on Bowen, pollution from wood stoves is often visible in certain neighborhoods on days when the air is cold and stagnate.
To do his part, Frinton says he’s invested $4 thousand in the past year to bring his stove and chimney up to the highest standards possible, installing new dampers, a new chimney and working to make his home’s boiler more efficient.
The BC Woodstove exchange program offers a $250 rebate for the replacement of a non-certified wood stove with a certified one. This rebate is offered through the Bowen IRLY Building Center, but they have only filled out two rebate packages in the past five years.
Frinton says that in the Sea-to-Sky region, Squamish through Pemberton, more than 60 rebate packages have been filled out since the beginning of the program.
Frinton also points to a program through the Howe Sound Clean Air Society calls the ‘Clean Air Commute’ as a potentially beneficial to Bowen. So far, the program has focused on commuters traveling daily from Squamish to Vancouver, and has set up a bus system to get them to Lion’s Bay, where they can then get onto a Translink Bus.
“While we don’t currently have a similar plan in the works for Bowen,” says Frinton, “the LIFT program, and the new Bowen ride-share page set up by Gil Yaron are fantastic commuting alternatives that are Bowen-made. What if, instead of getting a bigger ferry, we could have a better system for car-pooling in place so that we could eliminate overloads by lessening the load?”
The grant that supports the LIFT program expires in 2014, but the work they do could possibly come under the umbrella of the Clean Air Commute program so that the ideas could be rolled out in other communities.
Another air-quality issue that Frinton believes could be easily tackled on Bowen concerns pollution caused by parents picking up their kids from school.
“At 3:30, especially on a Friday, you see car after car after car drive through the school parking lot and wait for a minute while the kids climb in. Meanwhile, all the exhaust goes into the playground.”
Frinton says that in other places, schools have organized to create drop-off and pick-up zones that take greater consideration towards the health of kids.
“We need air every minute of the day,” he says. “You only see it when there’s a problem, so its important to pay extra attention. Let’s not treat the atmosphere like an open sewer.”