Champlain Park and climate change – how to become carbon neutral and climate-resilient
Local impacts of climate change
Champlain Park is feeling the impacts of climate change already, for example there is increased extreme weather such as hotter summers, more ice storms and icy sidewalks, more freeze-thaw cycles, more extreme rainfall and river flooding, increased vector-born pests such as ticks carrying lime disease in our woods and the spread of the emerald ash borer and of course there are impacts on our vegetation and wildlife as the climate gets hotter.
Want to do your part for the climate and be carbon neutral and climate-resilient?
All of us can do our part, so in addition to ensuring that your elected officials know that climate change is a priority and encouraging governments and companies to take action every individual can take direct action to lower their own carbon footprint.
Here’s some tips on how to get there. Your carbon footprint essentially comes from 3 things: from the heating and electricity for your house, how you get around and what you buy. Generally options include being more energy efficient and/or switching away from fossil fuels (natural gas, oil, gas) to electricity for heating/transportation.
1) Your house:
The main source of your carbon footprint is the burning of natural gas/oil that you use to heat your home so:
- Lower your natural gas/oil use by insulating your home, replacing leaky windows, lowering your thermostat, etc…
- When the time comes to replace your furnace, replace it with an air or ground heat pump. Heat pumps are very efficient and can operate in -25 degrees (i.e. the Mitsubishi Zuba air-heat pump) before the electric furnace kicks in. More on air-heat pumps: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/products/categories/heating/heat-pumps/air-source/16022. Any good HVAC company can sell and install air heat pumps, they are commercial technology that is readily available and reliable in the winter. They cost a little more to buy but are energy efficient and have a much lower carbon footprint. If your electricity panel is not updated you may need to updated it as well.
- Replace your natural gas hot water tank and natural gas oven with electric equivalents.
- Another strategy to reduce costs is to pool investments with neighbours to do several houses at once and reduce installation and purchase costs for example: Geothermal heating co-op shares warmth among Montreal neighbours | CBC News
- Ontario’s electricity grid is 90% zero-carbon as it uses energy sources such as hydro, nuclear, solar and wind so it is much lower carbon than burning fossil fuels (natural gas & oil). Using electricity at off-peak hours is also lower carbon (as natural gas is used more at peak hours) and will save you $$ (peak rate is double the off-peak rate: Residential Rates | Hydro Ottawa
- Consider ways to reduce your electricity use by for example using power bars that can be switched off when not in use, using LEDs or having less outdoor lighting and/or timers for outdoor lights (which is also better for the birds and insects!).
- For the remaining 10% of your electricity use that generates carbon emissions you can install solar panels or buy offsets such as with Bullfrog (Green Energy – Renewable Energy | Bullfrog Power)
The federal government has lots of info on all of the above and provides various incentives: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/homes/20546. Cities and utilities also have resources available. For example the City of Ottawa also offers programs like: Better Homes Ottawa | City of Ottawa
2) Getting around
- To lower the gas you use, explore more active transportation or transit when possible: walking, cycling, skiing, electric scooters, LRT, buses, etc…
- When the time comes to replace your vehicle then buy an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle. There are many more options available now and the range for all electric vehicles commonly reaches around 400kms or you can get a plug-in hybrid that is electric for short-range trips (30-80kms) and then goes on a hybrid gas engine for long trips so no range issues. The vehicle will be more expensive to buy initially but over the life of the vehicle it will be cheaper given no need to pay for gas or oil changes.
- For a good website on electric vehicle options go to: https://ev.plugndrive.ca/vehicles
The federal government also provides financial incentives when you buy an electric vehicle: Incentives for purchasing zero-emission vehicles
3) What we buy and managing our waste
- The carbon it takes to make, ship and waste the things we buy is significant. Some things we buy are more carbon intensive such as concrete, steel, asphalt, fossil fuels, plastics and red meat
- Research and purchase alternatives for high-carbon products or buy the lower carbon version of those products (or ask questions to companies on the carbon footprint when you buy their products)
- Consider sharing items instead of buying when not frequently used (i.e. Ottawa Tool Library – Borrow Tools. Learn new Skills. Discover community.)
- Buy local when possible, i.e. local food products have less transportation emissions and are grown with a lower carbon electricity grid in Ontario and Quebec
- Buy less single-use materials (i.e. plastic bags, cups and straws) that end up as waste that takes a lot of energy to make, collect and manage
4) Being climate-resilient:
More extreme weather will be the norm but there are things you can do to adapt to a changing climate:
- Take measures to flood-proof your home: https://www.intactcentreclimateadaptation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/3-Steps-to-Home-Flood-Protection_March-2021_Space-for-Partner-Logo.pdf
- Plant trees and more vegetation (native species are best!) – trees absorb carbon and create shade in the summer allowing you to save $$ on air conditioning – the city will plant a tree on your property: Tree planting | City of Ottawa (see the Trees in trust-plant a tree by your homes section)
- Look at alternative options to hard-scaping/paving: vegetation absorbs rainfall (and we will have more extreme rainfall) whereas increased paved areas put more pressure on city sewer systems and the energy needed to move and treat wastewater (and ultimately will mean increased pressure on property taxes).
- And generally think about adapting to the other impacts of climate change: i.e. know what to do for ticks (Lyme Disease – Ottawa Public Health), buy crampons for the icy sidewalks, plant a variety of native species for vegetation to avoid the worst effects of pests on one species, etc….
There are many resources available to find out more about climate change and what you can do.
Nick and the Champlain Park Enviro Committee