reducing emmissons

Blog Post

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.

THE EMOTIONS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

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

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.

GUILT & CLIMATE CHANGE

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. 

RESILIENCE & HOPE

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 YOU FEEL STUCK

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 connect@climateactionwr.ca 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

CALL TO ACTION TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGES PROVINCIAL JURISDICTION
Transform
the Ways
We Move
Most trips are taken
using active
transportation, with
the support of a
robust public transit
system.

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.

Transform
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
landfills.

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.

2,300 YEARS IN 2 PARAGRAPHS

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.

A picture containing building, white, pulling, black

Description automatically generated

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

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: https://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/let-there-be-light-bulbs/

WHICH BRINGS US TO WELLESLEY

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: https://www.wellesleyhistory.org/uploads/9/2/9/6/9296178/wml_1906_compressed.pdf

THE LIGHT EMITTING DIODE’S TIME TO SHINE

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: https://www.hydroone.com/saving-money-and-energy/residential/tips-and-tools/lighting-your-home

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…

WHAT WELLESLEY HAS & WILL ACHIEVE

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.

A building with a sign on the front

Description automatically generated with low confidence

The Wellesley Arena. According to Township officials, arena and parking lot lights in Wellesley have been replaced with LED lights. Photo Credit: https://observerxtra.com/2021/06/17/wellesley-rec-complex-project-gets-16-million-boost-from-the-province/

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: https://www.wellesley.ca/en/living-here/living-here.aspx

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.

Image

Photo credit: Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/WetlandsWilmot

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:  https://www.wilmot.ca/en/things-to-do/wetlands-wilmot.aspx#First-Tree-Planted-at-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:  https://www.wilmot.ca/en/things-to-do/wetlands-wilmot.aspx#First-Tree-Planted-at-Mike-Schout-Wetlands-Preserve

Image

Photo credit: Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/WetlandsWilmot

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: https://twitter.com/ClimateActionWR/status/1317192144663228416

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. 

Township Success Series: “Trees For Woolwich” Is A Growing Success

February 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.

SOARING ABOVE THE TREES

The Trees for Woolwich initiative was launched in 2011 by the Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC) and has been one of several success stories of environmental sustainability in Waterloo region. When you read “Trees for Woolwich”, you may think the program is a straightforward tree planting initiative. And tree planting is a big part of their mission. But there is also so much more. In fact, what makes the Trees for Woolwich program a standout success story for Woolwich and Waterloo region is how the program has branched out to include a variety of important and critical work for the community. While the tree planting accomplishments of Trees for Woolwich are impressive on their own terms, their wider actions and outreach has been a standout environmental, educational, and community building exercise.

scenery with bridge

Photo credit: Woolwich Township Website, About Woolwich:  https://www.woolwich.ca/en/living-here/About-Woolwich.aspx

How did it all start? What created this drive to push for change? Well, the forest cover of the Grand River watershed was drastically reduced throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. TWEEC realized that extensive reforestation would be needed to sustain a healthy ecosystem for the region, and aims to improve the forest cover from 5% to 30%. The efforts of Trees for Woolwich have already extended forest cover to 14%, offering a host of environmental benefits to the community. Since 2011, Trees for Woolwich have planted over 48,468 trees, and aim to plant 5,000 trees every year moving forward1.

RESULTS ON (AND ABOVE) THE GROUND

The benefits of tree planting are varied and extensive. For starters, your average full-grown hardwood tree can absorb up to 22 kilograms of carbon dioxide every year through a process known as photosynthesis. This means that by the time the 48,468 trees planted so far by Trees for Woolwich are fully grown, they will be able to remove 1066.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. With continued tree planting and tree care, that number will continue to grow and create an even stronger and more robust carbon sink, capturing over 79,900 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 75 years2! Trees also provide many other benefits, including habitats for animals to enhance biodiversity, tree root systems can prevent soil erosion and water pollution, and forested watershed areas can act as sponges to absorb floodwaters during storms. Trees also produce a cooling effect in both forests and urban areas, by releasing water into the atmosphere through their leaves, and by providing shade. Whether planted in boulevards, watershed areas, or business properties, trees provide a variety of environmental and ecological benefits that grow with each and every planted tree.

trees

Photo credit: Woolwich Tree Giveaway: https://www.woolwich.ca/en/index.aspx

ALL THINGS THAT GROW

Trees for Woolwich is about much more than their tree planting initiatives. Ten years ago they founded a tree nursery, which has since doubled in size, and is currently home to 2,077 trees. More impressively, the nursery was outfitted with a solar powered watering system in 2020, allowing for over two-thousand trees to be watered without requiring additional volunteer support. 

