Earth Day: A local call to reduce our impact

No matter how big or small, we all can make an impact this Earth Day. On April 22, the world will join together and recommit to making changes for our planet. As Tonja Leach, Executive Director of QUEST Canada, shared on our ThinkEnergy podcast The QUEST for Lower Municipal Emissions episode, this starts in our own communities. 

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“Municipalities, just by their very nature, have a number of cards in their hand to play,” says Leach. “One of the biggest impacts on our energy usage is land-use planning, which falls under the responsibility of municipalities. How are we moving around in our communities? How effectively and efficiently can we do that? Creating communities where you can live, work, and play makes a big difference in the amount of energy that we need.”

According to the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, roughly 50 per cent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada come from municipalities. That means right here in Ottawa, we have the power to influence significant change over our emissions. By tackling climate change at the municipal level, we can improve our quality of life, help the environment, and save significant money in operation and energy costs. 

So, is Canada’s net zero by 2050 goal actually a grassroots movement? It just might be! With Earth Day right around the corner, here is a list of things that we can all do to support our community and learn more about green energy in Ottawa.

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When possible, consider public transportation or carpooling. Cutting down on the number of gas-run vehicles on our roads can drastically support your greener goals. Leach explains, “people need to be willing to walk or ride a bike or take public transit in order to reduce the emissions that each of us contribute to our society and globally. So, we have a big role to play.” If you’re looking to go the extra mile, keep an eye out for electric transportation. Not only are these buses better for the environment, but they make for a quieter commute, too!

Use energy more efficiently

If you’re not actively in a room and using a light, television, or fan, consider turning it off to save some energy. And don’t forget to unplug all chargers when they are not being used. “Communities are responsible for 50 per cent of our energy use and about 50 per cent of our emissions. So that in and of itself tells you how important they are in achieving the net zero objectives that we're striving to achieve,” says Leach.

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Check out green energy hubs

In October 2020, Hydro Ottawa partnered with Zibi Canada and Kruger Products to introduce zero-carbon thermal district energy to the 34-acre waterfront site in downtown Ottawa and Gatineau, making the Zibi development project the region’s first zero-carbon-emission community. In the future, you’ll be able to find parks, shopping, and dining experiences all with an emphasis on sustainable energy.  

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Something that you can easily implement in your own home is using less plastic as well as recycling it properly if and when you do. Did you know that some car parts, sleeping bags, playground equipment, and more come from recyclable items? Take a look at the City of Ottawa recycling page to learn more about how you can be more green by using your black and blue bins. 

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A bright idea

Don’t forget that one of the easiest ways to use less energy around your home is to swap out your lightbulbs. Making the move to LED may seem small but there are many benefits to making the switch. They’re more energy efficient, produce zero toxic elements, and have a longer lifespan than their dated counterparts.

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All in all, as Leach said on the podcast, net zero starts with you. “We don't get to net zero without people. So we talk about net zero in terms of a federal objective, and we talk about it in terms of introducing electric vehicles into our grid and net-zero buildings - but actually, to maintain the momentum, we need buy-in from people. People play a huge role.”

To find out more ways to help reduce your own impact this Earth Day, visit the United Nations’ ‘Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World’ - where you will learn some other great ideas on how to contribute. Be a Sofa Superstar, Household Hero, Neighbourhood Nice Guy or Exceptional Employee.

So, this April 22, it’s a good time to ask ourselves how will we all contribute to reducing our local environmental impact?

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