The purpose of Sustainable Camrose is to provide information for City of Camrose residents about the environment and sustainable living at both the individual and community levels.

Sustainable Camrose is a product of the Green Action Committee and will feature topics that present new information for residents or that contain information from a new perspective. The focus will be on local issues that residents can relate to, but we will also include ideas from elsewhere. Each topic will highlight a benefit to residents or the community, be it health, economic, environmental, or something else.

Find out more about the Green Action Committee. 

A Conversation with a Local Electric Car Owner

A Conversation with a Local Electric Car Owner

By the Camrose Green Action Committee

An EV owner's perspective:

Electric vehicle sales are increasing, and many people are wondering if their next vehicle should be electric. We spoke with local resident Stacey Wall about her 2021 Hyundai Kona EV, which she has owned for one year, long enough to know the car, short enough for it to still be fresh. We wanted to know how she felt about her electric car.

1. Before you purchased your EV, what questions did you have about making the switch to an EV?
I didn’t have too many questions, as I had done a lot of research on electric cars. However, my biggest question was how far I could go on a single charge. I did a lot of research into which vehicles offered the best range but were not too expensive.

2. What were your first impressions when you started driving your EV?
My first impression was that it looked and acted the same as a gas vehicle. Other than it made almost no noise, it was hard to tell that it was an electric vehicle.

3. Did anything surprise you when you first drove your EV?
I was surprised at how quick and responsive it was, more so than my gas vehicle. When you put your foot on the pedal there is no delay in power being sent to the tires. When you take your foot off the pedal there is also an immediate reaction, you can feel the power cutting out right away.

4. Where do you normally charge your car?
I charge it at home in my garage with the charger we installed. All we needed was a welder’s plug, which we had, so we bought a charger online and just plugged it in.

5. How often do you charge your car?
When I drive it to work in Wetaskiwin, I charge it every couple of days. But if I am just driving around town, I only need to charge it once every week or two.

6. Can you drive your car to Edmonton and back without having to recharge?
I actually bought the car when I was going to school in Edmonton 5 days a week. I can make two full trips to Edmonton and home before I need to charge it.

7. Can you keep your car warm in the winter?
Being warm is the best part of having an EV car. I remember working a 12-hour shift in Edmonton when it was -45oC. Everyone at work kept going out to their vehicles every few hours to start them. I left my car out in the cold for the full 12 hours. When my shift was done, I got in my car, turned it on with no problems, put the heat on full blast and the car was warm within a few minutes. Meanwhile my colleagues had to run their gas vehicle for 15-20 minutes before they were able to drive home.

8. Is it inconvenient to recharge on the road when traveling a long distance?
I have not done too much long-distance driving (aside from going to Edmonton), but I have not had any problems. If I go to a quick charge station, I can get a full charge in 30 minutes. This gives me time to stretch my legs, go to the washroom, or get a snack.

9. Can you compare the cost of operating your EV with the cost of operating a conventional gasoline powered car?
I can go between 400-420km on a full charge. A full charge costs me about $8 in electricity when I change at home. To go 400km with my gas vehicle is about $80.

10. What questions do other people ask you about your EV?
Lots of people ask me if I can drive to Edmonton or other areas outside Camrose. The other question they ask me is how much it costs to buy. I love answering this question because I think many people see electric cars as Teslas, which are expensive, but there are many other companies now that make really good electric vehicles, and do not cost more than a gas vehicle.

11. Do you think there are some things that most people don’t understand about EVs?
People seem to think that electric cars are a major inconvenience or that they are not reliable. People often tell me they don’t want an electric vehicle because they are worried about what they would do if they broke down or run out of charge. I find these comments a little frustrating, because first of all I make sure I have enough charge to go where I need to get (just like you would make sure you have enough gas) and if I broke down, I would do what I would do if I was driving a gas car; I would call a tow truck or a friend to come get me.

12. Are there things about conventional gas vehicles that you miss now that you have an EV?
Nope. I am actually trying hard to think if there is anything I miss and I just can’t think of anything. Honestly, I love my electric car and cannot wait to get an electric truck to replace our other vehicle.

More about charging your EV on longer journeys

Pam Stacey and Glen Hvenegaard bought a small electric car in the summer of 2021. Here’s what they have to say about longer distance travel with an EV.

