Join us Saturday October 1 for a walk/ride through farms and conservation areas threatened by Highway 413

Harvest Ontario Walk/Bike

Image courtesy of Environmental Defence

If you are interested in showing your displeasure about the Ontario PC government’s plan to ram a provincial limited access highway through the heart of the greenbelt all but destroying Brampton’s planned Heritage Heights community, here is your chance.

Several grassroots organizations have banded together to raise awareness about the proposed 413 highway and the 2,000 acres of irreplaceable farmland that will be destroyed and that will set the stage for car dependent development for the next 30 years!

You can join walkers starting from the Heart Lake Garden Centre on Heart Lake Rd. at 10:00am. You can join cyclists starting near Kleinburg or from Mississauga at the Lisgar GO station. Both rides start at 9:45am. Walks and rides end at the Brampton Fairgrounds in Caledon. 

At the Fairgrounds there will be music, entertainment and fun! Click here for more information and to register. 

BEA to Co-host Provincial Election Debate

Ontario 100 debates on the environment

The Brampton Environmental Alliance (BEA) is teaming with Engage Peel, Human Impact Environment and GreePAC to host an all-candidates debate for the upcoming Provincial election in the riding of Brampton North. The debate will take place virtually on May 17th, 6:30-8:00pm.

GreenPAC is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that runs 100 Debates on the Environment, with the objective to make the environment an issue that no party and no candidate can ignore. GreenPAC works with local groups to co-ordinate and underwrite the costs of hosting an all-candidates debate.

“GreenPAC believes, debates let candidates know that the environment is a top voter priority”, according to GreenPAC Program Coordinator Rizwana Hussain. “They help voters to make the connection between climate change and their other priorities, like health and affordability, and to make an informed choice at the polls.”

The debate will offer local candidates the opportunity to answer questions on the environment and other issues important to voters in the Brampton North riding. Attend the debate by registering through Eventbrite here. If you would like to have your question put to the candidates submit your question here.

Brampton’s Urban Forest Management Plan – Have Your Say

Urban Forest Management Plan Art Contest – Hirnakshi Joshi, second place winner

The City of Brampton is looking for citizen feedback on its urban forest master plan. The urban forest encompasses all the trees on both public and private lands, including parks, valleylands, and woodlots. It also includes street trees, trees in parking lots, trees on institutional/employment lands and trees on residential property. Residents and stakeholders are being asked to complete a survey available until April 1, 2022.

Trees are a very important part of the city-scape. According to the Government of Canada, “Urban Forests increase our quality of life by promoting mental well-being and encouraging physical activity.” Trees, produce oxygen, filter out air and soil contaminants, support biodiversity, reduce heat loss in the winter and cool temperatures in the summer. Their shade and majesty beautifies neighbourhoods and increases property values. As many tree species can live for hundreds of years, they connect us to our past and help build our sense of community.

For Brampton, trees are critical to the city’s 2040 Vision and the achievement of the Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, (CEERP). Brampton’s trees absorb over 7,700 tonnes of carbon each year which is like taking more than 1,500 cars off Brampton’s roads. Large trees store 75 times as much carbon as smaller trees so the maturity of the forest is also an important factor.

The presence of trees also helps reduce Brampton’s energy requirements by slowing the rate of heat absorption in the hard surfaces of nearby roads and buildings. Urban locations with lots of tree cover can be as much as 10-12 degrees cooler than those with lower amounts of natural vegetation.

Brampton boasts an inventory of 3.6 million trees with an estimated economic value of $780 million. Yet, despite its reputation as a green city, Brampton’s urban forest falls short in several key areas including, canopy coverage, species diversity, and forest maturity. The tree canopy covers only about 18% of the city’s total land mass. This compares to a 25% average cover for other selected communities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Three tree species, maple, ash and, spruce account for almost half of the total cover. And Brampton’s forests are dominated by smaller younger trees.

These short-comings make the forest vulnerable to climate change risks. Invasive insects such as the emerald ash borer have all but wiped out the city’s stands of large ash trees. The 2013 ice storm killed more than 30,000 trees, with larger mature trees experiencing the most damage. Mature trees are particularly important in terms of the eco-system services they provide. They store 75 times more carbon than small trees and filter out approximately 10 times the amount of pollution from the air. Larger trees also provide more shade and wildlife habitat.

Fewer than half of Brampton’s trees are considered to be in good or excellent condition. The Urban Forest Management Plan’s purpose therefore is to outline a vision for the future of Brampton’s urban forest, define the targets necessary to achieve that vision and then implement a process to monitor progress towards those targets. Click here to see a draft of the city’s urban forest management plan.

