Creating a Zero Waste Valley with Janice Larson

Blog November 16, 2021

Posted by Harrison Crerar

Creating a Zero Waste Valley with Janice Larson Featured Image

On Thursday, November 25th, we will be hosting the Zero Waste Valley Climate Hackathon. We’re inviting community members from all over the valley to join us and explore innovative solutions and business models that promote the reduction and elimination of waste in the Okanagan Valley.

If you haven’t attended a Hackathon in the past, it is a day-long event that brings diverse perspectives together to solve a problem. For the Climate Hackathon, participants will be working on solutions to “How might we accelerate our region to become a Zero Waste Valley by 2030?”.

Learn more about the Climate Hackathon

But, what does it mean to be a ‘zero waste valley’? While it is a component of many climate change solutions, the term ‘zero waste’ may be unfamiliar to some. To help clear up any confusion or speculation, we asked Janice Larson from the Okanagan Sustainability Leadership Council to share her insights and perspective.

Janice is a consultant with over two decades in public policy development and implementation, strategic planning, regulatory and economic development, as well as community and international relations. Above all else, Janice is keen to advance initiatives that use waste as a resource, expanding regional cycling infrastructure and caring for the Okanagan watershed.

First off, can you tell us what the Okanagan Sustainability Leadership Council does?

The OSLC is dedicated to the sustainable development of the Okanagan region. They focus on protecting and restoring the ecosystem while helping to build healthy, resilient connected communities throughout this beautiful valley we are so fortunate to call home.

Can you explain the term “zero waste”?

‘Zero waste’ is a term that reflects the drive to prevent and ultimately eliminate waste. It focuses on continuously improving how we use, re-use, repair and repurpose waste in our community. Zero waste also emphasizes how to design processes so that nothing goes unused—pushing ourselves to that point where there is no such thing as ‘waste’ in our society.

What is the OSLC’s “Zero Waste Valley” initiative?

The Zero Waste Valley initiative is focused on advancing programs that support waste reduction and organizations that can utilize the organic and inorganic waste for higher-value uses instead of being burned or buried in landfills.

Where does your passion for sustainability come from?

Growing up on a farm, you’re dependent on, and living with great respect for, the natural environment. And having grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through the Depression, I grew up with a ‘waste not’ ethos. Repairing, repurposing and buying or building for resilience was my way of life. Since then, I’ve devoted a good portion of my career to working in energy and environmental policy. To this day, I remain an incurable advocate in this mission and will continue to advance these objectives.

Why is 2030 the objective year for the Climate Hackathon Challenge Statement?

This date aligns with global objectives set by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of the world’s leading climate scientists. They’ve stated that we have until 2030 to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees. Beyond that target, even slight increases in temperature will significantly increase the risk of extreme heat, storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and other climate-related calamities. As a result, many communities, companies and jurisdictions around the world are putting plans in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb their environmental impact.

What are some similar projects already active in the valley?

There are a number of people and projects throughout the Valley doing their part to reduce waste. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • PACE Penticton, a social enterprise doing great work in electronics recycling/refurbishing, mattress recycling and other waste upcycling
  • Green Okanagan, a group focused on helping make a zero-waste lifestyle simple, affordable and approachable with tips, guidance and resources available online

There are more projects in the works, including a Zero Waste Demonstration Hub where entrepreneurs with waste conversion projects and technologies can set up demonstration projects and develop their concepts toward commercialization, and the Great Okanagan Waste Reduction Challenge. Stay tuned!

What are you looking forward to seeing at the Zero Waste Valley Climate Hackathon?

I’m excited to see a diverse group of individuals with a variety of perspectives, talents and creative problem-solving skills pull together their positive energy and focus it on this challenge.

To learn more about other zero waste initiatives, Janice recommends looking into:

If you’re passionate about climate change solutions, join the Climate Hackathon’ Team Pitches and Keynote on November 25th:


Join for the Finale

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