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City on target for most green goals

St. Albert is saving more water and trash than ever before, says a new report, but is also dumping more chemicals on its lawns.

St. Albert is saving more water and trash than ever before, says a new report, but is also dumping more chemicals on its lawns.

The city's Office of the Environment plans to release its 2010 Report on the Environment this week to coincide with Earth Day, which is April 22. The report measures the city's progress towards the year-2020 goals set out in its environmental master plan.

St. Albert took a bite out of trash last year with the introduction of curbside recycling and new pay-as-you-throw rates, the report found. Each resident junked just 184 kilograms of trash last year, down from 192 in 2008 and the city kept 41 per cent of its trash out of the landfill last year, up four points from the previous year.

Water use continued its steady decline the report found, dropping to 280 litres per person per day from 288. The city's grit interceptors and clean-up crews had also managed to snag 86 per cent of sand and gravel before it reached the Sturgeon River — remarkably close to the city's goal of 90 per cent.

Pesticide problem

Bucking these trends was residential pesticide use, which rose to 1.91 kilograms of chemical per hectare in 2008 from 1.23 in 2006. (2009 numbers were unavailable.) Municipal use was up in 2009 relative to the previous year, but has not followed any clear trend.

Jim Hole of Hole's Greenhouses & Gardens was at a loss to explain this trend. "We certainly haven't seen an increase [in sales] in any respect here," he said. Weed-and-feed fertilizer has historically been the main source of residential pesticide use, but that's been banned for sale since the start of this year.

Residents are likely using more pesticides on their lawn than this report suggests, said Meghan Myers of the city's Office of the Environment; the report was based on pesticide sales data collected by Alberta Environment and not all stores sent them the information. She wasn't sure what had caused the apparent increase, but thought it might be population growth. "St. Albert's growing and it's basically single-family houses, so lawns are growing."

The city will soon launch a "Good Growing Neighbours" educational campaign with Edmonton and Strathcona County to encourage proper pesticide use, Myers said. The city also did pilot studies last year to determine how to use less pesticide on noxious weeds.

Greenhouse gas progress

The city will start work on its greenhouse gas inventory this year, Myers said, which may lead to adjustments to the city's greenhouse gas targets. The city aims to reduce total emissions by six per cent by 2020.

The report notes the city did replace all lights in St. Albert Place with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs last year and also put a more efficient heat exchanger into Fountain Park Pool. Both measures should reduce energy-related emissions.

The city also saw a 2.4 per cent rise in transit use last year the report found, which could also reduce emissions. Every full bus takes 40 cars off the road and eliminates 50 tonnes of emissions, according to the One-Tonne Challenge Guide.

St. Albert Transit also replaced nine buses last year, said spokesperson Ian Sankey, and the replacements are about 20 per cent more fuel-efficient. Bike racks will be installed on all buses by this May, which could encourage more people to take the bus.

The department also plans to build on an experiment it ran last year involving free transit on Saturdays in August, Sankey says: all local transit will be free on Saturdays from June to October.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: 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.
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