Driven to Action – Stopping Sprawl in Your Community

Sprawl consumes large quantities of land, segregates houses from shops and workplaces, depends on cars, and has little regard for the natural environment. In some parts of
Canada sprawl is the largest driver of greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, most Canadians do not personally build the houses, streets, schools, parks or water lines that make cities possible. But we can set the rules for building sustainable cities and help make the plans that determine how we get to work, school and shopping.

The David Suzuki Foundation’s report, Understanding Sprawl, and toolkit encourages communities to reshape urban areas. We need more dense and compact cities, with better bike paths and pedestrian friendly walkways.

Learn more:

Acrobat Reader 5 or above required for PDFs. Click here to download for free.

Understanding Sprawl contains a toolkit called Driven to Action to help citizens protect their communities from sprawling development. It consists of the following:

  • Getting started (PDF): A brief overview of what you can do to stop sprawl in your neighbourhood
  • Sprawl facts (PDF): Learn why sprawl is a problem
  • Shaping decisions (PDF): Find out how to contact politicians and decision makers and express your concerns
  • Working with the media (PDF): Tips on how to get your message in the news
  • Tools (PDF): Examples of tools to help you get started

A printed version of Understanding Sprawl, containing all of the above elements in an easy-to-use format is available for $10 (to cover shipping and handling). To order, call 1-800-453-1533 or email.

Other resources:

  • Smart Growth Canada: One of the most comprehensive Canadian websites on community growth and development.
  • Ontario Smart Growth Network: The Ontario Smart Growth Network brings together organizations that are working together to stop urban sprawl and promote sustainable communities across Ontario.
  • SmartGrowthBC: Excellent info on smart growth & citizen involvement.
  • Sprawl Busters: An international clearinghouse on big box, anti-sprawl information.
  • Sierra Club: Information and further links on sprawl.
  • Federation of Ontario Naturalists: Good background on sprawl in Ontario
  • Kyoto and Sprawl: This website highlights the connection between sprawl and climate change.
  • West Coast Environmental Law: This publication provides information on how law in British Columbia can be used to promote smart growth.
  • The Pembina Institute: The study examines the relationships between air quality, climate change and urban development issues in an Ontario context.

To The City of London – On Behalf of the Council of Canadians | London Chapter | Environment & Climate Change Protection Committee

City of London,

Planning Committee

Dear Controller and Councillors,

June 17 2007

My name is Kevin Lomack and I would like to begin by stating how much

I appreciate this opportunity to address everyone on the Planning

Committee directly with my thoughts and those of the Council of

Canadians – London Chapter – Environment and Climate Change Committee,

on the topic of establishing a moratorium on any new drive-thru


The question of whether establishing a moratorium on businesses in

London wishing to be permitted to operate under this increasingly

environmentally insensitive model has been on our minds for some time.

We have been thinking that this idea made complete sense in

conjunction with our overall desire to do absolutely everything we

could to promote the reduction of unnecessary vehicle idling in every

situation where this is possible in this city and region.

It is our contention, that anything less than diligently and

persistently thriving to achieve this goal is not at all responsible

to the unfortunate individuals in our community who are currently

experiencing major medical challenges such as respiratory and heart

conditions as a result of vehicle emissions. We are also concerned for

those of us who will undoubtedly be afflicted ourselves at some point

in time if we as a society should fail to make significant strides in

the appropriate direction in each and every instance where we can

improve the environment.

Through the course of the last several months, with the two Public

Participation Meetings as well as the open invitation for submissions

from the public, you have heard from myself and many of my

counterparts and other concerned constituents from the community

regarding the ‘Big Picture’ issue of Climate Change and Global

Warming. We have mentioned specifically how we would like you to

connect the dots to the present question which is determining whether

this city and region can or should tolerate any additional facilities

with a drive-thru component. I will not specifically speak to the

‘big picture principles again as I trust that all of you share with us

an appreciation and understanding of what is continuing to happen to

our environment as a direct result of the actions of the human species

over the past few decades.

