I received this press release in my inbox the other day and was agog — aGOG, I say! — to read what it said:
(Toronto, Canada, January 29, 2009) Today, Corporate Knights magazine unveiled the third-annual Corporate Knights Most Sustainable Cities in Canada list. The comprehensive ranking identifies Canadian cities whose practices leave the smallest environmental footprint possible and create a healthy, thriving population.
But then… then I read this:
The top cities in the 2009 Corporate Knights Sustainable Cities Ranking are as follows:
Large city category: Edmonton, AB
Medium city category: Halifax, NS
Small city category: Yellowknife, NT
EDMONTON?! Is that, like, a typo for Toronto? Or Vancouver? How could a city in such close proximity to dirty oil, a city renowned only for its enormous mall where you can swim with captive sea lions right after eating in a completely indoors “Chinatown” be considered the most sustainable in all of Canada?
Before I could even let my confusion take hold, I read on:
With the lowest unemployment rate of all cities and the second-lowest unemployment rate of immigrants, Edmonton wants to be an “innovation centre for value-added and green technologies and products,” and is measuring progress by the percentage of green collar jobs created. Edmonton is also the only city in our consideration set to have inclining block pricing on water to encourage conservation.
Um, all right, as much I don’t want to knock the city for their green-collar jobs and negative-reinforcement water-conservation strategy, are these actually the most important factors in being sustainable? What about wind turbines, deep-lake cooling systems and green roofs? What about public transit and bike lanes? Carbon taxes? Population density?? FARMER’S MARKETS AND COMPOSTING INFRASTRUCTURE AND A MILLION OTHER THINGS TORONTO IS DOING?!?
OK, so maybe I’m just a sore loser. It’s just that, while I can see why Halifax won in the medium city category (although, I’d vote for Guelph, personally), this whole study seems suspicious to me. Yellowknife? Honestly? It’s frozen solid up there! They’re just sustainable by default.
At least they chose Edmonton and not Calgary. Honestly, folks in Edmonton are way better at the reduce, reuse and recycle than Calgarians. Plus, the dirty oil is in Fort Mac, their offices are just in Edmonton. And also, don’t forget about the smog and pollution in TO – not comparable out here. Edmonton is actually quite green..
I’m an Edmontonian, and while I was surprised we won, we’re not as bad as you might think. We do have a transit system that is being expanded, city wide recycling and a few farmer’s markets, if those are your criteria. Take a look at some of the environmental programs here: http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental.aspx
We even recycle the sand that is used on the roads in the winter (I think the sand vs. salt jury is still deliberating though): http://www.sandrecycling.com/index.php
Don’t be too hard on us. We didn’t choose to have dirty oil in our backyard. If it wasn’t for our dirty oil, the rest of the country would be broke!! This east/west animosity gets annoying sometimes, shouldn’t we all just work together to make it a green country, nevermind a green city?
Deadmonton!!!! I love it!
Hahaha, I would have had the same reaction… We’re such Torontonians, eh. No wonder Canada hates us…
Hey, that’s awesome Lisa — I think that’s the first time I’ve EVER heard of recycling sand! And yeah, when I looked around a bit more online, Edmonton actually seemed a lot more green that I assumed it was.
And I agree — I’d actually like to see how much the rest of the country profits from Alberta’s oil… not sure if there are hard numbers anywhere, but it would be pretty interesting.
Honestly, though, I’m just playing up the Toronto snob card here and taking the piss… all in good fun. I’ve got nothing against any Canadian city.
American cities, though… well…
KIDDING!! Kidding kidding.
Oh, and P.S. I think what concerned me about the study wasn’t so much that Edmonton won, but that the criteria for being green seemed so random. There didn’t seem to be any points for actual infrastructure or transportation or density or anything…
Have you even looked at the criteria?
Doesn’t look so random to me.
I just did, Jacob. While I’m happy to see that things like farmer’s markets, bike lanes and community gardens were included, I’m less impressed with factors like commuting distance — if you’re biking to work, it doesn’t really matter how far that is; and with someone like me, who works far from home but only goes into the office once or twice a week, that’s kind of hard to measure. Also hard to get any empirical data on are things such as “life satisfaction”. And while being happy is sort of vaguely connected to sustainability, it’s a bit of a stretch — I can be totally depressed and still recycle.
Anyway, again, not trying to knock Edmonton here, just pointing out that the majority of studies are inherently going to have some flaws.
I assume the criteria did not include points for smug self-centeredness, otherwise TO would have got it with a landslide. People just think of tarsands when they think of Alberta, but it’s actually a very environmentally friendly place.
I am a born BCer who moved to Edmonton for University and I must say I was quite frightened at the prospect of moving to the land of oil. But, having lived here for going on 7 years, I have found Edmonton to have a very strong undercurrent of progressives. You just need to look for it. I mean, check out Earth’s General Store on Whyte Avenue (http://www.earthsgeneralstore.com/)!
And Alberta has some of the most dedicated environmental justice warriors in Canada ; )
aw give them their little award, they have nothing else going for them but a mall… and a hell-ofa-lotta Red Lobsters.
Well, I too am surprised that my hometown won a sustainability award. But again, Edmonton itself is surprisingly “green” in many ways. It was, I believe, the first in Canada and one of the first in NA to implement a city-wide composting program and it’s always been a leader in recyling. The waste system is particularly great for its ease of use which leads to a very high participation rate. The current system has curbside pick-up of unsorted recyclables, and the composter is fed by the regular garbage and filtered later to remove non-compostables. It’s finally expanding its transit infrastructure, people love their farmer’s markets, and the river valley is mostly preserved, yielding crazy amounts of green space per capita. And I’ve got to give a second shot-out to Earth’s General Store: I’ve never found another place like it, and end up sopoping there every time I go home to visit
There are all sorts of terrible things too, such as the ties to the oil sands, the incredible urban sprawl and ensuing poor transit system, the love of pick-up trucks, the location which means pretty much everyhting but wheat and beef can’t be local… the list is long and depressing. But it’s getting better.
Think of Edmonton as the Austin of the Texas of Canada: a progressive, artsy eye in an oil storm.
I’m a Yellowknifer and just wanted to represent my city – it’s a hell of a lot harder to be green when you have extreme climates to deal with and I think we deserve the recognition!
DEADMONTON SUCKS AND I LIVE THERE!!!!!!!!!!