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The Usual and Unusual Suspects

Written by Alia Dharssi
Published in Future Perfect (Goethe Institut)

Executives from Canada’s biggest banks came together with other companies, landlords, the government and volunteers in a Race to Reduce. The amount of carbon emissions they saved is the equivalent of taking 4,200 cars off of Toronto’s roads.

Swapping old-fashioned light bulbs for modern energy-efficient ones, upgrading decades-old heating and air-conditioning systems and arranging offices to take advantage of sunlight seem like mundane tasks. But they can spur dramatic change.

Landlords and businesses across Canada’s Greater Toronto Area took such measures to see who could reduce their energy use more quickly in an initiative called the Race to Reduce. They dropped their collective carbon emissions so much that it amounted to taking more than 4,200 cars off of Toronto’s roads. In the process, they also saved 13.7 million Canadian dollars and were named one of 15 finalists out of 2,000 competitors for the 2015 Energy Globe World Awards.

From wariness to whopping success

Back in 2011, when CivicAction, an organization that unites business and civic leaders to respond to social, economic and environmental challenges facing the Toronto area, launched the Race to Reduce, its leaders were uncertain about whether it would succeed. Some large landlords and big businesses were wary of the idea, explains Brad Henderson, co-chair of the leadership committee for the Race to Reduce. A few thought they were already doing their bit. Others anticipated – incorrectly – that it would cost more than it would save.

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