23 September 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Toronto’s Green Progress

“A sustainable city is a city with a small ecological footprint.”

Melissa Shin (Assistant Editor, Corporate Knights magazine, 2008)

Change is afoot in Toronto; startling progress has occurred on the green and sustainable side of things. This year Toronto headed the “Large Cities” category in the 2011 Corporate Knights magazine’s list of most sustainable cities, coming in ahead of Edmonton, Ottawa, Calgary, and Montreal.

Not only that, but in a survey to find the greenest cities in North America, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and released in June this year, Toronto came ninth out of 27 major cities ahead of Ottawa (12th), Calgary (14th) and Montreal (19th). The EIU study ranked the 27 cities across nine environmental categories – CO2 emissions, energy, land use, buildings, transport, water, waste, air quality and environmental governance.

Toronto was criticised for its traffic problems, “due to heavy congestion and sprawl, residents need on average 40 minutes to drive to work, compared with the index average of 29 minutes,” said the report. But the city was highly praised for its waste and recycling efforts.


Four years ago, in 2007, who would have thought Toronto would perform well in any sustainability survey? Toronto failed to even feature on the Corporate Knights’ list in that year!  A rather sniffy article on www.treehugger.com said, “No surprise Toronto didn’t make it”, referring to a piece in The Star headlined “City decays as Debt climbs” which explained that Toronto’s debt level was skyrocketing and Toronto was falling further and further behind on much needed repairs.

Nevertheless just a year later, in 2008, the Ethisphere Centre, an international think tank dedicated to best practices in corporate sustainability, included Toronto as the only Canadian city  in its list “Global Sustainability Centers: The 20 Cities Of 2020”.

This progress was further endorsed in 2009. In a survey commissioned by Green Living magazine, a group of Canada’s foremost green experts were asked for their predictions on which cities would be the country’s future environmental leaders. Toronto was there on the list along with Calgary, Edmonton, Greater Sudbury, Halifax, Montreal, Okotoks, Vancouver and Yellowknife.

Toronto’s won its place because of green initiatives like its “Tower Renewal” project to revitalize its concrete apartment complexes, the “Green Standard”, to spur development of more sustainable buildings and landscapes and the “Environmental Reporting, Disclosure and Innovation Programme” requiring businesses and municipal operations to publicly report their use and release of 25 hazardous chemicals.

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