We’ve really enjoyed our trips with our EV. We use an app on our phone that tells us where to find chargers, how fast they charge, the cost, and whether they’re working/available. You definitely have to do more trip planning with an EV. However, we’ve seen a big increase in the number of fast charging stations available this past year. This summer we were able to travel easily to central Saskatchewan whereas last summer we didn’t take the EV because it wasn’t really feasible. We’ve found it easy to travel around BC and in Alberta south of Edmonton. Some chargers are free, but otherwise a typical battery charge from 20% to 80% at a fast (level 3) charger costs about $20, takes about 40 minutes, and gives us about 300 km of range in the summer and about 250 km in the winter. Charging is a welcome break from driving, and we can take a walk, read, or have a picnic. In winter we can stay warm in the car with the heat on. Often there are stores and restaurants nearby. We’ve found that many hotels have installed overnight (level 2) chargers, like the one we have in our garage at home. At a campground or someone’s house you can plug in to a regular electrical outlet to slow charge (level 1). If you’re there for a couple of days, you’ll have a full charge when you leave! Overall, we’re really happy with our quiet, fun and cheaper-to-drive EV!

A mechanic’s perspective:

Eric Elliott has been servicing automobiles in Camrose since 1983. We asked Eric for his opinions about electric vehicles.

What kind of routine maintenance do you need to do on an electric vehicle? How will the maintenance costs compare to a regular vehicle?
Some of the routine maintenance is going to be very similar to what we would do for a gasoline vehicle such as changing tires for the seasons, and looking after the brakes, steering and suspension. However, oil changes aren’t required for EVs as they don’t have engine oil. There will be gear oil or fluid to be changed, but that only needs attention about every 100,000 km. EVs have so many fewer moving parts compared to regular vehicles that routine maintenance is less and therefore the cost to the owner is substantially reduced.

Can I take my EV to my local mechanic, or will I have to take it to a bigger centre like Edmonton?
This depends on your mechanic and their knowledge base and what your EV is requiring. Most typical maintenance mentioned above should be able to happen with your local mechanic. However, more involved repairs will probably have to be done at your dealer in a bigger centre if your community doesn’t have one.

Is it easy to get replacement parts for an EV? Are they a lot more expensive?
It’s too soon to tell for some components. Other parts are easy to get through standard suppliers. It really depends on the make of your EV. Just like gasoline vehicles, some parts are easily available and affordable, but for higher end luxury cars, they are expensive and can only be obtained through certain channels.

I don't want a fickle vehicle. Are EVs reliable?
EVs have way fewer moving parts so there is less to go wrong in some respects. Are they all reliable? Just like any other vehicles, there are good ones and there are lemons. Doing your research is important before you purchase any type of vehicle. Both types will have parallel problems, so you have to weigh out what is right for your individual needs and financial situation.

Other things of interest

A study was done in 2022 by Clean Energy Canada to compare the cost of operating an electric vehicle with the cost of operating a similar internal combustion vehicle. The result was that in almost all cases it was cheaper to operate the electric vehicle. View the full study by Clean Energy Canada.

This year in Norway, about 85% of new vehicle sales are electric. As a result, Norway’s cities are quieter and have healthier air. Learn more about electric vehicles in Norway.

Many electric vehicles now have bidirectional charging. That means that if your car is plugged in, electricity can come into the battery for charging, or out for powering something else. For example, if you have solar panels, you could charge your car for free on a sunny day and run your house from your car battery during the night. Typically, an EV battery would run a house for about three days. This gives the homeowner a big economic benefit.

Water Use in Camrose: How the Toilet Rebate Program Benefits Us All

Water Use in Camrose: How the Toilet Rebate Program Benefits Us All

By the Camrose Green Action Committee

To understand how important the Toilet Rebate Program is in Camrose, we should think about water use in Camrose generally. We spoke to Jeremy Enarson, Manager of Engineering with the City of Camrose and he helped us with some facts.

How much water does Camrose use?

Jeremy told us that in 2021, the city of Camrose withdrew 2,587,400 m3 from Driedmeat Lake, the reservoir on the Battle River from which we obtain our water. That is approximately 2.6 billion L. This was only one year. We do that every year.

Some water goes directly to the Cargill canola crushing plant, but still, just over 2 billion L in 2021 went on to the City of Camrose water treatment plant and then was dispersed to the community for residential and non-residential use.

Most, but not all, of the water that Camrose uses becomes wastewater that is treated and then returned to the Battle River. On the way into the city during treatment, much of the sediment, dissolved compounds and most microorganisms are removed from the raw water and chlorine is added. On the way back out, the wastewater is filtered again, so what we take out of Driedmeat Lake is not the same as what we return and that impacts the aquatic environment of the Battle River. It is important to consider that we have an impact on the environment of the Battle River by removing and then replacing so much water.

How much does the water utility cost the residents of Camrose?

Electrical pumps are used to move our water. The cost will almost double when the new wastewater treatment facility comes on stream in 2023. The entire cost to operate the water utility in 2021 was $6.9 million and covering that cost comes from the utility rates we pay. The taxes we pay may get spent on services, buildings, playgrounds, or other assets that our community will have for years to come. However, funding the water system and the money we spend on water is different. Annual operational costs for the water system come from the utility rates; money in, money out, much like the water! Funding for the water infrastructure often comes from utility reserves, Offsite Levies from development, and from grants.

