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Riverview, New Brunswick – A Success Story

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Jan 23, 2024

As Manager of Community Engagement for the Town of Riverview, Karen Thompson has a lot of priorities on her agenda. But one she’s clearly very enthused about is the new Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP) she’s spearheading. You can hear in her voice how sure she is that it will make Riverview an even more desirable place to be.

“Our citizens have already shown themselves to be sustainability-minded. There’s plenty of concern out there about the environment, and lots of interest in initiatives and activities that will make our community cleaner, greener and even more liveable. As a structured plan of action, a CEEP will focus and guide us towards those goals!”

Thompson was assigned the project – or more accurately, assigned to revive the project – just over a year ago.

“Riverview actually started developing a CEEP in 2014,” she explains. “An inventory was taken of our corporate emissions (IE those from municipal facilities and operations), and an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) was created.”

Unfortunately, the formal process stalled soon after, elbowed out by other priorities. Thankfully, however, that didn’t prevent some good things from happening anyway.

“Riverview has had an annual community cleanup for many years now, and it has really taken root,” says Thompson. “People of all ages take part, including families. It’s become a part of our springtime routine, our culture, and we always celebrate with a big barbecue afterwards.”

Riverview also participates annually in campaigns like No Mow May (inviting residents to refrain from mowing their lawns in May to provide early season pollen for bees) and Leave the Leaves for Bees (inviting residents to not rake leaves so bees have overwintering habitat). Nine pollinator gardens have been established around the community, featuring native species attractive to butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Public education programs have helped build understanding and community support. The town even has a community engagement worker who is a Master Gardener; her mandate includes fostering biodiversity and reducing the carbon footprint of Riverview’s green spaces.

Riverview is also working on building public awareness of composting and other ways to reduce the amount of material sent to landfill.

And perhaps the most creative action taken so far has been the establishment of Riverview’s Sustainability Micro-grant Program. It offers grants to citizens, schools or community groups to support projects aligned with the goals of the ICSP. Projects funded to date have included construction of a butterfly way garden; a high school bio-blitz in one of Riverview’s nature parks; and – interestingly – supporting a local gardener who is growing vegetables where lawn used to be, donating produce to the local food bank, and sharing her experiences via a blog.

“There’s lots of excitement out there,” Thompson says with no small amount of excitement in her voice. “The budget for the micro-grant program is increasing from $10,000 this year to $20,000 next year, and the grant ceiling is being increased to $5000 per project – which we hope will encourage more project ideas, including from businesses.”

In restarting Riverview’s formal CEEP development process, Thompson has made it her mission build on the good work already done and be the spark plug for rapid progress going forward. Upon reviewing Riverview’s ICSP, she noted numerous references to energy and the environment. She then capitalized on those references to build support among Riverview’s staff and Council and pursue funding from external sources like the NB Environmental Trust Fund.

“We’ve hired a consultant who is now working to update our corporate and community greenhouse gas inventories.”

Developing that latter inventory has some unique challenges. Riverview shares services such as public transit, water, wastewater and solid waste with the neighbouring communities of Moncton and Dieppe, so emissions from those services must be allocated proportionally. A regional committee is being established to do just that.

Once that’s completed, the next big steps will be to set realistic emission reduction targets, and then develop a comprehensive plan of action. “Once our plan is completed, there won’t be anymore guesswork; we’ll have clear priorities and won’t just be throwing darts at a dartboard.”

Of course, developing the plan won’t be a cakewalk. One of Thompson’s key challenges has been getting up to speed quickly: learning about past work and progress; finding out who at Town Hall knows what; learning the ins and outs of developing a CEEP; and learning about funding programs.

And, she says, that’s where becoming involved with QUEST has been so helpful. “I quickly realized that these are exactly the people I need to talk to. They have the knowledge I need, and they are very prompt in responding to any request I make.”

Working with QUEST has also enabled her to network with other municipalities, and benefit from their experiences. “I learned about successful initiatives happening in other NB municipalities and thought, wow, look what’s already happening in NB! That’s enabled me to accomplish in a couple of months what it would otherwise have taken me years to do – which is a pretty nice success story in itself!”

High on Thompson’s priority list: embedding the forthcoming plan into by-laws, policies, processes and job descriptions, to ensure that this time around there won’t be any stalling or loss of momentum. As well, she’s working to ensure her colleagues across all municipal departments learn more about the CEEP process, and keep sustainability top of mind in day-to-day activities.

Building and maintaining Council and community support for the forthcoming plan will be critical, but Thompson is optimistic. “The Mayor was on the committee that drafted our ICSP back in 2015, and personally took part in a recent online energy mapping workshop. So it’s clearly on Council’s radar.”

She’s also confident Riverview’s residents will embrace the forthcoming CEEP. “Riverview’s natural character, with an abundance of green spaces and only light industry, is why a lot of people want to live here,” she says. “Sustainability is already in our genes, and our community and its citizens are ready to do more. A CEEP will help show us the way!”


Carl Duivenvoorden

Speaker, writer and sustainability consultant Carl Duivenvoorden helps people and organizations learn how they can save money, energy and our environment. He’s presented to over 450 audiences across Atlantic Canada and in the US, and his column Green Ideas ran for 10 years in New Brunswick dailies. He lives in Upper Kingsclear, NB.

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