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COMMENTARY · 19th April 2010
Ben Stewart
As we celebrate Earth Day, many of us will be asking "What can I do to make the world a greener place?"

As one of British Columbia's largest employers, your B.C. government is not just thinking about ways to contribute to sustainability, we're doing it. Last year the BC Public Service was named one of Canada's Greenest Employers, and this year we will be the first government in North America to be carbon-neutral.

The Ministry of Citizens' Services is responsible for the government's buildings, vehicles, technology and office supplies. By making changes and greener choices in each of these areas, we can go a long way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste from government operations.

Using its green building expertise, Shared Services BC is working with provincial public-sector organizations to fulfil the policy requirement to construct new government buildings to a minimum of LEED Gold or equivalent certification. And when existing buildings need improvements, we will upgrade the buildings to reduce energy consumption.

Since making the commitment to be carbon neutral, we have developed comprehensive technical standards for owned, managed and leased buildings. These standards help to maximize energy and water efficiency and maximize on-site storm water management of the buildings.

British Columbia has one of the largest hybrid fleets in North America, and we have a hybrid-first purchasing policy for new leased or purchased government vehicles. We are piloting the use of plug-in hybrids that run on electricity and have converted many pick-ups to operate on propane. This government is also offering a DriveSmart driver training program for government employees.

Powering down government's 35,000 desktop computers overnight and weekends will save 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity and at least 220 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year - $600,000 in energy costs! I am proud that British Columbia is the first province to implement this kind of program.

A small but important part of the ministry is the Asset Investment Recovery branch, which disposes of government surplus. Through its contracts with a wide range of public agencies, AIR is also keeping thousands of tonnes of material out of landfills. That worn desk or office chair may not be needed for the front office, but we will find it a new home or arrange for pickup by one of the many businesses that refurbishes used office furniture and office equipment.

This government has done a lot of great work to establish policies that will help B.C. meet its' commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020. But these policies are only part of the picture.

We also have some 34,000 public service employees who are passionate about making a difference, creative and are willing to think outside the box to help us reach our goals. It is these employees who are improving the sustainability of government's operations in terms of its triple bottom line: people, planet and the public purse.

A carbon-neutral public service is a government priority because it helps to reduce emissions and decrease energy costs while setting an example for all British Columbians.

Let's celebrate 2010 as the year that will provide a greener public service and a future that we can all be proud of. Happy Earth Day!

Ben Stewart
Minister of Citizens' Services