Lonnie Kehler Letter of Steinbach City Council

Dear Mr. Goertzen,

I am currently in my fourth year of study at the University of Manitoba.  Through my education, I have become increasingly aware of the massive amount of environmental degradation that is occurring in every corner of the globe and the effects it has on the world’s poorer population.  It is happening so rapidly that we, in our lives, are already beginning to see the disastrous effects which include natural disasters and conflicts over scarce resources.  My greatest concern is the fact that it is partly our consumption-driven lives in North America that are the driving force behind these devastating effects. 

It is overwhelming to think about finding a solution to help the entire world.  That is why I truly believe that such solutions must begin locally.  I have resided in Steinbach my entire life, and I believe it is a strong and caring community; an excellent place to start. 

My larger vision is to create an ecologically friendly and sustainable Steinbach.  I imagine a city that has the most efficient use of local resources and uses the least amount of non-renewable energy of any city near it.  I would like to give Steinbach a larger place on the map.  Imagine cities all around Manitoba, even Canada, looking to Steinbach as an example of what is possible. 

I realize that this is a far-off, fantasy type of place years in the making.  I believe that every change must start somewhere small, which is why I am proposing to ban the use of plastic bags in the City of Steinbach.

I’m sure you know the many negative effects that plastic bags have on our environment.  There are approximately five trillion plastic bags used every year and require petroleum to be manufactured.  They are non-biodegradable; it can take up to 1000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, and thousands of animals are killed each year because of them.  Not to mention they litter the parks and streets of our beautiful city. 

I believe this is an achievable goal for the City of Steinbach.  As you may know, San Francisco was the first U.S. city to ban the use of plastic bags in 2007.  If a large city can do it, I fully believe that Steinbach can too. 

An even better and more relatable example is the small town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba whom officially banned the use of plastic bags in April of 2007. A by-law was passed which prevents retailers from selling or distributing single-use bags, with a few exceptions.  In order to help the community adapt, officials handed out reusable bags.  Fines could be up to $1000, however not one person has yet been fined.  The response has apparently been incredibly positive. 

Living in Steinbach, I have come to know that new ideas and change are not always easily accepted.  However, I have read stories on other small communities throughout the world who have banned plastic bags and people always seem to adapt, just as customers at Superstore in Steinbach seem to have adapted very well to having to pay for plastic grocery bags.  I believe that relatively, remembering to bring a reusable bag with you to the grocery store is such a minor lifestyle change that in the bigger picture, it would be well worth it.  I think that there are people in Steinbach who are dissatisfied the progress of Canada’s action on environmental issues and would fully support this local initiative.

I have copied and attached the by-law passed by Leaf Rapids in 2007.  You can also find it and more information on their story at http://www.townofleafrapids.ca/aboutus.htm .

I am more than willing to help with this in any way possible to help inform the public and make such a transition possible.

The following is a brief list of additional items that I would like to see Steinbach’s local government initiate or support.

  • Promote and encourage walking and the use of bicycles as the primary mode of transportation within the city, rather than high-emission motorized vehicles.
  • Make available a list of everyday tips to decrease waste and lower energy consumption (switching lights off when you leave a room, spend a few minutes less in the shower, etc.)
  • Encourage consumption of locally grown and produced foods
  • Provide a list of energy-efficient appliances that are now available (high efficiency washers and dryers, low water-use toilets).
  • Promote and encourage recycling by informing the public on what can and cannot be recycled and by encouraging local businesses to add recycling bins alongside garbage cans.
  • Inform the public of how to properly dispose of electronics.
  • Increase the use of and inform the public about the benefits of community gardens.
  • Introduce the concept of rooftop green space and gardens.
  • A shift to 3D urban planning (taller buildings, etc.) to prevent urban sprawl and degradation of valuable surrounding farmland.
  • Encourage local businesses to explore and invest in alternative energy sources such as wind or solar power.
  • A website to promote a more sustainable Steinbach and to give people a resource to find out how they can be involved in any of the above.

Thank you for your time.

Yours truly,

Lonnie Kehler