Community Action

Everybody has the potential to be an environmental champion.

Community action or "sustainability culture" is about creating heightened environmental awareness in everyone that enables positive behavioural changes. We aim to reach a point where Council, Region staff, citizens and businesses routinely look for opportunities for continuous environmental improvement in their daily lives and work.

Community Environmental Fund 2016

The Community Environmental Fund (CEF) was established to support community-based environmental initiatives. The CEF assists community members and organizations who wish to carry out projects that protect, promote, and enhance our natural environment. Visit the About the Environment page for details and to apply.

Completed Community Environmental Fund Projects

Please find below some examples of completed projects financially supported by the Region of Waterloo's Community Environmental Fund.  


St. Margaret Catholic School Project: $4,900

Community Environmental Fund - Sustainability Grant

This Cambridge school received two grants from the Community Environmental Fund. The first (2010) sought to enhance the ecological quality of the schoolyard by planting native trees and creating several outdoor seating areas. Additional funding was received from the Evergreen Foundation and the TD Canada Trust Fund

The second phase of the greening project (2012) known as "Operation Recreation" resulted in the development of an outdoor classroom area complete with Armourstone seating within the existing woodlot on the school property. Also, a pathway was created leading from the school into the woodlot and the outdoor classroom. Low-maintenance, drought-tolerant native species were used to enhance the pathway and the classroom area.


St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School - Waste Diversion Project: $6,000

Waste diversion at St. Benedicts

The CEF enabled students, staff and teachers at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School to implement a waste diversion program to capture the recyclables that audits showed made up 70 per cent  of the school's waste stream.

The movement to divert a significant portion of the school's waste stream from landfill was driven by the school's Eco Squad: a collaboration of students, staff, the Head Custodian, and the school's administration. Not only did team members find a way to divert waste, they found a way to inspire and mobilize the entire student body.

Waste receptacles were designed and manufactured in the school's own metal shop classrooms under the guidance and support of the teacher. While design and manufacturing were underway, the EcoSquad scoured the school collecting data on waste composition and designed an education program to remind everyone to recycle. The final waste audit after implementation of the new diversion bins showed 28 per cent fewer recyclables were being disposed of in the garbage. The drive to recycle is continuing. When sports team are active in the spring and fall, the new bins are set up outside around the school grounds to capture recyclables.

Additional posters will continue to inspire students to make use of the new infrastructure. The original goal for this project was to improve recycling rates at the school; however, this project has accomplished much more. Students and everyone in the school community can take pride in this "home-grown" solution that will be visible in the community for years to come. And most importantly, the entire school population came together in a single purpose: to reduce their ecological footprint.

REEP Green Solutions Solar Thermal Project: $15,000

REEP group photo with solar thermal systemThe Region of Waterloo 2012 Community Environmental Fund supported REEP Green Solution's Solar Thermal Project. This project consisted of three education workshops and an installation near downtown Kitchener.

The workshops presented the business case for solar water heating for institutions with high water consumption; helped homeowners explore the technology for heating domestic hot water, living space and swimming pools; and provided a unique experience for participants to assemble a miniature solar collector. Installation of two solar panels at the REEP House culminated the project, which now serves to reduce natural gas by preheating water for the boiler during winter months and heat domestic hot water during warmer months.

Half a tonne of greenhouse gas per year is expected to be reduced from this system. REEP has successfully created a lasting, visible, and accessible demonstration of the indoor and outdoor components of a solar thermal system to further enhance solar energy literacy and adoption. The adjacent photograph shows the REEP Solar Thermal Project staff and volunteers.

rare North House Project: $15,000

North House Project with rare
The Region's Community Environmental Fund provided a sustainability grant to rare Charitable Research Reserve to help with their North House project.  The recently completed building involved re-constructing an award winning pre-fabricated solar house which was designed by University of Waterloo architecture and engineering students.  Nestled in the quaint Blair Village Heritage District, this house really captures the important balance between innovative change occurring within the region while still preserving the rural charm of the area.

 North House demonstrates a green housing model that makes sustainable living attractive and rewarding. The combination of passive and active solar design, integrated energy production, customized components and mobile interactive technologies, produces a modern high performance home that sets a new standard for solar design in Canada's northern climate. The features of North House reflect both the science of sustainability and the human lifestyle in terms of energy gain, conservation of natural resources, manufacturing and building design, and interior/exterior connections to the surrounding environment.

Tours are available: see or call Katherine at 519-650-9336 x 124



Grand River Carshare Purchase of an Electric Vehicle: $15,000 Grant

carshare photo

The Region of Waterloo 2012 Community Environmental Fund helped Grand River Carshare fund the purchase an electric vehicle (EV), the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, to demonstrate and promote electric vehicle technology and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project allowed carshare members to try the new technology and reduced approximately 525 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions over the first 5 months of use (Aug. 29, 2012 - Jan. 31, 2013). Grand River Carshare will be conducting a survey to assess members' experience with the i-MiEV as well as analyzing the spring and summer usage data during 2013, when they typically experience higher vehicle usage. The project has also highlighted the need for more charging infrastructure to support the use of the new technology within Waterloo Region as there are several EV models at local auto dealerships available to purchase. 

Grand River CarShare's EV is also bullfrog powered with 100% green electricity. This means that Bullfrog Power provides renewable green power into the Ontario grid to match the amount of electricity that Grand River CarShare uses for their electric vehicle in addition to their offices.  All of the electricity used by the CarShare's EV is sourced exclusively from wind and low-impact hydro power producers who meet or exceed EcoLogo standards for renewable energy.

Foodlink Waterloo Region - Buy Local Buy Fresh mapping application for mobile devices: $5,000 grant


The Region of Waterloo 2012 Community Environmental Fund helped fund the development of a free software application to expand access to Foodlink's local food database via handheld devices (previously only available as a printed map) to give users access to the local food market and support the Local Food movement. The App was successfully launched in May 2012 with nearly 600 downloads by Blackberry users of the application at the completion of the first phase of the roll out and included the most efficient bus and cycling routes, encouraging alternative carbon friendly transportation options. A more extensive marketing campaign is planned for the second phase which includes expanding to all smart phone platforms and monitoring user statistics. This App will allow Region of Waterloo citizens to forgo the paper version of the "Buy Local Buy Fresh" map (reducing printing and paper costs) which can quickly become outdated. Foodlink actively promoted this app at events such as 'Taste Local! Taste Fresh!' and the 2012 International Plowing Match.

Other ways we encourage people to make easy, basic changes that will contribute to a quality of life that is sustainable:

  • Buy Local Buy Fresh
    For over a decade, the Region has encouraged people to eat more locally produced food, both as a way to support our farmers and to reduce transport-related air emissions. Look for the Buy Local Buy Fresh logo to identify local food at your favourite food store or farmers' market. Or grow your own food in your backyard or in one of the network of Community Gardens in the Region.
  • Travelwise
    There are many ways to travel to work, including transit, carpooling, cycling, walking, or combinations of them. Employees can make sustainable travel choices like these more easily using programs and incentives offered through the Region's Travelwise project. You can become more physically fit, save money and help the environment by commuting in sustainable and active ways.