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On this past Earth day the City of Kingston hosted an online discussion on the topic of sustainability.

I distracted my children with cheerios and crayons and tuned in.

The conversation was lead by Paul MacLatchy, the Director of Environment and Sustainable Initiatives for the City of Kingston and Daniel Shipp, the Sustainable Initiatives Coordinator for the City of Kingston. They were joined by members of the community who logged on to the page for online discussions on the City’s website and submitted questions.

Over the course of an hour 18 questions were selected and answered. Subjects covered included the use of hybrids in the City’s Green Fleet policy, the role of Sustainable Kingston in measuring the City’s progress, and the Kingston Climate Action plan.

There was one question selected on the topic of local food:

[Apr 22 2014, 9:36 PM] Wendy42: Are the Market Vendors local and do they sell local food?

[Apr 22 2014, 9:38 PM] Daniel: Most of our market vendors are local sellers and yes, many sell local produce and products depending on the season. The new farmers market at Queen’s and the Memorial centre feature local fresh products.

Another question presented the opportunity for some interesting discussion:

[Apr 22 2014, 9:26 PM] Guest380: Do you believe that sustainability needs to be community-driven (i.e. from the desire of residents and there own actions) or do residents of a City need to be driven to act more sustainability (i.e through programs and policies created by governments).

[Apr 22 2014, 9:29 PM] Daniel: Its a bit of both. The City is proud of our collective achievements through the sustainable kingston plan – a communitypush. But today is a day of action. Visit our sustainability section on the city webpage to get a list of actions that individuals can take as well as a number of programs available.

Unfortunately the format of the discussion wasn’t conducive to addressing complicated topics. Mr. Shipp and Mr. MacLatchy did a great job with the limitations and I am hoping this is something that will evolve.

Perhaps setting up more focused topics, asking people to submit questions in advance, or even polling the audience in real time could create a more dynamic conversation. I’d love to see this turn into a regular method of engaging the community.

My own question, what is the City doing to help create an inclusive local food system, wasn’t answered. Anyone who hadn’t had their question selected was invited to submit it by email. I’ve sent mine and look forward to hearing the answer.

A full transcript of the discussion can be found here.