When I spoke to the Planning Committee – that some of you were a

part of on November 12 2007, my hope was that I was able to clearly

articulate to everyone present that it was then and continues to be

our belief that if you were somehow able to conclude that it could be

considered rational, defensible and reasonable, from a public policy

perspective, given the vast body of scientific evidence supporting the

conclusion that more serious and forward thinking decisions will need

to be made by Council to mitigate against some of the dire

environmental consequences we are witnessing today, we would do our

best to try to understand. However, we are not at all convinced, and

we truly believe that you are not either, that the issue of excessive

and unnecessary idling can be ignored.

Considering the fact that the well being of our fellow citizens

is an integral part of the City of London’s vision statement – and I

will quote from the web page : We are a caring, responsive community

committed to the health and well-being of all Londoners. The actions

we take will be socially, environmentally, and fiscally responsible so

that our quality of life is enhanced and sustained for future


It is in this context, that I think that I would like to make some

comments on what has been mentioned in the Official Plan Zoning

Refinement Review, prepared by staff for the Public Participation

Meeting on May 26th. And the resolution that was passed by council on

November 19 2007

On page 27 (F) of the report, it is mentioned that the planning

staff do not have the specific expertise to address the question of

the health and environmental impacts of drive-through facilities. We

respectfully are in agreement with this conclusion. And certainly when

one looks at the resolution that was passed by council on November 19

2007, it is clearly evident that planning staff were not expected to

provide any conclusion or direct opinion on these points. The mention

that an independent scientific opinion on the information brought

forward by the public and industry would certainly indicate that a

conclusion on this sort of a serious scientific topic was respectfully

beyond the reach of the department’s background. In fact, it would be

our desire to have this question determined through another standing

committee such as the Environment & Transportation Committee in

conjunction with the appropriate inside and outside experts. Having

someone `hired by the industry, prepare a report with the expectation

that everything contained within would be taken at face value can not

be considered responsible.

On page 28 (G), the question from 14 ( b) of the resolution “the

impact of a complete moratorium on drive through uses” is commented

on. We are also in agreement with the conclusion that it would indeed

need to be a conscious effort by Council to not approve any new drive-

through facilities. This is precisely the kind of thinking that we and

many others in the public believe Council should be engaged in given

the critical and crucial need to capitalize on each and every

opportunity available to foster positive change to our environment. We

would further expect that any sort of increasingly restrictive

policies that should need to be fashioned and implemented into the

Official Plan as has been suggested, would be prepared and presented

as per the standard practice.

In the report, under the above heading, it is mentioned that the

“financial implications to the drive-through industry are unknown”.

With all due respect to the industry, it is our hope and expectation

that this Council would not be in the position to make its assessment

of the merits of this environmental and health related question based

on the financial consequences to an industry that clearly uses

business models elsewhere without a drive-through component with much


Further on page 28 (G), the question from 14 (c) of the resolution

“the impacts of restricting drive- through uses on persons with

disabilities” is commented on. It is not at all lost on us and we

fully appreciate that since the introduction of the drive-through in

around 1970, those with mobility difficulties have felt themselves to

be more appropriately accommodated. We are confident that those from

the industry and the people with disabilities could come up with some

innovative and creative solutions that don’t involve excesses idling

when a moratorium is introduced. Those who have contacted us from this

community have not indicated that their desire to be accommodated by

the industry and public policy regulations should trump the overall

desire to maintain or enhance the quality of the air we all breathe.

This is all I feel I need to comment on from the report prepared

by Charles Parker that is connected to the environmental and health

consequences of the drive-through industry.

I would like to ask you to turn your mind to the document

prepared by Jamie Skimming and Jay Stanford entitled “Environmental

Statement on the Need to Reduce Idling in London”. It would be our

conclusion that these two competent and trusted gentlemen clearly see

the detriment in not pursuing measurable actions toward the reduction

of idling in London. Funds have been requested to pursue additional

idling initiatives in the 2008 budget and were not supported.

