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Green bin, shmeen bin. Try heating the city with Lake Ontario and making garbage trucks run on fry oil

Green bin, shmeen bin. Try heating the city with Lake Ontario and making garbage trucks run on fry oil

Green bin, shmeen bin. Try heating the city with Lake Ontario and making garbage trucks run on fry oil


The city recently released Change Is in the Air: Toronto’s Commitment to an Environmentally Sustainable Future, a wish list of ways Toronto hopes to reduce its environmental impact. But, as the frog says, it ain’t easy being green.

The city is on its way, though. Take street lighting. Toronto has taken its first step toward converting all of its street lights to LED technology by 2020, a move that would dramatically cut both greenhouse gas emissions and electricity bills — 16 LED lights have been installed at Exhibition Place.

In the downtown core, several buildings are already hooked up to Enwave’s innovative and renewable deep-lake water cooling system, cutting the need for inefficient, power-hungry air conditioning units. The city has set the ambitious goal of expanding the system to meet 90% of the downtown core’s cooling needs by 2020.


Though a city of less than a million people, San Francisco is making huge strides. Take the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag, something most people don’t think twice about as they carry their groceries home — unless, that is, they happen to work for the City of San Francisco. The city recently banned the non-biodegradable bags, which have been dinging San Francisco in the wallet to the tune of US$8-million a year in cleanup alone.

The city’s garbage trucks, symbols of waste till now, will soon be fuelled by biodiesel made from grease, oil and fat salvaged from restaurant kitchens. Another would see the city harvest the relentless power of ocean tides by installing massive blades below the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, turning ocean current into electrical current.


This Oregon city currently gets 12% of its electricity from renewable sources. It’s not a very impressive number on its own, but becomes so when paired with Portland’s stated goal of reaching 100% renewable electricity by 2010. At its waste-water treatment plant, excess methane is used to generate some of that 12%. Solar-powered parking meters and plans for wind turbines in eastern Portland are part of the strategy to reach the city’s ambitious goal.

Other eco-friendly initiatives have focused on vehicles and traffic. Portland’s upgraded traffic lights save enough power to supply 400 homes per year. Those same traffic lights have been re-timed to aid in traffic flow, something the city says saves motorists 65 million litres of gas per year. The city operates more than 80 hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on up to 85% ethanol-blended fuel.


The 7.5 million people who call London home are accountable for spewing 44 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year and they’re not happy about it, which is why strong measures like charging vehicles for the privilege of entering the city’s centre have been implemented. That move alone cut carbon emissions in central London by 16% thanks to increased cycling and public transit use.

And though it’s an ancient city, London is looking to a future filled with greener pastures. Regulations in the mayor’s London Plan call for new developments to produce 10% of their required energy on site through renewable generation.

A more tangible initiative for homeowners is the $16-million Green Homes Program, included in which is an offer of subsidy for improving insulation. Savings to homeowners would extend to lower heating and cooling bills while helping reduce the city’s overall environmental footprint.


The slogan of Reykjavik’s tourism authority is more than just a clever double entendre — it’s pretty darned close to the truth: Pure Energy. Iceland’s capital region, with a population of 190,000, has one luxury that gives the city an obvious advantage over others in the green game: the limitless geothermal energy that is literally at the city’s feet. That power, plus hydro-electric generation, allow the tiny island to produce 70% of its energy from local, renewable sources. An impressive number, to be sure, but small when compared to the 100% of Reykjavik that is kept warm directly by geo-thermally heated water.

Not content to simply rely on its natural good fortune, the city recently announced new green initiatives. They include free rides for students on public transit beginning in the fall, free parking for green vehicles, improved footpaths, the planting of 500,000 new trees and improved garbage collection and recycling programs.

National Post
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Page: TO11
Section: Toronto: The City
Byline: Philip Alves
Column: Meanwhile In ...