Project Neutral. Transitioning neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality. One neighbourhood at a time. (Finalist)

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7.44898
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Project Neutral is an ambitious initiative that aims to create the first urban carbon neutral neighbourhood in Canada. It was officially launched by volunteer members of CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) in December 2010.

The Rationale

Contestant organization: 
Project Neutral
Venture partners: 

Emerging Leaders Network /CivicAction Alliance: The Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) is a current initiative of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance (CivicAction). With ELN’s and the CivicAction Alliance’s track record and success in facilitating collaborative processes to launch city building action, Project Neutral will have access to experienced city-builders with which to consult on project development and engage as mentors. ELN and CivicAction will contribute to the strategic development and execution of project activities. 

The Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) and the leadership network of CivicAction Alliance are rich pools of knowledge, leadership and resources that the Project Neutral team will tap into. Drawing from the Emerging Leaders Network, a group of more than 300 rising civic leaders, the Project Neutral team will connect with fellow members to build and maintain a team of subject-matter and process experts to support the implementation of the project. Finally, the ELN and CivicAction, networks of diverse, cross-sectoral and regional leaders, will communicate to and engage its members and stakeholders in communicating more broadly about Project Neutral.

Additonal supporters / partners / collaborators:

City of Toronto, Live Green

Internat Energy Solutions Canada

Bullfrog Power

University of Toronto Sustainable Infrastructure Group

University of Toronto Climate Lab

Windfall Ecology

Describe your venture: 

Project Neutral is an ambitious initiative that aims to create the first urban carbon neutral neighbourhood in Canada. It was officially launched by volunteer members of CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) in December 2010.

The Rationale

Over 25 million Canadians currently live in urban areas, with over 5 million in the Greater Toronto Area. In Toronto, the residential sector represents the source of approximately 25% of the City’s GHG emissions. In various cities across Canada, the residential sector represents as much as 60% of the City’s GHG emissions. Furthermore, to date, sustainable design initiatives have focused on major redevelopments or new developments. As a result, the City’s established communities are underrepresented in our collective efforts to reduce environmental impact. In these established residential areas, much of the building stock is old and inefficient, representing potential energy savings of up to 75% (average of 22%) for households.  Working at the neighbourhood level, the potential for achieving ghg reductions is significant.

The Project

 Project Neutral is based on the following core elements:

  1. Neighbourhoods –neighbourhoods bring people together to act as a catalyst for change, resulting in actions that make sense. In Toronto, people identify with their neighbourhoods as much as they do with their city. So this was the obvious level to work at. 
  2. Local leadership – perhaps the most crucial factor.  Project Neutral is based on a partnership with neighbourhoods, with all key decisions being made by the neighbourhoods. For this first pilot we partnered with two neighbourhood groups (Riverdale and Green 13 in the Junction) that have demonstrated local leadership, experience mobilizing neighbourhoods, volunteer capacity, a long term commitment to the project, a typical mix of housing type and tenure, and a passion for the environment. 
  3. Establishing a baseline – You need to know where you are starting from in order to set a course of action and measure progress over time.  Project Neutral uses a web based survey (www.projectneutral.org/survey) to measure household carbon footprints. 
  4. Identifying realistic options: Once we develop a profile of the neighbourhood’s carbon footprint we will focus on the easy – and obvious – wins, both at a household and neighbourhood level. But we’ll also go beyond that, exploring options that will require creativity and innovative thinking, but that are also feasible, cost-effective, and most importantly, chosen by the neighbourhood. 
  5. Replicability: Following the lead of Eden Mills (www.goingcarbonneutral.ca) we plan to share our experiences and lessons learned with other neighbourhoods. Within three years we plan to expand to other neighbourhoods in Ontario and across Canada. The more neighbourhoods that get involved, the greater the potential impact.

