Category Archives: Climate Change

Peterborough Utilities offers advice with cap-and-trade set to kick in on Jan. 1 in Ontario

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the Ontario government’s new approach to combatting climate change, it’s time to start.

New Year’s Day is the day of reckoning. The price of gasoline is going to jump four cents a litre and every other form of energy will follow suit.

Electricity, natural gas, propane, heating oil … the province is tacking a premium on them all in what amounts to the official kick-off of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program.

The purpose is to put a price on carbon. Make carbon more expensive and people will be inclined to use less of it. Less carbon use means lower greenhouse gas emissions. Fewer emissions slows the pace of climate change.

Cap-and-trade essentially creates a carbon market. The province is capping the total amount of carbon that can be produced and assigning individual cap amounts to large industries and businesses. Those that are over their cap will have to buy carbon credits, those that are under their cap will be sellers.

Homeowners, tenants and smaller businesses aren’t directly involved in the cap-and-trade market but still have a large stake in how it works.

That’s because cap-and-trade and higher prices on fuel and home heating are just one element of Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan. They are the penalties that create a financial incentive to use less energy; they also produce revenue, revenue the province is promising it will use to help people buy greener cars and trucks, more efficient heating and cooling systems for homes and businesses, and to install alternative energy sources.

When cap-and-trade is running full out in 2020 the province expects to take in $1.9 billion annually to invest in those programs.

But higher energy prices are already here. For anyone interested in reducing both their carbon footprint and their energy bills some programs already exist.

The most comprehensive programs are for low-income tenants and homeowners. Those who qualify can get free upgrades for insulation, programmable thermostats, indoor clothes drying racks, possibly even new appliances.

Cathy Mitchell, conservation technical co-ordinator with the distribution arm of Peterborough Utilities Inc., says the local electrical utility expects to provide up to $85,000 in subsidies this year to low income households. The target is to increase that to $110,000 in 2017.

Enbridge Gas and Union Gas have an equivalent Home Winterproofing Program.

Other subsidy programs are available regardless of income. The Heating and Cooling Initiative will provide up to $650 to replace older furnaces and air conditioners, and anyone can print out on-line coupons that bring down the cost of everything from LED light bulbs to clotheslines and weatherstripping.

All those incentives and programs are explained on a central website:

The PUI program is funded by the Independent Electricity System Operator, a non-profit agency that oversees Ontario’s electricity market. It was created in 1998 as part of the breakup of Ontario Hydro.

Small business owners can also take advantage of conservation incentives. Mitchell says she worries that smaller companies that don’t have enough staff to dedicate someone to energy management tend to focus on replacing equipment only after it breaks down.

As a result they often aren’t aware of incentives that can make upgrades pay for themselves while reducing energy consumption, she said.

PUI’s target is to have the subsidy programs it oversees result in 39 gigawatt hours of electricity conservation by 2020. That would be the equivalent of taking every home in Lakefield off the electricity grid.

As cap-and-trade and the provincial Climate Change Action Plan go into full swing those subsidy programs will expand. The province and local utilities are working on pilot projects now, Mitchell said.

The province has made it clear that retrofit programs now available only to low income households will expand. The federal government will also feel pressure to fund home energy conservation initiatives.

Higher energy prices have arrived. It only makes sense to take advantage of the incentives that are the other half of Ontario’s climate change reduction equation.

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner. By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Saturday, December 31, 2016.

Ontario begins cap-and-trade Jan. 1

From the moment Stone Age man discovered more than 500,000 years ago that a fire could be lit and controlled, carbon has been the engine of civilization.

Carbon is nature’s basic building block, found in every living thing, plant or animal. Over time nature recomposed a lot of that carbon into fossil fuels: coal, natural gas and crude oil. Pulled out of the ground, they fuelled a carbon-dependent, energy-consuming society.

Which means that putting the brakes on the amount of carbon we burn is a big, complex project.

Ontario has adopted a five-year plan to cut reduce carbon consumption, the Climate Change Action Plan. Peterborough has its own plan, one that covers both the city and county.

This coming Jan. 1 anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to what’s been going on in the world of carbon control will wake up to the new reality of “cap and trade.”

