After much consideration, I have decided not to participate in the sign wars. While visibility is important to democracy, with the amount of waste that is being produced in the 21st century it is becoming more difficult to justify investing in single-use plastic signs for a few weeks. Given that, here are some of the reasons why I have chosen not to purchase the typical coroplast signs for my mayoral campaign.
This decision comes from a place that recognizes we don’t recycle these signs at the Material Recycling Facility. Although technically coroplast can be, we don’t do it locally – there is only one place in the province that processes them. There should be an inherent responsibility where we recognize that even if we put something in the recycling bin it still has a long way to go before it is broken down and reused again.
I also recognize that for first time candidates, particularly in a municipal election it is more difficult to get name recognition. Signs can be a helpful resource in this capacity. However, coming off of a very recent provincial campaign I am not faced with the same challenge of having to put my name out there for the very first time. In addition, recent studies have concluded that signs only provide a little over 1 percentage-point boost to the candidate – especially as we migrate more and more into digital mediums for campaigning. Still, these studies are preliminary, but I want my decisions to be informed by research.
Well what about reusing them? I commend councillors for being environmentally conscious and holding onto their signs and reusing them with ‘re-elect’ stickers, as I’ve seen in this very election. I have also seen previous candidates find very creative ways to repurpose old signs. In addition, they are an excellent resource for advocacy groups who can reuse them all year long or every election cycle to keep important issues topical.
However, the mayoral race requires a city-wide sign strategy and, as I experienced only a few months ago, between vandalism and windy days these signs were often destroyed or ended up in bins everywhere. They get lost, and can be costly or problematic to store.
Lastly, the new sign by-law was created because of a local frustration with the amount of pollution and chaos signs had created in the city in the last round of federal, provincial, and municipal elections. Perhaps it's time to stop, listen to what the people of Guelph want, and take a chance at doing things differently.
I want to try this. I want to find ways to reduce waste and engage folks in the democratic process. We will be offering posters at our office (30 Carden Street) and encourage anyone interested to come by to take one to put in their windows. Printed on 100% recyclable material by a local printer as long as you recycle them we know the MRF (Material Recycling Facility) will bale them and make money off of them, as opposed to spending money to send whatever signs end up in the garbage to landfill. We’ll also have another medium to reach out through soon - more details to come.
As Guelphites we are known for our environmental stewardship and I want our campaign to reflect city wide values. Let’s take things in a new direction.