 Key activities include:

  • Household Survey – Summer/ Fall 2011: - The data collected will be used to define a carbon footprint for households and businesses.  
  • Neighbourhood Summit – March 2012: Following the analysis of the surveys, we plan to host a Neighbourhood Summit. The objective will be to seek the best ideas on how to reduce carbon emissions, specifically focusing on the neighbourhood. The Summit will bring together residents and potential partners, as well as local, national and international experts.  At the end of the Summit, we will have identified a list of options that – are feasible, cost effective, and chosen by the neighbourhood
  •  GHG Reduction Strategy – Spring 2012. The Reduction Strategy will identify actions for both tenants and home-owners that address behavioural barriers and provide solutions to enable long-term sustainability of the project and successful implementation.
  • Annual Progress Updates

We are currently targeting 1,000 households in both Riverdale and the Junction (borders of the neighbourhood are listed at www.projectneutral.org).

The benefits of this project start with the health of the chosen neighbourhood’s individual residents - from additional exercise for those curbing their automobile dependence to the lowering of toxic loading on the body due to a reduction in ghg emissions. Further spin-offs benefiting the individual include economic savings; first through lower energy costs via simple home renovation improvements (eg. programmable thermostats and caulking) and later through more substantial home upgrades such as adding insulative value to their homes. Further savings may also been seen through lower transportation and consumer purchasing habits. Residents’ will benefit from having information provided to them in a reliable, accessible and comprehensive format by Project Neutral team members and partnering agencies, and by leveraging the talent, creativity and motivation of both Project Neutral volunteers and the volunteers of the chosen neighbourhood.

Most substantial in terms of the economic spin-off this project has to offer, is its play on economies of scale. The individual resident and the neighbourhood at large stand to benefit substantially from the savings of community wide retrofitting (some of which may be completed by residents in the building trades from within the neighbourhood) as well as the collective purchasing power for green technologies.  This is something that will become more important as the project evolves over time – this is one of its great assets which projects of other scales cannot offer.

Further neighbourhood benefits will emerge on the social end - having a collective community initiative and with it the sense of camaraderie in sharing an ambitious and necessary goal. It is another reason to get out and meet neighbours; more ‘eyes on the street’ as people are encouraged to bike or walk instead of jump in their car. This project intends to engage the full range of people living in a given neighbourhood (a full spectrum of ages, abilities, and cultures). The neighbourhood also benefits by having concrete tools and a full accounting of their ghg emissions and the progress being made. Many other initiatives start with a plan and end with only a very relative idea of the impact that was made. Project Neutral seeks to quantify results in very real terms starting with the development of a base-line inventory of energy use from which to gauge real progress.

The city benefits of Project Neutral start with a reduction of load on the infrastructural system (water, hydro, gas usage).  Further benefits are having a pilot program tried and tested for replication in more neighbourhoods willing to undertake this transformation. The city is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 80% by 2050 and so our organization’s mandate to develop carbon accounting capabilities on the scale of a neighbourhood is in line with the goals of the city and provides a pilot for a very replicable program without being slowed down through their own bureaucracy in order to help fulfill such a mandate. Further, this project provides a platform for the city and province to roll out test pilots of their own – a place to invest money ear-marked for such things as neighbourhood-wide retrofitting. 

Is carbon neutrality possible? Absolutely, although certainly not overnight. There are several aspects that we emphasize when discussing the objective of carbon neutrality: 

