Toronto steps up with new green initiative

Toronto mayor David Miller launched a new program today intended to make city hall greener.

The mayor’s announcement at Nathan Phillips Square introduced the ‘Cool it, Power it, Grow it’ program. The initiative aims to reduce city hall’s carbon footprint by running an air conditioning system that uses less electricity, buying power from emissions-free energy sources and by constructing a green roof.

The changes are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent. By 2012, the city says all greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by six per cent.

“It’s possible for Toronto city hall to achieve a zero carbon impact and become a showcase for sustainability and energy efficiency,” Miller said. “We’re well on our way to achieving that goal.”

Together, all three initiatives are expected to cost the city $21 million, but, Miller said the city will save $500,000 a year in operating costs just by taking on the green measures.

As of now, city hall will buy all its electricity from Bullfrog Power, a company that uses wind turbines and water sources within Ontario to produce energy.

But Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance , said that while that measure is a step in the right direction, the city still needs to do more.

“It’s great that the city is purchasing green electricity from Bullfrog. But the next step is for the city to work closely with Toronto Hydro to get as much green power as possible, not just for city hall, but for all Torontonians,” Hartmann said. “Toronto Hydro can be the perfect vehicle to provide green electricity.”

The other part of the initiative addresses city hall’s air conditioning system. It will now run using something called “deep water lake cooling,” provided by energy supplier Enwave. The company pumps cold water from Lake Ontario and uses it in the cooling systems of buildings. The city says that process will reduce electricity consumption by 1.9 million killowatts per year.

But it was the green roof Miller seemed most interested in talking about.

Construction is under way to build what is essentially a public garden surrounding city council chambers. The roof will be seamlessly covered with plants, but will also include landscaped gardens and new walkways.

Highlighting the upside of the green roof, Miller said “it’s very important in a built up city like Toronto, you lower the summer temperature significantly,” Miller said. “Engineering studies show if all the roofs that could have green roofs did, you’d lower the temperature on a hot summer day by two degrees which has enormous savings in electricity across the city.”            ”

And that’s why Miller said the city will introduce legislation to get new building developments to include green roofs.

“One of the things we have to do at Toronto city hall is show leadership,” he said. “We’re bringing in policies that are going to ask the development industry to make a very significant step in green roofs. We’re showing it’s possible.”

These are not the only initiatives being introduced to make Toronto more environmentally sensitive. Miller said the city is looking to green city hall even more by replacing windows, potentially putting a wind turbine on the roof and achieving a zero waste building.

More information Toronto’s green initiatives can be found at and

Filed by Victoria Wells