The statistics given in this report should prompt anyone to choose

to park and walk in rather than use the drive-through. The fact is

that the message is not getting out to the public adequately and the

environment can’t wait for this to happen. They also speak to many

instances where there is a major divergence of scientific opinion

between the RWDI study and the generally accepted authorities.

We are completely aligned with most of what the author’s state

including the statement that in all cases, the decision to leave the

automobile engine running is a voluntary one, and one that usually

serves no useful purpose except to provide comfort and convenience.

With this in mind, I ask you, how can ones own personal comfort and

convenience trump the severely negative consequences to the


Our instincts would lead us to agree with Mr. Skimming and Mr.

Stanford that it is imperative that Tim Horton’s and the other members

of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association should become

part of the solution to reduce idling. In a general context – any form

of adherence to the definition of Corporate Social Responsibility

would require them to be more mindful of the impacts of pushing back

against this moratorium challenge. We have yet to see signs of CSR

from the TDL group to the environmental challenges that this industry

is now and will continue to experience. In fact, when we asked,

repeatedly, that they consider the concept of offering a nominal

discount for individuals who choose to walk in rather than use the

drive-thru we did not even receive so much as a reply.

We, in our capacity as volunteers under an NGO banner, are not

currently capable of providing any sort of in-depth scientific

response to the RWDI Study which has been presented, but we certainly

agree with what this staff report has suggested regarding concerns

with certain limitations, the use of certain assumptions and some of

the conclusions drawn. The thought that vehicles lining up as they do

each day at many thousands of locations across the country, without

causing any environmental detriment is preposterous.

There are many more instances cited in the report where the City of

London staff have inferred that the conclusions and related data in

the RWDI report are not able to be relied upon as they don’t

accurately represent a true picture of the environmental impact of the

drive-thru industry. So much for the value of the peer review that we

waited all those months for.

Staff have made some significant and very progressive recommendations

as to what should be happening in this city with respect to the issue

of vehicle idling. Many others in the community are doing their best

each and every day to play a part in improving our environment. It

would be such a shame to have any or all of the value of these

initiatives negated by the fact that concerns surrounding taking away

certain individuals personal convenience and optimism that the

appropriate corporate environmental responsibility will soon be

exhibited, prevented this committee from making the consistently

environmentally responsible decisions we all need you to make on our


Council of Canadians

London Chapter

Environment & Climate Change Committee

Love affair with cars is taking its toll

We can call them toll highways or congestion charges or road pricing, or just another tax, but the era of the “freeway” is clearly passing its due date.

Charging tolls on highways and roads may be wildly unpopular among voters everywhere — and politically dangerous around the world — but in almost all other respects, it solves many problems: It can relieve traffic congestion, help save the environment, increase economic efficiency and protect many taxpayers.

And, yes, it can finance the construction of new roads and expansion of existing ones, but only if they’re truly needed.

An electronic road pricing scheme already exists in Toronto, which is now considering more.

The auto congestion charge in London, England, has become famous as much for reducing downtown traffic and increasing public transit use, as it has for gaining public acceptance.

Singapore has one. Stockholm has one. Milan introduced one this year.

Toll roads force more people to use public transit, and therefore make public transit more efficient and more attractive.

They persuade some people to live closer to work. They can make shipping by rail more attractive than by truck, therefore relieving congestion and sparing us all the air pollution.

In Toronto and many other jurisdictions, the business community, often opposed to more “taxes,” has come to understand the various benefits of road pricing.

It’s true that gasoline taxes should cover the cost of new roads and road maintenance, but it’s not clear they actually do.

And, yes, the price of gasoline is already surging, but clearly motorists can use more encouragement to avoid running their cars.

In an increasingly urban country, efficient road and transportation systems are vital to the economy.

But when too many users consider the service “free” and squander the privilege, it quickly begins to fail. Governments cannot maintain roads or expand them fast enough to meet the seemingly unquenchable thirst of a car-addicted society.

It’s time we put an end to the free ride.

— Paul Berton,

Post Carbon London Supports a Moratorium



Integrated Community Sustainability Planning Tool 2007

This is exceptional.