  • Start now. Start possible. The first step is always the most challenging. Our model uses a neighbourhood approach to encourage participation, similar to a ‘running group’. For Project Neutral neighbourhoods, the first step is the GHG household survey (www.projectneutral.org) Progress will be tracked on an annual basis using the surveys.
  • This is a long-term commitment. On a household basis, our research shows that a 20-50% reduction in GHG emissions can be achieved within five years through zero to low cost retrofits and behavioural change. Greater reductions will require greater resource commitments, deep retrofits and more intensive behavioural change campaigns. Transitioning to carbon neutrality will take time.
  • New technologies will evolve. The exact amount of time that it will take to achieve carbon neutrality will depend on a number of factors, including the innovative technologies that emerge within 5, 10 or 15 years – some of which can be piloted in the neighbourhoods.
  • Existing technologies will improve.
  • Expert advice. We are developing partnerships with innovative individuals and organizations that can help neighbourhoods to achieve this long-term goal. The response to-date has been extremely encouraging.
  • Private sector partnerships will be key. In 1998, Canada pledged to reduce GHG emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. As of 2008, emissions were roughly 25% above 1990 levels. At this point, we cannot wait for our government to respond to the climate crisis.

We recognize that transitioning a neighbourhood to carbon neutrality is an ambitious goal. Yet we feel passionately that the most action that a neighbourhood can take is to start on that journey. With the right momentum, support and tools, we are confident great things will happen: innovative technologies and funding mechanisms will be piloted, and neighbourhood cohesiveness and resiliency will grow in the face of the single most daunting challenge currently facing our planet.

Emissions reduction potential: 

Our research to-date indicates that the average household in an established, residential neighbourhood represents potential energy savings of up to 75% per household, with an average of 22%. Furthermore, 20 – 50% reductions in GHG emissions per household are possible through zero to low cost retrofits and behavioural change.

 More specifically, we anticipate that Project Neutral will result in the following: 

  • 5-10% reduction in electricity use (within 5 years);
  • 5% reduction in residential sector GHG emissions per targeted neighbourhood (within 5 years);
  • Reduction in smog causing emissions;
  • An engaged and aware neighbourhood committed to reducing energy use and individual, household and neighbourhood carbon footprint and increasing overall resiliency to climate change;
  • Tools available to neighbourhoods at zero to low cost, including the energy and ghg benchmarking tool and a guide to neighbourhood retrofits;
  • Replicability and up-scaling of the project across the province;
  • Innovative incentive schemes that enable holistic change in the way we value energy conservation and;
  • Over the longterm, reductions of electricity use in the range of 60 - 90% per household and eventual transitioning of the neighbourhood towards carbon neutrality.
The team: 
  1.  Co-Founders: Project Neutral was founded by a planner, an engineer and a community builder.

Julie Dzerowicz (the community builder) B.Com, MBA – Julie is the recent former Executive Director of the Empire Club of Canada, a non-profit organization that is committed to creating spaces for forward-thinking Canadians and international leaders. Previously, Julie served as a Senior Policy Advisor to a senior Cabinet Minister in the Ontario provincial government.  Other past roles in her professional life include working at senior levels in business development, marketing, public relations and product development in both the financial services and biotech industries.   Julie is a passionate advocate of civic engagement and for many years ran a political salon in Toronto.  Julie is also the Ontario Vice President of Policy for the Ontario Liberal Party and is the Co-Chair of the Platform Committee 2011.

Regan Smith (the engineer), B.Sc, B.A.Sc.– Regan is currently a Project Manager with City of Toronto's Facility Management, Design, Construction and Asset Preservation department. Regan has over 10 years of project management experience, in particular in green building design and sustainable communities. Her project experience includes working with a number of municipalities helping them to foster sustainable communities and develop green development policies. Regan has also worked with a number of Toronto neighbourhood projects to develop sustainable community plans.  . Regan has degrees from Queen’s University in both engineering and geography. Regan is a LEED Accredited Professional and has been the project manager for 5 projects gaining LEED certification.

Karen Nasmith, (ther urban planner) B Eng, MUP, RPP, MCIP, LEED AP - Karen draws on a unique background of industrial engineering and urban planning. Over the past ten years she has gained a diverse range of experience, including engaging with farmers to examine the role of public participation in Pueblo, Mexico, managing social impact assessments in the Caribbean and developing an expertise in sustainable planning including both climate change adaptation and mitigation. Karen has worked with a range of clients, communities and stakeholder groups to develop community plans, engaging with highly integrated design teams to develop realistic implementation strategies. Karen is LEED Accredited and a full member of the Canadian Institute of Planners.

