Thoughts on the Guelph Clean and Green Community Cleanup

Thanks to all who came out in the Royal City to celebrate Earth Day by helping to clean up our boulevards and public spaces.

Yesterday, along with a brave group of volunteers, I did a shift with Councillor Andy Van Hellemond collecting trash around Ward 2. Happy to say that it’s a pretty clean ward.

Like last year, it’s been very informative analyzing what gets thrown onto our boulevards. Here are the three worst offenders year in and year out for roadside waste:

#1 by a long shot in garbage:  cigarette butts. All of our green public spaces are totally covered with them. Much more than goose poop. Geese can’t help it. What about smokers? Why has it become part of smoking culture that it is ok to just throw your butts  out the window or drop them on the ground?  Does disregard for our natural environment go along with this habit? It’s so hard to figure out. Who should pay for this cleanup? It’s of such epic proportions that it seems like a tax either on manufacturers or consumers has to address this, or bigger fines if butt flingers are spotted.

2.Tim Horton’s Coffee Cups — After cigarette butts, this is the next biggest offender. The plastic cup lids don’t decompose at all and are a hazard. I filled garbage bags full of cups yesterday. Think of the cost to taxpayers for this cleanup. I believe that we need to encourage re-usable coffee containers by forcing Tim’s to charge heavily for the disposable ones, and the company should be contributing to the cleanup in a much more major way. Just like initiatives to ban plastic bags, I think we should envision the end of disposable cups. Want a take out coffee? Get a re-usable mug, or else.

3. Nestlé water bottles. They are everywhere. Don’t get me started  on this. This is the most un-necessary product anywhere. It’s the same water that comes from our taps. You can use a re-fillable bottle. Is there something about having a disposable bottle that makes us think we can just throw it on the ground?  Bottled water must go. The only way to really drive Nestlé out is to take away the market. They are marketing geniuses. They have convinced us that they can sell us our own water that we can get for free. They are threatening our aquifer. They have publically stated that clean drinking water is not a human right, it’s a marketable commodity. Don’t buy plastic bottles, please and thank you.

4. I’d like to know your thoughts on this.  Thanks … James

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Last call to help with the Ward 2 Spring Cleanup!

Reminder: 13th annual Guelph Clean and Green Community Cleanup

Tomorrow ( Saturday morning!)

Meet Andy and I at 9 am at  the Tim Horton’s at Speedvale and Stevenson and we’ll scour the ward… literally.  There’s a free barbeque at Riverside Park at noon for participants… we’ll provide the gloves and the bags…… James- hope to see you there


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Some thoughts about our Community Energy Initiative

In advance of our important council meeting this coming Monday the 25th, here are some thoughts about our CEI. Thanks for reading- James

Last fall I was very proud to have taken part in the effort to have Guelph sign the Blue Dot Resolution, a nation-wide initiative meant to ensure our right as citizens to live in a healthy environment. Introduced to council by a group of young students concerned about the future sustainability of our planet, the resolution was embraced enthusiastically by the city.  A clause in the resolution relevant this week is this:

“The city of Guelph is proud to be a leader in environmental stewardship. We are continuously striving to improve in a wide range of areas, including water and energy conservation and efficiency; food security; waste reduction; transit and active transportation; and sustainable planning”.

A major way that we are demonstrating that stewardship is through our award-winning Community Energy Initiative, and next week council is being asked to update and revitalize the CEI to make sure that it is going to serve us effectively over the next generation. Simply put the CEI is a commitment to use energy more wisely and to fight climate change. You can learn more about it here:

This visionary plan has now been emulated by dozens of other municipalities, who all look to Guelph as leaders and pioneers in this area. This leadership was one of the reasons that Prime Minister Trudeau visited Guelph last week, when he toured a local industry that is doing their part to bring jobs and energy innovation to our city.

Here’s a brief summary of the CEI from the city website:  The Community Energy Initiative (formerly Community Energy Plan – CEP) is Guelph’s commitment to use and manage energy differently, better, than we have in the past. The initiative will also attract quality investment to the city. After all, experts agree that a reliable, sustainable energy supply is and will continue to be a key ingredient in the long-term competitiveness and prosperity of cities.