Why is water conservation important?

Financial cost is one thing, but there are other things to consider. Water use by agriculture, industry, and communities puts substantial strain on the ecosystem of the Battle River. The Battle River is a prairie-fed river that obtains all of its water from the rain or snow that falls within the watershed. Our climate is changing, and, in the future, there may be less water available in the Battle River, or the water available may become less reliable. Besides supplying water for human needs, the Battle River Watershed Alliance reports that the river also provides critical ecosystem services valued at an estimated $3.5 million per year. The floodplains and wetlands of the Battle River provide services of an additional $80 million per year. We all want to live surrounded by a healthy natural world as it is also important for our own health, therefore it’s imperative that we think about using our natural resources efficiently and responsibly.

A good question.

What changes can we make that will reduce the amount of water we use, and the cost, without having a negative impact on our quality of life?

One proven solution is to replace old, high-volume toilets with newer low flush toilets. The low flush toilets work just as well and there is no loss of performance. They just use less water and save us money. Approximately 30% of a household’s water is used for flushing toilets so this is an easy change that makes a big difference. That was the idea behind the Toilet Rebate Program that Camrose began in 2008.

The graph below shows the amount of water saved by the Camrose Toilet Rebate Program. 37,904 m3 saved in 2022 equals about 38 million L…and the savings are growing each year.

Since 2008, 1,557 inefficient toilets have been replaced in Camrose under the Toilet Rebate Program. The City estimates that the low flush toilets have saved about 38 million L of water! Keep in mind that these efficient toilets will continue to save water and money for years to come.

The graph below shows the amount of money the Toilet Rebate Program has saved the residents of Camrose. Nearly $73 thousand dollars in 2022 and again, continues growing each year.

The Toilet Rebate Program reimburses a homeowner $70 for the first toilet replaced in their home and up to $50 for each additional toilet replaced. This program has cost the city $10-12K/year. That money is easily made up by reduced water costs. Of course, savings will vary depending on how much the toilet is used. The City estimates that a family of four can save up to $100/year on their utility bill.

The Toilet Rebate Program has been a successful initiative that has saved residents of Camrose water and money and eased pressure on the Battle River. Find out more about the Camrose Toilet Rebate Program and how to apply here.

How to Keep Your House Cooler in the Summer Heat

How to Keep Your House Cooler in the Summer Heat

By the Camrose Green Action Committee

The Challenge of Summer Heat for Camrose

Our climate is changing, and we can expect longer and more extreme summer heat waves in the future. The University of Lethbridge hosts a site called Alberta Climate Records that provides historical information and predicts future climate for anywhere in Alberta. A quick click provides historical data and future predictions about several climate variables for Camrose. There is predicted to be an increase in the number of hot summer days (temperature exceeding +30oC) for the Camrose area.  Between 1991 and 2017 there was an average of 4 +30oC days per summer.  For the years 2041 to 2070, it is predicted that our summers will become warmer and drier and there will be an average of 42 +30oC days per summer.  If that prediction is anywhere close to being correct, summer heat is an issue that we should take seriously.

Figure 1: From Alberta Climate Records: Camrose can expect to have many more summer days with temperatures above +300C.

Summer heat is dangerous. There were 595 deaths during the heat dome in BC in 2021. Over 15,000 died from heat in Europe in 2022.  A hot house is also uncomfortable, and a homeowner can spend a lot of money on electricity keeping it cool.  Fortunately, there are some easy ways to keep a house cooler during summer heat waves.

Cities are Heat Islands

Summer heat is worse in cities. Cities are called heat islands because they are hotter than the surrounding countryside on a summer afternoon.

Figure 2: More dark, hard surfaces =hotter: more vegetation =cooler.

The hottest parts of a city are the places with the hardest surfaces that can’t absorb water, like concrete and asphalt. It is even worse if the hard surface is dark, because dark colours absorb light and convert it into heat. The coolest parts of a city are the places where there is the most vegetation, especially trees.

Outside Your House

The factors that make cities heat islands also apply to a house and yard. A light-coloured house reflects sunlight so it will be cooler on hot days. It will be more comfortable and less expensive to keep cool.

Research at the University of New South Wales found Sydney’s outside temperatures can be reduced by up to 2.4oC simply by eliminating dark roofing. The research also found that a light-coloured roof could reduce temperatures inside the home by up to 10 degrees during a heatwave. As a result, dark roofing material is being banned in the state of New South Wales, Australia. If you are renovating your house exterior, the lightest colour for siding and roof is best.

Figure 3: This light-coloured house will stay cooler on the inside and the yard will also be cooler than if the house was darker.

