A coffee-shop conversation. That’s how North Shore communities in Metro Vancouver started on a journey to do their part to address climate change.

The coffee-shop reference may seem like a small detail. But it may represent what is most promising about this effort — its “magic” touch. The effort recognizes that a community in relationship fuels meaningful and lasting change.

In other words, change happens at the speed of relationships.

That first coffee-shop conversation, now seven years ago, involved business consultant and facilitator Charles Holmes and Susan Haid, then manager of community planning and sustainable community development with the District of North Vancouver. Both were engaged in sustainability initiatives through their work.

They also shared a passion for addressing climate change through creating change in their homes and Vancouver North Shore neighbourhoods. A number of their contacts and neighbours had the same drive.

Through that first conversation, Charles and Susan identified an opportunity to access seed funding for their still-forming vision of a community climate change project.

That was all it took to “boot the ball forward” on the project, now called Cool North Shore; it’s a citizen-created and driven non-profit society “focused on making the North Shore one of the most liveable and sustainable places on earth.”

After that initial “boot,” additional partners, including BC Hydro, jumped onboard to provide financial and other types of support.

Notably, this initiative has continued to focus just as much on providing opportunities for connection and relationship as on the “task at hand.”

It’s telling that its activities are intentionally geared to be fun, social, meaningful, real and easy.

For instance, its Cool Neighbourhoods programs has neighbours hold potlucks where they learn together and take action on retrofits to enhance energy conservation within their homes.

In some neighbourhoods, the fire department has been invited to conduct thermal energy reviews of citizens’ homes, to identify how and where they might improve energy conservation and efficiency.

Cool North Shore has also been hosting monthly social events for years. The Cool Drinks program is described as a great way to learn about things North Shore residents can do to reduce energy consumption in their home and help to combat climate change, as well as explores the subject of sustainability more broadly.

A key part Susan has played has also been telling. She likes to encourage people she believes share a similar passion and have strengths to bring to the table, to join the initiative.

“I think Cool North Shore is quite unique in that neighbours connect in a deep way to make changes to reduce greenhouse gases at the household and neighbourhood level,” Susan says.

Susan Haid

Susan Haid

“It’s an initiative where change is happening through a community.

“Really, it’s all about relationships in the community.”

As someone who has worked for local government her entire career, Susan is well steeped in the importance of policies and plans, bylaws and actions to address climate change.

But both her experience in that realm and with Cool North Shore has strengthened her conviction that people have to be touched on a personal level for the most meaningful and lasting change to occur.

When strong, positive relationships are at the heart of a change effort, you can count on its worth – not only because a one-time change is being created, but also the conditions to enable inevitable future changes. It’s all about creating, as Susan calls it, “a change society.”

Cool North Shore and in particular, Cool Neighbourhoods has been making measurable change to reduce greenhouse gases.

  • More to Come on Cool North Shore

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger

Editor’s Note: Click here to read about Axiom News’ partnership with Charles Holmes Consulting and the intent of the stories in this series.