The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association is committed to helping downtown businesses have a positive social, economic, cultural and environmental impact on society. So much of what we do revolves around finding new ways to make the city more vibrant and liveable, but it’s not just limited to activities around economic development. With the bigger picture in mind, the DVBIA recently asked ourselves how we, as an organization, can help facilitate a robust and resilient community that’s focused on not only economic, but also social and environmental successes.

With a renewed focus on sustainability goals, we began to seek out Vancouver’s leaders in sustainability, and we were pleasantly surprised with the results. We learned about amazing sustainable practices that festival organizers were utilizing. We saw local businesses using compostable materials that were game-changers for their environmental impact. We heard from building owners who had found inventive ways to reduce their carbon footprints. And through partnerships such as the ones we have with Bullfrog Energy, HUB cycling, and My Green Space, the DVBIA renewed our own commitment to making Vancouver’s downtown core even more environmentally friendly.

The City of Vancouver has also set lofty goals when it comes to sustainability, including its “Greenest City Action Plan” which provides a great benchmark for how we can become global leaders. The plan outlines measurable and attainable targets, and represents a strategy for staying on the leading edge of urban sustainability and becoming the world’s greenest city by the year 2020. As part of this plan, the City recently announced a consultation process that will help to shape a new single-use item strategy. Single-use items currently cost Vancouver taxpayers about $2.5 million per year to collect from public waste bins and to clean up as litter in our parks, streets, and green spaces. Moving towards a system that will help address the environmental impact (not to mention the cost pressures) of these items is another step in the right direction toward becoming the greenest city.

From the municipal to the corporate to the individual level, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to things we can do to help make Vancouver more sustainable. The important thing is just to find something that works for you, and to stick with it. The steps that we can all take together can do a lot more than just assuage our collective guilt about environmental issues; they can make a real, tangible impact on our environment.