reducing emmissons

Blog Post

Unplugging Connection; First Steps in Taking the Pledge

August 2nd, 2023

The following is a piece written through the perspective of ClimateActionWR volunteer and graduating university student, Connor Vago. We know that it feels like bad climate news is constant, and it is easy to feel eco-anxiety. It can be helpful to slow down and reflect on how climate action and wellness interconnect. We hope that this piece can give some inspiration as you continue to live sustainably.

Much of the work done at ClimateActionWR is tailored towards the promotion of individual and community action for sustainable and low carbon lifestyles. A helpful starting point when first beginning this journey is asking the question of “why”.  Why do I want to make a lifestyle change, and where does my motivation for climate action come from? There are many reasons for climate consciousness, this short piece will be tailored to those seeking to better understand the ways they can personally connect to the environments around them. How might acknowledging your connections influence the ways you live your life? Whatever it may be, however small or large, I’d like you to keep them in mind when reading the remainder of this piece. 

Connectivity with the environments around us is becoming increasingly important, not only for environmental sustainability but for human sustainability as well. The call to action to ‘make the pledge’ (Climate Action’s 90 day pledge for sustainable behavior changes) can be thought of not only in terms of promoting emissions reduction but also as promoting healthy living. The pledge, in its simplest form, promotes healthy living through carbon reduction strategies such as active transportation alternatives which can include walking and cycling. 

Given the changing nature of modern work and social interaction the necessity for online connectivity is growing which promotes an increasingly sedentary (inactive) lifestyle. As of 2022 Stats Canada measured an average total sedentary time for Canadian adults at 9.8 hours per day and only about 27% of adults met the recommended average for a healthy lifestyle. Further, the changing nature of interaction requires an increase in daily time plugged-in; considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the carry-over of work from home measures, screen time and individual energy consumption patterns are also on the rise. In addition to the previous statistic it was further found that 3.2 of these sedentary hours were spent in front of a screen. As a student and young professional the average screen time of 3.2 hours a day, in my opinion, seems quite low. Whether you agree with my conclusion, it seems many Canadians are adopting an over-connected, over plugged-in and ultimately sedentary lifestyle. Overly “plugged-in” lifestyles promote increased individual energy consumption and are increasingly damaging to physical/mental wellbeing. Increased screen time (time plugged-in) can lead to feelings of social-isolation, guilt and overcompensation in working aged adults. 

Nature is good for us; it has the power to provide both long- and short-term mental and physical health benefits. Nature is not just wilderness, but it is backyards, patios, parks and green spaces. I challenge you to take the time to consider in what ways unplugging may help you reconnect with the people and spaces around you. In turn, you may find that a pledge to ‘return to nature’ may affect your personal wellbeing. It’s not simply in the name of environmental sustainability, but also as previously mentioned, in the name of personal sustainability and personal wellbeing. 

Reducing energy consumption is beneficial for both the individual and the environment. Un-plug in any way you see fit, but I urge you to try and unplug. Find ways to reduce your personal consumption at home or work, turn your appliances off, take breaks and go outside and maybe start that garden you’ve been dreaming of. Action is a funny thing, and our call to action is one directed at reducing carbon footprints. Unplugging can be a good first step in taking climate action, one that can be explored in many different and accessible ways. Other ways you can practice “unplugging” might be by asking yourself if you need to run your AC when the windows are open or when you’re out of town. Or as previously mentioned, through active transportation; ask the question “do i need to drive my car to destination ‘X’”. Physical activity of any sort can be extremely influential on both climate action and your wellbeing at the same time. 

In the end, “unplugging” is not just about changing your consumption patterns but also changing the ways we connect. I hope you can find your way of promoting climate action through promoting your individual wellbeing. How will you participate in preserving that which is “unplugged”?

5 Ways to Make Your Office More Sustainable by SWR

July 10th, 2023

To learn more about Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR) and how to make your office more sustainable, check out the Impact Network program here!

1. Equipment

“You can reduce your computer monitors’ energy consumption by as much as 70% by turning on their power management settings!”

When employees are away from their computers for extended periods of time, it wastes energy if the monitor is left on. The most efficient way to avoid this cost is by turning your monitor off before leaving your desks. To avoid paying for extra electricity if this step is forgotten, it would be wise to activate your monitor’s power management settings, which will cause the monitor to enter ‘sleep mode’ after a short period of inactivity.

2. Building design & operations

“Save on energy bills and reduce your heat loss up-to 10% with weather-stripping!”

In the process of weather stripping windows, a latex caulking is applied around the edges of the window, creating an airtight seal. This will decrease the flow of outside air into the office space and help maintain consistent heating or cooling within the office. Window stripping products can be purchased at a local hardware store and can be easily applied.

3. Travel

“Create and utilize a standardized method/ tool for commuting and business travel reporting.”

Using a weekly survey, a spreadsheet template, or app to record personal or employee business travel will lead to greater accuracy in reported GHG emissions. Also, with better tracking of travel distances and methods over time, interventions for alternative travel methods can be evaluated for efficacy.

4. Water

“Install low-flow faucet aerators and reduce the flow of water by 30% or more, without compromising the effectiveness of the water stream.”

Aerators are small screens that introduce air into the water stream by splitting it into many small streams. Aerators improve the consistency of the water flow while also reducing water consumption. While modern fixtures have this feature, for older fixtures, it should be possible to unscrew the tip of your faucet – the aerator is the mesh cap at the end of your fixture – and use this to help purchase a suitable replacement.

5. Waste

“Recycled paper content preserves forests, reduces solid waste, and can reduce your upstream paper-related greenhouse gas emissions by almost 50%.”

