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Beach Triangle Residents Association

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The Beach Triangle Residents Association, Toronto, Ontario

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Live Green Toronto Meeting a Great Success!

By John Ellis

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"What is a Community Animator?", I wondered as I joined about 50 people representing a wide variety of community groups in registering at the Information Session sponsored by Councillors Sandra Bussin and Janet Davis at W.S. Stewart Library on May 4th. Martina Rowley, Community Animator for Live Green Toronto, took us through a review of the Live Green Toronto program, funding opportunities, examples of successful projects, and an opportunity to meet other neighbourhood groups to share ideas, interests and concerns.

Through the Live Green Toronto Program, the city is providing human and financial resources to strengthen and enhance the ability of Toronto's neighbourhoods and community groups to undertake collective action on climate change, clean air and sustainable energy use.

The goal of the $2.2 million Live Green Toronto Community Investment Program (CIP) is to help fund community groups in identifying issues and being empowered to take action on these issues. The grants range from $1,000 to $25,000 for any one project. Grants must be used within one year of the first installment.

The CIP will be available into the indefinite future. Project applications are reviewed twice a year, in spring and fall, and the decision of the Review Committee follows about a month later. (Martina pointed out that other levels of government also provide grants for certain climate change projects and Live Green Toronto provides a list of such funding opportunities.)

Martina then had the registrants divide into workshops of about ten people each and facilitated a series of brisk workshop sessions, focused on getting to know each other, what sort of projects we are interested in, what the strengths and weaknesses of our groups are, and the opportunities for partnerships. As a result, seven categories were identified and discussion locations assigned around the room: Tree Inventory, Solar/Geo-thermal, Bio-swales, Roof Gardens, Green Walls, Community Gardens and Other. I first chose the Solar Power and Geo-thermal group where I met Bruce Crofts of East Toronto Climate Action group.

Bruce was instrumental in the RISE project in Riverdale, where 35 families negotiated with a supplier for a volume discount on the solar panels resulting in the average home installation costing only $10,000. Five roof-top panels cost about $16,000 and produce, on average, 1 kw of electricity, reducing the electricity bill by 40%-44% (with no PST or Delivery Charge). A 2 kw system could eliminate a Toronto Hydro bill altogether.

The opportunity is even better now, as the province is paying 80 kw when the homeowner is contributing surplus power to the grid. The original recovery on the investment was 18 years but will be much less under the new schedule.

RISE has been such a success that Riverdale residents are forming RISE AGAIN, to install either electricity or water heating (some say this is the real opportunity for savings) or both. RISE AGAIN is looking for other homeowners to join.

I had ruled out Geo-thermal as an alternative for home heating and cooling because of the smaller back yards and prevalence of trees in the Beach Triangle but I learned not to be so hasty. First, one geo-thermal installation can serve several homes (so the drilling could be in a less-well treed yard) and, second, the method has moved from a wide area of underground pipes to a deeper, single, vertical hole. The name of a business that specializes in this was provided, and an average cost of $30,000-$35,000 was mentioned.

To close the session, Martina Rowley advised that a follow-up workshop will be held within two months. This session will include experts on the areas of interest, cost estimates, issues, and regulations. In the Q and A section, I asked if the city would limit the number of approved projects from any one area. Martina replied that the program is too new to know the answer. For now, they want all the applications they can get!

This was an exciting, stimulating and valuable session. As I walked out into the evening air, I knew what "Community Animator" means. (www.livegreentoronto.ca, mrowley@toronto.ca, 647-208-1810)