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Guest editorial: Making Guelph a better place

Guelph’s eMERGE has a new partner.

It has teamed up with Project Neutral, bringing an innovative and unique program to Guelph. It will help further our goal as a model city for residential sustainability across Ontario.

Guelph will be the first city outside Toronto to launch the new program in the fall.

Developed by a small but mighty group of engaged Torontonians, Project Neutral is a neigbourhood engagement tool that allows households to benchmark and compare their carbon footprint to other households at the neighbourhood and city levels.

The platform also provides an opportunity to chart a course of action with projects that can be implemented to achieve successful reductions.

The tools, which will be tailored specifically for the City of Guelph, will allow residents to compare their footprint with their average household type across the city.

They can see how they stack up to the most sustainable households in Guelph, and against other participating cities as the program expands across Ontario in 2015.

While community sustainability is the name of the game, the comparative aspects of the program help to motivate residents to take positive action and connect people to the resources available that will enable simple and impactful changes.

It’s part of not-for-profit eMERGE Guelph pathways programs  designed to connect and engage Guelph residents in living lighter and richer.

The Project Neutral program is eMERGE’s third and latest pathway which will help to catalyse conversations around household sustainability and what ‘living well’ means to the average Guelphite.

Through its interactive web-based platform, the Project Neutral tool will be an accessible way to start a conversation around the dinner table or among family, friends and neighbours throughout the community.

Project Neutral focuses on household use of energy, water, transportation, waste and food. Whether a resident is interested in the natural environment, social equity or saving some money, Project Neutral addresses their concerns.

For example, Guelphites now spend $500 million on energy. The Community Energy Initiative aims to cut energy use in half (from 2006 to 2031), which would bring the amount our community spends on energy down to $250 million ­– saving a quarter billion dollars in energy costs.

This money could potentially stay and infuse our local economy, and make Guelph an attractive city to invest in provincially. Meanwhile, the savings in energy would be equivalent to taking hundreds of vehicles off the road, promoting cleaner air, water and improving our community’s overall health.

If you include changes we might see that focus on water, transportation, waste and food there is a considerable amount of room for positive action within our community – individual actions whose benefits extend across the community.

By continuing to offer a variety of free programs like Project Neutral, home visits and Transition Streets, eMERGE Guelph is helping residents not only make meaningful connections within their community, but is also creating a culture of awareness and action.

This gives Guelphites the tools to start planning what we want our city to look like 5, 10, 15 years from now, and a way to get there.

Through growing numbers and calculated reductions, Project Neutral-Toronto has proven it is a program worth checking out.

As a city that has developed a reputation for strong community connections and entrepreneurial spirit, Guelph is becoming a sustainability leader within the province.

Steve Yessie is Project Neutral Coordinator at eMERGE Guelph

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