Look for copier paper, envelopes, packaging supplies and publication-grade papers with recycled content, which can range anywhere from 10% to 100% recycled paper content. Products containing recycled content will usually display the Mobius loop (recycling) symbol.

Knowing Your Boundaries: How and When to Engage with Climate Change

April 24th, 2023

In June 2021, the ClimateActionWR collaborative announced the TransformWR strategy, our long-term and short-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Waterloo Region by 80% below 2010 levels by 2050 with an interim goal of a 30% reduction by 2030. ClimateActionWR is working with all eight Waterloo Region municipalities to enact our equitable, collaborative, and comprehensive strategies to achieve our 80% by ’50 and 30% by ‘30 reductions, in accordance with the Paris Agreement and Canada’s pledge to reach net-zero by 2050. You can find the details of the TransformWR strategy here.


In our age of the 24-hour news cycle, complemented by the never-ending roar of a whole slew of different social media platforms, it is nearly impossible to run out of climate change news, essays, posts, rants, and opinions. Which is not to say all of the news about climate is bad. On any given day, you can watch new videos or read about extraordinary ongoing pushes for climate justice on local, regional, national, and international levels and different victories for climate action. 

This is because, thankfully, there is an enormous amount happening around climate change at any given moment. From news and reactions to major climate victories in the form of new legislation or climate action; to the dire news of climate catastrophes and disasters affecting the most vulnerable. All the different news around our changing climate can be a lot to take in. It can certainly be overwhelming at times, and one very important thing to keep in mind is that unplugging or taking a break from climate news can be critical to pacing yourself and managing your own wellbeing in the face of climate change. And yes, you may be thinking, ‘kind of ironic that you’re saying this in a climate change blog full of hyperlinks to other content, isn’t it?’ Well, quite. But hopefully after reading this, you’ll still a) want to engage with climate change, but b) know when you need to take a break. What we’d really like to talk to you about is finding your healthiest balance. 


There are many problems that stem from climate change, but one key problem to keep in mind is that climate change and its impacts are long-term. While the worst-case scenarios are now judged to be highly unlikely to ever come to pass, climate change will be measured on a spectrum of decades rather than days or years. This is not meant to be discouraging, but to illustrate that engaging with climate change means pacing yourself. It’s a cliche at this point to say, ‘climate change is a marathon, not a sprint’ but the reason that’s a cliche is that it makes a good point. Pacing is key. Plenty of marathon marathon runners walk during marathons to help manage their energy and prevent injury. Engaging with climate change is similar. Sometimes, you need to slow down or disengage. 

You may have heard of ‘doomscrolling’ during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the phenomena of falling down dark and depressing rabbit-holes of social media posts and news articles about an ongoing crisis. Well, it is also possible to doomscroll through climate news, especially during episodes of extreme weather events. Many of us have probably given into doomscrolling on occasion and have ended up spending a morning or an evening diving into dire situations all over the world. While doomscrolling can provide some grim comfort of being up-to-date and aware of ongoing crises, it isn’t especially helpful for mental health or managing anxiety. A better idea might be to try and moderate your intake of climate news, good or bad, so that the struggles around our climate don’t consume you. 


While the majority of climate change news explores the impacts and risks of climate change, it is also important to take stock of the progress, growing awareness, and climate action occurring at various levels all over the world. There are lots of organizations that release regular newsletters about climate action (you can start with ours! The sign up box is at the bottom of this page) that note their progress, goals, victories, and plans moving forward. These sorts of newsletters can be helpful and can counterbalance the firehose of dire climate news you can get from news outlets and online sources. And again, we’re not just saying that because we have a very cool newsletter. If you want to look, you can seek out the progress and action from climate-minded organizations for a dose of hope and inspiration from anywhere in the world. 

Having said that, when bad news comes, which it sometimes will, how you engage with it is important for maintaining a balance between keeping informed and maintaining mental health. When a climate disaster strikes, or when climate action is faced with setbacks, things can feel dire. A thing to keep in mind with bad news is that major disasters and setbacks make for excellent headlines. Catastrophes tend to be large, grim, and to make future struggles all the harder. Disasters can be compelling and riveting, but they are rarely insurmountable. The efforts to overcome a calamity, the resilience offered by everyday people in pushing through, and the teamwork on a local or international level to provide assistance may not be seen as newsworthy and given the same coverage as the initial disaster. So however bad a week the world has with climate change, and even if you need to take a break from the coverage, the fact that climate disasters and climate change can be a front-page or trending event is critical for further engagement and action on climate change. But if that news and the conversation around it gets too heavy…


One of the most important elements of engaging with climate news is a simple one: take breaks from the news when it starts to feel overwhelming. However, you engage with climate change, whether it is traditional news sources, Reddit, social media, documentaries on climate change, take breaks now and then.


You know what, why not take the rest of the day off of reading or watching videos about climate change? You may be thinking, ‘wow, this is another incredibly ironic suggestion coming from a climate action group’ but we mean it. The rest of the climate movement can handle things while you recharge. Because climate change is going to be a part of our lives for decades to come. Like we said earlier, a marathon, not a sprint. But climate change is certainly a race we can succeed at, with each plan to reach net-zero, each commitment to reduced emissions, we make a little more progress in the race and push the needle towards a safer and more sustainable future. So take a break from the race for a bit, and we’ll chat again once you’ve recharged!

The Emotions of Climate Change

November 8th, 2022

In June 2021, the ClimateActionWR collaborative announced the TransformWR strategy, our long-term and short-term strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Waterloo Region by 80% below 2010 levels by 2050 with an interim goal of a 30% reduction by 2030. ClimateActionWR is working with all eight Waterloo Region municipalities to enact our equitable, collaborative, and comprehensive strategies to achieve our 80% by ’50 and 30% by ‘30 reductions, in accordance with the Paris Agreement and Canada’s pledge to reach net-zero by 2050. You can find the details of the TransformWR strategy here.


