It’s no secret that Canada is leading the way when it comes to green initiatives. With a commitment to natural parks, sustainable travel, city recycling programs, and high membership of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), you can bet that the rest of the world is looking at the country as an example. In no particular order, here are some of the greenest and cleanest cities in Canada:
Take a deep breath when you’re in Kelowna because it has some of the best air quality in Canada. The AirGenius Awards assessed the best air quality throughout the country and put Kelowna amongst the top two slots. The city is actively working on becoming one of the first sustainable communities in Canada and has already promoted goals that contain urban growth, improve energy use in buildings, and protect at-risk natural habitats. In Kelowna, even the wine is “green”. Little Straw Vineyards is a Green Tourism bronze medalist for sustainable practices, so when in town, stop in for a guilt-free glass.
Devon might have a history of being an oil and gas town, but these days it’s all about solar. In fact, the city wants to become one of Canada’s first net-zero communities and won the CAMA Environmental Award 2016 for its Municipal Solar Program. Continuing its push toward green energy initiatives, Devon also set up the Devon Environmental Sustainable Awards to recognize and reward local businesses with eco-friendly practices. Designated “Bike Town” for the many trails and cycling parks, Devon also encourages residents to ride, not drive.
Montreal, as a member of the ICLEI, was one of the first cities to sign the Geotourism Charter of the National Geographic Society and continues to move the needle forward when it comes to sustainability. With eco-friendly metro cars, green buildings like the popular La Tohu, Maison du Developpement Durable, and talks of rolling out the first “solar highway” in Canada, Quebec is a leader. Plus, there are a ton of eco-tourist things to do within the city, such as the Montreal Biodome, Biosphere at Parc Jean-Drapeau, and Mont Royal, along with plenty of Made in Montreal sustainable souvenirs.
Whitehorse is galloping toward a greener future with its multiple environmental initiatives. In fact, the city has its own Sustainability Plan with 12 long-term goals (with deadlines set for 2020, 2030, and 2050). This includes low-impact public transportation, green buildings and infrastructure, reduction of greenhouse gas, and a push to compost, recycle, and reuse in order to hit a zero waste status. They also have routine community clean-up programs to make the landscape as clean and green as possible.
The birds and bees tend to love Red Deer, in part because of its green-friendly nature. The city is known for its Pollinator Parks, where sections of local centres like Maskepetoon and City Park are left free of pesticides and mowing, which can destroy nature’s groove. Red Deer, an ICLEI member, also participates in Green Deer, an annual city-wide cleanup program.
Just because it’s a major metropolis doesn’t mean that Vancouver is shying away from its responsibilities. In fact, Vancouver, as an ICLEI member, is one of the greenest cities in the country. The city has seen a 23-percent drop in landfill waste since 2008, they were the first major city to approve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 with a target of being a zero waste city by 2040, and are committed to promoting public transportation and biking lanes. Plus, Vancouver was named one of the 2016 Greenest Employers. This award was due to favorite haunts like Stanley Park Brewery committing themselves to sustainable practices.
In Muskoka, sustainability isn’t just a priority, it’s on the District Council’s Strategic Priorities list. This includes gathering knowledge about the local environment to avoid effects of climate change, reducing pollution with updated transportation, and working with corporations to encourage greener infrastructure and community planning. And it’s not just corporations taking the leap, several hotels—like the popular Severn Lodge—have promoted ecotourism for travellers in the area.
Edmonton might be known for its oil history, but it’s doing its part to enter a newer, greener era. As an ICLEI member, Edmonton has been actively promoting the use of street cars, light rails, and wastewater recycling. The city also has a ton of green initiatives, like replacing street lamps with LED lighting, developing housing and employment within 400 m of transit stations, and reusing winter road sand. Additionally, Edmonton won the CAMA Environmental Award in 2015 for their Wildlife Passage Program.
There is acclaim and then there is the Guinness World Records. In 2016, Powell River won the title of “least polluted city” in the world. How did they nab the winning spot? Powell River has an average of 3 micrograms of fine particulate matter in the air (PM2.5 per m3) compared to somewhere like Delhi, which has 153 PM2.5 per m3. Breathe in and breathe out!
Often times we look up to the sky when it comes to greenest cities, but the dirt under your feet is equally as important. This is why North Battleford won the CAMA Environmental award in 2015 for their Biosolids Management Program. In 2014, the city was the first municipality in Western Canada to implement a system of converting biosolids into commercial-use fertilizer.
As an ICLEI member since 1992, Calgary knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a green city. In fact, it’s consistently voted as one of the cleanest cities not only in Canada, but in the world. Mercer Global even named it the cleanliest city in 2015. This is partly due to Calgary’s emphasis on water waste. The city’s water distribution leakage averages about 4 percent compared to the national average of 14 percent, and Calgarians consume 113 gallons of water a year vs. 155 gallons for the rest of Canada.
As the Beatles once sang, you’ve got a ticket to ride. This is especially true in Cornwall, which saw ridership double during Cornwall Transit’s Clean Air Day. And it doesn’t stop with transportation either. The city routinely offers spring clean-up walks around the city, making it one of the greenest cities in Ontario.
District of Saanich
You can’t argue with the vision statement: “Saanich residents enjoy food security through the safeguarding of agricultural land and the promotion of community gardens and urban farming.” As an ICLEI member, the District of Saanich makes the environment its priority. This includes enacting the Native Plant Salvage Program, tree protection bylaws, and the Bowker Creek Initiative.
“Keep Aurora Clean” isn’t just a throwaway sentence around here. As an ICLEI member, Aurora has a half dozen green initiatives to keep the town clean and healthy. This includes Aurora Cleanup Day, classes about home gardening, and an app for residents to track their own water use to earn prizes and rebates.
They say that the 90s are back, and Okotoks is more than fine with that. In 1998, the town implemented the “Legacy Plan,” which set forth preserving and promoting the regional environment. Okotoks is now known for their solar energy efforts, such as the development of Drake Landing Solar Community (DLSC). DLSC was the first community in North America to be heated by a direct solar source, which covers up to 95 percent of each home’s heating needs.
Yellowknife will soon be known for both their wide open spaces and compact green carts. These carts are a part of the new Centralized Composting Program, which encourages residents to compost their organic waste and for the city to then collect it as future fertilizer. The goal is to reduce the landfill by a third and significantly cut down on greenhouse gas.
You’ll find plenty of healthy bugs in Greater Sudbury, but you won’t find litter bugs. This ICLEI-member city actively promotes its Clean Up Greater Sudbury mission to reduce and remove litter. In fact, there’s even an annual roadside cleaning blitz that takes place in spring. No wonder it’s one of the cleanest cities in Canada.
When you’re walking through the provinces, breath in deep. With clean air, soil, and water, some of the cleanest cities in the world are in your backyard.