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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.

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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 (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.

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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: 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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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

Plan to TransformWR into a low carbon community going to councils starting May 31

May 27th, 2021

May 27, 2021 – The TransformWR community climate action strategy will be brought to all 8 municipal councils beginning on May 31. TransformWR is our community’s plan to solve climate change while moving our community towards an equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon future. 

The plan is the work of ClimateActionWR, a collaborative program supported by local municipalities and led by non-profit organizations Reep Green Solutions and Sustainable Waterloo Region. It outlines a long term strategy to reduce our emissions by 80% by the year 2050, and the immediate steps we need to take to make it happen.

We are so proud of the work that has been done here,” said Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director of Reep Green Solutions. “This strategy and plan have brought together the vision given to us by the community, through an extensive consultation and outreach process, as well as the technical expertise of climate change experts. It is a strong, ambitious plan that can be immediately actioned by all parts of our community.

TransformWR was developed in partnership with all 8 municipalities: The Cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, the Townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich, and the Region of Waterloo. It was designed to be the guiding document that outlines the work that needs to be done by municipal governments, businesses, community organizations, and residents of Waterloo region. It outlines how we’ll need to reduce vehicle travel, switch to zero emission vehicles, transition businesses and homes off fossil fuels, shift toward a circular economy, and grow our local food system, all while increasing equity, prosperity, and resiliency for all.  

What we heard from the community about what they want this future to look like takes our breath away,” said Tova Davidson, Executive Director of Sustainable Waterloo Region. “Waterloo region’s people and business community understand that what we are working towards is not just about the environment. A sustainable future means we are healthier, more connected, more prosperous, and have a brighter future for all citizens. That is why the plan integrates equity and justice into this transition to a low carbon future.” 

Beginning on May 31 and continuing through June 22, TransformWR will be brought to the eight municipal councils for its endorsement. The schedule is: 

CouncilDateTimeInformation LinkLive Stream Link
City of Waterloo May 31, 202112:00 PM council info live stream  
Township of WoolwichJune 1, 20217:00 PMcouncil infolive stream  
City of CambridgeJune 8, 20215:00 PM council infolive stream  
Township of WellesleyJune 8, 20216:45 PM council infolive stream  
City of KitchenerJune 14, 202112:00 PM council infolive stream
Township of North DumfriesJune 14, 20216:00 PMcouncil info live stream
Township of WilmotJune 14, 20217:00 PM council infolive stream
Region of WaterlooJune 22, 20219:00 AMcouncil infolive stream  

This is the last step before we move toward implementation, which will require collaboration and action from everyone across our community,” said Samantha Tremmel, ClimateActionWR Plan Manager. “We can absolutely solve climate change, by taking action right here in Waterloo region. And TransformWR shows how we’re going to do it.

All eight municipalities in Waterloo Region endorsed the community’s target to reduce emissions by 80% by the year 2050. TransformWR is the strategy to achieve this target. 


About ClimateActionWR:

ClimateActionWR is a collaboration between local organizations, community members, and municipalities in Waterloo region, focused on climate change mitigation, led by Sustainable Waterloo Region and Reep Green Solutions. It coordinates the activities of our community’s climate action plans with a current greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target of 80% GHG reduction by 2050.

About Reep Green Solutions:
Reep Green Solutions is an environmental charity based in the Waterloo Region committed to helping people live sustainably. Reep offers home energy, waste reduction, water conservation and healthy yards services.

About Sustainable Waterloo Region:

Sustainable Waterloo Region is an environmental non-profit organization that catalyzes transformation to sustainable systems of energy, mobility and buildings to build a cleaner, more diverse economy. The SWR network of organizations participate in our programs to achieve environmental and economic benefits. By building networks, setting a common direction for results, and publicly reporting on progress, we are working to maximize both the individual and collective successes of organizations in Waterloo region.


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact

Samantha Tremmel – Plan Manager

samantha.tremmel@climateactionwr.ca

Transforming the Ways We Relate to One Another

April 10th, 2021

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

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

This excerpt from the TransformWR strategy focuses on: transforming the ways we relate to one another.

The ways that we relate to one another is a critical factor in how we foster relationships at all levels, and is essential to making ambitious progress towards our goals. The word ‘relate’ is rich, meaning to show or establish a connection between two or more things, or to have an understanding (of people or ideas). Our ability to relate to one another influences how we interact and communicate with, as well as learn from, those within our local community, and to others outside of that. Developing a deep understanding of how people, organizations, and communities that are different than ourselves, operate and live their lives can be a powerful catalyst for action that is equitable, and raises everyone up together, especially those who have traditionally experienced disproportionality and disparity.

The transition required to address climate change is a once-in-a-century opportunity to build the community we want. This came through strongly in our community consultation. While making the transformative changes, enacting the strategies, and accomplishing the action items, we must ensure that we do so in a way that makes our community more equitable, prosperous, and resilient. This will take ongoing collaboration and coordination of efforts between local sectors, community members and organizations, and with senior levels of government. 