The Importance of Plants

Figure 4: This house is kept cool by the shade tree.

Trees and other plants also help keep houses and yards cooler. Just like animals, plants have to protect themselves from overheating. They do this by allowing water to evaporate from their leaves. This process, called evapotranspiration, cools the air. Trees are natural air conditioners!

Trees and bushes also provide valuable shade. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), materials shaded by trees may be 11–25°C cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded materials. The more vegetation there is around the house, the cooler the air and ground will be. Trees located on the south side of a house are particularly helpful.

Trees and other vegetation also reduce the rate of surface water runoff and reduce evaporation from the ground. This keeps more water in the soil and the water moderates the temperature. Having trees that provide shade and planting lots of other plants around your house is ideal! 

Figure 5: A yard and house that benefit from shade trees and cooling vegetation.

Rain gardens. Rain gardens are a portion of lawn or landscape planted to hold, filter and slowly release surface water runoff from roads, roofs, parking lots or other impervious structures into the landscape. Rain gardens retain moisture and moderate the temperature. Arranging your yard to retain moisture so that soil, plants and air are kept moist will moderate the air temperature.

Figure 6: A rain garden captures rainwater to keep the soil moist and cool.

Hardscaping. Hardscaping is a trend in which a yard is landscaped without plants. Instead, the ground is covered with decorative rocks or bricks and in place of a lawn there may be artificial turf. Hardscaping makes summer heat much more intense. On a hot summer day, if you walk across a street barefoot, it would be hot on your feet. If you then stepped onto grass, it would feel cool under foot because of the natural cooling properties of plants. But if you stepped from the street onto a hardscaped yard, it would still be hot. Having a hardscaped yard is like having a heater in your yard on a sunny summer day. Keep hard surfaces that cannot absorb moisture to a minimum.

Figure 7: This hardscaped yard contributes to a hotter, drier yard, making it more difficult to keep the house cool without air conditioning.

Inside Your House

You could just get an air conditioning unit and run it to keep your house cool. But the cost of the electricity to run it is never ending. The following tips may remove the need for air conditioning.

Windows and fans

In the evening when the outside air becomes cooler than the inside air, open all windows to let the cooler outside air into the house. If possible, put a fan in a window to push cooler air into the house. Consider turning on a bathroom fan to blow hot air out. This will draw cooler outside air into the house. In the morning, shut the windows to keep the cool air in the house, only opening them when it becomes warmer inside the house than out. You can also turn the furnace fan on to circulate air, drawing cool air up from the basement.

Window coverings

Keep curtains closed during the day, especially on south-facing windows, to help stop sunlight from heating up the house. If you need to replace window coverings, consider cellular blinds that have insulation value. They help to keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If you don’t have a shade tree on the south side of the house, consider awnings for south facing windows. According to the US Department of Energy, window awnings can reduce up to 65-77% of solar heat gain.


Think about your appliances that work by making heat. Do you really need to cook with the stove and oven on days when it is very hot? Could you use a microwave or the BBQ outside? An induction cooker uses less electricity than a regular stove so is cheaper, and it doesn’t heat the air nearly as much. Do you have to heat water with a kettle, or could you use the microwave? Could you dry clothes outside rather than using the clothes dryer? Do you really need to use your toaster on hot days? By minimizing your use of these appliances, you will also find that you have saved some money by using less electricity.

All electrical devices that can be operated by a remote (such as a TV) are always on and generating heat whenever they are plugged in. Consider unplugging them when not in use, and check whether power bars could be turned off.

Light Bulbs

If you still have some old style incandescent light bulbs, switch them to LEDs. Incandescent lights give off 90% of their energy as heat, whereas LED bulbs generate less heat and use less electricity.


It is likely we will be experiencing more frequent and severe periods of summer heat, but with a little thought and planning, your house can stay cooler without expensive air conditioning.

  • Plan for a lighter coloured exterior with lots of vegetation, including shade trees.
  • Think about how to get cool air in at night and up from the basement.
  • Keep the sun and hot air out during the day.
  • Minimize the use of appliances that generate heat. Not only will your house be more comfortable, but you’ll also save money on electricity, too.

A Healthy Community Includes Healthy Air!

A Healthy Community Includes Healthy Air!

By Camrose Green Action Committee

Have you ever walked by an elementary school at pick-up time? If so, you likely noticed the smell of diesel and gasoline fumes from idling vehicles. Is this smell merely unpleasant, or is all that exhaust in the air a reason for concern? This article will shed some light on that important question.

Impacts of Exhaust on People and the Environment

The health impacts from fossil fuel exhaust have been widely studied and the consensus is that exhaust fumes are more than just unpleasant. The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution results in 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide every year and reports that children are much more impacted by air pollution than adults. According to the Canadian Medical Association, a Canadian is more likely to die of air pollution than a car accident! Research has shown that exposure to exhaust can result in both short-term and long-term health problems and that exposure to air pollutants early in life may have long-lasting effects (Environmental Health).