For most of us the result will be deceptively simple. Gasoline will cost an extra 4.3 cents a litre. You’ll see the evidence on the signs at every gas station you pass.

Heat your home with natural gas, or the water you shower in? Cook with it? You’ll pay 3.3 cents more for every cubic metre you burn. With a current price of about 11 cents a cubic metre that’s a 30-per-cent increase.

Diesel fuel will go up 5 cents a litre, propane 4 cents a cubic metre.

The effect on electricity prices won’t be nearly as drastic. Nuclear plants, hydro dams and alternative energy sources produce almost all of Ontario’s electricity these days. Coal is done and natural gas plants are on their way out.

How much those price increases cost individual consumers will vary, but it’s not hard to come up with some average figures. Natural Resources Canada says that a new, average-sized Canadian home burns about 2,700 cubic metres a year for heating. That translates to an additional $89 a year at 3.3 cents a cubic metre.

If your car use 10 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and you drive 30,000 kilometres a year your annual cap-and-trade premium will be $115.

While those price hikes are what most of us will experience directly, they are a small part of the overall cap-and-trade mechanism.

Cap-and-trade is one of several ways governments can attempt to force down the use of fossil fuels, and therefore reduce the future impacts of climate change.

The “cap” is a ceiling set on carbon emissions. Ontario has set its 2017 cap at the equivalent of 142.3 million tonnes of CO2 , commonly referred to as greenhouse gases (GHG), released into the atmosphere. Ever industry and businesses that emits GHG gets an individual cap number. Those that release more carbon than their cap allows can buy carbon allowances; those that release less than their cap can sell allowances or bank them.

Each year for the next five years time the cap will be lowered, increasing pressure on everyone to get under their cap and save money.

For 2017 the mandatory cap will apply only to very large industries and institutions that release 25,000 or more tonnes of CO2 annually, a total of 140 province-wide. Industries and institutions that produce less than 25,000 tonnes of GHG can voluntarily register for the cap-and-trade program.

Cap-and-trade also applies to companies that sell energy, including natural gas suppliers Enbridge and Consumers Gas and gasoline distributers. That is where the price increases that affect individuals come in. The province has mandated those increases in an attempt to cut consumption.

In Ontario, cap-and-trade is expected to generate $2 billion a year by 2020. The province intends to put all that money into environmental measures and incentive programs to cut GHG emissions: investment in public transit, bigger grants to offset the cost of buying electric cars, retrofit programs for homes would be among them.

A future article will look at how those programs will work, and how consumers can take advantage of them.

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner. By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Saturday, December 10, 2016.

Trent University grad Jessica Correa aims to spread the Random Acts of Green brand nationally

Jessica Correa is excited by all the Random Acts of Green she has posted on her company’s Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram accounts, but one stands out.

“We really liked the Ultimate Frisbee group,” Correa say. “They do the carbon flip.”

To explain: Correa, 24, has a master of environmental science degree, with a focus on sustainable development. She also runs a business, Random Acts of Green, dedicated to promoting environmental activities in the community.

The carbon flip is an Ultimate Frisbee staple the local league adopted. Instead of flipping discs to see which team gets the choice of starting on offence or defence they do a car count.

“They encourage everyone in the league to reduce their carbon footprint by carpooling to get to the game or use active transportation,” Correa explains.

The team with the fewest cars in the parking lot wins the “flip.” At the end of the year the team with the most flip points gets a pizza party or a keg party . . . “something fun,” as Correa says.

But the impact of the carbon flip is limited if no one knows about it. Post a high quality video on social media and the word gets around, one more pebble on a growing pile that could draw everyone’s attention to the possibilities of developing a sustainable lifestyle.

That’s what Correa and her team do.

“In our minds, if it’s not seen it’s not green.”

During grad school at Trent University, Correa looked at car sharing and how to market sustainable behaviour to her millennial generation. The focus groups she conducted led to a disheartening conclusion.

“I was frustrated with it,” she recalls. “I found that we’re all going to follow the same old formula: get a job, have a family, get a home, get a car. The same formula as our parents.”

She kept thinking someone should use social media to promote an alternative formula, one that simplified sustainability and brought it into everyday life. Not tree huggers or hippies or protesters, just regular people.

One day last December she had a “eureka” moment.

