Regular reader and commentator DAvid has taken the time to share his thoughts on sustainability and financial health. I thought that this topic would be refreshing as MDJ doesn't touch on the topic of green living very often.
The greening of our world has become a topic of importance to the Canadian public. The Kyoto protocol was likely the first realization of this issue for many as it gained prominence in the media. I have been musing for some time the relationship between sustainability and financial independence.
Sustainability means living within the earth’s limits – improving our health and well-being by reducing and eliminating pollution and waste. It means tackling the root causes of health and environmental problems before they occur. -David Suzuki Foundation
There are a number of major areas usually addressed when considering one’s ecological footprint: population density, energy consumption, resource (especially water) consumption, & food production. While many large organizations and municipalities are discovering their role in the creation of sustainable communities, there is a part that each of us should consider. While the best form of leadership is to be seen to be undertaking appropriate activities, there is also a need to support actions in which you are not actively involved. One of the challenges we face is that if we do not address these issues ourselves, they may be forced on us by our economy and environment.
Choices such as where you live can have a huge impact. If you live a village lifestyle, even in a large city, you should derive lifestyle and financial benefits. The ability to live, work and gather your needs within a walkable circle allows you to better manage your time, and insulates you from some of the lifestyle costs of those who are obligated to travel greater distances. There are also health benefits; it is difficult to develop road rage while walking to your destination!
For those in industries where the pay is based on the skill set, rather than the employment location, choosing a less expensive hometown can have very positive effects on your bottom line. Teachers, nurses, and many other workers who are paid on a provincial or national pay scale earn the same no matter where they live. Choosing a smaller town often means lower costs than the city, so your dollar goes a lot further. Even folks who are not tied to those pay scales, and may earn wages at far different rates, are moving to new locations. We are now seeing many professionals leaving high-priced Alberta, and bringing their skills, and their housing profits, home to Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Housing style affects density. Low density housing is very expensive, the infrastructure to service it (utilities, roads) the transportation routes to connect neighborhoods and services, and the land area needed to support this form of housing are quite consumptive. It is also very challenging to effect changes in a low density community, as there are few efficiencies of scale to adopt. The proposed Bamberton Community, on Vancouver Island is planned to house some 12,000 folk in a mixture of housing styles, and provide a multi-neighbourhood community which can host a wide variety of live-work arrangements, so residents have less need to exit the community on a regular basis. It is designed to be pedestrian friendly, and allow ready access to a wide variety of amenities, while retaining a large greenspace. While the neighbourhoods tend towards higher densities, the overall development is considered low density, due to the greenspace.
Most neighbourhoods contain few housing styles, and tend to have a single density. Zoning tends to be exclusive, rather than inclusive. Hosting a variety of housing styles allows for a wide range of affordability in a community. Towns such as Banff, Invermere and Whistler, have become so expensive, the employees of many of the businesses in town cannot afford to live in the community where they work. Pressuring your community leaders for a wider variety of housing types in a community helps resolve these issues. More variety of housing types also allows folks to find housing styles that meet their needs throughout their lives. As family size changes, you can move around the neighbourhood, rather than having to move across town.
To take individual action, one could have an apartment space in their home, increasing income, while providing housing options and affordability for other individuals. Zoning allowing detached secondary suites, also known as garden suites allows an increase in density, although at higher cost. While many of us have concerns about truly high density living, possibly we all need to learn how to be better neighbors.
Cities with higher densities become far more enjoyable places to live. Compare Vancouver's downtown to Calgary's: Robson St., Davie St., Granville St., and others have throngs of people all day and night long. Calgary's downtown is famous for the rate at which it is evacuated at 5:00! Living in an active neighbourhood such as Vancouver offers may be sufficiently attractive to cause one to downsize their housing expectations, because the lifestyle surrounds you, rather than having to be created at home.
In conclusion, sustainability and financial prudence may well have much in common.