The pioneer community strives ahead with integrated sustainable policies

In Oxford County poverty eradication is high up on the agenda. To tackle this, the County has designed and implemented a comprehensive plan which is designed to assess inequalities across the community and suggest measures to lead as many people out of poverty as possible. This strategic poverty reduction plan identifies different types of pillars of action. Similar to the County’s efforts to achieve 100% Renewable Energy and eliminate waste, this plan has also been created, using a so-called Building Blocks approach.

The building blocks approach is a detailed set of guidelines to support and design policies. It was initially written to guide communities to implement plans to achieve 100% Renewable Energy. Due to their flexible structure and comprehensive approach, the building blocks and their sub-categories can easily be formed and used for policies other than those related to energy issues. Oxford County has demonstrated this by using the approach to design their Zero Poverty and Zero Waste plans. For an insight into the general building blocks structure and components, please click here.

The Zero Poverty Plan is part of Oxford County’s overall sustainability plan, which places environmental considerations together with the community’s wellbeing at the heart of decision-making. For each part of the plan, a baseline is set out for comparison and to measure progress along the way to implementation. According to Peter Crockett, Chief Administrative Officer of Oxford County, monitoring is essential to make sure that the plan is on track with the circumstances and needs.

Mr. Crockett’s role is to orchestrate the process, amending it when necessary. During our interview with him, he shares a nuanced view on poverty: “Poverty does not always just mean not having a job; rather, it could mean that there is a lack in transportation or finances for transportation to get to the desired job.  These various aspects of ‘poverty’ – all these small instances – also have to be accounted for. The different faces of poverty have to be recognised and the roots, not the symptoms, of poverty should be addressed.”

Oxford County’s Zero Waste Plan runs in tandem with the Zero Poverty plan. The plan lays out a concise strategy of waste reduction and prevention and it evaluates a range of technologies before full-scale implementation.
It also promotes ongoing engagement of the community to inspire and support methods of waste management initiated by industry and consumers, including:

  • The General Motors plant has prohibited disposable packaging. When parts are shipped for the production process, the packaging material is reused or shipped back.
  • Stores in Oxford County have decided to ban plastic bags. Along with the local ‘Business Improvement Association’ there are only re-usable paper bags for a small price to be sold.
  • Consumers are reducing waste by bringing their own bag, but also by actively engaging in community groups. One group has helped reduce the waste of a 3- day folk festival from a full 40m3 dumpster to one garbage bag. They made the vendors give up from using any plastic packaging.
  • In a local market, food that used to be thrown away is now redistributed to people in need. In this instance, the reduction in waste comes from not labelling edible food as waste and rather using it to help the community. Unnecessary costs for dumpster clearance is also saved.

A bi-annual garage-style exchange in a community centre is organized to have goods circulate instead of deeming them waste when they are still useful.

Photo by Niels Steeman on Unsplash.

In the Zero Poverty Plan, impact-oriented measures are laid out in detail. The integration of people plays a major role, with the plan noting that eradicating poverty is an effort by the entire community.

The framework is nicely introduced in this video, which also notes that community and economic activities have limits within the environment. During the process, different surveys yielded data on levels of health, mental health, accessibility, and access to food. This data was subsequently analyzed to understand the specific needs of the people.  Affordable housing and social housing options were assessed thoroughly to provide for a good living environment. To understand the context and the issue that they try to tackle better the county has assessed the concentration of people with low income and checked the presence of other factors that reveal the level of poverty. These statistics and indicators are crucial when developing an action plan and to account for the challenges.

“It is not easy, but it is possible.”

– Peter Crockett, Chief Administrative Officer of Oxford County

With the successful progress in both the 100% Renewable Energy and the Zero Waste strategy the Zero Poverty plan is the next big step in securing a sustainable future for Oxford County and its inhabitants. These efforts are only possible with a strong team and the cooperation of everyone.

– written by Teresa Geidel –