Exposure to gasoline emissions can result in increased risk of heart and lung disease and of cancer, among other outcomes (Environment and Climate Change Canada). Diesel exhaust is especially concerning, as exposure is linked to both carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic multi-system effects (Environment International). Scientific studies have shown that children who are exposed to more automobile exhaust because of where they live will have more cancer, higher rates of asthma, autism, attention deficit disorder, depression/anxiety, and lower intelligence (Car Exhaust). Why would we knowingly do that to our kids?

While the air quality in Camrose is generally good overall (Alberta Capital Airshed), in areas near idling vehicles or the operation of gas-powered yard care equipment the air quality can become much worse.

Vehicle exhaust contains many compounds that can harm our environment, such as fine particulate matter and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change (Natural Resources Canada). If Canadians with vehicles reduced their idling by three minutes every day, we could prevent more than 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering our environment in 1 year. That’s like taking 340,000 cars off the road (Natural Resources Canada).

Gas-powered lawn mowers, snow blowers, and leaf blowers are also a significant source of pollution, as they don’t have filters to capture many of the pollutants, and those with two-stroke engines burn an oil/gas mixture that is more polluting than burning gas alone. One hour of leaf blower use can result in the amount of pollution produced by driving 1,800 km (Government of Canada). Yet the same person who would tell someone to put out a cigarette where children are playing would think nothing of starting up a lawnmower or leaf blower while those children were still present.

One of the health damaging toxins from burning fossil fuels is NO2 (nitrogen dioxide).The CBC radio program "What on Earth" recently did an episode on arena ice resurfacers.  Asthma is higher in kids who regularly play hockey in arenas than those who don't, because of the NO2 from the propane powered resurfacers.  If the arena switches to an electric ice resurfacer, the asthma rate of hockey playing kids drops.  It is a good thing that arenas are switching to electric powered ice resurfacers.  NO2 is also the reason there is increasing alarm over gas powered stoves. According to Scientific American, NO2 from a gas-powered stove builds up in the home and that is not good for the occupants.

Chemical Composition of a Car’s Exhaust Gas

What Can You Do to Help?

It may seem that taking action as an individual doesn’t contribute much to making a real difference. However, if everyone made a few changes we could improve the air quality in our community and the health of our citizens, especially children.

Embrace manual labour and electric power

  • As you are able, replace your gas lawn mower with an electric one. Take it a step further and reduce the amount of lawn that you need to mow, perhaps by planting fruits or vegetables (this is allowed in your front yard as well as the back!).
  • Think about electric for your next vehicle purchase. The number of electric vehicles being sold, as well as the number of public chargers available, is increasing steadily every year.
  • Leaves are an important part of the ecosystem, so consider leaving them in place to provide overwintering habitat for various critters and essential nutrients for your yard. When you need to remove them use a rake, or an electric blower instead of gas.
  • Use a shovel for snow removal instead of a snow blower or buy an electric blower instead of gas.
  • If you want a stove with instant heat, instead of a gas-powered stove choose an induction stove which has rapid heat and no fumes.

Reduce idling time

  • In terms of balancing fuel savings, emissions reduction and wear and tear on your vehicle, studies have shown that it’s best to turn off the ignition if you’re going to be stopped for more than 60 seconds (Natural Resources Canada).
  • For the average vehicle with a 3-litre engine, every 10 minutes of idling uses over one-quarter of a litre in wasted fuel – and up to one half of a litre if your vehicle has a 5-litre engine. Unnecessary idling wastes money and fuel and produces greenhouse gases that lead to climate change (Natural Resources Canada).

Keep up with vehicle maintenance

  • A poorly maintained engine can use up to 15% more energy when driving and idling than a well-maintained engine (Clean Air Partnership).

Reduce warm-up time

  • Excessive idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to warm it up is to drive it. With today's computer-controlled engines, even on cold winter days no more than two to three minutes of idling is usually enough warm-up time before starting to drive.
  • In the winter, use a block heater with an automatic timer to warm the engine a couple of hours before you start it (Natural Resources Canada).


Many communities have implemented bylaws limiting vehicle idling. While we don’t have such a bylaw in Camrose, there are many good reasons to limit the amount of pollution in our air. Exhaust from vehicles has been shown to be harmful to our health. It is also harmful to our environment. Excessive idling wastes money, time, and resources. Gas-powered yard care equipment contributes significantly to air pollution.

The good news is that community members can play a big role in helping to keep our air clean and our citizens healthy. As a further benefit, you may also find yourself having to stop by the gas station a little less often and saving yourself some money!