Climate change can be a frightening, unsettling, and upsetting topic to discuss. Which is not to say there aren’t reasons for hope, there are, and we’ll explore the reasons for hope and optimism throughout this article. While there is reason for optimism and we are seeing a lot of progress on climate action, some of the facts on what is changing and can be expected to change can be distressing. Some predictions are dire, although the worst-case climate scenarios are considered unlikely at this point. It is possible to feel hopeless considering how much needs to change and the sheer scope of what needs to be accomplished to prevent dangerous levels of warming and climate shifts. An enormous amount has been written about the dangers of climate change, what we must do to prevent the worst, and what is at stake. However, not enough has been said about how climate change makes people feel, how to cope with feelings around climate change, and what to do in difficult  moments when facing the problem that is climate change. 

But we would love to talk to you about the emotions that surround climate change. Maybe this type of discussion can help people know that being anxious, pessimistic, guilty, or hopeful about our changing climate is totally natural; and what you can do if you feel stuck.


Climate change anxiety is on the rise. Especially for people between the ages of 16 and 25. Which is completely understandable. Climate change is often talked about in what the world will be like in 2050 or 2100, which younger people today can expect to see for themselves. This can make these projections more anxiety-inducing. Plus, climate change is a bigger problem than any one person, or any one nation, can solve. The scope and extent of the problem can cause a feeling of powerlessness, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness or anxiety. This is also completely normal. But there are ways to manage climate anxiety to feel less stressed about climate change and to turn anxiety into a cause for action.

Suggestions to manage anxiety, such as meditation and relaxation, are a great option. But other recommendations, like communication, spending time in nature, and some level of climate change activism or involvement, can also be a huge help. Talking about your climate anxieties with friends and family can be hugely helpful to connect and share perspectives. As noted earlier, climate change is a global problem and not something anyone should feel they need to manage alone. Visiting nature, such as Provincial Parks or a hiking trail can also be a soothing way to connect with nature and enjoy the reserves and natural areas we do have. Time in nature can also be reaffirming, to remember what you’re hoping to preserve and to see the marvels of our planet for yourself. And finally, getting involved in climate change activism or awareness campaigns, whether volunteering in person, on social media, or online, can be a way to connect with people who are looking for change and have incredible ideas about how to improve our ideas and methods for dealing with climate change. While none of these are a perfect cure for climate change anxiety, they can offer help if you’re struggling and need direction in how to engage with a changing climate.


Blame and guilt are two especially uncomfortable discussions to have in regards to climate change. Plus, blame is a very complicated thing to assign in climate change. Rich countries are responsible for most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and there is a growing sense that rich nations have a climate debt to pay to the world in how they mitigate climate change and fund adaptation for more climate-vulnerable countries. But the blame for climate change can be more complex when looking for culpable individuals or organizations. Blame has been cast on political leaders, fossil fuel companies, and on the individual, for the world’s growing emissions over the last century. But blame isn’t necessarily helpful, and can detract from moving forward on climate action and efforts to promote climate equity. Shifting discussions away from blame can lead to more constructive discussions to promote helping and healing in the community, which can do far more good overall.

Guilt, meanwhile, is strongly associated with blame, and if you feel guilty about the emissions from your own lifestyle, from transportation, the energy you use, or the objects you use in everyday life, it’s important to know that a lot of work has gone into shifting the guilt of climate change from fossil-fuel intensive organizations to the individual. For example, maybe you’ve heard of the ‘carbon footprint calculator?’ It is a digital quiz that lets you see the extent of greenhouse gasses you are personally responsible for. Maybe you have even tried to calculate your carbon footprint. If you have, please know that it is a somewhat misleading means of understanding your responsibility for climate change.

You see, greenhouse gas emissions are released when fossil fuels are burned, but it is a long process involving a lot of companies, regulations, and societal norms to get fossil fuels into a driver’s gas tank or a homeowner’s furnace from their original location. Fossil fuels have to be extracted from the ground, refined, transported to where they will be used, and then used as fuel. The emissions for fossil fuels tend to be counted at the tailpipe where they are burned, as opposed to the wellhead where they are pulled out of the ground. This wellhead vs tailpipe discussion has been going on for years and it illustrates a key point about climate change guilt and hope: that the causes of climate change are layered and complex, and that fossil fuel usage is (unfortunately) built into how our society is powered right now.

Climate change can make it seem like the burden is on the individual while the solutions depend on the world, but the whole story of climate change is much more complicated than that. Assigning blame and guilt, while cathartic, doesn’t always account for the very long history of our relationship with Earth’s climate, and it might be more helpful to focus on positive emotions around climate change, like the conviction and hope that things can improve and we can aim for better. 


There are reasons to be hopeful about how humanity can respond to climate change.  A brilliant recent video by Kurzgesagt explains the reasons to be hopeful for preventing the worst of climate change quite well, noting that while we have a long way to go, there has been an enormous amount of progress in understanding and responding to climate change. Basically, over the past five years, there has been an enormous shift in how people view and talk about climate change. Different levels of government across Canada are making plans for steep emissions cuts by 2030 (including the Waterloo Region!) and Canada has a legally-binding target of  net-zero emissions by 2050. These new plans are in line with what scientists say we need to do in order to limit warming to dangerous levels.

