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Greening the Future of Emergency Services

David Hollingworth, Paramedic, B.C. Emergency Health Services

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Paramedic and Green+Leader, David Hollingworth, moves BC Emergency Health Services team towards adopting more sustainable practices.

It’s a recognized and reassuring sound—the whirring wheels of a group of cyclists zipping through streets and alleyways, carrying weighty medical kits and donning neon yellow uniforms. These are no ordinary cyclists, they’re the BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) Bike Squad—a team of paramedics responding to emergency calls and seeking out patients needing treatment in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Cycling allows these paramedics to be highly mobile, navigating congested streets nimbly, and reducing response times to overdose, heart attacks, or life-threatening injuries. There’s another benefit to this work that might not come to mind immediately—reduced carbon emissions. To Bike Squad member, David Hollingworth, it is rewarding to provide carbon-free care to a community that needs it.

David has been working as a primary care paramedic in the Downtown Eastside for the past 16 years. He is dedicated to his work and community and is an inspiring champion for climate action. David’s epiphany about the severity of climate change occurred during his university studies. In 2015, a combination of factors led him to take action on his values and he purchased his first electric vehicle.

It brings me joy every time I get behind the wheel of this vehicle, knowing that I’m not emitting carbon,” says David.

Since then, David has become a force for climate action in his workplace. His effort to create change in his local union, the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (APBC), has led to the creation of two committees. David chairs the APBC Environment and Climate Change Committee and co-chairs the joint APBC\BCEHS Decarbonization Committee.

Continuing the momentum, David’s latest sustainability project is the Idling Reduction Strategy with the BCEHS/APBC Joint Decarbonization Committee. The project aims to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging sustainable driving habits in BCEHS’s fleet of vehicles. Recently, the committee conducted a survey of the organization, which received an impressive response rate of 740 out of 4,000 members. The data collected will inform engineering and behavioural solutions to reduce idling among BCEHS vehicles.

The work of environmental advocacy can be difficult, emotional, and time-consuming, but it’s all part of the process and it’s okay to feel emotional,” says David.

His tips for success include pacing yourself, seeking out and working with those who are allies and have the ability to assist you, and being sensitive that there are many other pressing issues facing stakeholders, with the climate crisis no less important among them. Additionally, he advises that while the work can be emotionally draining, it also offers many emotional highs, and ultimately has made his life richer.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity,” says David, adding that he remains optimistic about the progress that can be made and the joy we can all find in being part of that journey.