Much like young trees, young minds need room to grow as well, and Trees for Woolwich has partnered with several schools in Waterloo region to teach children about tree planting and care. They have offered several programs for younger students to raise seedlings, and learn about tree planting; including Seedlings in the Classroom, a program where elementary school students can care for seedling trees, which are eventually returned to the nursery to be planted in a later volunteer project. While the program had to pause in 2020 amidst the pandemic-related school lockdowns, Trees for Woolwich brought the program back in 2021 to continue teaching the importance of environmental stewardship to young students.

“LESS SEXY… BUT EVERY BIT AS IMPORTANT”

TWEEC recognizes that maintaining healthy trees and growing forests is about much more than planting, stating in their 2020 newsletter that “Maintenance is less sexy than planting but every bit as important” to maintain the trees that are already in the community, and to ensure invasive plants in forest areas are kept under control so that they don’t overwhelm freshly-planted trees. Managing invasive species is an enormous task, but volunteers have done an admirable job stepping up to ensure newly planted trees can thrive without having to compete with invasive species such as garlic mustard. Caring for existing trees is also a big part of TWEEC’s mandate, with tree pruning, mulching, and watering all overseen by a junior arborist who trained volunteers to prune 665 trees in 2020 alone!

THE ELMIRA NATURE RESERVE

The crowning jewel of Trees for Woolwich’s accomplishments is their ambitious habitat restoration project in the Elmira Nature Reserve. Spearheaded by the tireless Mark Schwartz, the Elmira nature reserve aims to create a six-acre reserve that recreates and preserves five different native habitats, which have all but vanished from Waterloo region due to urban development and agriculture. The reserve will recreate an oak savanna, a tallgrass prairie, a maple/beech/yellow birch forest, an early successional forest, and wetlands. Over 47 different species of trees, grasses, and flowers will inhabit this reserve once it is completed. The reserve is walking distance from the town of Elmira and will be an open space for visitors to get acquainted with the original beauty of the region that has been transformed by human development. Funded almost entirely from donations from businesses and companies in the Woolwich area, the Elmira Nature Reserve is a tremendous example of what kind of change a community can enact with the perfect mixture of support, determination, and expertise on the ground.

Photo credit: Trees for Woolwich and TWEEC 2020 “Hind-sight” (and a look ahead):  https://content.web-repository.com/s/51012949524766545/uploads/newsletters/2020_T4W_annual_report-2233507.pdf

GET IN, VOLUNTEERS. WE’RE GOING PLANTING.

When asked about how the Trees for Woolwich program had evolved over the last ten years, Inga Rinn, the Woolwich Healthy Communities Committee Chair, said, “Trees for Woolwich has been a tremendous example of what a determined community can achieve over ten years with increasing enthusiasm, dedication, and involvement from the entire population; from kids, to adults, and industries. In a municipality of limited resources, people can have a real impact.”

welcome to woolwich sign

Photo Credit: New to Woolwich: https://www.woolwich.ca/en/living-here/New-to-Woolwich.aspx?_mid_=6208

Trees for Woolwich is built on the dedication and support of volunteers, businesses, municipal governments, the Grand River Conservation Authority, and community leaders. In 2020, over 1,200 volunteer hours went into just planting operations, with several local businesses providing invaluable support and equipment to make sure every volunteer hour can be as efficient as possible. If you want to be part of this growing success, whether you’re interested in tree pruning, tree planting, watering trees, tending the tree nursery, or promotion for Trees for Woolwich, they would be delighted to hear from you!

If you’d like to know more or get involved with Trees for Woolwich, you can email them, or check out their website, YouTube channel, or Facebook Group

1Figure based on correspondence from the Environmental Coordinator in the Recreation and Community Services department for the Township of Woolwich. 2A full breakdown of tree planting figures for 2021 will be published in the 2021 Trees for Woolwich Newsletter.

Township Success Series: To Thrive Together Bloomingdale Community

February 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.