While news about the world’s climate can certainly be dire, there are lots of reasons for hope and optimism when looking back at how climate change has grown as an issue and how conversations and action around climate change have evolved since the collapsed Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s. While there is a long way to go, the progress in climate change being recognized and addressed as an urgent issue is encouraging. If nothing else, keep in mind that there is an ongoing global effort to prevent climate change from worsening, with experts in the Waterloo Region writing parts of and negotiating the international efforts to report on climate change. Local organizations, including all townships in the Waterloo Region, from Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo to Wellesley, Wilmot, Woolwich, and North Dumfries, are taking individual and collective steps to address climate change and build resilience in their communities.


If climate change has you frightened or anxious, the team at ClimateActionWR has found some resources through the Mental Health and Climate Change Alliance (MHCCA). They offer lists of climate-aware counselors, climate wellbeing kits, and a variety of projects and resources to connect with people and share stories regarding climate anxiety. You can also check out the Good Grief Network that offers a program of ten week virtual sessions aimed at harnessing your overwhelming and painful feelings into positive action in your community. Always know that there are options out there for processing and talking about climate change, and most importantly, that you’re never alone in dealing with climate change.

Community Check-in: For our friends new and old, allow us to re-introduce ourselves!

November 3rd, 2022

The past year or so has been busy for ClimateActionWR and we just wanted to take a moment to re-introduce ourselves for those who may be unfamiliar and to provide a space for those who have been following along for some time to share what climate action projects they have been up to.

Sun Life Waterloo Busker Carnival

We are ClimateActionWR, a collaboration between local organizations, community members, and municipalities focused on climate change mitigation in Waterloo Region, co-led by Reep Green Solutions (Reep) and Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR). We coordinate the activities of our community’s climate action strategy, TransformWR, measure and monitor progress on emissions reductions, and engage the community in climate action initiatives. Our community is working together to achieve Waterloo Region’s long-term goal of an 80% greenhouse gas emission reduction (based on 2010 levels) by 2050 (80by50). The TransformWR strategy outlines our community’s pathway to 80by50, and identifies local actions that can be taken in Waterloo Region to reduce emissions 30% by 2030. 

In June 2021, all eight area municipalities in Waterloo Region endorsed TransformWR: Waterloo Region’s Transition to an Equitable, Prosperous, Resilient, Low Carbon Community. With a strong climate action plan, our councils unanimously adopted an additional ambitious and science-backed short-term community goal to achieve a 50% greenhouse gas reduction by 2030. The TransformWR strategy was developed through the ClimateActionWR collaborative, with joint funding from the local municipalities and from the Federation of  Canadian Municipalities under a T2050 grant. Led by ClimateActionWR staff, the project team included representatives from Reep, SWR, the cities, the townships, and the Region. ClimateActionWR via Unless Design Partners connected with over 1,600 community members to discuss what they wanted the future of Waterloo Region to look like, and their insights on how we can get there by transitioning to a low carbon community. This directly informed our vision of 2050, and the principles for designing a low carbon future, which were key inputs into the development of the technical pathway, led by energy consultants from WalterFedy. To inform this process, technical consultation included workshops, surveys, and conversations with over 100 technical experts, locally, nationally, and internationally, including municipal leadership and staff.  

This past year the ClimateActionWR collaborative has been fortunate to be included as one of 19 communities across Canada participating in Tamarack Institute’s Climate Transition Cohort, which will conclude late 2022. This training has developed the collaborative’s understanding of using an equity lens when implementing climate action strategies, all while leveraging the values of a collective impact model and collaborative leadership to create system changes and movement building in our communities. This has provided the ClimateActionWR collaborative an opportunity to connect and network with other municipalities and organizations across Canada to exchange ideas and best practices. Through this experience our team has learned many tools and ideas on how to create movement building in our community that maximizes all our strengths, levers and appropriately uses an equity lens in decisions making and strategic directions moving forward. 

Based on our history, ClimateActionWR is not new to collective work and has a foundation of collaboration. We are currently building on our foundation of collective work and using our learnings from the cohort to evolve to become more robust and inclusive as our region works toward implementing the TransformWR Strategy. It is only by integrating equity into all of our actions and decisions that we can transform into a low carbon community that enriches all of its members. We look forward to bringing more organizations and community members into our work as a collective and having more voices represented in our local climate movement. 

This past year we have been busy in the community chatting with many of you at local events to let everyone know that the strategy is ready and accessible in its entirety on our website. We have been focusing this past year on spreading the message that we are building a better future for our community through climate action, and that every individual, municipality, organization and business has a role to play! Going forward we are working towards building awareness in the community, so that everyone knows and takes ownership of their role in taking on climate action and implementing the TransformWR strategy. Stay tuned to our social media (@climateactionwr) and events calendar for upcoming ClimateActionWR events and campaigns heading into 2023!

City of Waterloo Day of Play
KW Multicultural Festival

We want to hear from you!

The TransformWR strategy is our entire community’s climate action plan and requires an all hands on deck approach. We’d love to hear about all the great work that is already underway in our community! If your business, or organization has a story to share about how you’re implementing the TransformWR strategy and building a better Waterloo Region through climate action, then email us at so we can spotlight your tremendous work and all celebrate together!

ClimateActionWR’s Nine Questions for This Municipal Election

October 6th, 2022

The 2022 municipal election is quickly approaching! Verify your eligibility to vote, check advance polling dates/locations and election day information on the Region of Waterloo Elections website.

All eight municipalities in Waterloo Region endorsed the TransformWR strategy, making it the official climate action plan for these governments. If we hope to meet the target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, it is crucial that incoming candidates act on the recommendations of the plan. 

Here are nine questions that you can ask candidates at the door or at local debates:

1. How will you ensure that the TransformWR strategy remains a priority of the incoming council and builds momentum throughout the community?

All eight municipal councils endorsed the strategy along with a target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, and an interim target of a 50% reduction by 2030. These bold commitments are going to take immediate action by the incoming council.