Alberta Capital Airshed

Canadian Medical Association

Car Exhaust

Clean Air Partnership

Environmental Health

Government of Canada

Natural Resources Canada

Solar – The Promise of Abundant, Low Cost Electricity for Us

Solar – The Promise of Abundant, Low Cost Electricity for Us

By Augustana students Lexi Brantner, Brayden Dickau, Adachukwu Chimaobi, Jacob Christensen and the Camrose Green Action Committee

Why Solar

Solar saves Money

Solar and wind generated electricity is now less expensive than natural gas, coal or nuclear generated electricity and keeps getting cheaper. Sunlight and wind will always be free. Once the plant is built, the electricity generated is close to free. For a natural gas, coal and nuclear generated electricity plant, once the plant is built, there is still the continuous cost of the fuel needed to generate the electricity and that fuel keeps getting more expensive.

The graph below shows how the cost of electricity has been changing. The cost of wind and solar generated electricity have been dropping significantly and are now the least expensive electricity humans have ever known.

The cost of solar has dropped so much over time because it has become less expensive to build solar panels and because the solar panels themselves have become more efficient at turning sunlight into electricity.

Energy Can be Stored

What about when the sun doesn’t shine? We’ve all heard that question. Well, there are very good energy storage technologies available now. When the wind blows or the sun shines, we will store the extra energy to be used later. One example of a storage technology is the Canyon Creek Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Project being built by TC Energy 13 km from Hinton. It uses an abandoned open pit coal mine as an upper reservoir. When there is extra energy on a sunny day, water is pumped from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir. When more electricity is needed, water is allowed to flow down to the lower reservoir, turning a generator to make more electricity.

Solar and wind are the future of power and will provide us with abundant, low cost electricity. Besides pumped hydro, energy can be stored as compressed air, liquid air and in various types of batteries. We now have the technology to store the electricity for when we need it.

Solar is Not Just Electricity

In the neighbourhood of Drake Landing in Okotoks, solar panels have been mounted on garages since 2007. These solar panels do not generate electricity. Rather, liquid flows through the solar panels during the summer. The liquid is heated by the sun’s energy and the hot water is stored in a reservoir under ground. That warm water is then used to heat the homes in the winter. There is no need to burn any gas to keep the homes warm. Although this type of community heating system is unusual in North America, it is common in Europe. It is proven and it works.

Why Alberta

Sunny Alberta

The best places for solar power are where there is most sunlight and in Canada they are southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Central Alberta is also very good. In Alberta, we have a lot of sunlight so solar electricity is less expensive here than in most of Canada. The new Alberta advantage.

Alberta’s Solar Industry

Alberta is the top consumer of solar energy of all the provinces in Canada. Currently the number of household solar installations in Alberta has been increasing by 2% per month. The Travers Solar Project in Vulcan County is Canada’s largest solar farm. Tax from renewable energy makes up 45% of Vulcan County’s revenue. Solar offers the opportunity of sustainable prosperity for Alberta communities.

Why Camrose

Shop Local

We’ve all heard that it is good to shop locally. It is good to keep our money in our own community. Traditionally we have bought electricity that is generated somewhere else. All the money we pay for electricity leaves our economy. But locally generated solar electricity gives us the ability to make electricity here so we can save money and keep our money in our community. In the Camrose area, there has been a rapid increase in solar installations. Within the city, there are a total of 49 residential houses, and 7 businesses with solar panels installed. Within Camrose County, there are another 9 households and 4 businesses with solar installations. Additionally, there are 20 Rural Electrification Association (REA) solar farms in the county and 7 installations on other farming properties.

The photo below shows solar panels installed on the Augustana campus of the University of Alberta, including on the walls of the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Centre in the background. By generating electricity, the solar installations reduce the operating costs for Augustana.

The photo shows solar panels being installed on the roof of the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Reduce our Taxes

The photo below shows the solar installation on the Camrose Rec Centre.

The table below shows an estimation of the amount of electricity generated by the Camrose Rec Centre solar installation.

The Rec Centre solar installation generates about 1 million kWh (kilowatt hours).  That is enough electricity to keep 14,269 standard 8 watt LED light bulbs operating 24 hours/day.  The electricity generated is electricity the city does not have to buy, so it saves money and keeps residents’ taxes lower.

You may find the following short video about the Camrose Rec Centre solar system interesting: Camrose Recreation Centre solar array.

Things you might find interesting

What makes solar panels work?