Guelph’s goals under the plan are to:

  • use less energy in 25 years than we do today
  • consume less energy per capita than comparable Canadian cities
  • produce less greenhouse gas per capita than the current global average.

So why am I telling you this? 

It’s a no-brainer right? We need this!

Well, city council is not as unanimous about its commitment to the CEI as you might think.  The success of this plan takes a long-term vision.  We might not see an economic return for our investment for a number of years. For some that is too long. It might in the short term effect our tax rate. Some around the horseshoe have referred to the CEI’s potential as a ‘fantasy’.

I totally agree that ANY city project needs to be fully accountable and transparent, and accountability is built in to the initiative’s update. What worries me is that while calling the plan a ‘fantasy’ we are denying the reality: that without a comprehensive vision, a map for our future energy management, we will have NO future.  The current federal government is showing a commitment to that future vision by offering substantial funding to municipalities who are showing the kind of leadership they we have shown in the past. I am hearing many concerns from citizens that the ‘fantasy’ label is sticking, and the feds will bypass us when it comes to that financial support. I believe that we should give our electorate more credit than they are sometimes given: we all want affordable taxes, but that’s not all we care about. We want our taxes to help make this the healthiest, most vibrant community it can be.

By supporting an update next week, we can move forward with a robust plan that gives us the sustainability we need, while addressing climate change. I believe that along with a well-defined strategy for measuring the financial outlook for the CEI, we need to consider the triple bottom line here. The social, environmental and health benefits of this plan are incalculable and every bit as important as the economic aspect.

Next week’s staff recommendation includes the establishment of a community-based advisory committee to provide governance, oversight and reporting to our citizens and to council. ( It’s important too to remember that the city is merely a community partner in the CEI. There are many stakeholders who share the responsibility for this venture.) The recommendation includes building in proper oversight for some of the exciting projects generated by the CEI like our District Energy Plan and the GEERS retrofit program.

The update has a cost, of course. The latest estimate is150,000 dollars, of which 50% is offset by existing funding options, so a 75,000 investment to help set the CEI on a path towards sustainability seems like a bargain! The jobs that we can create, the softer footprint we’ll create for our aging infrastructure, the savings we get when our community well-being reduces our health care costs and our reliance on fossil fuels will see a healthy return and provide security and a better quality of life for our children’s children.

eMerge, Guelph’s leading community energy advocacy group, has this to say about the CEI: “Rarely do we get a chance to have a profound impact on the future of our city’s economy – and at the same time – improve our environment. The CEI provides all of us with the opportunity to transform our local economy for the better.  An economy that will focus on putting our neighbours and families to work by investing in using less energy,  using energy more wisely and producing more clean energy alternatives locally. It’s about creating more energy security within our city.”

Next week’s meeting is going to be an opportunity for us to stand together as a community to say that we see the value in a long-term vision, and that we understand that any contribution we make now to this cause is worth it so that we can move towards a diversified economy that makes our community healthier and more prosperous.

Please, if  you support the CEI and it’s update, tell your councillors, your mayor and your neighbours. Come to the meeting, 7 p.m. on the 25th at City Hall to show your enthusiasm for it. Show us that Guelph’s leadership and commitment to our future is not a fantasy.

If you’d like to speak about this at the meeting, you can register by calling the city clerk’s office before Friday morning at 10 to get on the delegates list for a 5-minute presentation.


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Friends of the Homewood Grounds

A new Ward 2 citizens group has formed to advocate for maintaining the natural surroundings on the Homewood Grounds. There are fears that expansion plans for the Homewood may threaten this. Please check out their website… which also has a link to their facebook page and twitter feed. There will be public input sessions hosted by city planning staff. We’ll keep you posted!

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Reminder: 13th annual Guelph Clean and Green Community Cleanup

Your Ward 2 councillors will be leading a team for this….we’d love you to join us!