2. How will you advocate to the provincial and federal governments in support of our long-term community climate action plan? 

When they approved the interim target of a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, municipalities recognized that it is going to take support from the federal and provincial governments. This kind of multi-government collaboration takes time and clear vision.

3. How will you support the protection of agricultural land and our local agricultural systems?

Waterloo Region is an agricultural leader. Building and maintaining close relationships between our local municipalities and organizations within our local agricultural communities is critical to ensuring we meet and exceed best practices to protect our agricultural land.

4. What will you do to make home energy efficiency upgrades accessible and affordable for all?

Energy poverty (defined as paying twice the national average proportion of income for home energy) affects 1 in 5 households in Waterloo Region.

5. How will you support using active transportation for trips currently taken by car?

Our region needs to shift away from cars in order to meet the goals agreed to by council. By 2050, vehicle trips under 5km need to be reduced by 80% using active transportation. This shift needs to start now.

6. What steps will you take to make sure our (Region/City/School board) wastes less and no longer disposes of organics in the landfill?

Waste reduction is a major part of the TransformWR strategy, with one of the six transformative changes being “Waterloo Region uses less, wastes less, and no longer disposes of organic matter in landfills.” To make this happen, municipal governments need to work with the province and come up with creative solutions to real challenges like the lack of organic waste pick-up in multi-residential buildings.

7. How will you support local electricity generation from carbon neutral, renewable sources?

The TransformWR strategy calls for 38% of electricity used locally to be produced from local, carbon neutral, renewable sources. In order to realize this by 2050, we need to start now.

8. TransformWR promises that in the next three years, fuel oil and propane will be eliminated as heating sources for buildings. What steps will you take to make sure that happens?

This shift is one of the most immediate time-sensitive goals of the strategy. Fuel oil and propane heating are inefficient and unsustainable but switching can often be costly. Our municipalities need to work with residents to help them transition off these fuels affordably.

9. What steps will you take to support the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector’s transition to more energy efficient operations?

The second largest sector for emissions in our community comes from workplaces. This is the emissions from energy use in industrial, commercial and institutional buildings. This is a crucial sector to support in order to meet our long-term targets. 

Here’s Why Waterloo Region’s Low Carbon Future Needs Your Vote in the June 2nd Provincial Elections

May 31st, 2022

It’s now days until the election. Before voting, we thought you’d like to know how the Ontario Provincial government affects local climate action. Our local Waterloo Region climate change mitigation goals under the TransformWR strategy include addressing emissions from agriculture, residential, transportation, workplaces, and waste. Local actors must work hard to meet our short- and long-term goals. But given its jurisdiction over all TransformWR focus sectors, the Province has a clear responsibility in achieving our long-term goals too. To reach our goals, the Provincial government must implement supportive policies and programs now if we are to meet our 2030 and 2050 targets respectively. Who you vote for on June 2nd matters for Waterloo Region’s low carbon future. So, know this before you vote:

Provincial Impact on TransformWR Calls to Action & Transformative Changes

the Ways
We Move
Most trips are taken
using active
transportation, with
the support of a
robust public transit

Supporting active transportation.
The Provincial government has the authority to establish guidelines for “complete streets” and make a commitment to creating communities that are bikeable and walkable.

Public transit system growth.
The government is an important partner in the expansion of infrastructure and provides some of the funding for the transportation system in the Waterloo Region.

Highway development.
The government is in charge of making decisions pertaining to highways, such as the Conestoga Parkway and Highway 7 to Guelph.

the Ways
We Move
Remaining personal and commercial vehicles are
zero emissions vehicles

Accelerating electric vehicle adoption.
In the past, the Provincial government has offered financial incentives for the purchase of electric cars and is in charge of regulating usage and resale market conditions.

Electrification of commercial vehicle fleets.
The Province is responsible for establishing emissions and safety regulations for commercial vehicles, and it has the potential to play a significant role in the electrification of fleets.

Deploying EV charging infrastructure.
Public charging stations are installed along highways and in rural regions with funding from the Provincial government.

Transform The Ways We Build & Operate
Our Spaces
Businesses and homes no
longer use fossil fuels for
space heating and cooling,
and water heating.

Individual building energy efficiency.
The province sets codes and regulations for new and existing buildings. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is responsible for administering the Ontario Building Code, which regulates minimum efficiency requirements and processes for how buildings are built and retrofitted in the Province.

Land use development and redevelopment.
Through the Planning Act, the Province regulates the development and use of land in Ontario, including processes and tools for planning and controlling development or redevelopment, as well as providing the legal foundation for local official plans and zoning-by laws.

The Energy system.
The Ontario Energy Ministry sets energy policy. Ontario’s energy policy covers generation, transmission, and facilities, including renewable energy sources. This is accomplished through legislation and regulation. The Ministry oversees pricing regulatory frameworks. Policies that promote energy conservation, clean technology, and innovation would also fall under the purview of the Province.

Transform the Ways
We Relate
Waterloo Region has
leveraged reducing GHG
emissions to increase
equity, prosperity, and
resiliency for all.

Making housing and workplaces healthier, accessible, and affordable is already within the Province’s power.
The Province oversees energy conservation and energy poverty reduction incentive programs (Ministry of Energy), affordable and social housing policies, tenant affordability controls, landlord energy conservation incentives, and building codes that require construction practices to enhance the health of the indoor environment (Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing).

Creating policies and programs that increase the representation of equity seeking groups in the green workforce is part of the Province’s jurisdiction.
Building local capacity to drive forward climate action will necessitate an increasingly robust workforce, with opportunities for equity seeking groups at its core to support local economic development. The province can exert influence in this area through regulatory bodies such as the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade through strategic policies and programs.