 2.       Volunteer team members and neighbourhood groups

Project Neutral consists of a core group of dynamic, passionate and creative volunteers with a diverse range of skills and expertise. In addition, we have partnered with two neighbourhood groups: Green 13 in the Junction and Riverdale. Bios can be found at: projectneutral.org/about-us

Seeking collaborators: 
Yes
Potential collaborators should contact : 
karen@projectneutral.org
How will you ensure your project is self supporting within five years?: 

Project Neutral is actively working with two neighbourhoods in Toronto where we are testing our survey and fine tuning our engagement and communications methodologies. Our goal is to develop a replicable model even as we expand our reach within these catchments over the next 18-24 months. After perfecting our model we will hire and train additional staff as we expand into other neighbourhoods, cities and provinces. Our ultimate objective is to be operating at a national level within five years.

Neighbourhoods – and local volunteers – are essential to our model. We rely on existing leadership to mobilize volunteers within neighbourhoods to get the word out about the project and encourage their neighbours to participate. By leveraging our volunteer base we can streamline operating costs.

Our proposed revenue model is based primarily on payment for marketing of energy conservation products and services. The value proposition we offer to these eco-advertisers includes one-on-one promotion of their products or services delivered via our door to door canvassers, and other targeted communications (weekend meet and greets in the local cafe, living room socials, etc).  We would also include them in our promotional material such as postcard drops. We believe advertisers will also appreciate the fact our mandate provides them with additional credibility as well as 3rd party validation of their product or service. This value proposition will be very attractive to local independent retailers as well as franchise and e-retailers that offer energy efficient and/or green services or products. We believe this method of ‘push’ marketing will result in competitive customer acquisition costs for our advertisers and therefore increase their willingness to spend their money with us rather than on “pull” marketing strategies. Of course, as we grow and expand into new neighbourhoods, the potential for our advertisers’ service base also increases; ensuring their marketing dollars will be reinvested with us.

We are also exploring the possibility that additional revenue may be generated through partnerships with companies providing advice, services or products related to reduced energy use.  Revenue may flow in the form of flat fees and continuing royalties paid to us by our partner for each of our online survey participants who opt to share their data with our partner. With respect to funding the neighbourhood and household level retrofits we are looking into opportunities for selling carbon credits, in order to support the transition to carbon neutrality. It is important to note that it is a priority for Project Neutral to ensure that any and all revenue sources compliment our purpose and values and have the full support of our neighbourhood partners.

How did you hear about ClimateSpark?: 
Centre for Social Innovation

Comments

lmeldrum's picture

Greatest strength is drawing on the neighbourhood affiliation felt by many of Toronto's citizens.  I think they have chosen their neighbourhoods well for success.  Greatest weakness may be the "ambition" of the project, but I like their attitude that every journey begins with a single step.

Karen Nasmith's picture

Thanks for your comment.

In the last four days, I attended two neighbourhood engagement events in Riverdale and am amazed by how interested people are in this project. When I approach people to discuss Project Neutral, the response is one of genuine interest. We are making a connection. Our message resonates because we are connecting at the individual, household and neighbourhood level: all real and tangible. And because we - the team members supporting this project - are neighbours to the people we are approaching.  So there is also this amazing magic happening as a result of this project: new friendships are emerging, connections are being made, neighbourhood fabric is being woven.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Indeed this is an ambitious project. Our motto is "Start possible". We also love the saying "Start somewhere, follow it everywhere". This is an ambitious project to respond to the most pressing global crisis. Our objective is clear - to transition neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality. We are beginning the journey now.

