Going greener is not only good for the corporate image, it’s increasingly a boon to the bottom line. Helping businesses along that path is where Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR) comes into the picture.
Executive director Tova Davidson helps businesses and organizations reduce their carbon footprint, consulting on how they can become greener and measuring the effects to help them see a return on investment.
“Oftentimes, the fastest and most effective thing a lot of businesses can do is insulation and windows. It’s the stuff that we’ve been talking about for so many years, but the impact of that means that you’re using less electricity for air conditioning and the return on investment for that can be really quick,” said Davidson.
SWR has seen a growth in some of their programs from businesses around the region looking to be more sustainable in the future, understanding the effects of climate change.
“We’ve seen some pretty big growth in some of our programs. We focus on organizational sustainability. Helping businesses, public sector, private sector, not for profits, municipalities reduce their impact in ways that are actually good for the local economy and local business. We’ve seen a lot of uptakes on it, especially in the past year even we’ve seen a lot more interest coming in from the community with the impacts of climate change being more widely understood the responsibilities and the opportunity to address those impacts have really grown.”
Sustainable Waterloo Region had 11 new members in the past year, showing significant growth for a small not-for-profit organization.
“Businesses are now talking about things like going to net zero. That’s a conversation that eight years ago, we never would have had. Nobody would have even considered being a net zero energy, net zero carbon organization. So that’s been an exciting development,” explained Davidson.
Another way local businesses and organizations can be more green and is to think about fleet conversions, noted Davidson. A high percentage of the region’s carbon footprint is from transportation.
“We know from the Climate Action Program, which is something that SWR runs in partnership with Reep Green Solutions, that 49 per cent of the locally produced carbon footprint of Waterloo Region comes from transportation. If you’re thinking about how do your employees get to work, how do you get goods and services around, how often are you traveling to your customer or partner locations? That’s a big piece. How efficient is your fleet? Have you considered electrification of any of your vehicles because electricity has a much lower carbon footprint.”
SWR is also looking for businesses to add organic waste programs to their services to help reduce the impact on landfills.
“When you put organic waste into landfills, it has 25 times more carbon greenhouse gas impact than if you were to compost it in an organic facility.”
Davidson and SWR would enjoy seeing more rural businesses become members, as they have projects such as micro foresting that would enable farmers to have healthier livestock as well as pulling more carbon out of the air.
“If you start to look at what the agriculture industry produces, it’s globally because we don’t eat the food that’s produced locally. We import almost everything. Agriculture, I believe it’s between 20 and 30 per cent of the global emissions.”
In partnership with Reep Green Solutions, SWR created Climate Action WR to help the region navigate the data coming out of these programs as well as give solutions.
“They have on their website what is our local carbon footprint, and it is broken into sort of four sectors. So, transportation is 49 per cent workplaces and schools is 27 per cent. Homes is 18 per cent. Agriculture takes up five per cent and waste is one per cent.”
Davidson notes that the agriculture number does not include transportation emissions.
“They can join and then they get services from us to support them to figure out what their baseline is, what is their carbon footprint or their water footprint or their waste footprint, help them to make plans for how to reduce it and to see where the return on investment to the business is because there’s always a good return for doing this kind of work. Then help them to actually implement some of these projects or changes to their business and measure how they’re doing,” said Davidson. “All four of the townships are members of this program – the municipalities are members; we have organizations like Enviro-Stewards in Elmira.”
Any organizations looking to get help from SWR can head over to their website for more information.