Solar panels contain the element silicon.  Silicon is a non metal semiconductor.  When sunlight hits the silicon atom, an electron is knocked off.  The electron flows away through a wire.  That is current electricity.  The more sunlight, the more electrons move, the more electricity is produced. During the day in the summer months, solar panels often produce more energy than clients use. Users can then sell their excess electricity back to the grid (known as net export) and earn money or credit. In winter or at night, often more electricity is used than the solar panels produce, so users will purchase some electricity from the grid, known as net import

Technological advances have improved efficiency and longevity.  During power outages, modern micro-inverters allow solar panels to power a house even if the grid power is disrupted.  Home storage options are becoming more affordable, so that electricity generated during the day could power the house at night.  There is every reason to conclude that solar offers us a future with abundant, low cost electricity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t the installation of solar panels too expensive?

The price of solar panel installations fluctuates based on the size of installation and type of solar panel technology to which solar providers can provide a quote to clients who are interested. However, there has been a significant decrease in the prices of solar panels in the market as shown in the last 10-15 years. Additionally, the savings one generates over time will pay off initial investments put into the system. A local example of a home in Camrose saves roughly $2000 a year on their home electricity bill and will take about 10 years to pay off the initial investments of their solar installation.

Through the Greener Homes Program, the federal government offers a $40 000 interest-free loan to make the purchasing process very easy. Or clients can receive grants offering $1/watt up to $5,000 to fund solar installation for eligible participants. This means that if you purchase a 1kW system, you can receive $1000 in grants, and if you purchase a 5kW system, you can receive $5000. 

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels are said to have a 25-year lifespan and a low malfunction rate. The occurrences of malfunctions are often natural disasters, weather, or technical flaws. It is suggested that even after the 25-year lifespan, solar panels will still operate at 80-88% efficiency.

What maintenance do I have to do on my panels?

There is no maintenance. However, in winter, some owners choose to clean off the snow from solar panels.

Can hail damage solar panels?

Solar panels are durable and withstand even heavy hail, but the most severe hail may crack a panel. Panels are installed at a tilted angle to reduce straight-on hits to the panel. If a solar panel does get cracked, it still has the ability to produce energy or will need to be replaced.

My house does not have a south-facing roof, now what?

Solar panels are most effective if they are south facing. They still generate electricity if they face west, east or north, but less. A building with the most uninterrupted south facing roof is best.

Local Solar Installers

Solar Harvest 


Making Practical Use of Rainwater

Making Practical Use of Rainwater

By Augustana students Berenda Helmus, Kyle Cote, Gervi Dorado, Aman Leung, August Ross, and the Camrose Green Action Committee

For residents of Camrose, there are economic and ecological benefits of making better use of water that falls naturally as rain. Imagine a small city similar to Camrose that has 6000 buildings, each of which has one rain barrel. If those rain barrels are filled with 200 L three times each year, the rain barrels have collected 3.6 million L of water. Collected rainwater can be used to keep our gardens watered during dry periods. That represents a very valuable resource that is available to residents for free.

The city of Camrose gets its water from Driedmeat Lake, located about 10 kilometers south of the city. Driedmeat Lake is fed by the Battle River which is mainly supplied by prairie run-off; snow melt and precipitation. Citizens of Camrose tend to take our water supply for granted, but we shouldn’t. It is important to understand how vulnerable our city's water source is1. The photo below shows the Battle River flowing south into Driedmeat Lake.

During years when there is an abundance of snow and rain, there is ample water in Driedmeat Lake. During dry years, on the other hand, the lake level can become quite low. If we were to experience several dry years in a row, our water supply could become dangerously low. Capturing rainwater can reduce our dependence on Driedmeat Lake and that just makes sense. The entire cost to operate the water utility in Camrose during 2021 was $6.9 million and if we have a way to reduce that cost to citizens, that makes sense too. Harvesting rainwater is a simple and effective way of reducing the city's water demand.

According to The Battle River Watershed Alliance’s Executive Director, Catherine Peirce, and Watershed Programs Manager, Sarah Skinner, flow volumes vary significantly from year to year in the Battle River.1 As our climate changes, it is expected that we will experience more drought so we really do need to be conscious of the water we take from Driedmeat Lake. 

There is a second issue that relates to rainfall runoff.  During a heavy rain event, water collected in rain barrels is water that does not run off onto our roads and strain our storm sewer system.  So having a lot of rain barrels reduces the amount of water running down our streets and therefore reduces the risk of flooding in our community.  As well, water draining from our roads into our creek carries with it many road contaminants that harm the water quality in the creek.  All in all, the less water flowing from road to creek, the better. Having many rain barrels can help.

However, rain barrels are not the only way to reduce runoff and keep rainwater in our yards.  Thoughtful landscaping can also help to retain the rainwater that falls on our yards. Rain that falls on trees and other vegetation will then drip gently onto the ground, allowing more water to soak into the soil. Therefore less water runs off onto the streets. Trees shade the ground, reducing evaporation.  Trees and other vegetation keep moisture in the soil and this makes the soil healthier. In contrast, hard surfaces like a driveway do nothing to prevent water from running into the street. Even a lawn exposed to direct sun will have harder, drier soil that is poor at absorbing and holding water.  The yard below effectively captures rainwater and holds it.