JLanger's picture

The neighbourhood-level approach got Project Neutral into round 2.  Creating that sense of 'eveyone is doing it' and facilitating the outreach and engagement on a more 'mass market' basis is intuitively where to go next, since coupons, cajoling and broad marketting campaigns have had 10-15% penetration at most.  This project also conveys a strong sense of passion and commitment to achieving results and helping people.   What's not as clear is the business targets, business model and expense/revenue structure. 

How could this proposal be improved?: 

I'm going to throw out a bunch of questions and look forward to your responses, which would help greatly in undertsand the 'shape' and 'size' and 'structure' of this venture.

What level of GHG reduction is being targetted on a neighbourhood level?  the proposal indicates avg 22% energy reduction, and says 20-50% GHG savings are easy/cheap.  What assumptions made about percentage of households in a neighbourhood taking action?  Which kinds of action expected, and is the GHG reduction potential being factored into what Project Neutral will promote most aggressively? 

What level of resources needed to achieve the target?  On what basis is the outreach/engagement effort being scaled?  Is it all volunteer?  Given objective of being national in 5 years, what is the capacity needed to refine and scale and roll out this venture?  Are there any analagous initiatives which have been studied from a business development and management perspective?  

Will advertising will cover the costs?  Are the 2 Project Neutral neighbourhoods receiving advertsising revenues?  Is there any chance that advertising have any undermining effect; has this been tested with the 'clients', ie: the householders?  

In addition to responding to questions, having more detail in your proposal would be idea since it would add detail and bolster the framework already laid out.   

 

 

Karen Nasmith's picture

Wow - amazing questions. Thank you for challenging us. I've been trying to find the time to adequately address the issues you've raised. I hope the following helps provide some clarity on our vision.

RE: GHG Reduction Target + Neighbourhood Actions + Resources Required

Our research shows that a reduction of 15 – 25% is possible simply by providing homeowners with information on how much  energy they are using (see Google Meter, Ashton Hayes, Eden Mills, Lowfoot). By establishing a baseline (using our on-line carbon survey) we will be providing households with information on how they compare to the average for their neighbourhood and city. In the future, our intention is to provide timely feedback and tracking of energy use through partnerships with companies like Lowfoot, so that households are motivated to reduce energy use and understand the carbon footprint implications of their everyday actions. If we simply committed to the annual on-line survey, we would need to cover neighbourhood engagement costs of $5,000 per year (for two neighbourhoods) based on a focused three month survey period. However, our plan calls for on-going engagement throughout the year, using surveying and polling to understand the behaviour and built environment of homeowners, in order to tailor our community-based social marketing strategy.  The CBSM strategy will reinforce the energy tracking information provided to households, resulting in additional emissions reductions.

Going beyond the 20-50% GHG savings that are possible through behavioural change and zero to low cost retrofits will require more intensive resource commitments. For this, we anticipate leveraging the bulk buying power of the neighbourhoods to improve the ROI and affordability of various renewable energy technologies. In addition, we will pilot more innovative schemes with both private and public sector partners, including using carbon credits to pay for neighbourhood retrofits and reducing property taxes for more energy efficient buildings. As an organisation, Project Neutral’s role will be primarily to (1) track emissions and (2) connect the neighbourhoods with ghg reduction solutions. As a result, our operational costs will be limited to the management staff required to support these programs, costs which we believe can be covered primarily through advertising – more on that later.

Volunteer commitment: We have asked that the neighbourhood commit to finding one volunteer per block. This person acts as a block captain and is responsible for leading the engagement and door-to-door campaign with that block. Each neighbourhood group also appoints two neighbourhood leaders that attend regular Project Neutral management meetings and coordinate activities with the Neighbourhood Engagement Coordinator.

A note about level of involvement: We believe a 30% engagement rate is possible, based on what we’ve seen in Ashton Hayes and Eden Mills. That being said, our engagement rate for this initial year will likely be much lower – we’ve learned that our survey is simply too long! It takes an average of 15 – 20 minutes for an individual to complete the survey right now. We are confident we can reduce this time to an average of 5 minutes for our second annual survey,  as a result of a refined strategy, changes to our survey format, and improved ability to directly access utility data access.