A picture containing tree, outdoor, grass, house

Description automatically generated

Photo Credit: To Thrive Together Sustainable Living website: https://tothrivetogether.org/

In these challenging and unprecedented times, it can be  difficult to recognize the positive efforts made by local community members towards environmental preservation. Reports tend to focus more on the tasks that still need to be completed to solve the climate crisis rather than the effective pursuits of individuals and small organizations. It is entirely true that much needs to be accomplished to achieve Canada’s climate goals, but there are many successes that should be celebrated as well. It is for this reason that we would like to draw your attention to an organization that is greatly contributing to Waterloo region’s community climate action goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

What is To Thrive Together?

To Thrive Together Sustainable Living is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2019 by an impressive team of organizers, specialists, and advisors. While its projects are still in the certification stage, it plans to provide small, model zero carbon multigenerational communities with compact homes suitable for millennials through centennials. The values upon which this organization is built include caring for ourselves, caring for each other, and caring for the Earth. 

Shape

Description automatically generated with low confidence

Photo Credit: Jill Simpson, To Thrive Together, 2022  

Their primary focus is not as simple as building environmentally friendly houses, but to also create a multi-generational living space where people of all backgrounds can come together and learn from one another. It is meant to encourage an environment of friendship and mentorship, while simultaneously promoting sustainability and ecological preservation. 

Studies have shown the devastating effects that the “loneliness epidemic” is having on people young and old, and research indicates that loneliness can be as harmful as lifelong smoking and obesity. This intergenerational living community is attempting to tackle this issue head on, as small, tight-knit communities have the potential to promote the physical and mental wellness of its residents by offering neighbourly companionship and assistance. 

The Bloomingdale Pilot Community

Construction on the very first To Thrive Together community project in the hamlet of Bloomington, Ontario, is set to begin this year (2022). In addition to providing a vibrant multigenerational environment to people in the Waterloo Region, this community will be a notable success in terms of sustainability and greenhouse gas reductions. This is expected to provide an effective proof-of-concept for fully functional zero-carbon neighbourhoods and act as a model to be implemented in other communities across Canada. 

This community will be found on nine acres of land North East of Kitchener-Waterloo in the Township of Woolwich. Below is a map indicating the location of this community (top), and the raw plot of land that it will be built on (bottom). The site is located on the Haldimand Tract, which is the traditional land of the Six Nations of the Grand River (The Haudenosaunee Confederacy). It will contain 32 barrier-free townhomes arranged in groups of four connected units, with one unit in each grouping being designated as a ‘family’ home. 

As a “pocket neighbourhood,” the To Thrive Together homes will all face one another, and there will be multiple locations where residents can assemble, such as the Gathering Place, the Learning Centre, and the three community gardens. There are also numerous volunteering opportunities available to anyone who wishes to be involved in sustainability activities including the forest stewardship team, a micro-forest tree planting project, and assistant beekeeping positions. 

A picture containing map

Description automatically generated

Photo Credit: To Thrive Together Sustainable Living website: https://tothrivetogether.org/

What Makes this Community a Sustainability Success?

1) Energy Systems 

  • Rooftop solar panels provide green electricity to the homes and community buildings, and excess power is supplied to the public power grid. 
  • Geo-exchange and heat-recovery technology provide zero-carbon heating, cooling, and hot water to houses. 

2) Building Materials & Design

  • Superbly well-insulated walls and roofs are constructed with thick, sustainably sourced, Ontarian timber. 
  • Triple-glazed windows (three panes of glass) provide an extra layer of insulation with a low-emissivity coating designed to effectively reflect the Sun’s heat energy without limiting the visible light passing through. 
  • Homes are built on a thick layer of concrete to offer thermal storage for further efficiency in the heating system. 
  • Wastewater is pre-treated with a biofilter system, allowing for reduced energy use and a smaller carbon footprint. 
  • Parking lots and sidewalks are constructed using recycled plastic bags rather than concrete. 

3) Natural Features

  • 65,000 ft2 of nearby forests, planted trees, wildflower meadows, and other vegetative features all capture and store atmospheric carbon. 
  • Community gardens provide food for residents and are available to all. 
  • In partnership with Preston Honey Hive, a small local business, the community will have two active beehives stationed in the nearby meadow.  

Overall, To Thrive Together is successfully making strides towards equitable, prosperous, and resilient climate action. Many of the required transformative changes needed to achieve ClimateActionWR’s long-term goals will be implemented in their model zero-carbon communities, such as eliminating fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, reducing waste, and encouraging the use of electric vehicles. This project has clearly been designed to maximize its contribution to local emissions reductions and inspire widespread sustainability. Fortunately, there will be  similar communities to follow! Bloomingdale is the organization’s pilot project, but the larger objective is to construct a total of ten communities across Canada. 