Brampton Council puts OMERS on notice re Climate Action

At last week’s Committee meeting, Brampton Council voted unanimously to urge AMO, to formally request that OMERS provide clear targets and timelines for eliminating its fossil fuel related investments and improve its climate risk reporting. This motion was in response to a delegation from Laura McGrath, Pension Engagement Manager for Shift: Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, a delegation from Pat Burns, a former municipal employee, OMERS beneficiary and Pension Engagement Volunteer, and a recommended motion submitted to Council from the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee that resulted from their February 11th meeting.

The AMO, (Association of Municipalities of Ontario), is a not for profit organization representing nearly all of Ontario’s 444 municipal governments. Its mandate is to support those governments in matters of federal or provincial nature that could affect municipal services and finances. Therefore, the AMO has influence over how OMERS does its job.

OMERS, (Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System), is the pension organization for the Province’s 500,000 plus active, deferred and retired employees, including 3,500 city of Brampton employees. OMERS manages $121B in assets and is one of Canada’s largest pension funds. According to Ms. McGrath, currently about 15% of OMERS assets are n the oil and gas industry.

The most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change indicates that the window of opportunity to maintain the earth’s temperature within a safe range is closing rapidly and there is an urgent need for actions that will lead to reduced emissions. Brampton Council has been taking climate action seriously. It declared a climate emergency in 2019 and set aggressive carbon reduction targets through its Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Program, (CEERP). Most recently Council approved seed funding for the Centre for Community Energy Transformation, (CCET), a new, not for profit organization to develop projects aimed at decarbonizing Brampton homes and businesses.

Pension funds manage vast asset portfolios and their investment strategy can be another form of climate action. For example, New York State Pension Fund and the Quebec Pension Plan are selling their stakes in oil and gas related industries and making climate friendly investments instead.

Divesting from fossil fuel investments is not only good for the environment, it is also a good economic decision. Ms. McGrath cited a recent analysis of ten pension funders over a ten year period that indicated higher returns had the pension funds not held oil and gas assets as part of their portfolios. In OMERS case this would have improved asset returns by more than 60% over the 10 year analysis period.

OMERS has committed to eliminating fossil fuel investments from its portfolio by 2050 but has yet to publish a credible plan for achieving that commitment. As municipalities across Ontario pressure AMO, it is likely they will in turn apply pressure on OMERS to be more aggressive and transparent in their plans.

This approved motion by Council is another example of how citizen advisory committees like the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee can impact Council decision making and positively influence public policy.

What should YOU do about the latest IPCC report?

Front cover artwork: A Borrowed Planet – Inherited from our ancestors. On loan from our children. by Alisa Singer,
www.environmentalgraphiti.org © 2022 All rights reserved. Source: IPCC.

We can’t seem to catch a break. Just as the world begins to emerge from the grip of the pandemic, more uncertainty strikes with a vengeance as the horrific images of the war in Ukraine stream across our phones, tablets and televisions.

With all that bad news on every channel, it’s little wonder the report from the International Panel on Climate Change, released on February 27th, received little in the way of coverage. Two hundred and seventy representatives and climate scientists from 195 countries, including Canada, authored or approved this report.

The report is warning in the strongest terms yet, that we are not on track to keep temperature levels from rising above the safe limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It’s also telling us that we are woefully unprepared to deal with the consequences of climate impacts that the science indicates can no longer be avoided. According to the report’s authors, “Any further delay…on [climate change] adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.

When faced with bad news from seemingly every direction our natural reaction is to seek shelter and then focus on the immediate threat. For most of us, we are already doing what we can to reduce the COVID risk. We continue to wear our masks, socially distance and exercise caution in our activities, even as health mandates are eased. As far as the war in Ukraine is concerned, other than sending prayers and money to the Red Cross, (or other legitimate charity), there is little most of us can do to affect the course or the outcome.

The threat from climate change to our freedoms and our livelihoods may not be as apparent as war or disease, but it is just as real. We are already seeing the changes. For instance our fruits and vegetables are now coming from farther afield as climate related disasters, including wildfires in California and frosts and floods in Florida hit familiar sources.

Small changes make a difference
In the case of climate change, there are things we can do right here in in Brampton to slow down the rate of change and to prepare for the likely scenarios resulting from a warming world.

According to Ko Bennett, a vice-chair and senior advisor for climate at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the IPCC report emphasizes the importance of doing everything that we can to give us time to make the shift to a sustainable energy future. She says, “Every fraction of a degree of warming matters and every action helps.” 1

That could be as simple as not idling your car or warming it up in the morning before you leave. Deciding to walk or ride a bicycle to go to the local store. Taking transit instead of driving. All these little things add up to a big difference if everyone does it.

It also means being aware of things going on in your community that are either threats or benefits to the environment. That’s one of the reasons why the Brampton Environmental Alliance was created. To make it easier for the average Brampton resident to stay informed on local environmental issues and actions.