Re: staff : volunteer ratio and scaleability and business model precedents 

Our model is to have a staff member acting as engagement coordinator to assist the volunteers in each neighbourhood. The engagement coordinator provides canvassing materials, tracks surveys, hosts engagement events, trains canvassers, visits schools and responds to emails and phone calls regarding the survey. This model will be replicated as we add neighbourhoods, with refinements being made to the engagement strategy based on specific characteristics of each neighbourhood (built form, geographical context, etc). Similarly, the carbon methodology will need to be calibrated for each geographic region (which is accomplished based on a partnership that we have that enables us to our access to a national database of carbon emissions factors).

Our review of business model precedents is on-going (we currently have a group of students from University of Toronto Volunteer Consulting Group carrying out research for us). We’ve also looked a great deal at the basic franchise model, in terms of replicability and scaleability. A good example is MyDestination.com where franchisees are responsible for making the content and services locally relevant. In this regard, Project Neutral would have centralised operations responsible for specific standardized functions, such as maintaining the website, including the on-line carbon footprint survey and analysis methodology, and national sponsorships, as well as creating a neighbourhood engagement package (tools and program), with local staff focusing on neighbourhood engagement. Additional models that we’ve considered include the following: charging municipalities a fee per person for the target population (similar to Zerofootprint), charging membership fees (various not-for-profits orgs), fee for service (Green Municipalities Canada), and partnerships with LDCs (Lowfoot).

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Re: The potential drawbacks/dangers of advertising as a revenue source 

See above with respect to potential to cover advertising revenues. Potential for undermining effect: absolutely. This would need to be handled careful: one way of addressing this would be to have a code of advertising ethics reviewed and approved by any participating neighbourhoods, in order to avoid conflicts. In addition, data privacy issues will need to be carefully considered. Accountability and transparency would be paramount. We have partnered with a number of companies to-date, including Bullfrog Power, Sears Home Energy, Windfall Ecology, Home Depot,  the Junction Fromagerie, the Riverdale Perk Cafe, Dora Keogh Irish Pub and Mountain Equipment Co-op, and so far we have had only positive responses.

slyder's picture

I seem to recall this page being active with posts in the last round, what happened? Seeing as one of the project's main focuses is community engagement, I am surpised to see this fall off the board.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Engage!

Karen Nasmith's picture

Hi Slyder,

Thanks for your comment. The truth is - we've just kicked off a really focused engagement campaign in Riverdale and the Junction. We are hosting six events a week right now, three in each neighbourhood each week, in addition to working with school groups, meeting with local media, and sending out newsletters to our growing database of folks that are interested in doing the survey. I was out knocking on doors tonight in Riverdale with two other volunteers. After an hour and a half, we'd knocked on over 30 doors, and had 13 new email addresses. We had great conversations with all kinds of folks on Logan Ave, including the Bain Co-op. Over 20 folks committed to doing the survey and, this is the best part - within an hour, three households had already gone on-line and completed our carbon survey.  This is the kind of successful neighbourhood engagement we are hoping for.

See http://projectneutral.org/news for more info about the great contest we've just kicked off in an effort to get as many surveys completed as possible in both neighbourhoods prior to Dec 10th.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Why am I bringing all this up? As a largely volunteer-based initiative we have limited resources, and with the kick-off of our new neighbourhood engagement campaign over the last week, we have had very little time to engage with Climate Spark. That being said - engagement in the neighbourhoods is exactly what we are doing. And now that we have things running more smoothly, we will try to provide responses to your questions and comments.

 

Karen Nasmith's picture

Interested in learning more about our events?