This organization is currently taking names of those who wish to purchase a home in the Bloomingdale Pilot Community. For further information about this incredible sustainable living organization, please visit the To Thrive Together website, YouTube channel, Facebook group, or subscribe to their newsletter

TransformWR Endorsed by All Eight Municipal Councils in Waterloo Region

July 8th, 2021

In June 2021, the ClimateActionWR collaborative brought the TransformWR long term strategy and short term plan to all eight area municipal councils. The TransformWR strategy outlines our community’s pathway to an 80% greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction by 2050, and identifies local actions that can be taken in Waterloo Region to reduce emissions 30% by 2030. In addition to endorsing the TransformWR strategy, all Councils passed an additional interim absolute community GHG emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030 brought forth by local grassroots organization, 50by30WR. Bold and immediate actions from the provincial and federal government will be required to reach this deeper reduction target.

These council meetings brought forth promise, encouragement, and an outpouring of support for both the TransformWR strategy and local climate action, as evidenced from the many, many delegates that spoke and submitted written comments at each and every Council meeting. Now that the strategy has been endorsed, and local government and the broader community alike has shown support for ambitious climate action, we can hit the ground running to achieve both our short and long term targets.


City of Waterloo – May 31, 2021

The City of Waterloo Special Council met on May 31, 2021. The delegates that spoke were Mat Thijssen, Sarah Ghorpade, and Lucas Mollame from Waterloo Sustainability Advisory Committee, Kai Reimer-Watts and Meg Ruttan Walker from 50by30WR, community member Mike Morrice, Shirley Irish and Henriette Thompson from Faith Climate Justice Network, Stephanie Goertz from Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region, Alisa McClurg from KW Urban Harvester, Guy Brodsky from Our Time KW, Bruce Taylor from Enviro-Stewards, and Lesley Johnston from Fossil Free UW. After hearing from delegations, all Councillors unanimously voted to approve the following recommendations:

  1. That Council approve report CAO2021-011.
  2. That Council endorse the attached TransformWR strategy, as the community climate change mitigation strategy for the City of Waterloo.
  3. That Council direct staff across the organization to develop detailed plans to implement the strategy. For the City of Waterloo this includes: i. Developing an implementation plan; and
    ii. Incorporating the strategy into strategic and business plans and the City of Waterloo’s budget process where applicable.
  4. That Council endorse in principle an interim absolute community GHG emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030. Recognizing that the bold and immediate local actions in the attached TransformWR strategy are expected to achieve a 30% reduction by 2030, Council emphasizes that bold and immediate actions from the provincial and federal government will also be required to reach this deeper reduction target.
  5. That Council direct staff to advocate for provincial and federal support and action to achieve the community transformations outlined in TransformWR.
  6. That Council direct staff to work with local partners on implementation, monitoring, and reporting progress.
  7. That Council direct that this report be submitted to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as the City of Waterloo’s community scope progress on the Partners for Climate Protection Program Milestones 1-3 as renewed.

“I think it is hard to understate how important the motion that is before us today and the strategy that’s before us today is. For the future that we are all trying to build for all of us, so that all of us can have the kind of equitable, prosperous, sustainable world that our parents and grandparents were able to experience. Our world necessarily is going to be different, it is already changing in ways that we need to work hard to arrest and correct. But it’s also changing in ways that give us all great hope that we can have a future that looks better tomorrow than it did today because we are working together to build that future for ourselves, for our children, for our grandchildren, for everybody that comes after and that starts here in Waterloo Region with all of us rolling up our sleeves together to take transformative actions that will change the way we move, the way we build and operate our spaces, the way we produce, consume and waste, and the ways that we relate to one another.”

