There are many voices out there that claim to help you reduce your carbon footprint. Project Neutral is one of the only practical tools that tells you your personal carbon footprint based on local data AND offers you actions you can take to reduce it. Our personal carbon footprint comes primarily from transportation, homes, and food. Decarbonizing our lifestyle is actually quite simple!
For transportation, shrinking your carbon footprint is a two step process. The first stage involves reconsidering your travel needs. Some trips may be possible by active transportation such as biking. Public transit may work for trips within your city. Have you tried carpooling or car-sharing for some journeys?
You’re out of office meetings can be offset by using teleconferencing tools. If a personal vehicle is still necessary, choosing the smallest electric vehicle that meets your requirements can help you achieve zero emissions for transportation. Here in Ontario, our electricity comes largely from a clean electricity grid which does not produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. As a consequence, emissions associated with driving an electric vehicle are negligible, especially if it is recharged during off-peak hours.
The major source of carbon emissions for homes is from heating the home and water. Start by improving the energy efficiency of the home through draft-proofing; adding insulation; upgrading lighting and appliances. Heat pumps with electric resistance heating backup can provide all our heating and cooling needs, even in our colder climate.
Not all food is created equal. A plant-based diet has a smaller carbon footprint than an omnivore diet. One also can’t generally go wrong by choosing seasonal, local produce. Choose to eat less meat and choose plant-based proteins more often. Reducing food waste and using green bins or compost can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions set off when food is placed in landfills. We are lucky here in Southern Ontario to have access to tasty local food all year-round!
Bonus: Put your money and your voice where your values are
It may be surprising but your financial investments may in fact contribute significantly to your carbon footprint. Divesting from fossil fuels can provide a double whammy by reducing your personal climate impact while simultaneously defunding the fossil fuel industry. Money re-invested in renewable energy projects can provide competitive returns while leading to further decarbonisation.
Simple, isn’t it? Reduce your demand for energy in transportation and home heating, and switch as much as you can to electric. Eat a plant-based diet with local, seasonal produce. Divest from fossil fuels. That is all it takes to lead a near zero carbon lifestyle. Achievable? Absolutely. Easy? Maybe not without some government policy changes and incentives. So here is the last ingredient: let your political leaders know that climate change is a concern and that you would like to see more climate action. We CAN do it!
By: Heather McDiarmid
Photo Credit: Evie Shaffer, Unsplash
Project Neutral is known for its community-focused, carbon benchmarking and climate action tool. Project Neutral allows anyone to find out their carbon footprint in 5 minutes, based on real local data.
Diving into Waste 101
Date: | Thursday, December 13
Time | 5:30pm – 7:00pm
Note: This is an interactive event and you will need a phone/tablet/computer to participate!
Alicia Parkin, Customer Engagement and Outreach Coordinator, Reep Green Solutions
Alicia is passionate about teaching people how to find their carbon footprint, and what their next steps are for living a sustainable life. She is the In-Home Services & Customer Engagement Coordinator at Reep Green Solutions. One of her lead roles at Reep is to help launch the Project Neutral tool into the Waterloo Region and find like-minded community members to help connect others with this tool. Alicia has a Bachelor’s degree from Carleton University in Environmental Studies and a minor in Political Science.
We encourage the use of active transportation such as walking or biking. The house is just off the Iron Horse Trail. It is also easily accessible by GRT bus routes that use Queen and have stops near Mill St. If you drive, please consider carpooling with others you know are attending.
You are welcome to use Schneider Ave or David Street parking. The Victoria Park Pavilion parking lot is also free to use and only a few minutes walk to the Reep House. Please do not park at the Schneider Haus or Mitchell St lots (click to enlarge map)
05 Oct 2018
**the comment period is over, thanks to all who raised their voices!
You can still read about the impacts of cancelling the cap and trade program here**
02 Apr 2018
UPDATE: The Region of Waterloo, and cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo councils have unanimously approved an 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target by 2050!
