April 27, 2008

Ontario Should Be a Green Leader

At the end of Earth Week, it's dawned on me that truly bold leadership on and ideas concerning the environment haven't been floated through any government body within Canada. Sure, there has been good legislation such as BC's carbon tax, Quebec's pesticide ban and Ontario's awaited elimination of incandescent light bulbs. However, while these are good ideas, they are easily offset by Alberta other provinces' lack of action and the head-in-the-sand, fingers-in-ear approach by the federal Conservatives.

At some point, one province is going to have to take the plunge and make real changes to many different areas to show that it can be done and that these changes can work within our society. Personally, I believe Ontario is the province with the most to gain by stepping up. With the largest population and being the main manufacturing hub of Canada and all the environmental concerns that are associated with that (electricity consumption, creation of waste, resource use - such as water), etc., Ontario could make itself a national leader by making some major reforms in all areas of the environment.

As I already mentioned, Ontario has made a good start. A new pesticide ban was just implemented, incandescent light bulbs will be eliminated by 2012, private citizens are given incentives to generate green energy, etc. However, Ontario has a far way to go before it can consider itself truly green. These ideas, as a package, are good but definitely not great. The light bulb ban is too far off and the green energy production doesn't carry enough incentives for a large chunk of the public to get involved. However, I would argue that they constitute a decent starting point and it's more than what most other provinces have done. Below I'm going to explore two major issues - energy and waste - facing Ontario and a couple other ideas. In no way are these ideas the limit of what can and should be done in Ontario and the rest of Canada. However, I think these are only a starting point from which real change can be fostered and grown and set up Ontario as environmental leader within Canada.

Waste:
In the past I have tried to make the case for a
better waste policy that involves mixing Nova Scotia's policies of extensive recycling and composting (for areas outside the GTA) and replicating Edmonton's Waste Management Centre (for the GTA). Together these programs could eliminate a massive amount of Ontario's waste and essentially eliminate the need to ship garbage out of province or into remote areas, build new landfills and rely on incinerators. In the meantime, Ontario should look at putting out severe restrictions on waste disposal such as by switching garbage pickups to every other week and limiting the number of bags that can be placed curbside. As well, Ontario should ban all non-biodegradable bags from being used for throwing out garbage.

Energy:
While Ontario has a decent program that allows the public to install home generation through solar panels and wind turbines and earn revenue from any extra generation, the plan has a couple problems. First, comparable plans found in Europe offer more money for any extra generation which makes the plan more viable. And second, the cost of purhcasing and installing the equipment is fairly high, enough so that the average family either can't afford to get involved or it isn't in their financial interest to do so. Obviously, this needs to change. The Ontario government should look at cutting the PST and providing retrofit funding on the retail side and provide incentives for producers so that the cost of the equipment is minimal. Additionally, Ontario should increase the rates that are paid, even if it's only temporarily, to make the program more attractive.

There is still more that can be done. As far as small-scale generation goes all new residential and commecial buildings being built should have, at the very minimum, solar water heaters installed. While general solar and wind generators should be built into all new homes and buildings, not all structures or properties are reasonable and therefore something such as a solar water heater or geothermal heat pump or the like should be the installed minimum standard. A plan such as this would have a far greater impact on the lowering of energy consumption in Ontario than the light bulb ban. This would also be a better alternative than building numerous nulcear facilities while at the same time many people and businesses could earn money.

Air:
For a single term in university, I wrote for the school newspaper. The very fist article I wrote was on
urban heat islands after I attended a guest lecture. There were a lot of great ideas presented at this lecture on ways to counteract heat islands. Some of the ideas were simple as well and could easily be adapted within Ontario. Not only would some of these ideas help mitigate the issue of heat islands within our cities they would also significantly reduce energy consumption during the summer months and eliminate some of our air pollution problems.
* Factories, warehouses, etc. should all have reflective roofing (where solar panels are not reasonable>; * Apartment buildings should use green roofs; * Ban black tar roofing and shingles - switch to light coloured roofing; * Ban black pavement and ashphalt - should be lightened; * Trees and plants should be planted in open spaces and along sidewalks; * There should be a mandatory percentage of tree coverage within cities and all trees taken down through development should have to be replaced somewhere within the area.

Water:
Water is something that we all take for granted. In Canada, water is readily available and the idea of having shortages or another associated problem seems like something from the twilight zone. However, problems have occurred or will begin to occur unless something is done about it. To begin, people should have to pay the real cost of water. Measured intake and outtake should be the norm and the cost should reflect the importance and value of water. As well, using clean, treated water for your toilet, watering your lawn, etc. is a vast waste. Ontario should begin a process of
recycling greywater. While Ontario doesn't necessarily require that we begin such a large conservation program, a program such as grey water recycling combined with paying a realistic cost of water would assist in changing the mindset around water and its usage. Even a simple solution of putting restrictions on the sale of shower heads and toilets that don't meet a minumum standard would go a long way to assist with water conservation and changing our habits of use.

Previous Posts:

As If There Aren't Enough Issues In the Great Lakes Already...
Status Quo for Toronto's Garbage Problem
McGuinty's Energy Plan Lack's Vision
Ontario Solar Power Plan: Some Numbers
Portlands Project Another Band-Aid Solution
It's Time for Toronto and Ontario to be Realistic About Their Garbage
Cleaning Up Ontario
Exporting Toronto's Trash
Powering Ontario

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"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

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