 

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Contact jonathan@projectneutral.org to subscribe to our newsletter.

blakeconnoy's picture

I'm in agreement with Slyder.  While I truly love the vision and mission of Project Neutral, I am surprised how such amazing, focused community engagement has translated into so few comments on this website.  Perhaps I'm not appreciating/understanding the nature of the extensive community engagement underway, but I can't help but think that if Project Neutral can't get dozens of community members to create a Climate Spark account and review the proposal, how is it going to get those community members to change their behaviours and reduce their collective emissions?

Truly, the strengths of this proposal will rest in Project Neutral's ability to convert doorstep discussions into action.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Please see above.

Zell's picture

It is a great project that is necessary for this day and age.

We must look at conservation amongst each and every household, block and neighbourhood to reduce our GHG's. Have you looked at municipally owned buildings to take the challenge

 

How could this proposal be improved?: 

As a civic group how are you going to maintain all the moving parts on a volunteer basis? It is hard enough to get people to do anything these days and without a serious call to action people just laze around.

It is easy to get do gooders to get stuff done, but what about the couch potatoes that like their video games?

Karen Nasmith's picture

Different things motivate different people (money, the environment, community interaction, etc) but we are finding that an incentive is extremely helpful! We have been using contests as incentives so far, to encourage individuals to do our on-line survey. See projectneutral.org/news for a list of all the great prizes we are giving away right now.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

But in addition to being entered into a draw for prizes, we are also increasingly being able to provide incentives to everyone that does the survey. So for example, right now in Riverdale, if you do the survey, you get a 10% discount at Home Hardware. In addition, as of yesterday, all households that complete the survey will receive a certificate from Options for Cars valid for a 6 month membership AND $50 of driving credits. We are ecstatic about this last opportunity for several reasons - first of all, it reinforces our main objective, reducing carbon emissions. Second, it is an absolutely amazing incentive worth over $50 right away. And third, Options for Cars approached us. We soooo appreciate that they did this, and we hope it marks the start of an upward trend.

mjanes's picture

Making communities particpants in actions to improve and become more sustainable is a great focus!

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Combining Project Neutral with existing projects that focus on reducing ghg and have them implemented through your outreach and community choice model seems like a good possibility.

Karen Nasmith's picture

We don't want to reinvent the wheel so we are looking to leverage or partner with any individual or organisation out there that can help transition neighbourhoods to carbon neutrality. Some of the organisations that we are working with include Green 13 in the Junction, City of Toronto Live Green Community Animators, Bullfrog Power, Civic Action's Emerging Leaders Network, Options for Cars, Sear Home Energy Services, and Windfall Ecology. Next on the list are the neighbourhood BIAs. We presented at the Junction Residents Association meeting last night. And we've been approached by about a dozen other individuals and organisations interested in discussing opportunities...we just haven't had a chance to respond yet!

How could this proposal be improved?: 

But perhaps most importantly, we truly believe that the are so many neighbourhoods out there and so much work to do, that we will help support anyone out there that want to do something like Project Neutral on their own. We've responded to about a dozen inquiries from all over Canada so far.

Melana's picture
Karen Nasmith's picture

Thank you!

How could this proposal be improved?: 

We love the encouragement!

KateH's picture

Actually giving households info to make changes, and then adding peer pressure to make the desirable changes seems like a winning combination.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

I'd encourage you to partner with existing groups & org'n in your target neighborhoods -sports, schools, service clubs & local businesses.

Karen Nasmith's picture

Absolutely. Please see "Leverage Existing Iniatives" response above.

In addition, we are working with local schools and various businesses (the Riverdale Perk, the Junction Fromagerie, etc)

How could this proposal be improved?: 

It is amazing what positive peer pressure can do! We are in the process of printing window signs for households that have completed the survey - an idea of one of our amazing volunteers and simliar to Bullfrog Power's lawn sign.

travis.allan's picture

I'm so impressed with Project Neutral because it does two really important things. First, it takes on the herculean task of figuring out where emissions are on a neighbourhood level. That's so important for all of us who are trying to understand the impact of our decisions on the environment. Second, by engaging whole communities, it's building an army of people who are going to be knowledgeable about climate issues, and hopefully taking action on them. I also think that, when people see savings on their energy bills, this work is really going to stick.