A community sustainability plan is about integrating social and economic imperatives into the quality of place (the ecological imperative). The integration of people, place and economy into a single plan over a long-term perspective is a critical process for achieving sustainable community development. In many ways an integrated sustainable community plan is a process of reconciliation, with the three imperatives of sustainable development being bought together in an integrated policy planning and collaborative decision-making framework.


Leading the way to cleaner air

Leading the way to cleaner air

In the case of air pollution, the small thing may be a very small car. This is what defines the movement known as sustainability. Modern society pumps millions of tons of carbon emissions into the sky, and the problem of cleaning up the whole atmosphere can seem overwhelming. But sustainability says to start with one little thing. For one Gold Canyon commuter, that meant giving up a big truck and getting a Smart car. For a crew of innovators in Tucson, it means accepting that we’re going to keep emitting greenhouse gases — and building a way to pull them back out of the atmosphere instead.

All across Arizona, people are finding real ways to balance the needs of the planet with the needs of people. Today, The Arizona Republic introduces you to the ways Arizonans are keeping the air cleaner for tomorrow.

New developments can play vital role

One way to clear Arizona’s air of all the stuff that smears our skies and chokes our lungs — the particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone — is to just stop. Stop driving. Stop building things. Stop relying on power plants that belch pollutants.

The sustainability movement would take another approach to air quality: Do something that strikes an enduring balance between the demands of growing communities and the environment.

The problem is, some of the steps people can take to improve the air may seem inadequate or ineffective because the results are not immediately apparent. Ride the bus, form a carpool, even get a neighbor on board and what changes outside?

That is where sustainability’s grass-roots nature can play an important role. Individual acts and personal responsibility are valued and encouraged. What people do on their own can lead to larger steps from business and, ultimately, government leaders.

Bad air is a problem easy to see. Far-reaching solutions remain elusive.

Driving: Americans could save 1.6 billion4 gallons of gas by maintaining proper tire pressure.

Faced with a 64-mile round-trip commute from his horse-property near Gold Canyon and his workplace in Phoenix bought a Smart car.

The vehicle is itself a product of a sustainability initiative, built by a European partnership using recycled and recyclable materials. Its tires don’t even spit the grains of rubber that aggravate Phoenix’s brown cloud.

The car’s defining feature is its size, about 8 feet long and 5 feet wide. Yarina’s 2006 model gets about 50 miles to the gallon and emits less than one-third the carbon dioxide of a typical car.

“It’s incredible what that little car can do,” Yarina said. “It can’t be beat. It’s roomy, parking is a cinch, it handles quick and easy and it climbs like a bat out of you-know-what.”

Yarina and his wife left Tempe 22 years ago, seeking more room for their horses. For a while, he drove a GMC Sierra King Cab pickup, but as gas prices rose, he became more conscious of the money he spent to get to and from work.

After a lot of research, he settled on a Smart car, which earned safety ratings as impressive as its gas mileage. He paid $25,000, a premium over the similarly sized, $14,000 Toyota Yaris.

Yarina shrugs off the up-front cost. He pays slightly more than $20 to fill his gas tank, and after a week’s commuting, there is still a gallon to spare. Studies by the California Air Resources Board have concluded that cheaper operating costs would generally offset the higher costs of low-emission cars and trucks.

bulletTravel: If the entire New York City taxi fleet were converted to hybrids, it would save the emissions of 24,000 cars.

Vehicle emissions are responsible for about 39 percent of the greenhouse gases in Arizona’s air and contribute heavily to concentrations of urban ozone and particulates.

Statewide, power plants make up another 39 percent of the greenhouse gas inventory, but in urban Maricopa and Pima counties, vehicles — cars and trucks on the roadways, construction equipment — account for most of the pollution Arizona’s county governments have set goals to reduce air pollution on a large scale, though the Legislature has declined to extend such goals outside the largest urban areas.

One of the most controversial plans to clean up air on a regional scale is to establish a cap-and-trade system aimed at power plants and other non-mobile sources of pollutants. The government would set air-quality limits, or caps, and then allow polluters that reduce emissions below the cap to trade or sell the difference in credits to polluters that exceed the limits.