To achieve our GHG reduction targets, we must work toward locally producing energy from carbon neutral, renewable sources. This work, as well as the other transformative changes, must be done in a way that increases equity and supports the members of our community that need it most. A crucial first step in doing this is establishing metrics that enable us to measure progress in reducing inequities, and creating climate action solutions that increase equity. From there, we can work towards being recognized as a national leader in sustainability, clean tech, renewable energy, and energy retrofits by 2050, in a just way that benefits all.

Every Waterloo Region municipality, organization, business, and community member has an important role to play in Waterloo Region’s transition to a low carbon community. This strategy is meant to influence all future planning. Official plans, corporate plans, organizational planning etc. should look to this document, and the work outlined in the strategy should be integrated into all planning processes for the next 30 years, to align our community with success. This is a launching point for the next 30 years of local climate action, and the years ahead of us are where the real work comes into play.  If you are interested in contributing to this work, consider applying for one of our sector committees, more information on that opportunity is available at https://climateactionwr.ca/get-involved/#volunteer.

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

Transforming How We Produce, Consume, and Waste

April 1st, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming How We Build and Operate our Spaces

March 26th, 2021

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

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

This excerpt from the TransformWR strategy focuses on: transforming how we build and operate our spaces.

45% of our local GHG emissions in 2015 came from energy used in buildings. Most of this is from natural gas or other fossil fuels, used to heat our workplaces and homes, and provide hot water.

Space heating in most of the homes and businesses in Waterloo Region currently comes from natural gas. HVAC equipment, such as furnaces and boilers, transfer heat generated from the natural gas combustion to air or water which is distributed throughout the building to provide space heating. In the average Canadian home, the hot water heater uses nearly a fifth of a home’s total energy from all fuel sources. Switching off of fossil fuels for heating and cooling needs in businesses and homes is one of the most impactful changes we can make to reduce GHG emissions locally.

To meet our 80by50 target, we must address this in the buildings that already exist, as well as set expectations for how new ones will be built.

Every Waterloo Region municipality, organization, business, and community member has an important role to play in Waterloo Region’s transition to a low carbon community. This strategy is meant to influence all future planning. Official plans, corporate plans, organizational planning etc. should look to this document, and the work outlined in the strategy should be integrated into all planning processes for the next 30 years, to align our community with success. This is a launching point for the next 30 years of local climate action, and the years ahead of us are where the real work comes into play.  If you are interested in contributing to this work, consider applying for our Residential or Workplaces sector committees, more information on that opportunity is available at https://climateactionwr.ca/get-involved/#volunteer.

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

Transforming the Ways We Move

March 19th, 2021

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

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

This excerpt from the TransformWR strategy focuses on: transforming the ways we move.

In 2015, nearly half (49%) of our community’s GHG emissions came from how we move people and goods. Furthermore, short distance trips of less than five kilometers make up nearly 50% of all travel by residents within the Region that could generally be achieved using active forms of transportation.

Active transportation means any method of traveling to a destination that uses primarily human power, which we describe as “walking, cycling, or rolling.” This includes trips made using, or propelled by your body, a mobility device, a bicycle or tricycle (with or without assistance from an electric battery), a skateboard, or a scooter.

Results of Waterloo Region’s 2010 and 2015 GHG inventories show a local GHG reduction of 5.2%. To achieve our long-term 80% reduction target, significant collaborative efforts will need to be made over the next 30 years.

To meet our 80by50 target, by 2050 existing short trips need to be made by walking, cycling, or rolling. Longer trips, where possible, need to be replaced by shorter trips. For example, instead of driving to a grocery store across town, more people will walk, cycle, or roll to a store nearby.

Public transit service is crucial for making most trips using active transportation. It gives people a low- energy, convenient option for trips that they can’t walk, cycle, or roll to. It supports being able to live fulfilling lives without owning a vehicle, and is accessible to people of different incomes and abilities. In this way, a robust transit service needs to be used to supplement our active transportation goals.

While most trips will be made using active transportation by 2050, many trips will still require powered vehicles. This includes public transit vehicles, and personal and commercial vehicles. This is especially the case for rural parts of Waterloo Region where active transportation is not realistic over long distances, and there is limited access to public transit. All remaining vehicles in 2050 must be zero-emission vehicles.

Electric vehicles (EV’s) are zero-emissions, and are already available to consumers. Most major auto manufacturers are already producing electric models, and many automobile manufacturers such as Toyota and General Motors have announced dates by which they will phase out gasoline powered vehicles. While some types of industrial and commercial vehicles may need to use other zero-emissions technologies like green hydrogen, with strong investments in charging infrastructure, the future of most vehicles is electric.

Every Waterloo Region municipality, organization, business, and community member has an important role to play in Waterloo Region’s transition to a low carbon community. This strategy is meant to influence all future planning. Official plans, corporate plans, organizational planning etc. should look to this document, and the work outlined in the strategy should be integrated into all planning processes for the next 30 years, to align our community with success. This is a launching point for the next 30 years of local climate action, and the years ahead of us are where the real work comes into play. If you are interested in contributing to this work, consider applying for our Transportation sector committee, more information on that opportunity is available at https://climateactionwr.ca/get-involved/#volunteer.

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

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