– Coun. Jeff Henry, City of Waterloo

Township of Woolwich – June 1, 2021

On June 1, the Woolwich Township Committee of the Whole met. After hearing from delegates Bruce Taylor from Enviro-Stewards, Kai Reimer-Watts and Stephanie Goertz from 50by30WR and community member Sandra Bray, the Committee voted unanimously to pass all recommendations:

  1. Endorse the attached TransformWR strategy as the community climate change mitigation strategy for the Township of Woolwich;
  2. Direct staff across the organization to develop detailed plans to implement the strategy for the Township of Woolwich including the implementation of actions in the strategy subject to available funds and/or approved budget and appropriate human resources;
  3. Direct staff to work with local partners on implementation, monitoring, and reporting progress on the goals outlined in the strategy;
  4. Advocate for provincial and federal support and action to achieve the community transformations outlined in TransformWR;
  5. Submit this report to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as the Township of Woolwich community scope progress on the Partners for Climate Protection Program Milestones 1-3 as renewed.
  6. Endorse in principle an interim absolute community GHG emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030. Recognizing that the bold and immediate local actions in the attached TransformWR strategy are expected to achieve a 30% reduction by 2030, Council commits $100,000 from additional levy collection to support the community climate strategy and emphasizes that bold and immediate actions from the provincial and federal government will also be required to reach this deeper reduction target.

“Council commits $100,000 from additional levy collection to support the community climate strategy and emphasizes that bold and immediate actions from the provincial and federal government will also be required to reach this deeper reduction target.”

– Township of Woolwich

City of Cambridge – June 8, 2021

The City of Cambridge Special Council meeting was held June 8, 2021. Delegates that spoke were community member Randy Saad, Bruce Taylor from Enviro-Stewards, Scott Morton-Ninomiya from 50by30WR, and Lesley Johnston from Fossil Free UW. Councillors passed the following recommendations in a vote of 6 in favour to 2 opposed:

  1. THAT Report 21-141(CRE) be received;
  2. AND THAT the attached TransformWR strategy be endorsed;
  3. AND THAT Council direct staff across the organization to develop detailed plans to implement the strategy. For Cambridge, this direction includes that: the TransformWR strategy be referred to staff responsible for the City’s various strategies that incorporate sustainability initiatives for review;
  4. AND THAT staff responsible for these existing plans incorporate the TransformWR action items where appropriate into future business planning and/or budget processes;
  5. AND THAT Council recognizes that, although the TransformWR target of a 30% reduction in GHG emissions is laudable, with additional support from the Federal and Provincial governments, Cambridge should endorse in principle an interim absolute community GHG emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030, and strive for bolder and more immediate local actions to combat GHG emissions.
  6. AND THAT Council direct staff to work with local partners on implementation, monitoring, and reporting progress on the goals outlined in the strategy;
  7. AND FURTHER THAT Cambridge advocate for provincial and federal support and action to achieve the community transformation outlined in TransformWR and the goal of a 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.

“We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to show that we listen to established science, that we are progressive, and that we are able to act swiftly in the face of a global crisis by taking substantive local change now.”

– Coun. Scott Hamilton, City of Cambridge

Township of Wellesley – June 8, 2021

On June 8, 2021, the Wellesley Township Committee of the Whole met. The committee heard from delegates community member Jeff Quint, Kai Reimer-Watts from 50by30WR, Lyndsay Dajka and Betsey Daub from Nith Valley EcoBoosters, Stephanie Goertz from Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region, Alisa McClurg from KW Urban Harvester, and Doug Jones, former Board of Directors of OFA. The Committee unanimously voted in support of these recommendations:

  1. That the Council of the Township of Wellesley endorse the attached TransformWR
    strategy as the community climate change mitigation strategy for
    Wellesley Township.
  2. That Council direct staff across the organization to develop detailed plans to
    implement the strategy. For the Township of Wellesley this direction includes: Updating existing plans and developing plans to implement the strategy subject to available funds, resources, staffing and/or approved budget.
  3. That Council direct staff to work with local partners on implementation, monitoring, and reporting progress on the goals outlined in the strategy.
  4. That the Township of Wellesley advocate for provincial and federal support and
    action to achieve the community transformations outlined in TransformWR.
  5. That Council endorse in principle an interim absolute community GHG emissions
    reduction target of 50% by 2030. Recognizing that the bold and immediate local actions in the attached TransformWR strategy are expected to achieve a 30% reduction by 2030, Council emphasizes that bold and immediate actions from the provincial and federal government will also be required to reach this deeper reduction target.

