How net zero can help reduce Toronto’s trash by 50 per cent by 2025

The buzz around the Net Zero Toronto headquarters is palpable. Residents aren’t sure whether they’re at a PR agency or a political rally.

Or maybe it’s a robo-conference. But they’re celebrating the launch of the Toronto Earth Plan, an ambitious 20-year vision for change that would, they hope, lead to mass eradication of waste from the city by 2030.

“As governments and organizations, we need to look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it,” said editor and co-founder Matthieu Bergeron. “And not just on paper.”

We found out why Bergeron and his team at North Grid Institute are working toward such a lofty plan.

How does Net Zero Toronto work?

North Grid is collaborating with the Institute for Sustainable Cities and Resilience, the Inter-American Development Bank, and First Nations of the region on the project.

The co-founders of North Grid Institute also work for Resilient City Toronto, a group dedicated to building a net zero community.

Resilient City Toronto — or RCT — opened in 2016 as a community of low-income people. Using digital tools, the group works to support residents in forming community-based solutions.

How will Net Zero Toronto work?

The plan calls for at least 50 per cent of Toronto waste to be composted, recycling of “materials that are single use and free to use,” and basically zero waste.

It notes that 50 per cent of Canada’s municipal waste ends up in landfills, and the compost and recycling program could help both prevent that, and divert it away from landfills.

How will it work?

Robb Belsher is the director of Resilient City Toronto. He said the goals are for Toronto to reach net zero by 2025.

He points to renewable energy, transportation and some key infrastructure as the first steps.

Last year, the committee brought forward a proposal to put in more solar panels. This year, it focused on housing.

Last year, Resilient City Toronto wanted to build more low-cost housing as a way to encourage greener housing. This year, they focused on low-cost housing.

Net Zero Toronto co-founder Matthieu Bergeron believes Toronto should be looking at a transit network that is not just easily accessible, but absolutely zero waste accessible.

Bergeron said North Grid is doing a waste audit, looking at inefficiencies in how they produce and send waste.

“What does waste look like in big cities?” Bergeron said. “We’re looking at food waste and packaging. And how does it stack up with what the Paris agreement is all about?”

That’s where Net Zero Toronto comes in. The group hopes to create metrics that measure all these metrics.

By 2020, Resilient City Toronto wants to see the city trying to reduce its impact by 40 per cent.

Does Net Zero Toronto say anything about climate change?

Yes. Bergeron said the goals were developed in collaboration with Open Roots, a New York-based group that focuses on environmentalism.

“The new infrastructure is a step toward addressing climate change,” Bergeron said. “We’re not just saying ‘we’re going to do a parking lot with solar panels,’ because we know that’s not a viable solution.”

And Bergeron points to NRDC’s “Blueprint for a Blue Planet: Fuel for a New Generation.” It suggests changing the way companies operate and partners, to help make governments more aware.

“We’re developing this whole new vision of transportation in Canada,” Bergeron said. “We think this will have a cascading effect globally on transport, the way it’s envisioned in the Blue Planet.”

It’s not just Toronto.

Resilient City Toronto in 2015 launched Resilient People in Toronto. In addition to education and a website about road repair and public health, it also raises funds for family planning services.

Resilient People in Toronto launched yesterday, Oct. 21.

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