History

Over 23 years ago, a group of forward-thinking citizens had a vision of making the Village of Elora a greener and healthier place to live. The result? The Elora Environment Centre was born. A testament to our commitment to environmental change, this little “organization that could” continues to thrive, and we are proud to celebrate the many achievements that emerged from a vision that grew – and continues to grow – even to other communities in southwestern Ontario. The following summary will demonstrate some of these successes and this vision in action, including our most important asset: the people who have been and are the Elora Environment Centre. A founding member of Green Communities Canada (www.greencommunitiescanada.org), we offer several strong areas of expertise: energy, water, trees, and transportation. In each of these areas, we are consultants, well-linked in our communities, from Orangeville to Burlington, Windsor to Tobermory, who bring practical, knowledgeable advice, and can meet the environmental need with multi-faceted resources.  

The following is a list of initiatives that we have field-tested over the years, several of which have grown into successful core projects:

TREES

NeighbourWoods on the Grand: In response to citizen concerns about the state of our trees in Centre Wellington, this lively urban forestry program was created in 2005. Over the years, we have produced a number of projects and campaigns, listed below. 

Tree Kits (2005): Produced and distributed a Tree Kit to local elementary schools, providing a wide array of curriculum-based education about trees and the environment.

Schoolyard Shade Workshop (2007): In collaboration with the public health department, we convinced the public school board to support schoolyard greening in 3 pilot schools.

Celebration Trees (2009-2020): In collaboration with the Centre Wellington Parks Department,  we leveraged community donations to plant and plaque shade trees in our community parks.

Tree Inventory (2009 to 2022): In partnership with the University of Toronto, the Township of Centre Wellington, and dozens of volunteers, we evaluate, locate, and measure public trees to determine our urban forest’s health and diversity. As of 2022, we have 10,000+ trees in the inventory. Through this program, we have created 30+ summer jobs for local students.

Citizen Pruners (2016-2022): In partnership with local, certified arborists and the Township of Centre Wellington we train citizens to prune young trees.

Tree Trust (2019-2022): After seeing how many mature trees are in need of care over the years, we launched this program in Centre Wellington to help our most important trees. We use public donations to hire local, certified arborists to care for mature trees. Since 2020, we have added five-chapter communities in southern Ontario that have adopted the program to take care of their own trees. To learn more, visit TreeTrust.ca. 

Tree Plants (annual): organized early spring tree plantings and fall mulching days with the help of trained tree stewards. In 2010, with funding from the Automotive Recyclers of Ontario, Neighbourwoods partnered with CWDHS landscape students and planted more than 200 trees and shrubs on industrial, commercial, and institutional properties in Centre Wellington.

Public Education Campaigns: Tree Talks, Tree Walks, tree price tags, heritage tree photo contests, table displays, newspaper columns, and newsletters.

ENERGY 

EnerGuide for Houses & ecoENERGY Retrofit Homes (2007-2010): Long before government grants were available, we performed residential energy evaluations with our “house doctors” who travelled on bicycles. Since it began in Canada, we were involved in Canadian home energy labelling, piloting the EnerGuide for Houses program in 1998. We performed energy evaluations on over 30,000 homes, translating into a reduction of more than 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. From 2007 to 2010, our clients received over $10 million in grants to help them increase the energy efficiency of their homes.  

Green Retail (2009-2010): We conducted 225 walk-through audits for small businesses across south-western Ontario between May 2009 and January 2010. We also provided practical advice on how business owners can lower energy consumption and increase savings. We achieved over $50,441 in cumulative energy savings and saved in excess of 200 tonnes of C02, with a potential of 1,250 tonnes of C02 savings once business owners have followed through on recommendations.

Youth Energy Project (2009): High school students put learning about energy into practice in their own homes. Students installed a demonstrative photovoltaic system in the main public area of the school so all could see energy generated by the panel, presented to the entire student body an explanation of power conservation and alternative electrical energy sources, and select students received an intense session on home electrical monitoring and conservation and took home a kit to identify energy savings opportunities. This project field-tested a useful conservation tool that may be implemented in other schools throughout Ontario.    