The Province can align key social, environmental, economic, land use, and energy policies and programs to allow groups and individuals to undertake equitable community-level climate action.
Jurisdiction includes but is not limited to ramping up local renewable generation (Ministry of Energy), providing appropriate tools, resources, and market signals to local governments and economies (Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade), and contributing to healthier communities and economic prosperity by protecting Ontario’s air, land, and water from climate impacts with strong policies and programs (Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks). 

Transform the Ways
We Produce, Consume
and Waste
Waterloo Region uses less, wastes less, and
no longer disposes of
organic matter in

Guide transition to a circular economy.
The government of the Province has the authority to enact legislation for the use of recovered materials, which will contribute to the expansion of the circular economy.

Waste management facilities and practices. 
Landfills are subject to regulation by the Provincial government, which includes the authorization of new landfills and the regulation of waste management procedures.

Diverting organic waste from landfills.
The Province has the authority to prohibit the disposal of organic waste in landfills and to impose stringent rules on the commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors regarding organic waste.

Transform the Ways
We Produce, Consume

and Waste
Waterloo Region has a
thriving local food system built on local farming, and food production and processing that feeds
much of our community.

Agricultural practices.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs of Ontario is in charge of regulating farming in the Province, including but not limited to practices such as organic farming and small-scale farms.

Reducing food waste.
In order to reduce the amount of food that is thrown away, the Province is able to provide financial assistance toward the process of rescuing and redistributing excess food.

Supporting local food production and consumption.
The Province is responsible for enforcing sales regulations at farm stands and has the ability to encourage the purchase of locally grown food in Ontario supermarkets.

Keep this information in mind when voting for your local low carbon future. 

And if you’re interested in hearing from Waterloo Region MPP candidates’ about their plans to balance human and environmental needs, check out these Waterloo Region election candidate interviews.

The interviews are available on Waterloo Region Elections YouTube page: Waterloo Region Election Interviews – MPP candidates’ plans to balance human and environmental needs. For the June 2nd, 2022 Ontario election, several organizations and groups in Waterloo Region invited all the candidates for individual 15 minute interviews. The candidates were asked about issues that affect everyone in our community on a daily basis – climate change, land protection, transportation, housing, aggregate extraction and environmental justice.

The group coordinating the interviews included Grand River Environmental Network, Nith Valley EcoBoosters, rare Charitable Research Reserve, Reep Green Solutions (Reep), Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR), and ClimateActionWR (a co-led program of Reep and SWR).

National Volunteer Week 2022: “A BIG thank you to our volunteers; the heart of ClimateActionWR”

April 28th, 2022

ClimateActionWR’s dedicated and passionate volunteers lend their collective power to making Waterloo Region more sustainable by supporting the implementation of Waterloo Region’s long-term community climate change mitigation strategy TransformWR

April 24th to April 30th is National Volunteer Week, and ClimateActionWR would like to acknowledge all of our 42 (forty-two) dedicated and hard working volunteers that help make the program flourish. The National Volunteer Week 2022 theme is “Volunteering is Empathy in Action: Volunteers Bring Heart to Canada’s Communities”. No one exemplifies this more than our ClimateActionWR volunteers, who continue to show that great things can be accomplished in climate action with authentic empathy and passion. Our volunteers are truly the heart and soul of our program, with a genuine interest in our entire community’s well-being and togetherness. They continue to be the force that lights the path forward on our climate mitigation journey, bringing the aim of transitioning to a more equitable, prosperous, resilient, and low-carbon community closer to reality. 

The ClimateActionWR Sector Committee volunteers include our Advisors, Co-Chairs and Members who act as catalysts and connectors for our community’s climate action strategy. We’d like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for our Residential, Transportation, and Workplace Sector Committee volunteers for their positive energy, passion and tremendous impact to our community’s climate action efforts.

ClimateActionWR also has a core staff team that is mostly made up of volunteers who help run the program. Whether it’s bringing heart and inspiration to our social media, marketing, content and resource creation, or research, our mighty team works hard to ensure the program thrives. We’d like to express our gratitude to our volunteer staff team as a valuable and essential part of our program.

Volunteers from ClimateActionWR and others across Waterloo Region bring strength and momentum to climate action that’s pushing us towards a better community and world for all. The community would not be able to accomplish everything it has without you. On behalf of ClimateActionWR, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Here are just a few of our passionate and hardworking volunteers at ClimateActionWR.

Township Success Series: Wellesley Lights the Way

March 17th, 2022

In June 2021, the ClimateActionWR collaborative released our community’s long-term strategy and short-term plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Waterloo Region 80% below 2010 levels by 2050, with an interim community goal of a 50% reduction by 2030. ClimateActionWR works collaboratively with local organizations, community members, and all eight Waterloo region municipalities to transition our community to an equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon future and achieve our ‘80by50’ and ‘50by30’ goals. This work is done in accordance with the Paris Agreement and Canada’s pledge to reach net-zero by 2050. Read the TransformWR strategy here.

As we work towards our goals, it is important to also take time to celebrate the great accomplishments that have already been achieved. Throughout the past few years there have been many success stories that deserve to be highlighted. The “Township Success Series” is meant for us to reflect and celebrate these local projects within Waterloo Region’s Townships.


Humanity’s understanding of electricity has come a long way since 2,350 B.C.E., when a popular theory from Greek philosopher, Empedocles, suggested that the heat of the sun caused clouds to catch fire and that lightning was bursts of flame escaping from the burning clouds. In fairness, Empedocles didn’t have the knowledge of the troposphere that we have now, or our understanding of atmospheric circulation. 2,371 years ago, burning clouds was a reasonably solid theory to explain why flashes of fire burst forth from the sky when it was gloomy outside. The phenomena of lightning, and the study of electricity, would go on to change the way the human race works, communicates, and travels the world. It would, however, take quite a while.

