For Canada 150, some Canadian best practices in sustainability

Published Tuesday, July 4, 2017 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal.

Since this is a time for painting the town red, why not whoop it up about sustainability in Canada?  Here are just a few best practices from across the country worth celebrating – and emulating!

Curbside Give Away Weekend 

One weekend each fall, residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality are encouraged to place their unwanted household items at the curb with a ‘free’ sign.  It’s an easy way for people with too much stuff to declutter, and for people in need of stuff to find what they need.  

Imagine a giant, community-wide yard sale, except everything’s free – so lots of useful stuff that would otherwise be discarded and landfilled ends up having a second life and doing good.

Home Energy Loan Program

One of the biggest barriers for homeowners wishing to make energy efficiency upgrades is finding the money to do the work.  Toronto’s Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) is designed to help overcome that barrier.

Under HELP, homeowners can borrow money from the municipality at a low interest rate, and pay it back over an extended period through their property taxes.  The benefits?  There’s no bank involved so homeowners aren’t taking on debt; and homeowners thinking of moving don’t have to worry that they might not get a return on their investments because the amount owing is blended into property taxes and therefore passed on to any new owner.

Summerside Wind Farm

Imagine owning your own source of energy – cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching with every turn of a turbine.

According to Green Energy Futures, an organization that monitors and showcases renewable energy success stories, that’s the reality in Summerside, PEI, where four huge municipality-owned wind turbines and a nearby wind farm supply nearly half of the town’s power needs.  The city’s turbines were built in 2009, and generate power at about five cents a kilowatt hour – one-ninth the cost of the diesel power they were replacing.  No wonder the municipality has recently announced it wants to acquire more of its own power generating capacity, preferably green.

To help overcome the peak-and-valley nature of wind power, Summerside has installed a smart grid.  In times of excess power, water heaters and heat-storage furnaces in local homes and businesses store excess power in the form of heat.  In return, those homes and businesses get a discount of over 30 per cent on their power bills.

Energy Leaders Consortium

The Energy Leaders Consortium is a Toronto-based peer-to-peer learning initiative in which businesses – including some competitors – challenge each other to set and achieve energy conservation goals.  In 2016, 11 participating businesses implemented 107 projects that will annually reduce their water consumption by 131,000 cubic meters, prevent 4,500 tonnes of emissions and save them $4.16 million in energy and water costs!

Energy Leaders Consortium is one of many programs administered by Partners in Project Green, an organization that aims to grow the local economy while helping businesses improve their financial and environmental bottom lines.

Turning organic waste into biogas – and revenue

For many municipalities, sewage is a waste product.  For St Hyacinthe, Quebec, it’s a resource.

Instead of using conventional sewage treatment methods, St Hyacinthe uses anaerobic digestion to convert waste into biogas that is used to run municipal vehicles and to heat and cool municipal buildings.  Surplus gas is sold, and leftover solids are turned into usable compost.  

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the project is expected to pay for itself through millions of dollars in revenue and annual savings.

Working when and where we’re most productive

Workshift Canada is a not-for-profit focussing on helping businesses and municipalities learn best practices for enabling flexible work hours or telecommuting (employees working from home).  The benefits: happier, more productive people, less traffic congestion and fewer emissions.  

Workshift offers templates, how-to documents, case examples and more.  The cities of Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa are on board.

Paint the country green

Bravo to the above people, organizations and municipalities: helping paint the country green, even as we paint the town red this anniversary year.