So please, stay tuned to the BEA Weekly newsletter and encourage your friends and family to subscribe. We will do our best to keep you accurately informed on the important environmental issues facing our community, on the actions you can take and, on the successes we can all celebrate!

1, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-humanity-unprepared-for-impacts-of-climate-change-un-report/ https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-humanity-unprepared-for-impacts-of-climate-change-un-report/

Passive House for Brampton’s Mount Pleasant Village

Courtesy of Daniels Homes

There is a new development coming to Brampton that raises the bar for environmentally sustainable buildings in the GTA suburbs. Built by The Daniels Corporation, on the north side of Bovaird between Mississauga Road and Creditview Road and located within easy walking distance of the GO station and Mount Pleasant Village’s Civic Square, this master-planned community will boast innovative features designed to improve energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions.

Construction on a 26 floor condo tower will start later this year. A state-of-the-art ground sourced geo-exchange system will provide zero emissions heating and cooling for the condo units.

Next year, the company will start construction on an environmental highlight, two six story purpose built rental buildings to meet Passive House standards. Availability of these rental units is forecasted for 2025.

Passive House comes from the German “Passivhaus” and is considered to be the most rigorous voluntary, energy-based standard in the design and construction industry today. Passive House buildings can result in up to 90% savings in energy used for heating and cooling, compared to conventional buildings. And the energy efficiency is designed into the building’s core and exterior rather than being dependent on complex heating and cooling systems that add cost and require care to maintain efficiency.

A neat feature of the Daniels’ rental project is that it will use mass timber construction, the first building of its kind in Brampton. Mass timber is made from layers of boards using a “cross-grain” technique, meaning each layer is glued at 90 degrees to the layer below it. This creates a slab of wood that can be used to make the entire building including, floors, walls, ceilings and other structural elements.

Mass timber is as strong or stronger than concrete or steel. It does a better job of insulating the building from heat and cold and from transmitted noise both outside and inside the building. The slabs can be manufactured in a plant and then transported and assembled on-site. This reduces construction costs and timing as well as the amount of site transportation.

Generally, people are happier, healthier and more productive working or living in a space where they experience higher levels of thermal comfort. Thermal comfort is a concept worthy of its own article but, basically, it is the combination of air temperature, air velocity, relative humidity, and the radiant temperature of walls, floors, ceilings, that affects a person’s sense of how cold or hot they feel. Mass timber buildings typically deliver superior thermal comfort.

Counter intuitively, mass timber can also perform better in a fire than concrete or steel. As the outside layer of wood chars, the inner layers are shielded from the heat slowing down the burning process. A burning mass timber building may remain standing longer than its steel or concrete counterpart where structural integrity deteriorates rapidly at sustained high temperatures.

Perhaps the best feature of mass timber construction is the carbon emissions reduction it provides. Wood supply is effectively carbon neutral so long as it is sustainably sourced. A substantial amount of carbon is sequestered in the wood itself. More carbon is saved by the reduced building time and transportation requirements by assembling the building in modular form. On balance mass timber buildings reduce global warming potential by more than 25% according to a study done by the University of Washington.

Environmentalists are rightly concerned about the sustainability of forestry practices that may be used to harvest wood for mass timber construction. Procurement must come from sources using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) practices, considered the gold standard of “climate-smart forestry”. But mass timber may be the only way to accommodate our growing population while meeting our carbon reduction goals. So, hats off to Daniels for bringing this innovative building material to Brampton. Let’s hope it is the first of many!

February is Winter Walk to School Month

Courtesy Ontario Active School Travel

Whether we were born in Canada or came here later in life, it seems many of us don’t like Canadian winters. Did you know there is a scientific reason why winters make us feel so lethargic and unhappy?

It turns out the lack of light affects our brain’s ability to generate serotonin and melatonin, two chemicals that help regulate our sleep cycles, energy, and mood. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Lack of exposure to full-spectrum natural light also reduces the body’s production of vitamin D, a chemical necessary for calcium absorption. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to many diseases including, breast, colon, and prostate cancers, heart disease, depression and weight gain.

Low levels of vitamin D in children are related to rickets which causes soft, poorly formed bones. Children can also experience SAD and the affects can be similar to clinical depression. This includes negative thinking, changes in sleeping or eating, and lower overall energy. Loss of concentration is another symptom, which may affect the child’s school results.

For many children and teenagers, an effective antidote to SAD and low vitamin D levels is to get outside and absorb the natural light. Even 30 minutes of winter light exposure per day on the face can generate sufficient levels of vitamin D, serotonin, and melatonin.

The World Health Organization recommends children and adolescents aged 6 through 17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily to maintain healthy bones and muscles. But, according to the Region of Peel, fewer than half of Peel’s kids are getting the minimum amount of daily activity. And 27% are overweight or obese.

