Oxford County was declared the “Climate Action Community of the Year” last month by a non-profit organization.
The award recognizes a municipality working towards a low carbon or zero-carbon reality.
Oxford hadn’t worked with Biomass North, which is an industry association dedicated to growing the Canadian economy based in North Bay, before October's annual general meeting.
“We hadn’t heard of them until we were notified that we’d won an award,” said Jay Heaman, Oxford’s manager of strategic initiatives. He’s still not sure who nominated the county.
“When they realized the county had made such a bold step forward with (the) 100% renewable (target), they decided that’s the kind of leadership they want to promote,” Heaman added.
The County’s renewable roadmap, in addition to the draft Zero Waste Plan, caught the attention of the organization.
Nine other businesses or communities received awards from the Biomass North Development Centre.
Heaman said the other award winners were extremely innovative, particularly the project out of Whitesand First Nation.
The community has created a plan to link use of the local forest with a heat and power plant and wood chip facility. The project provides jobs for local community members, not to mention electrical power to the entire First Nation and two other small towns nearby.
“They’ve found it’s been transformational,” Heaman said.
“It put people to work, it gave them a sense of pride and ownership being self-generators, it filled in a gap – and this is a common theme in the Northern communities with the forestry industry taking a hit – this is a great opportunity to harvest a renewable resource for energy purposes.”
Heaman came away from the event with inspiration and an award to boot.
As for Oxford County, the next year will focus on education and implementation of plans created in 2016.
“(It) was a year of planning, finding our sea legs, so to speak,” Heaman said.
“(Next year) we’re hoping to do a lot of…public outreach sessions all around the county, also guest speaker events and we’re hoping to launch a solar Oxford challenge where we get some case studies out in the field of marrying conservation, efficiency, smart metering, and renewable energy – help people see it firsthand.”