City of Kitchener – June 14, 2021

On June 14, 2021, the City of Kitchener Planning and Strategic Initiatives Committee met. The Committee heard from delegates Devon Fernandes from KW Library of Things, Eric Hunsberger & Ron Hiller from Faith Climate Justice Network, Bruce Taylor from Enviro-Stewards, Gordon Nicholls from Friends of Hidden Valley, Scott Morton-Ninomiya and Meg Ruttan Walker from 50by30WR, Lesley Johnston from Fossil Free UW, community member Carol Burrows, Tanya Schmah from Divest UW, community member Mike Morrice, Alisa McClurg from KW Urban Harvester, and community member Kai Reimer-Watts. The Committee then unanimously voted in support of these recommendations:

  1. That the attached TransformWR strategy be endorsed as the community climate change mitigation strategy for City of Kitchener; and,
  2. That Council endorses in principle an interim absolute community GHG emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030. Recognizing that the bold and immediate local actions in the attached TransformWR strategy are expected to achieve a 30% reduction by 2030, Council calls for bold and immediate action from the provincial and federal government to enable municipalities to reach this deeper reduction target; and,
  3. That staff be directed to develop detailed plans to implement the TransformWR strategy and report back on any funding implications through future budget processes; and,
  4. That staff be directed to work with local partners on implementation, monitoring, and reporting progress on the goals outlined in the strategy; and, that the City of Kitchener advocate for provincial and federal support and action to achieve the community transformations outlined in TransformWR; and,
  5. That an FTE be added to support Kitchener Utilities with developing, and implementing, a Kitchener Utilities Low-Carbon Sustainable Business Strategy that will support the transition to reduce greenhouse gases; and further,
  6. That this report be submitted to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as the City of Kitchener’s community scope progress on the Partners for Climate Protection Program Milestones 1-3 as renewed.

“I think this is a body of work that has been boldly prepared by many community partners, it’s had extensive community consultation and this community has exhibited, continually for many decades, leadership, going back to when the blue box starts in the City of Kitchener many decades ago. And I think it is incumbent on us to have that same kind of definitive leadership as we go into this next step.”

– Coun. Berry Vrbanovic, Region of Waterloo

Township of North Dumfries – June 14, 2021

Later on June 14, the North Dumfries Township Committee of the Whole met. The Committee heard from delegates Kai Reimer-Watts and Meg Ruttan Walker from 50by30WR, Stephanie Goertz from Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region, and Alisa McClurg from KW Urban Harvester. The Committee then unanimously approved the recommendations:

  1. THAT Council receives the presentation from Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director, Reep Green Solutions, and Tova Davidson, Executive Director, Sustainable Waterloo Region, with thanks;
  2. AND THAT Council receives CAO Report No. 15-2021;
  3. AND THAT Council endorse the framework and over-arching principles of the TransformWR documentation, received June 14th, 2021, as the community climate change mitigation strategy for the Township;
  4. AND THAT Council provides direction to the Chief Administrative Officer that across the organization the requirement to develop detailed plans to implement the strategy. For the Township this includes:
    • developing an implementation plan and priorities;
    • incorporating the strategy into strategic and business plans, and, the budget process where applicable
  5. AND THAT the Township advocate for Provincial and Federal support and action to achieve the community transformations outlined in TransformWR documentation;
  6. AND THAT Council direct staff to work with local partners on implementation, monitoring, and reporting progress;
  7. AND THAT this Report be submitted to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as the Township’s community scope progress on the Partners for Climate Protection Program Milestones 1-3 as renewed.
  8. AND THAT Council endorse in principle an interim absolute community GHG emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030. Recognizing that the bold and immediate local actions in the attached TransformWR strategy are expected to achieve a 30% reduction by 2030, Council emphasizes that bold and immediate actions from the provincial and federal government will also be required to reach this deeper reduction target.

Township of Wilmot – June 14, 2021

The Wilmot Township Council met on June 14. The Council heard from delegates Lyndsay Dajka and Betsey Daub from Nith Valley EcoBoosters, Marie Perry from Let’s Tree Wilmot, Lisa Clifford from Wilmot Horticultural Society, Andres Fuentes from 50by30WR, community member Becky Voll, Stephanie Goertz from Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region, and Alisa McClurg from KW Urban Harvester. Council voted to endorse the following recommendations unanimously:

  1. THAT the attached TransformWR strategy be  endorsed as the community climate change mitigation strategy for the Township of  Wilmot; and further,  
  2. THAT Council direct staff across the organization to develop detailed plans to implement the strategy, subject to available funding and resource allocations; and further,  
  3. THAT Council direct staff to work with local partners on implementation, monitoring, and reporting progress on the goals outlined in the strategy; and further,  
  4. THAT the Township of Wilmot advocate for provincial and federal support and action to achieve the community transformations outlined in the TransformWR strategy; and  further, 
  5. THAT Council endorse, in principle, an interim absolute community Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030. Recognizing that the bold and immediate local actions in the attached TransformWR strategy are expected to achieve a 30%  reduction by 2030, Council emphasizes that bold and immediate actions from the provincial and federal government will also be required to reach this deeper reduction target.

