In October of 2021 Nicole Yardy had the distinction of becoming the Town of Collingwood’s first Climate Change Specialist. She brought with her a dedicated history of environmental involvement in her native Caledon, backed with a solid education in the field. It is a combination that made this young woman the perfect candidate for the role.
“I have an Honours B.Sc. in Environmental Science from the University of Ottawa” Nicole explains. “In addition to my degree, I have taken supplemental certificate courses from Harvard Business School Online to obtain a Certificate of Specialization in Strategy, which included taking courses such as Sustainable Business Strategy.”
“Volunteering has also been a large part of my experience and shifted my focus from biodiversity and conservation, which was my specialization in university, to climate change, youth engagement, and community involvement. Being a part of the Town of Caledon Climate Change Task Force gave me the opportunity to see how Caledon created their Community Climate Change Action plan, which is an important priority to complete for Collingwood in my current position.”
Nicole feels that being able to see that process from the perspective of a resident will give her an edge in creating an effective plan for the Town of Collingwood that the residents will be excited and motivated about.
How early did your interest in the environment start?
An intense interest in the environment started early for Nicole as her love for animals inspired her to want to help protect wild animals from extinction. “Growing up in Caledon and spending lots of time in the Kawartha Lakes area where my grandparents live also allowed me to explore the natural environment and spend time appreciating and discovering all the secrets it held” she admits.
“As I got a bit older, I really enjoyed David Attenborough documentaries and Animal Planet shows because I was then able to see new animals from around the world and learn about their behaviours and the challenges they were facing because of humans. All that to say, the environment still inspires me, and I want to protect it so that I never lose the part of myself that wants to continue exploring.”
What does the work week look like for a Climate Change Specialist?
“My work week typically consists of lots of learning, data entry, carbon emission analysis, and brainstorming with colleagues and the community. I am currently working on creating a Corporate Climate Change Action Plan for the Town of Collingwood which involves determining what actions the Town can take to reduce carbon emissions from our operations. I would say my favourite part of thejob is learning new things every day!”
How is the Town of Collingwood stepping up to address climate change?
“The Town of Collingwood has an abundance of ongoing environmental and climate change related initiatives. We are fortunate to have staff, residents and council members who are interested and passionate about climate change and protecting the natural environment.”
“Town staff have taken on a variety of environmentally focused projects including creating their own internal Green Team which supports green initiatives within staff offices ie. an internal green bin program, and working closely with the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority to monitor and prioritize stream health within Town boundaries. Through the Canopy Collingwood program, the Town successfully supported residents in planning over 250 trees on private property in 2021. Staffhave also taken big strides in working through the recommendations outlined in the Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan. These recommendations include LED retrofits, switching to electric ice resurfacers and installing electric vehicle charging stations.”
Nicole adds “Since joining the Town, I have been working to create both a corporate and a community climate change action plan. These plans will include emission reduction targets as well as the adaptation and mitigation strategies that staff and residents are encouraged to follow in order to meet, and hopefully exceed, the targets outlined.”
“In addition to staff contributions, we are lucky to have a very active community who continue to work hard to put the environment and climate change at the forefront. As you drive into Collingwood, one of the first things you might notice on our welcome sign is that we are recognized as a Bee City. A local volunteer group called Pollinate Collingwood worked with staff throughout 2019 to obtain this designation and support the Town of Collingwood’s movement to create an ecologically and socially sustainable community.”
Do you feel you are making a positive impact?
“I feel that my personal and professional work on increasing knowledge around climate change and working to decrease carbon emissions from daily municipal operations make a positive impact on both the community and the environment. Increasing climate literacy, connecting community members, and beginning climate conversations empowers residents to speak to Councilregarding positive environmental changes they want to see in the community. Creating Corporate and Community Climate Action Plans help the community and environment by outlining actions that residents and municipal staff will take to reduce carbon emissions and in turn also has community benefits such as increasing health, reducing energy use, encouraging public transportation, and so on.”
If you are looking for more community climate change actions, the Collingwood Climate Action Team has 6 different teams who work collaboratively with the local community to reduce the Town’s carbon footprint. They are currently running a project called the Carbon Footprint Challenge and are working hard to get 400 households in South Georgian Bay to participate by Earth Day on April 22, 2022.