Web 2.0 tools will help Toronto businesses fight climate change

A joint initiative by environmental consutancy, Zerofootprint Inc. and the City of Toronto will use social networking tools to fight climate change on a massive scale.

A key aim of the project is to help employees in Toronto companies identify and analyze energy-guzzling practices, and then pursue change.  

Torontonians will soon be able to join a city-specific version of Zerofootprint’s Web 2.0-style site that seeks to foster green consciousness and practices.

The site launches Feb. 26 in partnership with the City of Toronto.

City employees have already been using the site’s greenhouse gas emissions calculator to measure their carbon footprint.  

“The idea is to [offer] a granular approach to measuring your carbon footprint,” says Deborah Kaplan, executive director at Zerofootprint.

Companies, she says, can create groups that their employees would join and collectively track their emissions.

Business intelligence (BI) software from San Jose, Calif.-based Business Objects SA will be used to create the “complex analytical formula” through which the group’s total footprint would be calculated.

From there, they can work with the numbers and set goals for reduction.

Another Web-based initiative to help companies identify and reduce emissions is OpenEco – launched by Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems Inc.

This project – currently in-development – tracks energy-efficiency in each building a company operates.

The idea behind OpenEco and Zerofootprint is very similar – using Web 2.0 type interaction to drive environmental change.

Both initiatives offer free and easy-to-use online tools that enable groups of people assess, track, and compare energy performance and share best practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Participants in OpenEco can compare energy-use and share tips on reduction. There’s also a news section telling of business eco-initiatives, several links to other Web resources, and a community forum.

The Energy Hub project – another Canadian recently launched online initiative by the University of Waterloo in Ontario –seeks to go beyond measuring, and into controlling energy usage.

“The goal is to manage your energy more effectively from a carbon and a cost perspective,” says Ian Rowlands, environmental studies professor at Waterloo and project leader.

Companies that generate their own power from solar panels or wind turbines will also be able to go off-grid during peak times and save even more money, Rowlands explains.

Both hardware and software will be part of the hub, he adds. Research funding will go into investigating what information to track and how to do it, then developing test sites.

In addition to the provincial support, the project has $1.45 million in funding from industry partners Milton Hydro Distribution Inc. and Hydro One Networks Inc.

The utilities’ support gives McFadden hope the province is funding a project that will be useful for business.

“We’re not trying to develop a new theory of relativity,” he says. “We’re developing something practical.”

 Ontario lagging far behind

Despite provincial government support for The University of Waterloo’s Energy Hub project, Ontario isn’t doing very much to motivate  businesses here to be energy efficient, industry observers say.

Info-Tech’s Hay points to California as an example of what more can be done.

Pacific Gas and Electric in southern California has a program that provides companies a rebate for each server they take offline.

IT departments are also given a partial reimbursement for every computer on which they install power management software.   

“There’s not a lot I think Ontario is really doing,” Hay says. “That speaks to a relatively lazy environmental policy overall, they’re certainly not a California.”

 

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