“I kept waiting for someone else to do it. Someone else should change the perception of environmentalism. And then I was like, ‘No one is! No one will!’ And then I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it!'” When she is fired up, which is most of the time, Correa speaks in exclamation marks, an energetic bundle of mental activity shooting out sparks of innovation.

She is also very bright and highly focused. She finished her master’s program six months ahead of schedule while turning the Random Acts of Green concept into reality. She was soon snapping photos of people “doing green things” and posting them on social media, developing her “brand.”

Her posts started to draw attention. She was shocked when someone approached her for a quote on a green issue but it also prompted a second eureka moment – maybe she could make money at this.

“I just started dipping my toe in the world of the entrepreneur,” she says. She had no business experience but took “how to” seminars through Peterborough Economic Development and the Peterborough Innovation Cluster.

Now she pitches to clients who hire her to help them develop and popularize green initiatives. She posts video and photos of the events on her three Random Acts of Green social media platforms. Clients can put links to the sites on their own sites.

The City of Peterborough and the Peterborough Petes are among her clients.

Growing the business has been a struggle, she admits, but she’s confident the concept will work. Confident enough that she deferred her acceptance to a PhD program at the University of Waterloo.

Correa hopes to grow Random Acts of Green into “the number one green behaviour promoting brand in Canada.”

If that doesn’t happen, she says, she won’t have lost anything and will have gained an invaluable experience.

That’s a sustainable attitude, in any colour of the spectrum.

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner. By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Saturday, November 12, 2016.

Composting at 100 per cent at Food Forest

It’s the end of the lunch rush and Food Forest Cafe is buzzing with conversation, so Adam Deck and Katie Tuma suggest we do our interview out back.

Turns out they were speaking literally. We head outside to an open area behind the Water St. restaurant. Three mismatched chairs, which I later learn likely came from a thrift store, are waiting for us.

Next to the chairs are a few orange, five-gallon pails. Katie says there would usually be a lot more. The pails hold food scraps that farmers and gardeners pick up and use for compost, returning the pails later. During an average week Food Forest gives away 18 pails of the stuff, or 90 gallons.

Deck waves toward a brick wall that separates the courtyard area behind this section of Hunter St. buildings from those along Water St.

On the other side of the wall is a large dumpster bin that other restaurants in the block share and pay to have hauled away.

“Because we’re a plant-based restaurant 100 per cent of our food waste can be composted,” Deck says. “So, at the end of the week we have less than one garbage bag.”

That’s less garbage than most households produce. It goes to the curb for pickup by the city, a big cost saving for them and a load off the landfill site.

Food Forest is vegan and gluten free. It’s no coincidence that the plant-based nature of their menu produce minimal garbage. Deck and Tuma are health and ecology advocates first and restaurateurs second.

They met while studying ecological restoration at Fleming College in Lindsay. Inspired by what they were learning. they looked for a way to make a difference on their own. A vegan restaurant run on strict environmental principles was a natural outlet.

Tuma describes their relationship as “partners in life and in the restaurant.”

Food Forest opened three years ago in a smaller George St. location just north of downtown. A year ago they expanded to the 32-seat Hunter St. site, where they have 10 employees.

The restaurant’s fun, quirky feel fits its clientele and its owners’ personalities, but it was put together with intent.

Pine boards used during the interior renovation are all recovered scrap, most of it sourced from Deck’s father, who owns Deck Transport, a third-generation local trucking firm.

“We also do a lot of thrifting,” Tuma says. “Most of our small pots and cups and teapots are from the thrift store. . . . We aren’t really fans of buying all new.”

When possible they go beyond re-use to “don’t use.”

They don’t give out cutlery as part of their busy take-out business. Take-out containers are made from cane juice pulp, not paper, but they would rather you not use them at all. They charge 25 cents per container and encourage customers to bring their own instead.

“After doing a couple hundred of those orders that saves a lot of waste,” Deck says.

“And gets the conversation going,” Tuma adds. “We have really strict policies – our non-straw in house policy; we don’t give out take-out cutlery – things like that those create conversations, which makes some people uncomfortable but it allows us to explain why we’re doing it and that causes them to think about things in a different way.” They buy their organic vegetables locally whenever possible – Jenny Ross of Earth Nook Farm is their main local provider – and manage the entire business with a mindset of being sustainable, waste free and low carbon.

