Looking Forward: Keeping the Conversation Going on Environment

by Markus O'Brien Fehr, Chief of Staff

"Let's keep this conversation going." It was the most important request coming out of the climate change town hall hosted by our office last night. City staff shared survey data showing that 91% of people in Toronto agree they need to reduce their environmental footprint – but 48% don't know what to do about it. That second number is one we need to change.

A keen partner in keeping the conversation moving is the Yonge Corridor Condominium Association. This organization linking condo boards up and down our segment of Yonge Street has established a green committee, hosting a number of information events promoting new environmental initiatives from improving energy efficiency in buildings, to adding Electric Vehicle charging stations in garages, to promoting new waste diversion tools.

Waste diversion in particular, continues to be a big challenge for the City in multi-residential buildings. Recycling streams are often contaminated, making them less efficient and sending more to land fill. Many buildings lack facilities for organic composting altogether.

The City promotes a 3Rs ambassador program working to tailor programs to individual condo or apartment buildings and helping to promote the three R's (reduce, reuse and recycle). The goal is to have at least one ambassador in each Toronto building. These ambassadors also have access to a number of City supports, including staying in the loop on grant streams that have been made available by the City to support waste diversion initiatives.

Some local buildings with ambassadors, such as 5 Kenneth or 18 Sommerset, are already among the City's leaders in improving their waste diversion. Some have established re-use-it shelves to reduce waste, or bottle return stations, with proceeds going towards the annual building BBQ. Multi-lingual posters, e-newsletters or even contests offering $5 Tim's cards raise awareness on how to reduce what ends up in landfill.

Over the coming years, ensuring better waste diversion will become increasingly important. The Province of Ontario is changing the way our blue box programs work starting in 2023, shifting recycling costs away from municipalities and placing the responsibility on the producers of recyclable materials. It is expected that this will broaden the number of items accepted into blue bins, raising the impact of ensuring they are well used.

We will be following up last night's conversation with workshops we hope to co-host with YCCA later in the year as an opportunity to share ideas and best practices with all multi-residential buildings in the area. In the meantime, if you'd like to engage further as the City develops its Net Zero strategy on GHGs, consultations will take place this summer. You can connect at TransformTO.ca.

Let's keep this conversation going.