TRANSPORTATION

ecoDriver (2009): Centred in Halton Region, this program educated drivers about proper maintenance, correct tire pressure, and other habits that lead to reduced gas usage and emissions with a goal of promoting an environmentally-responsible driving lifestyle. We successfully:
–  reached 200 drivers through one-on-one education,
– held a tire pressure clinic at Burlington Canadian Tire store which resulted in 197 drivers learning about proper tire inflation and the importance of vehicle maintenance to emissions reduction, and
– facilitated Lunch & Learn sessions for 10 participating businesses.

WATER

Well Aware (2002): This program provided citizens with a guided self-assessment and an education regarding private water wells with the goal of promoting behaviour changes so that residents can safeguard their wellhead and those of their downstream neighbours who share the aquifer. We successfully:
– reached 800 rural families,
– facilitated public forums in several communities featuring guest speakers from Public Health Units, Conservation Authorities and local municipalities, professional well drillers, septic specialists, the Ontario Ground Water Association, and hydro-geologists, and
– organized workshops that shared information and ensured common messaging around well safety.

UpStream (2003): Offered an integrated learning experience to help students in K-8 understand the river, make connections with an ecosystem, and act responsibly towards their environment and more specifically, their watershed.

Well Wise (2007): Based on the children’s book and program “Aqua’s Water Well Adventures” by Dr. Mary Jane Conboy of the Well Wise Resource Centre, this interactive program reached children grades 1-4 to educate students on water stewardship. The program included a groundwater model demonstration with exercises to learn about water in different forms (liquid, solid, vapour), and interactive arts and crafts segments that encouraged children to create artwork depicting their favourite part of the water cycle.    

Rain Barrels (2003): The EEC offered rain barrels to residents of Wellington County. We sold 295 barrels, well over the initial project goal of 200. During the summer months, 50% of the water used went to watering lawns and gardens. Five dollars for each barrel sold was donated to support the Association for Community Living in Fergus.

OTHER PROGRAMS WE HAVE RUN IN OUR COMMUNITY:

Green Garden Visits (2002): The EEC’s organic gardening expert visited 25 homeowners in Fergus and Elora to provide advice on reducing pesticide use, conserving water, planting wildlife-friendly gardens and more. We also distributed Green Garden Information Kits to homeowners. Environment Canada estimates that up to 50% of the chemicals we use in our yards can wash into local waterways. This is unhealthy for our lakes, rivers and groundwater, and it’s a lot of money down the drain!

Nature Explorer’s Day Camp (2002-2003):  This camp was created with the understanding that a green future lies in environmentally aware and inspired children. Operating in Fergus and Elora for children ages 6-10, the camp hosted 60 children in 2002 and 55 children in 2003.

Burn It Smart (January-February 2003):  The EEC hosted 24 free Burn It Smart workshops for members of the public and industry professionals in Fergus, Guelph, Kitchener, Paris, London, Hanover, Wingham, Kincardine, Port Elgin, Cambridge, Clinton and Tillsonburg. Over 1,000 people learned how to burn wood in a more efficient, safe and environmentally-friendly way. Smart wood-burning means less carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and all kinds of volatile organic compounds in the air we breathe.

Active & Safe Routes to School (2003):  48 schools in Guelph and Waterloo Region hosted a Walking Wednesday program, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 6 tonnes.  Over 9,000 students from 27 schools in Guelph and Waterloo Region joined millions of students from around the world on International Walk to School Day on October 8, 2003, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over half a tone on that one day.  Over 200 anti-idling education packages were distributed over the life of the program, with over 100 parents making anti-idling pledges. Idling vehicles while waiting for students produces twice the pollution of moving cars!

Green Hotline (2009): With generous grant money from the Trillium Foundation, the EEC piloted an environmental phone resource, helping Dufferin and Wellington Counties residents make good environmental choices. Extensive resource database created, public outreach workshops on a variety of environmental topics as highlighted by phone calls, buying of local goods and services promoted.