If you’re interested in being involved in real change happening in our region to take action on climate change, read on. ClimateActionWR (co-led by Reep Green Solutions and Sustainable Waterloo Region) will be presenting a long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to the councils of the three cities and the Region of Waterloo in the coming weeks. We are proposing a target of 80% below our 2010 levels of greenhouse gas emissions, to be reached by 2050. Within the next several weeks we hope that the four councils will approve the target
We encourage you to reach out to your city council and/or regional council to share your views on the long-term target. This could be in the form of a delegation (5 minute speech) or an email.
In a short email or delegation you may speak as citizens, professionals, or parents explaining why addressing climate change and investing in the green economy is a priority for you, your business or your family’s future.
The long-term target will be considered on the following dates:
• City of Waterloo – COMPLETE
• City of Cambridge – COMPLETE
• Region of Waterloo – COMPLETE
Below, I have included a list of email addresses for councilors, as well as information on how to register to give a delegation.
Points that you could address in an email or delegation speech include:
- Strong scientific consensus confirms the global economy must eliminate carbon by the middle of the century and we need for our community to do our part in achieving that.
- The necessity of being leaders on climate change to support the development of clean-tech business across Waterloo Region and to keep more of the money we spend on energy in our community.
- Our community’s ongoing leadership and innovation on the environment and preparing for a sustainable future.
- The additional benefits of reducing our GHG emissions such as cleaner air, mitigating severe weather, healthier and more liveable communities and diverse transportation options.
If you are able to provide a delegation, please register as soon as possible! You may also visit the ClimateActionWR for more updates on this target and the upcoming delegations.
This is a historic moment for our community that you can be a part of. We want to give councillors as much support as possible in approving this target!
Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director
Councillors’ email addresses:
Region of Waterloo (all council members): <[email protected]>
City of Cambridge: <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>
City of Kitchener: <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>
City of Waterloo: <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>, <[email protected]>
Register to speak to council as a delegation:
Region of Waterloo: https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regional-government/communicate-with-council.aspx
09 Sep 2017
SUSTAINABLE LIVING SPEAKERS SERIES and Open House
From art to action
For her yearlong project as the City of Kitchener’s 2017 artist in residence, Julie Sperling is engaging the community in an open dialogue about the environment using a series of mosaics.
At this presentation, hear her thoughts about climate change from the perspective a mosaic artist. Tour REEP house, and make a small mosaic to contribute to Julie’s final project.
Julie Sperling is a Canadian mosaic artist based in Kitchener, Ontario. Her studio practice finds her camped out at the intersection of art, environment, science, and policy, and she firmly believes in the important role that artists play as advocates, activists, and change-makers.
- Presentation: 1:30 p.m.
- Q & A: 2 p.m.
OPEN HOUSE: 2:15 – 3:30 P.M.
Stay to explore the REEP House for Sustainable Living. Or come especially to check out the house’s environmental features.
14 Jun 2017
by Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director
Drumroll please: We are just past the halfway mark in our Climate Action plan for Waterloo Region, and the results are in:
- Our emissions have gone down by 5.2% – great news! And getting closer to our target of 6% below 2010 levels by 2020, if we can keep it up.
- Most of the heavy lifting was done by the province, by closing down the coal generating stations. So what was the impact of our local actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Without the province’s changes, our local emissions would have gone up by 4.4%. Wrong direction!
- But taken in context, we have made progress locally. During that same time period, our economy grew by 14% and our population by 5.7 %. Our local actions meant that emissions did not grow at the same rate – we separated emissions growth from population and economic growth. This is an important step forward.
The most concerning information we see in the Progress Report is the growth in emissions from transportation. During the time period of 2010 to 2015, vehicle ownership in Waterloo Region grew at twice the rate of population growth. Transportation emissions now make up 49% of our carbon footprint, and they’re continuing to grow. That is our biggest challenge as a community going forward.
3 ways to reduce your carbon footprint
Here’s three ways each of us can do to reduce our own carbon footprint and help us reach our target as a community:
- Pick one thing related to our daily/weekly routine that could reduce emissions, and make it a new habit. It will cost little or nothing, and can make a big difference over time. The Progress Report has a list of actions we can all do for each focus area.
- Make each new purchase for your home, vehicle or workplace a transformational one. The kind of thing that means without thinking, your normal daily activities are now lower in carbon emissions. Appliances, lighting, vehicles – all of these purchases have long lasting impacts, and by choosing well at the time we buy, we can significantly reduce the emissions they create throughout their lifetime.
