Stereotypes are usually flawed inaccurate generalizations. At best, they are misleading.
As Calgary business continues to diversify and, despite the energy sector accounting for more than 30 per cent of Calgary’s GDP and the buzz about the industry’s stereotypical impact on the environment, it’s refreshing and exciting to realize “Calgary is a dynamic leader when it comes to the environment.”
That’s the solid and experienced comment of Carmen Boyko, executive director of the Alberta Emerald Foundation. “Each year the Emerald Awards recognizes businesses large and small – we salute them as ecoheroes – who have made a commitment to being conscious about their practices and how what they do will affect the world we live in.
“Businesses are taking on green business practices and not only stay competitive but create new or improved business ideas to keep their environmentally-conscious customers happy,” she says with positivity. “Their innovation and success motivates growth.
“The Emerald Awards over the past 25 years show that we have gone from thinking about repurposing used tires and being the first to start recycling programs to creating net-zero communities, ensuring that our children have environmental learning in their school curriculum.
“Showcasing environmental success stories leads to successful environmental growth and engagement and positive involvement in the protection of the environment.”
Is the Emerald Foundation satisfied about the environmental consciousness in business? “No,” she adds with a smile. “There will always be more to do and new innovations to discover, but I believe Albertans are out there working hard to find and implement them and that will continue into the future.”
Here are just three outstanding 2016 examples of Calgary’s environmental innovation.
“Many business leaders recognize that a majority of people support measures to protect the environment,” says Brian Taylor, president of Calgary’s Echo-Logic Land Corporation – developers of EchoHaven, Calgary’s award-winning and sustainable natural-setting community at Rocky Ridge, dedicated to quality of life, minimal environmental footprint and healthy and extremely efficient homes. “And people will seek out products that are in line with that philosophy.
“Echo-Logic has a solid commitment to eliminate greenhouse gases from operation of new houses, primarily by using solar energy. The targets include the elimination of GHG emissions, a 50 per cent reduction in electricity use, a 50 per cent reduction of city water use and the protection of original trees and ponds.”
Taylor proudly notes the targets have been mostly achieved, with over half of the houses built so far in the EchoHaven development.
Although it’s a touchy (and crass) topic in some circles, measuring ROI on environmental consciousness is difficult.
“The Echo-Logic focus never considers ROI in financial terms,” he says. “But in quality-of-life terms, the return is wonderful. Our target is to be able to have a sustainable house at no extra monthly cost (mortgage plus utilities) versus code standard. The environmental and health benefits are free. We are close and with careful cost-control, the modelling shows it to be achievable.”
Brian Taylor is a testimonial about the value – and the meaning – of earning the Emerald Award. “It is wonderful to have recognition of what we have struggled so many years to achieve. The Emerald Awards further innovation in the province because it gives publicity to new ideas,” he says. “It also encourages individuals and organizations to do things that will make a difference to our quality of life.”
Is it a challenge to avoid critical stereotypes while being an iconic giant of Canada’s energy sector? Not really.
“Our communities and stakeholders understand that ConocoPhillips is committed to responsibly developing our energy resources,” says Nathan Maycher, director of environment and sustainable development systems at ConocoPhillips Canada. “But their standards, and ours, are high, and we are continually improving our environmental performance in all areas of our operations.
“ConocoPhillips Canada doesn’t necessarily have a single area where we are focused on this year, but Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan is just one innovative example. It is paving a new path forward for the province in terms of the management of greenhouse gas emissions while creating opportunities to get our products to markets.
“We’re spending a great deal of time and increasing our focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Maycher points out. “And we’re also working with our industry peers and environmental organizations to advocate for balanced policy.”
He particularly highlights that ConocoPhillips Canada is proud to be a part of COSIA – Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. “Testing, deploying and openly sharing the results of a comprehensive program has resulted in significant greenhouse reductions (the equivalent of taking 98,000 cars off the road).”
Like most business leaders, he emphasizes that measuring ROI and the value of making a positive environmental dent is a complex manoeuvre.
“Measuring environmental impact isn’t as straightforward as classic financial return calculations. You can measure it in the strength of your relationship with local communities. And sometimes,” he smiles, “you can measure it in terms of dollars saved. When the greenhouse gas reduction goals are reached, how much money is saved in compliance costs? If we do interim reclamation on an area, how much money will be saved in weed management?”
ConocoPhillips Canada is proud to receive the Emerald Award and, as Maycher notes, “It recognizes tangible steps that the oil and gas industry can take to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
DIG (Do it Green)
For most people it may be subtle but – from paper plates, plastic water bottles, Styrofoam and other containers to diapers, packaging and wrappers – popular big events like Calgary’s Stampede, Summerfest, Beakerhead, music festivals and other gatherings attract tens of thousands of people and generate a lot of waste.
That’s where the dynamic strategy and gung-ho staff of DIG (Do it Green) comes in. The Calgary-based business provides vital environmental services for event organizers in Calgary and throughout Alberta – saving clients time and money; keeping their sites clean; and boosting environmental reputations.
“Traditionally, managing waste at big events was seen more as a matter of sanitation and esthetics,” says DIG founder Leor Rotchild. “Today there are new government regulations and waste is increasingly viewed through the lens of climate change action, because 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from landfills.
“The demand for diverting waste from the landfill is increasing.”
Rotchild speaks with passion, pointing out that DIG is barely halfway toward its mission to divert 100 tonnes of waste from the landfill by 2020, and, with every event and on-site involvement, DIG measures its success against that ambitious goal.
“We are also building on our waste-management expertise with cleantech solutions for water and clean power and expanding into new geographic markets and creating more quality jobs in the environmental sector.
“With new regulations, there is increasing demand for organizations like DIG, who monitor environmental issues closely to help identify opportunities to add value to for event organizers and other clients. Composting and recycling is now required by law and there are increased tipping fees for events and venues that do not have effective programs in place.
“By designing systems for our clients, we can ensure activities are consistent with expectations from the City of Calgary, we can save our clients money, help them avoid fines,” he grins, “and help stage world-class events that offer memorable and unique experiences for their audiences.”