As a business person struggling with the effects of the pandemic, it might be hard to get around to thinking about the climate crisis, much less deciding what you can do about it.
Josh Young is here to help.
He’s the new business climate advisor, hired by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Nelson and District Credit Union, on a four-month contract.
Young’s job is to help individual small businesses find meaningful things they can do about climate change, whether acting to reduce greenhouse gases or preparing for the effects of a warming world.
“I need to know what challenges (Nelson business people) are facing,” he said. “Is it time? Is it money? Is it capacity? Is it knowledge?”
He’ll help individual businesses identify those barriers and then propose actions they can take.
“There are business people who haven’t thought about it, but are interested or maybe could be interested,” he says. “There are people who have thought about it, but have no interest. There are people who have tried to do something, but have come up short for whatever reason. And then there’s people who have done something that works and want to expand it.”
His approach is that no action is too small, and small successes can lead to larger, long-term actions.
Young has a Masters in degree human ecology and a background in environmental project management. He’s a web developer who runs his own digital marketing consultancy.
“I’m empathetic to the business community,” he said. “I’m not here to preach to them.”
Business people might wonder why they should bother with climate change when most greenhouse gases are being produced in big cities in other countries.
“There are things that you can control, and things you can’t,” Young says. “That is just my philosophy in life in general: if I can do something about it, and make some type of incremental change, and it’s something that I have control over, then I’m going to do the best that I can.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to abandon our own values, just because someone else isn’t acting according to how we see it.”
Young wants to tie his work into the city’s climate change plan Nelson Next as much as possible. He’ll be recommending some of the city’s climate-related programs, including the electric bike financing program, the energy retrofit program, and the FireSmart initiative, as well as other rebates and incentives offered by the provincial government or other agencies.
Young said the climate issues that are at least partly within the control of a local small business are waste, energy consumption, and transportation.
Waste comes down to how to do a better job of reducing, reusing and recycling, because there are energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions tied to every point on the waste stream. He says Nelson businesses have to find ways to work around the fact that the province’s recycling program, run locally by the Regional District of Central Kootenay, provides no recycling of industrial or commercial waste, except cardboard.
As for the issue of organic waste, which produces the greenhouse gas methane in landfills, Nelson businesses will not be included in the curbside pickup of organic waste planned by the city to start later this year.
Young has a host of energy-saving tips to share with businesses, from small things like replacing light bulbs to improving energy efficiency in heating buildings. Many energy-saving measures, he reminds us, have the potential to save money in the long run.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by cycling or walking to work, and perhaps creating an incentive system in your workplace to encourage it, may seem like a small dent in transportation emissions, but it all adds up, Young says.
When he spoke with the Nelson Star, Young had been on the job two weeks and had begun to make contact with individual businesses.
His supervisor, chamber executive director Tom Thomson, says the plan is to “look for other partners and grant opportunities” to find the money to extend the contract beyond four months if possible.
“It aligns with economic development,” Thomson said, “and with one of the priorities of the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership, to try to work towards some climate change solutions.
“We’re not going to be the climate changers of the decade, but we’re going to be an initiator of information. We’re going to ask what do you know and how can we help. Is there anything that we can do to help move your initiatives forward?”