Calgary Looks Toward Lower-Footprint Future
As the second fastest-growing Canadian city with a population that has grown 13 percent in five years, Calgary finds itself at a critical moment. City leaders are faced with making infrastructure and planning decisions that will shape the way residents live for years to come and are looking to balance the needs of citizens with a growing concern about the city’s use of natural resources. The government has launched an Ecological Footprint project with Global Footprint Network that will help officials understand the ecological impacts of these decisions – and move in a direction that provides the most ecologically sustainable future for its citizens.
A 2005 Ecological Footprint study found that Calgary residents have the highest Ecological Footprint of any Canadian city at 9.9 global hectares per person – a lifestyle that, if everyone lived that way, would require five Earths to support. The city is engaged in a number of efforts to reduce its resource consumption. Using data developed with Global Footprint Network in accordance with international standards, officials are able to see how particular activities are affecting the Footprint, identify areas that are within their ability to change and take into account local actions that can and are making a difference.
Perhaps the most dramatic action the city has taken has been to halt new development on green space for at least a year until officials can develop a policy that takes the Footprint and long-term sustainability goals into account. Calgary has also become the first city in North America to power its public light rail transit system with 100 per cent emissions-free wind-generated energy, through an initiative called Ride the Wind. The Ecological Footprint of Ride the Wind is measurably smaller than other LRT systems.
The city is working to spark awareness among residents of Calgary’s Ecological Footprint and raise discussion about what can be done to change it. The city has released the report Reducing the Ecological Footprint: A Calgary Approach describing Calgary’s efforts to lighten up and offering residents resources for individual action.
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