- Step out of our comfort zone and speak up on this issue. Let politicians and others know this matters to us, to support them in making decisions that look ahead for generations in our community.
In fact, there’s an opportunity to have our say and to hear what our community could look like in the future, coming up.
Community engagement kicks of June 22
Join us on June 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Our Progress, Our Path event as we kick off several months of community engagement on visioning our long-term path to reducing emissions. Join the conversation, and hear from 2 or 3 speakers about the big changes that we could adopt, or are adopting locally, and the impact they’ll have.
Let’s build on our success, together!
What excites me about the direction we’re going in with ClimateActionWR is that as a community we’re planning for the future we want, not the future that comes when you’re not paying attention. And that’s a future for sustainable living that builds prosperity and attracts talent to our community. The warm reception for our Progress Report at all three city councils and the Region demonstrated the political awareness and support we have in Waterloo Region for a low carbon economy, and the desire to do more. Let’s build on that together.
10 Sep 2016
Open House 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. / Speaker: 1:30
Climate Action & You: Contributing to our collective impact
Speaker: Danielle Laperriere
Join the Plan Manager of ClimateActionWR to explore changes you can make in your daily life and at home to contribute to our collective impact. Learn how you can play a role in achieving our community carbon reduction target!
Danielle Laperriere facilitates the ClimateActionWR partnership between Sustainable Waterloo Region, REEP Green Solutions and the Region of Waterloo, along with area municipalities, local energy utilities and the community at large. She is responsible for developing relationships among partners, guiding and executing project planning, and managing external communication.
Danielle has a Bachelor’s of Environmental Studies in International Development from the University of Waterloo and is currently pursuing a part-time Sustainable MBA from Green Mountain College.
More Green Energy Doors Open
There’s another event in Kitchener that runs at about the same: Tour Under The Shade Of Solar Panels At MCC Ontario
REEP Green Solutions is collaborating with several other local environmental groups to hold a local consultation.
A broad coalition of local organizations* are partnering with our Five federal members of Parliament to host Climate Town Hall – WR, to provide the citizens of Waterloo Region with an opportunity to share ideas for input to the Federal Climate Action Consultation.
Prime Minister Trudeau and Canada’s First Ministers committed to creating a national climate strategy for Canada in the March 2016 Vancouver Declaration. Through the summer, public consultation activities related to this strategy will take place across the country and feed into expert working groups assembled by the federal and provincial governments.
This is our opportunity to demonstrate that we have a powerful base of creative, knowledgeable leaders and citizens who are passionate about finding climate change solutions.
We want to show the Federal government that our region cares about addressing climate change, and that we are already working on solutions. Have your voice heard! Or simply come along to support other speakers and show that you really care about the issue.
Register above to attend the Kitchener consultation for the five constituencies in Waterloo Region on Thursday August 18th at 7pm at the Kitchener City Hall Rotunda. Note that registration is not required to participate in the consultation. However, it is appreciated as it helps with our planning.
* ClimateActionWR, Chippewas Solidarity, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, CREW WR, Divest Waterloo, REEP Green Solutions, Transition KW, Waterloo Region Blue Dot, Waterloo Regional Labour Council
Local Members of Parliament: Brian May (Cambridge), Raj Saini (Kitchener Centre), Marwan Tabbara (Kitchener South – Hespeler), Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga), Hon. Bardish Chagger (Waterloo)
Related event: Canadian Climate Solutions: What Should be in the National Climate Plan?
This event at 7 p.m. on Aug. 11 at CIGI is to help inform people of the issues related to the consultation.
- Sarah Burch, Senior Fellow, Global Economy (CIGI)
- Heather Douglas, Waterloo Chair of Science and Society, Balsillie School of International Affairs
- Maria Panezi, Post-doctoral Fellow, International Law Research Program (CIGI)
- Caterina Lindman, Citizens’ Climate Lobby
- Deborah McGregor, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice, Osgoode Hall Law School
Concerned incentives may not be available to Kitchener homeowners
Kitchener – REEP Green Solutions welcomes today’s Ontario government announcement of a $100 million investment to help homeowners upgrade their home’s energy efficiency.
