Our sustainability story

2022 Environmental Sustainability Report highlights

One quarter of City energy comes from renewable sources

In 2022, the City returned to full activity levels and with that, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from municipal operations were up seven per cent compared to 2021, when things were partially closed. Although there was an increase, GHG emissions remain below pre-pandemic levels and the 2018 baseline. This is a strong sign that reduction efforts are taking hold.

Today, a quarter of all energy used to power City facilities and fleet vehicles is renewable energy, so more work is needed to conserve energy and use 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050. Throughout 2022, the City installed several energy efficient upgrades at different facilities including solar panels, heat pumps, electric vehicles and LED lighting, to help achieve that goal. As the City builds new facilities like the South End Community Centre and the Baker Library, they will conform to Zero Carbon Building Standards to save more energy.

Helping more people access sustainable transportation

To reduce Guelph’s transportation emissions by about 23 per cent by 2051, more than 40 per cent of daily trips by people living and working in and visiting Guelph must be done by sustainable transportation options like taking transit, walking, and biking.

In 2022, there was a significant increase in transit ridership, back to pre-COVID numbers, and the Kids Ride Free pilot, now a permanent Guelph Transit program, was a huge success with over 16,081 rides taken. Upcoming changes to transit fares, including fare capping, are also aimed at making transit more affordable so more people can and want to take the bus.

To encourage more active travel, the City added nine kilometres (km) to its cycling network bringing the total length of the network to 139 km, which is the same as cycling from Guelph to Oshawa. The City also built safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure like crossrides and pedestrian crossovers. These improvements are aimed at addressing concerns around safety and route connection and making it easier for more people to go car-free.

Local businesses can support sustainable transportation too and get certified as bicycle friendly through the Ontario by Bike program which also helps them reach the growing number of cycle tourists from across Ontario.

More than half of household waste kept out of landfill

Guelph continues to lead the way in waste management best practices, reporting less waste per person than the provincial and national averages.

Through good sorting, home composting, and changes to what and how much they buy, the Guelph community kept 55 per cent of household curbside waste out of landfill. This is down, however, from 60 per cent in 2021 and highlights the importance of ongoing outreach to the community around sorting and reducing waste.

The City also became the first and only large urban municipality in Ontario to implement a single-use plastics reduction strategy and bylaw. First developed ahead of the Government of Canada’s policy to ban the most problematic plastic disposable items, the City updated its bylaw to align with the new federal legislation.

Almost 24,000 plantings across Guelph in 2022

In 2022, the City continued its effort to naturalize and increase Guelph’s tree canopy to 40 per cent by 2070. Staff and volunteers naturalized 6.2 hectares of City-owned land, an area larger than the Roger’s Centre/Skydome, and planted 15,650 native trees and shrubs, 750 large canopy trees, and about 7,500 native wildflowers and grasses. This is close to two hectares more naturalized area and more than 9,000 native trees and shrubs than what was planted in 2021.

Staff also completed an inventory of Guelph’s natural assets including wetlands and woodlands and determined it would cost up to $322,900 and $2,185,000 respectively per hectare to build stormwater ponds to replace the natural function of these ecosystems. This provides critical context for planning as the City prepares for a population surge and works to reach provincially mandated housing targets.

Biosolid gas capture could power 1,618 homes

The volume of treated wastewater— everything that goes down the drain, sink or toilet —remained steady compared to 2021. In 2022 over 50 million litres, or about 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools, of wastewater was cleaned before it was released into the Speed River. The biosolids collected from wastewater were converted into fertilizer, and the gas captured from the biosolids and converted into energy—enough to power 1,618 average households for a year—was used to partially power the Water Resource Recovery Centre.

Education and outreach about what can and can’t be flushed remained a top priority last year along with maintaining a robust wastewater sampling program, with staff collecting over 18,000 samples. The sampling program helps the Water Resource Recover Centre meet its legislative and quality control requirements as well as make informed process control decisions.

Guelph continues to use less water

The City of Guelph has won awards for its water efficiency efforts and programs, and 2022 was another successful water-saving year. In 2022, the City provided 561 residential water rebates which saved about 100,400 litres of water. Average annual water use went down one per cent despite Guelph’s ongoing population growth. This success can be attributed to the City’s outdoor water use and leak detection programs, water-efficiency rebates that help people make changes at home or work, and the community’s commitment to protecting our water supply and using less water than the average Canadian and Ontarian.

Learn more in the City’s 2022 Environmental Sustainability Report.