Environment File

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St. Albert kept a record amount of organic waste out of the landfill last year, but still lags when it comes to greenhouse gas reductions, suggests a new report.

The Environmental Advisory Committee got a preview of the 2016 Report on the Environment at its monthly meeting Thursday.

The annual report tracks the city’s progress towards the nine air, land and water goals outlined in the St. Albert environmental master plan.

The committee heard that city residents put some 11,249 tonnes of material into their organics carts last year, which is the most they’ve ever done since the start of curbside organics collection in 2011.

This was largely due to last year’s exceptionally warm weather and long growing season, said city environment director Leah Kongsrude.

“Last year people were still raking their leaves in November,” she noted, which meant more yard waste getting in the green bin.

The city kept about 67.1 per cent of its waste out of the landfill with its composting and recycling programs last year, which was just a little shy of its current waste diversion record of 67.4 per cent set back in 2012. The city tossed about 121.8 kilograms of junk per person last year, putting it a long ways from its 2020 target of 105.

The city proved less successful on the greenhouse gas front. The city’s corporate emissions continued to drop to 28,121 tonnes, or nine per cent below 2008 levels, but Kongsrude said this was largely due to more renewable power getting onto Alberta’s electricity grid. The city still has to shed another 3,121 tonnes (equivalent to the energy use of 330 homes in a year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports) to reach its 2020 goal.

“We still have lots to do on the city side,” Kongsrude said.

Residential emissions continued to climb, and now sit about three per cent above 2008 levels – equivalent to burning about 1.7 million barrels of oil.

EAC chair Tanya Doran said she hoped provincial initiatives from Energy Efficiency Alberta would help turn these trends around. The city could also consider following Edmonton’s lead and introduce energy efficiency labels and guides for homes.

City residents used 247 litres of water per person per day last year, edging closer to the 2020 goal of 200, the EAC heard. The city would need a comprehensive water conservation education program in addition to its new water conservation bylaw if it wanted to reach that goal, Doran said.

The full state of the environment report will be published in the Gazette on Earth Day April 22.

If you’re reading this by candlelight Saturday night, thanks for taking part in Earth Hour.

The 10th annual Earth Hour is this March 25 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. The international event encourages people to shut off all non-essential lights and electronics for an hour to promote action against climate change.

St. Albert and Morinville are two of the 30-some Alberta communities taking part in this year’s FortisAlberta Earth Hour contest, said spokesperson Jennifer MacGowan. The top three communities that reduce their electricity use the most during Earth Hour relative to that same hour on March 18 will get grants of $5,000, $2,500 and $1,500 each to spend on energy efficiency.

While St. Albert worked with four local restaurants to hold special Earth Hour events last year, city environmental co-ordinator Meghan Myers said they weren’t able to arrange that this year.

One of those restaurants, St. Albert’s Delux Burger Bar, has planned its own Earth Hour event this year, however. In partnership with Mill Street Brewery, it will have candlelit dinners and live acoustic music during Earth Hour, with 50 cents off of the purchase of certain beers going to Earth Day Canada.

Kongsrude encouraged residents to shut off unneeded lights and to unplug chargers during Earth Hour to save energy. City staffers have also been asked to shut off everything they can at city buildings.

“We haven’t won (the FortisAlberta contest) yet, but maybe this is our year?”

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.