Here is a list of Canada’s greenest cities and why they are green. You can get more details about this from the original source at Green Living.
Our cities are leading the way to a cleaner urban future. Find out which ones will get there first. You’re in for a few surprises.
The cleanest air and water, bountiful green spaces, solar-powered and geothermal-heated buildings…all are tantalizingly within reach in several Canadian municipalities. So, where should you point your biodiesel-fueled moving van? To find out, we asked some of the country’s foremost green experts for their predictions on which cities will be Canada’s environmental leaders in the next 5, 10 and 20 years. We also analyzed the innovative and award-winning plans and policies that promise to transform our cities in the years to come.“Ten years in the future, sustainability will be viewed as a common practice, as opposed to an added value for cities, regions and businesses,” says Richard Florida, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto.
Florida says that in addition to measuring greenhouse gas emissions and other traditional environmental metrics, we’ll also be looking at a community’s green spaces, public transit, and planning and sustainability practices. That doesn’t just apply to big cities like Calgary, Montreal and Toronto. “Some of the smaller jurisdictions like Whistler and Okotoks [Alberta] are definitely on par with larger centres in terms of their sustainability plans,” explains Carmen Bohn, a manager at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). “Their populations and budgets may be smaller, but their thinking is large.” What makes these cities—listed from west to east—so special? Typically, they’ve developed successful initiatives that respond to unique environmental challenges, putting them on track for a more sustainable future, says Megan Jamieson, Canadian director of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. For example, Vancouver’s density planning and air-quality programs reflect its hedged-in geography in the same way that Halifax’s climate change efforts are a reaction to its storm-battered location. “There is no one perfect community,” says Keith Stewart, manager of World Wildlife Fund Canada’s climate change campaign. “However, some are ahead in certain areas—and they need to learn from each other.”
In that spirit, then, here’s what we can learn from Canada’s greenest cities of tomorrow.
The urban density experts
Vancouver has gotten a lot right—it uses methane gas emissions from landfills to generate heat and electricity, fuels its fleets with biodiesel and maintains the strictest energy-efficiency guidelines in Canada for new buildings. But there’s still room for improvement. For example, only 11 percent of Vancouver’s land area is currently used for multiple-unit dwellings.
Enter The EcoDensity Charter, which will encourage green laneway housing, rezoning and relaxed building codes to accommodate solar panels and shading. A commitment to making all city operations carbon neutral by 2012 and plans to reduce community GHG emissions by a whopping 80 percent by 2050 (from 1990 levels) will also help to improve air quality, lower energy bills and create an even more livable city.
*All population figures reflect census metropolitan area according to the Government of Canada’s 2006 census (Statistics Canada)
Canada’s geothermal energy hot spot
Per-person greenhouse gas emissions in this territorial capital are among the nation’s highest because so much energy is used for heating. However, these emission levels should be falling due to aggressive actions by the city. Yellowknife will become a whole lot greener thanks to its Community Energy Plan, developed with the input of The Pembina Institute (dedicated to sustainable energy) and some of Canada’s most energy-efficient building codes.
Municipal officials talk most enthusiastically about the plan to use clean, geothermal energy from a nearby abandoned goldmine (the Con Mine) to heat 2,000 homes. If the project gets the green light, heat trapped deep within the mine will be captured in a loop system to heat homes and other buildings. Development of the system will also remediate the mine.
Plenty of green space, anti-sprawl planning and programs to promote walking, cycling and transit should also slash greenhouse gases, while boosting the health and fitness of Yellowknifers.
The green electricity capital
Forget dirty oil; Calgary is and will continue to be all about clean voltage. It is the only municipality in Canada to draw at least 75 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, and it plans to jack that up to 90 percent by 2012. Calgary also intends to divert percent of its waste from landfills by 2020 and to stay at or below 2003 water-use levels, despite its growing population.
Best of all, the imagineCALGARY program allowed citizens to contribute to a 100-year plan with ambitious goals, such as remediating at least 30 percent of Calgary’s contaminated areas and decreasing distance travelled yearly by private vehicles by 20 percent. (Calgarians will be riding the wind energy-powered CTrain instead.)
With these initiatives in play, the city is stampeding toward having clean air and plenty of water for years to come.
The solar centre of Canada
The future looks bright in Okotoks, Alberta—so bright that we just had to include it on our list, even though it’s technically a town. Its sunbelt location made it the perfect spot for the Drake Landing Solar Community—the first subdivision in North America to warm 90 percent of its water and living space with the sun. This innovative community has put Okotoks on the renewable-energy map and spurred more plans for leading-edge solar, green building and geothermal developments.
