How We Grow

This fall we planted our first microforests as part of our work in developing a low carbon economy…

and engaging even more organizations on local climate action. Microforests are a small area of non-developable land (>500 sq ft.) that is returned to a natural state through the planting of native trees and shrubs. It is a great way to naturalize small plots of land in urban areas, and they bring many ecological and social benefits; including the sequestration of carbon, nutrient cycling and increased tree canopy.

Our first microforests were planted at Manchester & Avenue Road Public Schools, with the support and effort of our partners at The Ages Foundation; Greenway Chaplin Community Centre; City of Cambridge; Grand River Conservation Authority; and Waterloo Region District School Board. The sites were planted by employee volunteers at EY Waterloo and Energy+.

Reflecting on the pilot, it was so wonderful to see so many organizations come together and take action. We know that naturalization has a positive impact on well-being and this project presents a great opportunity to invest in our communities with strong environmental co-benefits.

SWR will be continuing this initiative, with the goal of planting 10,000 trees over the next 5 years. We’d like to start with the planting of 10 more microforests in the fall of 2022 at businesses, schools and organizations across the region.

If you’d like to get involved, please consider donating land to plant on, sponsoring or adopting a forest.

Program Developments

2021 was an exciting year for new program development at SWR! With a new strategic plan, focused on transformative change in energy, mobility and buildings, we undertook a multi-faceted consultation approach to narrow down a list of 16 ideas to 3 priority projects. From the 16 ideas submitted by the community, our trusty Board of Directors narrowed it down to 5. In April we consulted members of the community to vote on the transformational projects that we should pursue next. The initiatives with the most votes were:

  1. A local Green Building Network that would support the local building industry in developing a strong sustainability culture that meets the needs of changing market demand and anticipated changes to building code in response to necessary climate action.
  2. A retrofit aggregation program for the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector, where SWR could enable faster adoption of deep retrofits by aggregating projects, providing human resources capacity, and technical knowledge to support a quicker transformation to lower emission buildings
  3. The development of Waterloo Region as a hydrogen hub that supplies hydrogen to local industry and the long-haul, heavy-load transportation sector.

Throughout July we continued to consult sectoral experts to continue developing our understanding of these ideas and how SWR will take action.

We are excited to continue our work on these projects and bring them to life. They each present great opportunities for significant GHG reductions and potential transformations in our local energy systems and new and existing building stock.

Community Sustainability Lab

The Community Sustainability Lab is a forum for community members to raise systemic sustainability challenges, where the diverse knowledge base from the innovative businesses, nonprofits and higher education institutions locally will be leveraged to mobilize and collaborate in ideating on solving selected issues. Innovative solution ideas will be matched to organizations with the best implementation capacity, depending on whether they are a policy intervention, commercialization potential, or a research opportunity. The Community Sustainability Lab is a collaborative program developed and supported by Sustainable Waterloo Region, Accelerator Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, under the evolvGREEN partnership. As a group we are committed to a thriving clean economy in Waterloo Region and broadly in Canada. We are currently seeking sponsors to help us make this vision a reality. We anticipate the launch of the lab in 2022. We look forward to hearing from the community on the sustainability issues that matter to you most and how we can mobilize to solve them together.