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Cariboo senior tracks his shrinking environmental impact for over a decade

Stuart Westie started monitoring physical activity for health, then pivoted to environmental reasons
Stuart Westie has been tracking his fitness and environmental impact each year since 2011, and his efforts add up. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

What started out as a project to track his exercise for health reasons, is now an annual audit for environmental reasons for a 75-year-old Cariboo man.

Stuart Westie, a retired teacher who lives in Williams Lake, has been producing an annual report for 12 years now, summarizing at the beginning of each new year, his previous year’s cycling, walking, and other fitness activities as well as the amount of garbage he produces and his vehicle use.

He would send the “audits” out to people he knew who might be interested via email to share with them his successes and to show others what is possible.

At first, his main concern was getting exercise, but at one point he decided to try to save time by incorporating his exercise into his commute by riding to the pool, where he used to swim laps daily, and for his grocery shopping.

After trying it once, he found he not only got more exercise, which was his goal, but he enjoyed it.

He was also tracking how many days he drove his car, how many days he rode his bike and how many days he walked.

Westie is a dedicated cyclist, and he usually prefers to ride his bike unless it is too cold or he doesn’t think the roads are favourable, this is despite some of the unfriendly responses he occasionally gets which might discourage other would-be cyclists.

One young pickup truck passenger recently rolled down his window to shout insults at him going by Westie on his bike on Mackenzie Avenue.

He also lives in an area many refuse to cycle to or from, as the section of highway he must navigate to town includes two bridge crossings and dirty road shoulders which force cyclists out into traffic, something many are not comfortable doing, but he manages to ride his bike hundreds of days a year.

Westie only drove his vehicle a total of 12 days for a distance of about 700 km in 2022, most of which was accounted for by a trip to see a specialist in Prince George last fall.

He rode his bicycle a total of 280 days, and estimates he cycled over 7,000 km.

He walked 84 days, but he jokes he is “slowing down” as in 2021 he rode his bike 323 days, though he also mentioned in his audit the weather and heavy snowfall in the Cariboo in 2022 in January, February, November and December were also factors in how much he cycled.

After suffering a stroke in 2020, Westie created a goal for himself of exercising at least 100 minutes a day.

His driving days over the years of tracking have gone down from 99 days driving in 2011 to only 12 in 2022.

He jokes about how his exercise has changed over the years.

“Yes, I now consider snow shovelling as exercise -oh how the mighty have fallen,” quips Westie in his update, noting he does still manage to walk the five kilometres into town in 50 minutes, however.

When he can’t road bike outdoors, Westie rides a stationary bike in his home, but he doesn’t enjoy the swap to indoor riding and only does it when conditions force him indoors.

As for the garbage aspect, Westie credits being the son of parents from the Depression with his desire not to waste food or throw things away. He burns the paper-based waste he produces and composts most of his organics, and grows a small garden, most of which he preserves for winter. He said he generates one can of garbage and one can of recycling per year.

“As we enter 2023 I am personally fine but I fear for the planet - it’s my constant obsession,” writes Westie in his update to friends.

Read more: OUR HOMETOWN: Stuart Westie has a passion for sports

Read more: SMART 55: Milestone reached by Westie

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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