Last week, a diverse group of community leaders from the South Asian, Filipino and Chinese communities gathered at city hall for a roundtable discussion with the goal of making Vancouver the Greenest City in the world by 2020.
The discussion was moderated by two media professionals from the local Filipino and South Asian media – Marieton Pacheco of Balitang Vancouver Filipino TV news and Tarunnum Thind of OMNI TV. Representing the city were Deputy City Manager, Sadhu Johnston and Greenest City Planner, Lindsay Cole.
I attended the meeting as a representative of Tulayan (Bridges), a Filipino cultural group, along with my co-organizer Rafael Aquino (@ayoslang) and some friends from the Filipino community, @NicoleIgnacio and @LMHVancouver.
Preet Bal and Manmeet Poonam Sandhu from Sandhog Creations Society spoke about their successful efforts in making the Vaisakhi parade greener. A model that can easily be adapted by other cultural events in Vancouver and the rest of the lower mainland.
The input from the diverse group of young and old community organizers was refreshingly frank and insightful.
It was pointed out that the contributions of minority communities are not generally acknowledged whenever there are discussions about making Vancouver a greener city. For example, the idea of growing vegetable gardens in the backyard is already a common practice in the homes of recent immigrants. Buying in bulk, a common practice with immigrant families, helps reduce the amount of packaging waste that is thrown out. Using all parts of an animal in their dishes is a common practice in Asian cooking, a practice that makes better use of available resources and reduces waste.
A rather glaring ommission that was pointed out is the lack of minority faces in the marketing materials printed by the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City campaign, thus neglecting the contribution of the minority communities and perpetuating the perception that these goals do not include them. It was agreed that acknowledging the contributions of the minority communities would be a good first step in bridging these communities’ efforts with the city’s Greenest City goal.
Another strong feedback from the group was that it was very important to appeal to immigrant communities on a more practical level. For example, the majority of recent immigrants are simply unable to afford higher priced organic food. As well, third world country immigrants may not be as familiar with the idea of recycling, and educating them on the practical monetary incentive of returning used bottles would be better received.
The roundtable talk felt a little short given the amount of issues and ideas that were being discussed, but I also came away hopeful knowing that everyone involved will bring back the same idea to their respective groups – that together, we can accomplish more by working towards the same goal.
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