“We’re pleased that the government recognizes the importance of financial incentives in spurring home energy upgrades to stimulate the economy, create jobs and help Canada meet the commitment we made at the Paris climate conference,” said Mary Jane Patterson, executive director of REEP Green Solutions.
The province’s announcement is in partnership with Union Gas and Enbridge, which provide natural gas to the vast majority of Ontario’s homeowners.
“This announcement is great news for Union Gas customers in Waterloo, Cambridge and the townships,” said Patterson. “But we’re wondering if homeowners in Kitchener will also be able to participate in this program since neither Union Gas nor Enbridge operates in the city.”
REEP Green Solutions also recommends that the Province of Ontario provides incentives for home energy incentives for people who are not heating their homes with natural gas.
– 30 –
We submitted an op ed column to the Waterloo Region Record about how climate change affects our homes that it published on Dec. 4, 2015. The same text appears below.
By Jennifer Lynes, Chair, and Mary Jane Patterson, Executive Director, REEP Green Solutions
On Sunday, Uptown Waterloo pulsed with energy as a diverse range of people gathered for the Global Climate March, one of many marches around the world leading up to COP21 in Paris. A desire for bold action to care for our shared planet was a common thread through the dancing, placards and speeches.
The energy comes from a sense of hope that now is the time when we start getting serious about addressing climate change, and begin preparing for it.
The march was an example that Waterloo Region is living the motto: “Think globally. Act locally.”
We are also living that motto by sending many of our community climate change leaders to Paris to participate, including the Mayor of Kitchener, professors, students and NGOs.
Yet for many of us, these talks are like a distant cousin: we know they exist, we might have seen a photo, but we haven’t really ever had any interaction with them. Likewise, climate change can be a difficult issue to relate to personally. The question that many of us struggle with is whether (and how) we as individuals can make a difference.
The fact is that climate change hits close to home. Literally.
Right now most homes are contributing to climate change. All of them can be a part of the solution.
According to the inventory undertaken for ClimateActionWR, our local climate action plan, 22% of Waterloo Region’s greenhouse gas emissions are from electricity and fuel consumption in our homes. Reducing those emissions is crucial to slowing climate change. Together with our ClimateActionWR partners, we are committed to doing just that.
REEP Green Solutions was created as a local response to Canada’s obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Sixteen years and 14,000 homes later we have made an impact but much more work still needs to be done.
Equally critical to slowing climate change is to recognize that it is already happening, and we must adapt to it. Extreme weather events are more frequent now, with higher winds and more intense rainfalls. This is our new reality.
So, over the past five years, REEP Green Solutions has been helping people determine if their home or business is prepared for the risk of flooding and wet basements as our climate changes.
In partnership with the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, our RAIN program helps property owners manage rain where it falls, so that it does not overwhelm our aging stormwater infrastructure, or our backyards.
We are excited about building on this work with additional innovative solutions to be developed by the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo announced on Monday.
Given the immensity of the challenges, we are heartened to see the progress at our senior levels of government. We have a Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in both the federal and provincial cabinets. And the province has announced plans to invest $325 million in 2015-16 through its Green Investment Fund to support a number of initiatives including supporting efforts to upgrade older homes towards current energy efficiency standards.
In order for homes across Canada to be a part of the solution to climate change and to be prepared for our changing weather, we propose:
- That provinces work together with the federal government to provide a home energy retrofit incentive program that requires independent third party professional energy audits. We recommend incentives rather than tax credits because they are more effective at motivating people.
- A federal or provincial Home Adaptation Assessment Program to educate and encourage homeowners to become extreme weather-prepared.
- Implementation of an integrated climate action plan that includes mitigation and adaptation.
Our hope is that these proposals will guide the federal and provincial governments as they move from setting targets to taking action.
These proposals not only address climate change. They will also stimulate the economy, and help keep our housing stock viable into the future.
If you agree, please share your support with your provincial and federal representatives so that your home can be a part of the solution and is ready for the impact of severe weather.
Together, let’s be ambitious. By acting today, we can leave our children a community that is more resilient, caring, vibrant, and sustainable.
Jennifer Lynes is Chair of REEP Green Solutions and associate professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo.
Mary Jane Patterson is executive director of REEP Green Solutions.