“We have the potential for 44% collaborative impact with our municipal partners here. I don’t think that’s a spectator sport for us. I’m all in! That’s 630,000 people that we represent today, and tomorrow it’s 900,000. So I do think that this is something we are heavily involved in and engaged in as stakeholders to help support it through the greater community.”

– Coun. Helen Jowett, Region of Waterloo

Region of Waterloo – June 22, 2021

The final council presentation was the Region of Waterloo Committee of the Whole on June 22, 2021. There were many delegates that spoke before the Committee, community member Jenny (Yao) Zhou, young community member Aiden Morton-Ninomiya, Karly Rath from Laurier Student’s Public Interest Research Group, community member Monika Wagner, Carol Burrows and Nolan Andres from Faith Climate Justice Network, community member Alex Latta, Scott Morton-Ninomiya and Meg Ruttan Walker from 50by30WR, Guy Brodsky from Our Time KW, community member Laura Hamilton, Alisa McClurg from KW Urban Harvester, Gordon Nicholls from Friends of Hidden Valley, Bruce Taylor from Enviro-Stewards, community member Kai Reimer-Watts, Lyndsay Dajka and Betsey Daub from Nith Valley EcoBoosters, Stephanie Goertz from Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region. The Councillors from across the Waterloo Region voted unanimously in favour of the recommendations subject to additional financial analysis and budgetary approval:

  1. That the attached TransformWR strategy be endorsed, as the community climate change mitigation strategy for the Regional Municipality of Waterloo;
  2. That Council direct staff across the organization to develop detailed plans to implement the strategy. For the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, this direction includes:
    • Updating existing plans and developing new plans to implement the actions assigned to the Region, in the attached strategy, and further consult on the implementation of the 6 Transformative Changes outlined in the strategy;
    • Developing a detailed corporate climate change plan to transition the Region off of fossil fuels as a corporation and as a community service provider, built collaboratively among departments and divisions and including interim and long-term targets; and
    • Considering the broad direction of the TransformWR strategy as interim guidance from Council on expectations for current and upcoming work, while plans for full corporate and community implementation are being completed;
  3. That Council direct staff to work with local partners on implementation, monitoring, and reporting progress on the goals outlined in the strategy; and
  4. That the Regional Municipality of Waterloo advocate for provincial and federal support and action to achieve the community transformations outlined in TransformWR

And in a second vote, the Committee evaluated and passed the following additional climate action amendment with a vote of 14 in favour and 1 opposed.

  1. Therefore be it resolved that the Region of Waterloo endorse in principle an interim absolute community GHG emission reduction target of 50% reduction below 2010 levels by 2030 (50×30).
  2. And advocate through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and directly to the Province and advocate through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and directly to the Federal Government to provide the necessary policies, initiatives and funding to accomplish this goal in our community.
  3. And that copies of this resolution will be forwarded to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Ontario, all area MPs and MPPs, AMO and FCM.
  4. And that progress towards this objective be reported publicly, biannually in a regional council meeting and concurrently with progress reports on the TransformWR plan.

More information from each Council and Committee meeting can be found on each municipality’s website with the relevant links sourced below:

MunicipalityDateAgendaVideoMinutes
WaterlooMay 31Agenda 
Package 
Video (begins at 33:25)Minutes
WoolwichJune 1AgendaVideo (begins at 25:05)Minutes
CambridgeJune 8Agenda
Addendum
Video (begins at 2:11:41)Minutes
WellesleyJune 8Agenda
Addendum
Video (begins at 8:22)Minutes
KitchenerJune 14AgendaVideo (begins at 1:20:48)Minutes
North DumfriesJune 14Agenda
Addendum
Video (begins at 3:33)Minutes
WilmotJune 14AgendaVideo (begins at 1:31:47)Minutes
Region of WaterlooJune 22AgendaVideo (begins at 39:25)Minutes

Get our Monthly Community Action Report

Stay up to date on progress towards our goal

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.