Here are a few communities that are getting it right in their efforts to become more environmentally responsible.
Waste Not, Want Not
At student events all across the country, water bottles are a ubiquitous sight. Not so much at the University of Guelph, however. Guelph Students for Environmental Change are leading the campaign against the water bottle on campus, and they have many student groups and departments on board.
The student group believes that plastic water bottles are not only wasteful but also filled with unregulated water, unlike our tap water. Thanks to their efforts the various organizations on campus have all pledged to have water bottle free zones whenever they hold an event. Moreover, the group has been working hard to get a water bottle free orientation week, replacing the numerous plastic bottles with jugs or even a giant milk tanker filled with tap water.
A Brand New Bag
In Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, a different convenience waste product was eliminated: the plastic shopping bag. The town of 500 about 1000 km northeast of Winnipeg banned plastic shopping bags completely April 2007, becoming the first city to do so in North America.
To help residents adjust to the change, the city council did the ban in stages beginning months ahead of the ban with a small tax on plastic bags, followed with an educational campaign, and finally even handing out 5000 cloth bags to residents.
Just 15 minutes south of Calgary are 50 suburban houses that seem ordinary enough with garages, barbecues, and kids toys on the front lawn. Until you get high enough you don’t even notice that on top of every garage roof is a massive solar panel.
The Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks, Alberta is unprecedented, collecting solar energy in the summer that is used to heat the super energy efficient houses in the winter. These modern homes will release five tonnes fewer greenhouse gases than the average Canadian home that releases 6-7 tonnes annually.
Changing the Tide
In Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy’s constantly changing tides are a natural wonder, but soon they could also be a source of green energy. Marine Current Turbines, a UK-based tidal energy company, is partnering with Maritime Tidal Energy Corporation, an East Coast energy development company, to establish a test site for capturing energy with an underwater turbine.
Marine Current Turbines previously installed a 1.2MW turbine in Ireland in 2008 that could power approximately 1000 houses. However, the potential in Nova Scotia is much greater. In the Minas Passage, it has been reported that just 15 percent of that tidal energy would be enough to power 120,000 homes.
Rethinking Local Food
Cities require a lot of food to feed all of their inhabitants, which is usually trucked in from more rural agricultural areas. But, some forward-thinking architects are completely altering our idea of local food by bringing the farm to the city in the form of an agricultural skyscraper or “vertical farm.”
Recently, a Waterloo-based architect proposed a “Skyfarm” that could feed 50,000 people in the heart of the Toronto theatre district. Gordon Graff’s idea would have 59 storeys of hydroponic grown food, and while Toronto’s Skyfarm is still just an idea Las Vegas has already bought a $200 million 30-storey vertical farm to be opened hopefully in 2010.