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Thomas Edison’s assistants testing Light bulbs, circa 1880. Photo credit: First public demonstration of the incandescent light bulb · Physical, Electrical, Digital (

Studies of electricity continued over the centuries, but the industrial revolution transformed electricity from something found only in nature to a convenience of everyday life. Until the 19th century, people lit their homes with fires, candles, and oil lamps. However, unattended fires and candles could lead to infernos that destroyed city blocks, and oil lamps had a reputation for exploding with little warning, making reading before bed extremely hazardous. Electric lighting was a revolution that let people safely work and study at any hour of the day. Electric light became more common in homes throughout the 19th century, with electric street lights making their first appearances in North America in the 1870s. By the onset of World War I, movements to conserve electricity had already begun to circulate to reduce fuel use from electric lighting.

By World War I, the wastefulness of incandescent lighting was obvious.

A World War I era reminder to conserve electricity. The more things change, huh? Photo credit:


Wellesley, a township of 11,500 people located in the northwest Waterloo region, is made up of several villages, including Wellesley, Linwood, St. Clements, and Hawkesville. First surveyed in 1864 and incorporated as part of Waterloo region in 1853, Wellesley took a keen interest in electric lighting as early as 1900. The Wellesley Maple Leaf newsletter exclaimed that lawn bowling games could stretch well into the evening thanks to the electric light supplied by the local mill in 1906. This was the same year that the Wellesley Roller Mill surged ahead with electric light, supplying “125 incandescent lights of 16-candle power” to residents and offering to go further and sign a contract for “500 or more lights”. A hundred and fifteen years later, a new electrical revolution is underway in Wellesley under the guiding light of sustainability. With a plan to convert all Township facilities to LED lighting by 2030, Wellesley aims to reduce its energy usage and commit to a sustainable future.

An article on electric lighting in the Wellesley Maple Leaf from Thursday, June 21st, 1906. Photo credit:


The LED revolution that Wellesley is partaking in marks a major shift in how we light our streets, homes, and businesses; although at first glance, it doesn’t seem as thrilling or dramatic as the original introduction of electric lights. I mean, new light bulbs? Why is that exciting? But the rise of the Light Emitting Diode (commonly known as an LED) marks a new chapter of energy efficiency in lighting design that can drastically cut down energy usage. Compared to an incandescent light bulb, an LED light uses 50% less electricity, while their flat surface allows directional lighting instead of radiant lighting, which significantly reduces heat and light loss from LEDs compared to fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs.

Equation 1 A bulb-to-bulb comparison of different lights. Photo credit:

LEDs emit very little heat compared to older bulbs and can last 3-5 times longer than a fluorescent bulb and 30 times longer than an old-fashioned incandescent bulb. LEDs also function best in cold temperatures, which is a bonus in Canadian winters. LED lighting is a natural fit for any community that is striving to be more sustainable. Which brings us back to Wellesley…


Wellesley’s LED retrofit has already made substantial progress. Over the last eight years, the majority of the Township’s arenas, parking lots, and municipal buildings have been switched over to LED lighting. Each replaced light will use roughly one-fifth of the electricity an older bulb would use every year, which adds up across the entire Township, ultimately creating a significant reduction in Wellesley’s electricity usage. Electricity savings also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing overall energy demand. While Ontario mostly relies on non-greenhouse gas-emitting sources for electricity generation, 6.3% of Ontario’s electricity was generated from natural gas in 2020, which does create greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing and conserving electricity is key to moderating overall energy demands, to ensure non-emitting energy sources can continue to provide the vast majority of electricity for Ontario.

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The Wellesley Arena. According to Township officials, arena and parking lot lights in Wellesley have been replaced with LED lights. Photo Credit:

The remaining non-LED lights operated by the Township are expected to be replaced within the next five to six years, comfortably ahead of Wellesley’s original 2030 goal for having all lights replaced. But Wellesley’s LED retrofit mission is about more than saving energy and promoting sustainability. It is a lesson that any township with determination and the know-how to make a difference can be a community leader to other towns and cities who want to follow the path to a sustainable and equitable future. While it may sound slightly grandiose to say “Wellesley is lighting the way” in LED adoption, that is what Wellesley is doing in a real, practical sense. So a big thank you to both the community leaders and the boots on the ground in Wellesley for lighting the way forward.

Township of Wellesley Sign

The Sign for Wellesley Township. Photo Credit:

Township Success Series: Township of Wilmot Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve Project

March 3rd, 2022

In June 2021, the ClimateActionWR collaborative released our community’s long-term strategy and short-term plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Waterloo Region 80% below 2010 levels by 2050, with an interim community goal of a 50% reduction by 2030. ClimateActionWR works collaboratively with local organizations, community members, and all eight Waterloo Region municipalities to transition our community to an equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon future and achieve our ‘80by50’ and ‘50by30’ goals. This work is done in accordance with the Paris Agreement and Canada’s pledge to reach net-zero by 2050. Read the TransformWR strategy here

As we work towards our goals, it is important to also take time to celebrate the great accomplishments that have already been achieved. Throughout the past few years there have been many success stories that deserve to be highlighted. The “Township Success Series” is meant for us to reflect and celebrate these local projects within Waterloo Region’s Townships. 

Climate change has become an increasingly common topic in today’s news. While it is important to stay informed, the news tends to be predominantly focused on the negative aspects of this global environmental issue. It can be extremely draining to be exposed to this on a regular basis, and it is therefore necessary to include a good balance of positive stories as well. We would like to highlight a project that has achieved some recent success in Waterloo Region; the Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve.