Such plans face strong opposition from industry and lawmakers, mostly over who would set the caps and which countries and businesses would bear the greatest burden. In the meantime, smaller-scale efforts are under way across the state.

bullet Air-conditioning: Getting one unit tuned up can save 220 pounds of carbon per year.

In a warehouse-sized building on the south end of Tucson, an upstart company called Global Research Technologies has built a machine its inventors say could work almost like a huge vacuum for air pollution.

The machine is an example of new carbon-capture technology, an idea that is the focus of widespread research among electric-power providers. But while utilities would capture pollutants from a stationary source, Global Research wants to tackle the more elusive mobile sources, such as cars and trucks.

Early prototypes suggest the company’s device, about the size of an industrial shipping container, could remove 1 ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a day, about what a typical motorist produces in 10 weeks of driving.

Once captured, the carbon could be injected into underground rock formations and stored or perhaps sold for industrial uses. Injecting carbon into the ground is called carbon sequestration.

Millions of the carbon capture devices would have to be deployed to dramatically reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere, and the machines would require significant sources of renewable energy to avoid further fouling the air.

But, in an interview with The Arizona Republic last year, Global Research President Allen Wright compared the work in his company’s lab to the Wright Brothers’ first glider.

“Mankind has done big things all its life,” Wright said. “Big stuff shouldn’t be scary. It’s just big.”

bullet Home: Adding weather stripping to your doors and windows can save 1,600 pounds of carbon from electrical generation per year.

Arizona’s three major power providers, Phoenix-based Arizona Public Service Co. and Salt River Project and Tucson Electric Power, are participating in a carbon-storage pilot project near the Cholla power plant in Joseph City.

The project is a test to determine whether the methods would be viable commercially. Carbon dioxide will be brought to the site and pumped about three-quarters of a mile into an underground rock formation, where it will be stored and monitored.

“The challenge is to keep the CO2 down there,” said William Auberle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northern Arizona University who has studied carbon capture. “We’re still learning about the technology, about leaks and other issues.”

The Clean Air Act regulates air quality and sets federal standards, but Arizona’s urban areas have struggled to meet those standards. Maricopa County remains under order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce particulates, the fine bits of dust that can lodge themselves in lungs and impair breathing.

The county got more bad news earlier this year when the EPA set higher standards for ozone, a colorless, odorless gas that can worsen symptoms of asthma and other lung diseases. The new rules could put Maricopa County in violation of the law again.

bullet Trash: When 1 ton of plastic bags is reused, the energy of 11 barrels of oil is saved.

Patti Sand believes the bad air over Phoenix contributed to the death two years ago of her 11-year-old grandson, Joseph Chavez.

Joseph suffered from asthma. He took medication and underwent breathing treatments, but he remained active and in the fall of 2006 joined the school cross country team.

Sand remembers the day he died: Sept. 13. Pollution advisories had been posted. After running for a while, Joseph was hit by an asthma attack. His mother took him home for a breathing treatment, but he still struggled to breathe. She rushed him to Banner Estrella Medical Center in west Phoenix.

Arriving at the hospital a short time later, Sand hurried down a hall and saw nurses hugging and crying. She knew Joseph died later that evening.

Sand contacted the Arizona chapter of the American Lung Association the next day to find out what she could do to help spare other families a similar tragedy.

She learned that 548,000 Arizonans suffer from asthma, one of the highest rates in the nation As many as 80 Arizonans die of asthma each year.

Since Joseph died, Sand has told her story to other families, she’s volunteered her time and she’s raised money for the annual asthma walk, joining the JoJo Team, named after her grandson.

“I feel it’s going to get worse, that it’s going to become a big epidemic if we don’t do something about our air quality,” Sand said.

“One of the things my grandson used to love is the sunsets,” she said. “You look at that sunset and you think, ‘Wow, it’s a beautiful sight.’ But one of the reasons is the air pollution that makes all the beautiful colors.”

Time to build a new relationship with the world

by Wendy Elliott/The Advertiser

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Time to build a new relationship with the world

Walking home from the cinema the other night, we looked way up and saw a ‘moon dog’ or halo around the moon. It’s an optical phenomenon due to the refraction of light on ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. They are often visible in winter when there is thin, high cloud. The oldtimers believed that a halo predicted a change in the weather and they were usually right, but not last week.

I wonder if we haven’t lost the close touch that our forefathers and mothers had when it comes to the natural world. In March 90 years ago, a correspondent for The Hants Journal wrote, “Glen Brook is sending out a gurgling sound that our imagination fancies is saying, ‘spring is coming,’ and although there is no sign of leaf buds bursting, all along the banks towering up each side of the three branches of the brook there seems to be stir of getting ready, for the little rock fern that stays green through all of the frozen snow is lifting now its leaves one by one from between the lovely maple and beech roots and soon without any warning, only to the dreamers among the trees, there will come the running maple sap, after that the return of the song sparrow and the blue bird, then the old willows of the farm with trunks larger than a hogshead or puncheon, will send out their catkins or pussy willows.”

The signs of spring arriving were more tangible a century ago to the largely rural citizens of Canada. National Geographic has decreed that, despite our nasty winter, spring is starting earlier and it’s so noticeable that scientists can track it from space.

Satellites measuring when land turns green found that the spring ‘green up’ is arriving eight hours earlier every year on average since 1982 north of the Mason-Dixon line. An allergist in Pennsylvania monitored maple pollen heavy in the air March 9 when less than 20 years ago that pollen could not be measured until late April. The cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. are expected to bloom a week early this year.

Days to remind us

While the timing of spring is changing, now we have to set days to remind us of the importance of nature. For 15 years, the United Nations has been observing World Water Day March 22. Now that the world’s glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, we have deemed it time to take a day to ponder the challenges presented by a resource that is essential to the environment and to humankind.

Folks in British Columbia, where they are bringing in a carbon tax, are starting an initiative in Vancouver called One Day. It encourages residents to take small actions each day to reduce energy use. Then we have Earth Hour coming up March 29 at the exact hour of 8 p.m.

Businesses and individuals around the world aim to turn off their lights for an hour. BC Hydro is even going to measure the drop of the collective energy use during that hour to demonstrate how one small action can lead to something bigger.

Of course, the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, did make a difference in the United States. Groundbreaking federal legislation followed its success. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established that year, followed by the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

This year more than six million Canadians are expected to join 500 million people in over 180 countries to stage events and projects around environmental issues. Nearly every school child in Canada takes part in an Earth Day activity and in Atlantic Canada we clean up a lot of beaches each April.

Eco-philosopher Dr. Joanna Macy says, as humans, we have to go even further and identify ourselves with all living beings, beautiful or ugly, big or small, sentient or not. She writes about real maturity as the development of the ‘ecological self.’ “The challenge of today is to save the planet from further devastation, which violates both the enlightened self-interest of humans and non-humans, and decreases the potential of joyful existence for all.”

What can we do?

So what can we do to further our own development? Turn off the car engine if you stop for more than 10 seconds. If every driver of a light duty vehicle avoided idling by five minutes a day, collectively, we would save more than 1.8 million litres of fuel per day, almost 4,500 tons of emissions, and $1.7 million in fuel costs each day. Better yet, leave the car at home and walk, carpool or bike. One bus eliminates the emissions of 40 cars.

Turn off the lights, the computer and the TV when they’re not in use.

Think about what you eat and buy local. Try a meat-free day at least a day a week. A meat-based diet requires seven times more land than a plant-based diet. In fact, livestock production is responsible for more climate change gasses than all the motor vehicles in the world.

Compost organics and recycle in those see-through bags we have to use next month. According to Earth Day organizers, the amount of wood and paper North Americans throw away each year is enough to heat five million homes for 200 years. The list of what you can do to make the world a better place goes on and on and, without sounding like a broken record, we need to support the cause.

Macy suggests that the “most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world – we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.”