Meet Andy and I at 9 am this Saturday morning at  the Tim Horton’s at Speedvale and Stevenson and we’ll scrub ward 2 till it shines like the diamond we all know it to be! There’s a free barbeque at Riverside Park at noon for participants… we’ll provide the gloves and the bags…… James

Here’s the scoop:  On Saturday, April 23, the City of Guelph is hosting its 13th annual Guelph Clean and Green Community Cleanup—one of the city’s largest community environmental cleanup events.

This is your opportunity to spend a few hours “spring cleaning” your neighbourhood by joining hundreds of participants to pick up litter along Guelph’s streets, green spaces, and community parks.

Last year, more than 750 participated and picked up more than 3,000 kilograms of litter. It is true that when we work together, we can make a big difference.


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CEI – Financing energy retrofits – Speaker Series – April 26

I’m attending this event sponsored by eMerge here in Guelph. It starts April 26th, just a day after city council debates updating our Community Energy Initiative. It would be great to see you out at the council meeting ( more on that later) and at this informative talk- James

Financing residential or commercial energy retrofits can be a stumbling block for many.

One possible solution is a program called GEERS (Guelph Energy Efficient Retrofit Strategy) that is being considered as part of the Community Energy Initiative (CEI).  The Guelph Chamber of Commerce and eMERGE Guelph Sustainability are hosting a series of events to provide individuals, businesses and institutions with ideas and information to help make the CEI more economically and environmentally robust.

Our 2nd CEI speaker series will look at GEERS from three different perspectives:

  • the lens of a senior real estate professional
  • a view from Canada’s leading expert in LICs (Local Improvement Charges the policy mechanism being used under GEERS) to enhance sustainability
  • an energy management professional with expertise in the policy of sustainable buildings and the commercial use of LICs

1:00pm Tuesday April 26, 2016

Location:         Innovation Guelph

111 Farquar Street, Guelph, ON, N1H 4E6

All three of these professionals have been an integral part of LICs and two of them provided foundational support in the creation of Toronto’s Home Energy Loan Program (HELP).  Operating for two years, HELP was designed using a similar policy tool to GEERS.

This event is free but you must register here:

Our speakers include:

Bill Johnston, LL.B., Bosley Real Estate Manager & Legal Counsel, is past President of the Toronto Real Estate Board, and has served as Director of both the Ontario Real Estate Association and the Canadian Real Estate Association. Bill has been a long-time advisor on LICs from a realtor’s perspective.

Sonja Persram BSc., MBA, LEED® AP is President of Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc. and is considered Canada’s leading subject matter expert on LIC financing of retrofits to enhance sustainability. She is project manager of a Sustainable Buildings Canada initiative on using LICs for Commercial and Industrial Buildings and District Energy Systems, and she assembled and led the collaboration to bring about LIC regulatory change in Ontario. Sonja will be sharing some background on LICs, some LIC best practices, and why municipalities, owners and other stakeholders are interested in LICs. These reasons include achieving savings on utility bills as well as key policy goals such as: reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, reductions in water use, addressing stormwater management, reducing infrastructure costs, and creating local jobs.

Bob Bach, P.Eng., Founding and current Director and Treasurer of Sustainable Buildings Canada (SBC); designs, implements, and evaluates energy efficiency programs for governments and utilities, and is vice-Chair, Energy of the Ontario Building Code Conservation Advisory Council, and a member of the IESO Strategic Advisory Council on Conservation. He is SBC project manager of the LIC Commercial and Industrial Buildings and District Energy initiative. Bob will be speaking about the kinds of measures included in this initiative as well as measures that may be suited to home retrofits; and energy use in the province.

This event is free but you must register here:

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An invitation from the Friends of the Public Library

Please try to attend an important meeting at Guelph City Hall
Chambers on April 20 at 6:00pm at which a report will be tabled
urging expedited action in developing the Baker St. Property.
This report is central to our hope for a New Main Library
in the near future.

Your attendance is important. Visible support is persuasive.


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