Walking or riding to school and back, at least some of the days of the week, may be the simplest and easiest solution to these related problems. It builds physical activity into the child’s daily routine which supports better mental health outcomes, higher concentration abilities and better academic performance.

February is Winter Walk Month and there is no time like the present to put your child on the “Road to Health”! Encourage them to walk or ride. Walk with them if you have the time or join with a group of parents to form a walking school bus or bike train. Who knows, you may find that winters become enjoyable for both you and your family!

Visit Ontario Active School Travel, or Walk + Roll Peel for more information about walking and riding programs in Peel.

What’s walking and riding to school have to do with the environment? Well, 20-25% of Peel’s morning and afternoon vehicle traffic is from children being driven to school. Increasing the amount of walking or riding will decrease vehicular traffic which is the single biggest producer of carbon emissions in Brampton.

City Accepting Grow Green Awards Nominations

The City of Brampton has created a new award program to recognize individuals, businesses, organizations and institutions in the city that have demonstrated environmental leadership and have significantly contributed to the “Grow Green” vision of conserving, enhancing, and balancing our natural and built environments to create a healthy, sustainable, and resilient Brampton. Nominations will be accepted until February 28th, 2022 and the awards will be handed out during an Earth Day Environmental Festival to be held at Norton Place Park on Saturday April 23rd.

The Climate Change Award will be given to an individual and a business/organization that has significantly contributed to advancing climate change mitigation, adaptation, awareness/knowledge, and or actions.

The Stewardship Award will be given to an individual and a business/organization that has significantly contributed to the advancement of environmental sustainability iniitiatives related to the conservation and/or stewardship of trees, natural heritage systems, water, and/or the reduction of waste.

The Environmental Youth Award will be given to an individual or youth group that has demonstrated exceptional achievement in the advancement of environmental protection, climate change actions, and/or sustainability.

The Environmental Legacy Award will be given to an individual who has provided outstanding personal service and ongoing contributions to advance the “Grow Green” vision of conserving, enhancing, and balancing our natural and built environments to crate a healthy, resilient and sustainable city.

Centre for Community Energy Transformation Board Member Application Deadline February 25th.

CCET logo

The City’s new Centre for Energy Transformation CCET is looking for members of the public to apply for volunteer transitional board positions.

The primary purpose of the transitional board will be to set up the CCET as a not-for-profit organization, hire an Executive Director and set the operational priorities for the first year.

Nine Board positions will be selected to work with five members of City staff to set up the CCET organization. The CCET will then act as a catalyst to help residents and businesses reduce energy consumption and move to lower carbon energy sources.

If you have experience in finance, governance or setting up a new organization, consider applying. The deadline to apply is February 25, 2022. Find full details and submit a board member application at www.brampton.ca/CCET.

Brampton Council Approves Centre for Community Energy Transformation

CCET logo courtesy City of Brampton

This past Wednesday Brampton Council unanimously approved seed funding for the Centre for Community Energy Transformation, or CCET. This is a very important milestone on the city’s path to a low-carbon future.

The concept for the CCET started in 2018 as part of the Brampton 2040 Vision exercise, one of the most comprehensive public engagement process the City has ever undertaken. The Vision maps how the City will grow over the next 18 years, living the cultural mosaic of our diverse population.

The importance of Brampton as a green, environmentally sustainable city, featured prominently in the public feedback sessions. In response, the vision document called for the creation of an independent organization that would help steward Brampton’s green journey. The CCET is now that organization.

Using 2016 as the baseline year, the City set targets to cut carbon emissions by 30% by 2030, 50% by 2040 and 80% by 2050. Improving building energy efficiency is an important part of achieving Brampton’s Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan.

Courtesy City of Brampton

Residences are the second largest source of climate changing emissions. The average Brampton home consumes more than twice as much energy compared to an A-rated home in Germany. Brampton has a large number of older homes that are less efficient. And most homes burn natural gas for heat and hot water.

A major purpose of the CCET, therefore, will be to help residents reduce energy consumption and convert to lower carbon energy sources. The CCET will work with banks, municipalities and other governments to make it easy for homeowners to finance building retrofits. It will also work with industry and post secondary institutions to recruit and train the auditors, technicians, contractors and installers necessary to create low-risk retrofit solutions at scale that will pay for themselves over time through reduced heating and air conditioning costs.

Depending on the age of the house, retrofits could be as simple as sealing doors and windows or adding insulation to attics, walls, and basements. Or, it could involve replacing natural gas furnaces with high efficiency electric heat pumps, installing solar hot water systems or tapping into a “district energy node”. Regardless, the changes promise exciting times for both residents and business as the Centre for Community Energy Transformation develops over the coming year.