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Transforming How We Produce, Consume, and Waste

By: Mara Mackay

April 1st, 2021

TransformWR is Waterloo Region’s long term community climate action strategy, and our community-wide response to the global climate crisis. This work outlines our strategy to achieve an 80% local greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction target (based on 2010 levels) by 2050, with a short-term interim target to reduce GHGs 30% by 2030. The outcome of this collective action will help us achieve our vision for 2050, and ultimately transform Waterloo Region into an equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon community.   

Our call to action is to transform our community, in the ways we move, the ways we build and operate our spaces, the ways we produce, consume and waste, and the ways we relate to one another.

This excerpt from the TransformWR strategy focuses on: transforming how we produce, consume, and waste.

Waste has significant consequences for greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). When organic material is disposed of in landfills, they break down into methane, which is 25 times more damaging to our climate than carbon dioxide. We account for some of that methane in our community inventory, but this only reflects what has been landfilled at our local public landfills (residential waste that is collected through the Region’s curbside collection program).

Waste from businesses and multi-residential buildings with more than six units is arranged and paid for privately, without involvement from the Region or area municipalities. Much of this commercial waste leaves the community and is sent to landfills elsewhere. Since this process is arranged by landlords, condominiums, and businesses, we do not know how much waste is produced locally, where it goes, or whether GHG-emitting organics have been removed before the waste is landfilled.

Additionally, and what we cannot fully account for locally, is the energy used in making the things that we consume, and transporting it to us and eventually to the landfill or recycling centre. Reducing our energy use and reducing our energy emissions relies on us using less, and building a circular economy (using items as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them, and recovering, repurposing, and/or regenerating new products).

While methane emissions from livestock at local farms make up 5% of our local GHG inventory (and are counted as our local agriculture sector emissions), some of the emissions from the food we eat appear in other sections of our local inventory. These show up as business use of fossil fuels for farm operations, or when vehicles are used to transport food or food waste. While we have strong local food production, much of our food is made or grown elsewhere. The emissions used to make and grow food elsewhere and transport it to the region for us to eat can be significant and are important to address.

A significant way to reduce emissions caused by the food we eat is to make more of our food close to home. A locally-based food system is also more resilient, as we are less reliant on supply chains from other parts of the world, and less vulnerable to changes or shocks in those systems. We are fortunate in Waterloo Region to be a strong agricultural community, with land, people, and a food system that can serve as the foundation for a future where we make more of our own food. 

Every Waterloo Region municipality, organization, business, and community member has an important role to play in Waterloo Region’s transition to a low carbon community. This strategy is meant to influence all future planning. Official plans, corporate plans, organizational planning etc. should look to this document, and the work outlined in the strategy should be integrated into all planning processes for the next 30 years, to align our community with success. This is a launching point for the next 30 years of local climate action, and the years ahead of us are where the real work comes into play. 

Now is the time to act! Visit EngageWR.ca to review the full draft TransformWR document, look for the ways you see yourself in it, and join the entire community in helping to create a better future for us today and for generations to come. Together we can build a more equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon future!

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