Karen Nasmith's picture

Another one of our amazing volunteers came up with that tagline "Start Possible". And that is what we are all about. Beginning with establishing the baseline. I was explaining to one person in the Junction that when you go shopping for food you know how much money you have in the bank, and how much you can afford to spend. Generally speaking, we have no idea how much carbon our daily actions result in. The survey allows us to figure out a starting point, so we can track progress as we take actions at the individual, household and neighbourhoood level. But it also starts to get people thinking about those every day actions too.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Have you seen the cartoon of a crowd of people and each person has a thought buble that says "What difference can I make?"

The power of neighbourhoods is immense. We are delighted that you see that too!

Karen Nasmith's picture

As a primarily volunteer-led initiative, "people" including our volunteers, sponsors, and participants, is one of our core values.

We can't make this world a better place without believing in eachother first, empowering ourselves, and acting as our our agents of change.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Place. Mature, residential neighbourhoods in urban environments. These areas represent as much as 60% of the footprint of Canadian cities. The challenges are substantial, but so is the potential.

Program. It's about figuring out a low cost model that can be applied to neighbourhoods any where with some - but not major - modifications to reflect the local contest.

Regan's picture

Keep up the good work Karen!

GreenVictory's picture

I think that a key strength of the project is that is is neighbourhood focused.  Neighbourhoods and neighbourhood leaders are given the chance to be empowered to take action.  Its about people mobinlizing themselves.

 

Another strength is that it is focused on urban neighbourhoods where most of the world lives and more people will live in the coming decades. We need realistic solutions for people to reduce their carbon emissions.    This project heroically is testing on particular model.

Its a great idea, great framework and am looking forward to hear about its progress.

 

Weakness is probably that it will take longer to mobilize communities than we would like to think it will take.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

I don't know.  

 

I think that with time one will see how things progress or not and make adjustments based on learnings.

Regan's picture

This project directly improves Toronto's exisiting communities by reducing the carbon footprint of the city's older houses and local businesses. While some newer communities and houses are being built with improved efficiencies, the city has an enormous amount of older housing stock. One of the exciting aspects of this project is how it supports community members to make changes within their neighbourhoods.

rohitmittal's picture

I think the project's strength is its uniqueness. Its objective of achieving carbon neutrality satisfies five main criterias of SMART - the objective is Specific, it is also Measurable and Attainable, the objective is also Relevant to our 21st century carbon emitting environment and Time-bound, as it plans to achieve carbon neutrality within a specific period of time.

Brett Banks's picture

Very ambitious indeed. I wish you all the best of luck.

I think the key is not just having members of each community reduce their footprint but have a forum for them to get together and share how they did so and what other means there is for them to reduce it further. 

It has already inspired me to start reducing my own.

Paul Gifford's picture

Project Neutral has a model that has it all.

Best of luck!

hart's picture

The goal is admirable but I think it will be difficult to keep people engaged after the initial household assessment.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

I also think that school participation might be a viable path into neighborhoods.

SK's picture

I think its a good idea to approach this on a neighbourhood level.

How could this proposal be improved?: 

Iwould be interesting if their results (if they chose to) could be shared. This would create some competition among home owners to lower their carbon footprint!

GreenHeroes's picture

GreenHeroes is really interested in stories like this where lots of people are engaged in a project that will have a net impact on the environment. The stories and ideas generated are important - the key is have a way of documenting initiatives like this - having a GreenHeroes team embedded in an action like this would make a lot of sense - using small format cameras to actually come up with a story that then could be included in a TV episode of GreenHeroes thus inspiring many more thousands to action!

How could this proposal be improved?: 

More information on the communications campaign around the initiative would be helpful - one good example of how to approach this is documented in the GreenHeroes webisode on Stuart Hickox

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