Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 18, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Markham, City of was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2018):
- Along with up to 1.4MW of solar power generation capacity atop its many buildings, the City of Markham hosts an annual "Battle of the Buildings" competition to challenge administrative and community centre buildings to reduce electricity consumption by 15% each year
- In addition to ongoing energy management to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the City of Markham adopted a long-term "Greenprint" plan, a 50- to 100-year sustainability plan to create a "healthy, vibrant and sustainable community" for all residents
- City of Markham residents have already achieved a 81% waste diversion from landfill rate, and the City itself has set an ambitious in-house goal of sending "Zero Waste" to landfill
Markham shows that green living can be a win for all
It's widely understood that if you want to get something done, set a goal and then make a plan. For the City of Markham, the goal is a lofty one: to become a net-zero emissions community and one of the greenest municipalities in North America.
To help achieve that, there's Greenprint, a 50-year-plus sustainability plan that is kicking the city's already impressive environmental commitment into overdrive. "It validates that we're trying to walk the talk and have results that hopefully both inspire and complement a lot of the good work that's also happening in the community," says Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti.
Markham has long been committed to being a leader in respect to the environment - funding innovative initiatives that contribute to the health of the natural environment and implementing energy conservation programs. But Greenprint, as Graham Seaman, Director of Sustainability and Asset Management, concedes, is "a massive plan" covering energy conservation and efficiency; green technology; food security; environmental enhancement; protection of natural species; waste diversion and recycling; and much more.
And so far, even though the city has grown over the last several years - in population to about 350,000 from less than 300,000, plus several thousand new square feet in facilities - it has still managed to keep emissions down. "We do feel the impacts of growth and we recognize that more growth is coming," says Scarpitti. "It just goes without saying: we have to do this to make sure we don't take up as much of a footprint."
One of Seaman's team's objectives is to go after opportunities they think will be of value to the community or develop business cases for new projects. One such project is milk-bag weaving. What started at the local public library five years ago grew quickly to involve schools, seniors and church groups. Teachers pick up used milk bags at waste depots and children can weave them into beach mats or sleep mats, many of which are donated to homeless shelters, on milk-bag looms built by high-school students. To date, the project has recycled 800,000 milk bags.
For that effort, the city was given a silver award by the Recycling Council of Ontario in 2014; the following year, after improvements, Markham won platinum. "We're holding on to this program because it's a really great segue into getting people to think about sustainability and eventually educate them about the energy side as well," explains Sustainability Services Coordinator Jennifer Wong. "It's been very fun, and everyone gets involved."
Similarly, the Battle of the Buildings has sparked friendly competition between staff at some of the city's largest facilities. Each participating building is challenged to reduce energy consumption by at least 15 per cent through operational changes - turning off lights, lowering the temperature and so on. Monthly prizes of pizza lunches keep everyone engaged, and last year the city saved over $58,000 in utility costs from that competition alone.
Among Markham's many other initiatives is a ban on textiles in curbside garbage. Last year, the city became the first in North America to divert textiles - which comprise as much as seven per cent of refuse - from landfill into recycling. The city's solar photovoltaic fleet is one of the largest in Canada and produces 1.8 megawatts of power and about $300,000 in revenue annually. And the recent launch of 16 charger stations at workplaces will make the acceptance of electric cars easier. "That's good business and good sustainability," says Seaman.
The hope is that Markham will lead by example and inspire others - citizens and corporations - to take steps towards sustainability, says the mayor. "We're trying to be leaders ourselves and demonstrate that other organizations can also do it - that it's within their reach."