Lending the youth voice to sustainable city planning
Teenagers may seem like an unlikely crowd to be shaping city planning, but they are proving to be key players and an important voice.
“It’s our future too!” said Logan Fechter, a member of the City of Edmonton Youth Council (CEYC), an advisory committee for the city council that aims to represent the interests of Edmontonians between 13 and 23 years old. “It’s our kids’ future, so why not? ... It’s not like sustainability has to be outside of our reach.”
CEYC has several subcommittees that deal with hands-on work and draft many of the policy proposals put forward by the youth council as a whole. The urban and regional planning subcommittee focuses on topics such as transportation, infrastructure and sustainability, with the broader aim of helping to build the identity of Edmonton and its sustainable future.
This 16-member subcommittee has been pushing boundaries for three years, with projects like City Hall Solar, where it made a recommendation to council to put solar panels on city hall. The group was given the go ahead to work with city officials and engineers to determine the feasibility of this project. In the end, the group also learned not every good idea leads to an attainable project – the proposal was found to be outside of the budget due to cogeneration regulations and charges around the downtown area.
“There is something special about urban planning because the work is physical and the outcomes do literally change the city, which is incredibly fulfilling,” said Logan Fechter. “Even if it's as simple as giving feedback on a transit strategy, you are still bringing the youth perspective in to change the everyday reality of city life.”
Indeed, the subcommittee recently worked with the Edmonton transit system to collect feedback from 600 youth on the city’s new transit strategy so young people could weigh in on the issues that affected them.
“[If we] help make our transit system better, people won’t have to drive to all the places where they want to go,” said Kaelin Koufogiannakis, co-chair of the subommittee.
The group has also collaborated with the Change for Climate Edmonton conference to mount the “Sustainability of Tomorrow” youth speaker series, showcasing eight young adults leading their communities in sustainability.
Youth are and should be taking action on these issues and making an impact in their city. While the CEYC focuses on a range of topics, Koufogiannakis said a primary aim is to show council the youth of Edmonton really do care about sustainability.
“Youth are creative, innovative, and we are not buried by a bureaucratic need to check all of these boxes. So we can move things forward, add a new perspective and be an asset,” said Koufogiannakis.
In the future, CEYC’s urban planning subcommittee will support the efforts of City Lab, serve as the youth advisor for the new Edmonton Master City Plan and, as always, continue to give youth an opportunity to advocate for and create projects around the urban planning issues they care about.