In 2007, the City Council of Toronto, Canada, recognised the far reaching impacts of climate change and made a commitment to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. To achieve this goal, bold action is needed to transform Toronto's urban systems, including its buildings, energy infrastructure, transportation and waste. Together with suitable top down solutions, this will require a behavioural shift among citizens towards more sustainable living to reduce their individual carbon footprint.
Live Green Toronto is a program launched by the City of Toronto to help neighbourhoods and citizens reduce their climate change impact. It oversees programs, events, grants and a website with resources and advice to help residents and businesses take action to reduce emissions, protect the environment and improve air quality.
One strand of the program relates to greening your home. There are different loans and subsidies available providing incentives for residents to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, as well as for installing eco-roofs, which also reduce stormwater runoff and cool the air.
Further grants of up to $25,000 are available to support community-led waste reduction projects and increase participation in the City’s waste diversion programmes.
Another pillar of the program promotes the use of sustainable transport means in the urban area. This is supported by the ‘Smart Commute’ programme, which works with employers and property owners to promote sustainable commuting options – cycling, walking, public transport, and carpooling – to employees and tenants.
Live Green Perks is a free program - connecting Toronto businesses with motivated green consumers. Consumers can show their Live Green Perks membership card at participating businesses to receive a special offer on green products or services. Over 450 businesses participate in the program, with more than 27,000 membership cards issued. Live Green Perks has subsequently been launched as an app, allowing consumers to access discounts using their smartphone.
Each year, Live Green Toronto staff and volunteers attend many environmentally-related events and festivals across the city to raise consumer awareness and to promote the dissemination of information on the City’s environmental programs and initiatives.
The success of the program is twofold. Firstly, the website makes it easy for citizens to access advice and information – essentially creating a one-stop-shop for environmentally friendly actions in the city. Secondly, the program has paid great attention to raising awareness among citizens. The program has cultivated a strong ‘Live Green Toronto’ brand by having an active presence on social media, and through its army of volunteers – more than 1600 people, speaking over 80 languages – who ensure a large physical outreach in the community.
Other cities could learn from the approach taken in Toronto to centralise information and actively promote environmentally aware lifestyles among citizens. The policy is estimated to be GML 7.
Image source: Benson Kua
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons