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Eden Mills group leading way towards carbon neutral village

by Chris Daponte

A small but dedicated group of Eden Mills residents is hoping to make a difference in the area of climate change, and could gain some notoriety in the process.

The group, led by architect Charles Simon, is hoping to establish Eden Mills as the first carbon neutral village in North America.

“We, the people, are the major carbon emitters, so we should be part of the solution,” Simon said during a recent visit to Guelph-Eramosa council.

He noted that everyone - the public, industry, and government - seems to be waiting around for somebody else to do something about global warming, and nothing ever gets done.

His group, which now numbers over 15, wants to change all that.

The ultimate goal is to have the entire village participate in an effort to emit no more carbon dioxide than it absorbs - an enormous task, considering the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles alone.

Most people living in the village, which has a total population of about 350, rely on vehicles for their commute to work and even to do basic household errands.

The grass roots project will try to achieve the carbon neutral goal through a three- prong°©ed strategy:

- reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted through less frequent use of vehicles and carbon burning fuels;

- replacing carbon fuels with renewable and more environmentally friendly energy sources, such as wind, biofuels, and others; and

- increasing carbon dioxide absorption by widespread plant°©ing of trees and other plants.

But before that strategy can be put in place, the group must start with the “carbon blueprint” of the village, Simon explained.

That means uncovering exactly how much carbon dioxide is emitted in the village. To get an idea, the group has employed the help of staff and students at the University of Guelph.

Students will be visiting homes in the village to conduct a household survey, and the data collected will be used to help form the specifics of the strategy.

Andy Gordon, forest ecology professor at the university, will help the group with its carbon absorption plan, including the use of hybrid trees. And environmental biology professor Paul Sibley will be assisting the group with the household survey.

Simon said he has also re°©ceived assurances from several other groups that they are willing to help, including Well°©ington County’s Green Legacy Program and local schools.

Liby Little, who along with her husband Glenn was one of the first to join Simon’s group, has had talks with school board officials about the idea of building environmental “prototype” classrooms - including a straw bale design and solar pan°©els - that could possibly re°©place portables.

She told council that the main impediment right now, as is usually the case with this type of an idea, is money.

Another idea the group proposes is the development of a trail system from Eden Mills to Rockwood, which would help lessen the need for local use of vehicles.

But for the village to really cut down on driving, Simon ac°©knowledges there has to be some sort of long-term transportation plans from governments to help alleviate the dependence on carbon-emitting vehicles.

Though he was motivated by the Eden Mills and Our Natural World speaker series, Simon said it was a recent trip to England with his wife, Anna, that really gave him the carbon neutral idea.

There, the village of Ashton Hayes has a similar goal - becoming the first carbon neutral village in England. And according to its website (goingcarbonneutral.co.uk), the group there has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent in just one year.

Simon said the Eden Mills group is eager to get started and will be hosting a public meeting on Nov. 8 at 7pm at the Eden Mills community hall to officially launch their idea.

A large part of the campaign, he added, will entail educating residents and spreading the word about the project. To that end, the group hopes to launch its own website, going-carbonneutral.ca, very shortly.

“This is a grass roots and volunteer-oriented effort, and totally non-confrontational,” he told council.

Simon added that his group plans to approach local businesses for financial support, and if it had the support of council, that would go along way in convincing others to help.

Though the project is centred on Eden Mills, it would be good for the entire township, he explained.

And council seemed to agree.

Councillor Reta Moyer said she likes the idea and will make sure she brings it forward at the next economic development committee to see if there is anything the committee can do to help out.

Councillor Doug Breen told Simon the township’s trails committee already has the issue on its agenda, and said personally he agrees with his wife, who is very proud of Simon and his group for what they are trying to do.

“I love the energy,” Breen told Simon.

Mayor Chris White said the idea speaks to the talent, drive, and compassion of the residents of the township.

“This is an incredible feat you are undertaking … with phenomenal potential for everyone,” White said, adding everyone in the group should be proud of themselves.

Council unanimously passed a resolution granting in-principle support to the carbon neutral project.

Simon thanked council and invited everyone to the Nov. 8 public meeting at 7pm at the Eden Mills community hall.


A project of the Eden Mills Millpond Conservation Association Inc.

The Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral Project is supported in part by a grant from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s Community Go Green Fund.