But the key element, they say, is serving only plant-based food.

“In regards to climate change, wth animal agriculture, especially the intense factory farming that goes on, the greenhouse gas emissions are more than all transportation combined,” Tuma says.

They see no endpoint to their sustainable journey.

“It shouldn’t just stop at a green promise or something like that,” Tuma says. “We kind of assess what we can improve on and how we can get the community involved. It’s fun … fun having that role.”

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner.  By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Saturday, June 18, 2016.

Siemens is cutting its carbon footprint, locally and abroad

Sometimes, meeting a green goal is a simple as handing out a coffee mug.

Not just one mug, though.

Three years ago, an in-house team at Siemens that works to ensure the environmental footprint laid down by the Technology Dr. factory is as small as possible realized that their cafeteria went through a lot of paper cups.

“Employees were using a lot of paper coffee cups, and they were bringing them into the facility from Tim Horton’s etc., so we handed out reusable coffee mugs,” recalls Lori MacLeod, the plant’s environmental, health and safety manager.

“We also went a step further and said, ‘If you’re going to buy coffee in the cafeteria and use your reusable mug you get five cents off the coffee.”

Each of the 325 employees got a thermal mug. The result: in addition to whatever dent they made in paper cup consumption at local coffee shops, the cafeteria now buys 60 per cent fewer cups.

Similar employee participation initiatives help the local Siemens plant meet energy and waste reduction targets it gets from its national head office. But the impetus for green performance is ultimately driven by the international parent company.

Siemens AG, based in Germany, has 350,000 employees in 187 countries. One of its goals is to be the first world’s first major industrial company to reduce it’s output of carbon – the primary source of climate-change inducing greenhouse gas – to net zero.

The target date for a zero carbon footprint is 2030.

Scott Hoy is the facility and maintenance manager at the Technology Dr. plant. Since coming to Siemens from GE-Hitachi eight months ago he’s been responsible for a project to replace the large air handlers that heat and cool the 180,000 sq. ft. building, along with some of the rooftop HVAC units, with more energy efficient equipment.

“We can recover heat within the building, too,” Hoy says. “A lot of our processes give off heat, which would just be sent outside. We’re looking at a recirculation method and heat recovery to reduce that so we won’t have to use the gas fired heaters as much.”

Smaller efficiency measure are often suggested by employees through the company’s 3i program – ideas, impulses and initiatives.

“We had one employee up in the offices and one employee downstairs put in a 3i idea and I’ve approved it and it’s going through. It’s putting in motion sensors in the copy room and the coat room upstairs,” Hoy explains.

The sensors will turn lights on and off depending on whether someone is using the space.

“We could do that in the kitchen, too,” Macleod says, adding one more entry to the 3i file.

Macleod notes that the ubiquitous wooden pallets that arrive when equipment and supplies are delivered had been a problem.

“We had a real struggle finding someone who would use and recycle them. In the last two quarters we’ve actually diverted six tonnes of wood scraps into recycling.”

The skids are now recycled in Lindsay, an arrangement set up by Greenspace Waste Solutions, a Brampton based company that for the past year has mangaged the waste from the plant.

Following an extensive renovation of the plant’s offices, Greenspace is finding a home for less conventional “waste” that would otherwise end up in a landfill, Hoy says.

“We’re working with Greenspace and another company called CSR Ecosolutions. They will come in and take all the old office furniture, refurb it, fix it up, and then they donate it to charities that need it.”

Projects like that have helped push the plant’s waste diversion rate up to 73%, Macleod says. Ten years ago that figure was 61 per cent.

In January the plant received this year’s Environmental Excellence Business Award from Otonabee Conservation, recognizing Siemens employees for having planted 1,200 trees and shrubs around the city and county over the past five years.

Workers get paid time off to take part in those Earth Day tree planting projects, another example of Siemens’ commitment to a green agenda.

This is one of a series of articles commissioned and paid for by Sustainable Peterborough and published in partnership with The Peterborough Examiner.  By Jim Hendry, Peterborough Examiner, original article published Monday, May 23rd, 2016.