Canadian Manufacturing

Individual choice mitigation for climate change

Companies that are poised to decrease environmental impacts pass along the benefits to consumers. Examples abound, from meat processing to transportation and eco-technology


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PHOTO: Japanese SilkyTofu/DryPot via Wikimedia Commons

Following my recent column on eco-anxiety, some people have reached out, curious about the steps they can take in their every-day lives to ease their anxiety and, hopefully, help mitigate the effects of climate change.

According to a report by the world’s leading climate scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, keeping global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

This means major changes to policy and consumption along with global political coordination, but those instructions seem written for world leaders; the terms “policy” and “global coordination” seem out of reach and can leave civilians with feelings of hopelessness. The word “consumption” is also among those three recommendations for change, and that word is not foreign to us. In fact, it’s in our control. We are the consumers.

I came across a few tips while researching ways to curb my eco-anxiety both at home and at work. I read about reducing meat consumption, using public transportation, and investing in eco-friendly appliances.

I came to realize that many of the companies we support at EDC are key to decreasing the environmental impacts of this global issue. I also realized that those who started these companies were people, just like me, that shared the same passion for saving the environment, and they went the extra mile to make an impact.

Meat consumption

According to a 2013 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the livestock industry represents 14.5 per cent of global human-induced green-house gas emissions. Of the sector’s total emissions, beef represents 41 per cent of emissions and milk production represents 21 per cent of emissions.

Scientists have calculated that if a family skipped meat and cheese one day a week, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for five weeks – or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes.

Reducing your environmental footprint can be as simple as going meat-free for one day each week, and there are tons of vegetarian and vegan food companies that are making it easy and delicious for Canadians to make the right choices.

Sol Cuisine produces vegan gourmet, non-GMO plant-based proteins and are a good example of the rise in choices offered to customers. They have been in the Canadian market for years, and last spring received a $6 million investment from EDC to help them expand their offering to retail and food service customers looking for alternative proteins.

Transportation

One of the more common individual choices to mitigate climate change among urban dwellers is taking public transportation instead of driving a car. My family and I, as well as most of my colleagues take the city bus or bike, which I am proud of. An exciting milestone to come for me will be Ottawa’s new Light Rail Transit, which will reduce carbon emissions by about 94,000 tonnes by 2031 – the equivalent of 3.8 million trees, according to a report on the Ottawa LRT Project.

According to a U.S. study, buses emit 20 per cent less carbon monoxide, and 75 per cent as much nitrogen oxides per passenger mile than a car with a single occupant.

But what if there was a way to be even more energy efficient, while already making the eco-friendly choice?

City buses have scheduled routes, and often drive around for long periods of time and distances with little to no people on board, burning GHG emissions for empty- to low-service fixed routes.

One Ontario-based company, Pantonium, saw this as a problem and found a smart city solution. According to their data, there are more than 130,000 buses on the road in North America, for which the average number of passengers is nine.

Pantonium provides fleet management and optimization technology that brings buses to the people using on-demand transit services. Their software builds and self-adjusts routes and schedules in real-time, based on dynamic changes, delays, cancellations and more without any need for human intervention.

Their technology is being used in transit systems in the U.S. as well as in Belleville, Ont., cities that don’t have LRTs. With support from EDC’s Export Guarantee Program, they plan to introduce their technology to municipalities internationally.

Energy efficient homes

Everything about buying and running a home is expensive, and Canadians are always looking for ways to reduce energy use at home, both to reduce the amount of energy used and to cut costs. An awareness of peak hours and the appliances demanding the most energy is helpful but can become a lot to manage.

In an effort to take some burden off the consumer, Canadian cleantech company Ecotagious developed technologies that help utility providers give their customers personalized suggestions based on when they use their appliances and peer comparisons, and help customers receive energy insights through portals and virtual assistants.

Their technology, based off energy disaggregation, splits household energy consumption into its composite end-uses, offering insights into a consumer’s energy usage habits. Studies have shown that energy disaggregation and associated user feedback can prompt behaviour change that can improve energy efficiency of affected appliances and home energy systems by up to 15 per cent.

Financing through EDC’s Export Guarantee Program helped the company secure the operating line they needed to move ahead and continue to deliver verified, industry-leading savings to their clients.

These are all Canadian companies dedicated to making it easier for consumers to reduce their carbon footprint all while helping mitigate the risks of climate change. Starting a cleantech business isn’t something just anybody can do. It requires substantial funding, significant research and development, and an incredible amount of hard work. But what we can do is support them, and that is something we can all do.


This article was submitted by Lynn Côté, Cleantech Lead, Export Development Canada.

EDC is a financial Crown corporation dedicated to helping Canadian companies of all sizes succeed on the world stage. As international risk experts, we equip Canadian companies with the tools they need – the trade knowledge, financing solutions, equity, insurance, and connections – to take on the world with confidence. Underlying all our support is a commitment to sustainable and responsible business.

 


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