Photo credit: Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve Twitter Page:

How did this project get started?

Back in September 2019, Mike Schout (the President of Stonecroft Corp. in New Hamburg) pitched the idea for a wetland restoration project to the Wilmot Township Council, along with a generous donation of 1.5 million dollars. The project was authorized shortly after, launching this multi-year naturalization project. Mr. Schout’s donation is estimated to pay for roughly half of the project, while federal government funds will cover 75% of the tree planting cost. Kitchener Wilmot Hydro has also given funding to introduce blue heron habitat and nesting grounds within the preserve, and the project is expected to receive additional grants as well. Ducks Unlimited Canada, represented by Board of Directors member and wetland conservation designer, Philip Holst, and habitat specialist, Jeff Krete, has also been a large supporter of this initiative, offering instrumental help in the planning and engineering of these wetlands.  

Photo credit: Township of Wilmot Website, Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve:

After much planning, the project was able to get started last year. On May 7th, 2021, the first of 4,000 native trees and shrubs were planted at the site – as seen in the image above – by Mike Schout (left) and Philip Holst (right) in collaboration with the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) and Forests Ontario. In mid-July 2021, site preparation began for the pollinator meadows in anticipation for planting in early fall. In September, the GRCA approved the overall project design, which was already endorsed by the Township Council, allowing for contractors to begin sculpting the wetlands. Most recently in early November, community volunteers supplied by Let’s Tree Wilmot, part of the Wilmot Horticultural Society, participated in a successful tree planting event on site. 

Where is this project located?

We would like to acknowledge that this land was in the care and possession of Indigenous communities for many thousands of years. This plot lies within the traditional territory and treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Mississauga, Attiwonderonk (Neutral), and Anishinabewaki Indigenous Nations. 

The Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve is located on a 55-acre plot of former farmland off Smith Creek Drive in New Hamburg, within the Township of Wilmot. What was previously a cornfield adjacent to the Nith River will be converted into a beautiful and functional wetland through this impressive naturalization project. Below (top image) is a satellite view of the site prior to the project’s commencement, with a draft concept plan indicating all the proposed features including trails and boardwalks throughout the wetlands, lookouts, meadows, and plenty of trees ( bottom image). 

Photo credit: Township of Wilmot Website, Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve:


Photo credit: Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve Twitter Page:

Why do we need wetlands?

Wetlands are effective net carbon sinks, and as a result, wetland preservation and restoration are essential steps towards climate action. They sequester atmospheric carbon predominantly through plant photosynthesis, which is then stored in living plant tissues, in addition to organic matter (known as peat), soils, and sediments, where it can remain for hundreds to thousands of years. While young growth forests act as better carbon sinks than wetlands overall, wetlands serve as the largest natural terrestrial carbon storage mechanism in the world, holding about 60% of the carbon contained within Canadian soils. Peatlands are wetlands where peat has built up over time due to consistent waterlogged and low oxygen conditions that inhibit plant material from fully decomposing and are the best type of wetlands for carbon storage. When left untouched, peatlands can store more carbon than all other types of vegetation on the planet combined! 

Wetlands also provide numerous ecological services, including:

  • Habitat for many animals 
  • Flood risk mitigation and water storage 
  • Groundwater replenishment and recharge 
  • Food supplies, such as rice, cranberries, and fish
  • Filtration of toxins and sediments from freshwater supplies
  • Energy products (e.g., charcoal) and building materials (e.g., lumber) 
  • Recreational, cultural, and educational areas for nearby communities 

Unfortunately, wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate! Approximated 70% of former Canadian wetlands have been destroyed, paved over, degraded, or converted into agricultural land. Wetlands are also being greatly impacted globally by deforestation and other land-use change, as well as forest fires (which are becoming increasingly common due to climate change). Since they store so much carbon, they have the potential to become a net carbon source when disturbed. This wetland preserve is therefore an essential undertaking which will not only benefit the community and promote ecological conservation, but it will also contribute to carbon sequestration and storage, thus mitigating some of the Township’s greenhouse gas emissions.  

What will this wetland look like once completed?

The vision for this wetland preserve is for it to serve as a natural carbon sink (with many other ecological benefits) while simultaneously creating a peaceful recreational and educational space for all members of the community. A main goal of the project is to provide a network of wetlands to reduce urban stormwater run-off from New Hamburg before it reaches the Nith river, which will offer flood storage capacity and improve the overall health of the river over time. 

Within the preserve, the wetlands will take up about seven acres and will offer a safe habitat for many aquatic species. At present, this site has very few animal inhabitants, but the project aims to change that with roughly ten acres within the thirty-acre meadow being dedicated solely to pollinator plants, which will provide a welcoming environment for bees, butterflies, and various other insects. This insect diversity is expected to drive an influx of bird and other wildlife populations towards this area. The trees and other flora that will comprise much of the remaining land were specifically selected to promote biodiversity as well.

Photo credit: ClimateActionWR Twitter Page:

What’s next?

No official opening date for the preserve has been announced as of yet, since construction and naturalization only just began last year. The planting at the site is a work in progress, and volunteer projects to assist in this process are currently underway. The meadow is anticipated to take 3 years to reach full splendor, and the trees and other vegetation will need time to grow as well. While this project is not explicitly reducing the emission of greenhouse gases in Waterloo region, ecological preservation – particularly concerning natural carbon sinks – is a vital step towards effective climate change mitigation, as it allows the sequestration of carbon that has already been emitted into our atmosphere. Hence, this project offers an important contribution to ClimateActionWR’s community climate action goal of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.  

For further information about this ongoing wetland restoration project, please visit the Township of Wilmot website, and be sure to keep an eye on the Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve Twitter feed for upcoming volunteer opportunities. 

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