HUNTSVILLE – If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
University of Waterloo student Calida deJong, left, Dr. Colin Yates, student Mathure Sivananthan and Huntsville sustainability co-ordinator Rebecca Francis are working toward a greenhouse gas inventory for the town’s municipal operations to help save the environment and some cash.
That was the message two University of Waterloo students brought to the Town of Huntsville council table in a presentation about the inventory of municipal operations greenhouse gas emissions they are compiling.
Mathure Sivananthan and Calida deJong explained that the purpose of the inventory is to track the quantity and sources of greenhouse gas emissions produced by town operations in an effort to reduce them. Doing so will make the town more environmentally and economically sustainable, the students said.
DeJong, a third year student of urban and regional planning, said she was interested in the inventory because it is an applicable project.
“It gives the municipality the chance to make positive change,” she said.
Sivananthan, a second year student of environment and resource studies, said the project is practical insofar as the municipality will be able to see the impact emissions reductions could have.
“Little actions have the biggest difference,” she said.
Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are some of the the greenhouse gases of most concern in Huntsville, said Sivananthan.
And deJong said the inventory can help point to the worst source of emissions and prioritize emissions-cutting initiatives.
“We tend to think big when it comes to climate change. We’ll think of things like installing solar panels, but sometimes you can find out that a truck in the town’s fleet is creating three times the carbon emissions compared to a building,” she said. “So it would be a cheaper, more efficient way to simply replace a truck with a hybrid model rather than taking on a $100,000 project to install solar panels.”
The students are tracking emissions created by the town’s vehicle fleet, facilities, streetlights and traffic signals as well as its water usage, wastewater and solid waste.
DeJong said she and Sivananthan have been sifting through data from 2010, which they are using as their baseline, and 2011. That data includes gas receipts from municipal employees and how long streetlights were on.
There are five phases to the project. The first is to create the greenhouse gas inventory.
The second phase is to set an emission target, the third is to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the fourth is to implement a climate action plan and the fifth is to monitor reductions and report results.
The interim results compiled after the completion of each phase will be sent to Partners of Climate Protection, a network of Canadian municipal governments that have committed to acting on climate change and reducing greenhouse gases. It will oversee the municipality’s progress.
Sivananthan said completing the project could give the municipality options for cost savings, enhance ecotourism and be a source of pride for community members.
Town council agreed to move forward with the project in partnership with the University of Waterloo in February. DeJong and Sivananthan were recruited for a four-week period to complete the first phase of the project.
The town expects a full report from the students in August regarding the inventory.