And the city’s enthusiasm isn’t cooling down, either: Okotoks is well on its way to a 70-litre-per-person daily water consumption limit. It already has the lowest water use in the region, as well as an 80 percent refuse-diversion aim by 2015. A composting sewage treatment plant, off-street pedestrian pathways and local employment opportunities to discourage commuting are just a few other reasons why this community will, as its councillors point out, be “better, not just bigger.”
The water smart city
How will Edmonton quench the needs of businesses in a region with limited rainfall and water supplies? Recycle wastewater! Edmonton’s Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plan is already doing just that for a Petro-Canada refinery, eliminating the refinery’s need to draw millions of litres of fresh water daily from the North Saskatchewan River. The plan has the built-in capacity to water trees and serve future industrial customers as well, so just imagine how much water the city will conserve over the years.
What’s more, Edmonton plans to slash waste going into landfills by up to 90 percent by 2010 and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent (from 1990 levels) by 2020. When you consider that it is already diverting methane gas from landfills to power homes, expanding light rail transit and offering multi-use trails for streetcars, pedestrians and cyclists, you can see why Edmonton will be a refreshingly sustainable place to put down roots.
The model for post-industrial recovery
Who would have predicted that Canada’s mining capital would emerge as a future environmental leader?
The transformation of Sudbury, Ontario, is in progress thanks to EarthCare Sudbury, a community-led action plan for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable city. Among other programs, the municipality plans to continue improving damaged watersheds, produce 50 percent of the region’s energy and fuel locally, develop wind farms, build LEED-certified and clean energy-powered buildings and extend Sudbury’s network of trails and walkways.
And talk about sowing seeds of change: In the past five years alone, the city has planted more than 870,000 tree seedlings. Trees instead of mine tailings? Hear, hear!
The boldest retrofitter
Toronto’s Tower Renewal project will reclad, relandscape and revitalize Toronto’s concrete apartment complexes. “Only Moscow has more of these inefficient old concrete buildings,” explains WWF Canada‘s Stewart, noting plans to insulate them, add geothermal heating and reconnect the buildings to surrounding green spaces and ravines. This plan alone could cut greenhouse gas emissions by one million tonnes.
The newly adopted Toronto Green Standard will also spur the development of more sustainable buildings and landscapes. The city boasts a goal to divert 70 percent of waste by 2010 and reduce greenhouse gases by 30 percent by 2020, as well as a transit plan that foresees clean, light rail transit moving people across town.
Toronto’s new Environmental Reporting, Disclosure and Innovation Program—which will require businesses and municipal operations to publicly report their use and release of 25 hazardous chemicals—should result in fewer toxins in the environment and encourage other cities to follow suit.
No wonder the Ethisphere Institute, an international think tank dedicated to best practices in corporate sustainability, includes Toronto in its report “Global Sustainability Centers: The 20 Cities Of 2020.”
The most bike-friendly city in the nation
Two wheels may be better than four when you live in Montreal. After all, the city is doubling its bike paths from 400 to 800 kilometres and introducing a public bike program, Bixi, in the downtown core this month. What’s more, Montreal is spending millions of dollars on public transit, including subway extensions and rail development, in an effort to boost ridership to a full eight percent of the population by 2012.
“They understand the importance of transforming the city’s energy consumption cycle—especially of fossil fuels,” says Thomas Duchaine of Equiterre in Quebec City. “This is fundamental in order to determine how green a city can be.”
Fewer cars on the road, some of the strongest air-quality and pesticide regulations in North America, and major strides toward reducing airborne benzene and particulate pollution will offer a breath of fresh air. As for its plans to implement a drinking water conservation bylaw and to ensure that at least eight percent of Montreal consists of protected environments promoting bio-diversity? Environmentalists say, oui, oui, oui!
Climate change combatter
While Halifax was still pumping raw sewage into the harbour, few could imagine that it would become a future environmental darling. Yet clean air, water, land and energy programs, together with a 25-year plan to control growth and avoid sprawl, will help to make this region a model of sustainability.
The city’s award-winning Climate SMART program encourages residents and businesses to take action against climate change and severe weather. And Halifax has committed to reduce greenhouse gases to 20 percent below 1997 levels by 2012, among other goals.
Halifax residents will also enjoy a revitalized downtown core, thanks to HRMbyDESIGN, a reurbanization project to develop vacant sites and improve the existing infrastructure. World-class waste management efforts, a pesticide ban and a no-scent policy, as well as geothermal energy projects and harbour cleanup efforts, mean the winds of change will smell sweet for Haligonians.