A rain garden is a simple and effective tool to retain rainwater.  A rain garden is situated at a low spot in a yard where rainwater can accumulate. The water that collects there keeps the soil moist and this moderates the air and soil temperature, as well as keeping the water from running down the street.  The diagram below shows that a rain garden can be an effective way to retain rainwater.

The Alberta Clean Runoff Action Guide 2020 outlines how rain gardens work, how they can be implemented, and their many benefits2. The guide also recommends strategies for homeowners to help keep our waterways healthy. 

It is wise to use water in our gardens efficiently.  Watering a garden in the evening is much more effective because less water will evaporate during the night, allowing more water to soak into the soil. We can also plant vegetation that requires less water. Besides reducing water needs, by choosing the right vegetation, we may also be able to reduce fertilizer and maintenance needs. The Battle River Watershed Alliance encourages the citizens of Camrose to participate in the “Drought Adaptation and Management: Implementation Guidelines” to help with watershed sustainability by discussing the social, economic, and ecological impacts of drought3.

Well placed shade trees help to keep the soil moist and healthy.

In summary, rainwater is an important free resource that is largely undervalued.  Retaining rainwater, either with rain barrels or by landscaping that includes rain gardens and abundant trees and other vegetation, will reduce costs of operating our water utility and reduce the amount of water we draw from Driedmeat Lake.  As well, by keeping the rainwater in our yards, we lower the amount that runs down our streets, thus lowering the risk of flooding and decreasing the amount of road pollution that drains into our local creek.

1. Battle River Watershed Alliance, Our Battle; State of the Battle River and Sounding Creek Watersheds Report 2011

2. “Rain Gardens.” n.d. ALBERTA CLEAN RUNOFF ACTION GUIDE 2020. Accessed February 13, 2023.

3.“Drought Adaptation and Management: Implementation Guidelines.” n.d. Battle River Watershed Alliance. Accessed February 11, 2023.

Food – From the World to our Tables

Food – From the World to our Tables

by Claire Bevan-Stewart, Caitlin Jordan, Pia Vij, Hope Zimmerman, Josie Zimmerman, and the Camrose Green Action Committee

From Traditional to Modern Agri-business

There was a time when almost all food was locally produced. Food didn’t travel far from food to table. But as human populations grew and more people lived in cities, more food was needed. Scientists developed crops that grew faster and produced a higher yield. That was good, but the modified crops drained the soil of nutrients, so scientists developed chemical fertilizers. That made the crops grow even faster and produce even more food. Then when modern machinery was developed, farms could become bigger and bigger. To get maximum yield, there must be predictable water, so sophisticated irrigation systems were developed. There was one more problem. A large field of one type of plants invites disease and pests so chemical pesticides were developed. In a relatively short time, food production had been revolutionized. Large scale factory farms proved able to supply a tremendous amount of food. This was a major achievement for humanity. Thanks to modern agriculture, most Canadians now have access to more food and more variety of food than humans have ever had.

The current state

Cracks are appearing in the food miracle.

The world is running out of fresh water

From the US Geological Survey - “Throughout the world, irrigation (water for agriculture, or growing crops) is probably the most important use of water. Estimates vary, but about 70 percent of all the world's freshwater withdrawals go towards irrigation uses. Large-scale farming could not provide food for the world's large populations without the irrigation of crop fields by water gotten from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and wells. Without irrigation, crops could never be grown in the deserts of California, Israel, or my tomato patch.” June 7, 2018

Our food is now contaminated with tiny plastic molecules

According to a study done at the University of Victoria, “Canadians consume between 70,000 and 121,000 particles of microplastics each year”.

There is a dark side to fertilizer use

About 200 million tons of fertilizer is applied yearly. About half of that washes off the farm into rivers and increasingly contaminates the environment.

Pesticides don’t just kill the pest bugs

Agriculture applies about 4 million tons of pesticide each year. It kills the problem bugs, but also the beneficial organisms on and off the farm. Pesticides get everywhere and are killing organisms worldwide. “Pesticides are one factor cited by scientists for the plunging populations of some insects. Insects play vital roles in the ecosystems that sustain humanity, in particular by pollinating three-quarters of crops.” The Guardian Thu 1 Apr 2021.

Global food security - More people are going to bed hungry

"We face an unprecedented global hunger crisis," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last month. "In the past two years, the number of severely food‑insecure people around the world has more than doubled to 276 million. There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022. And 2023 could be even worse." CBC News · Jul 23, 2022

The cost of farming is going up, and with it the cost of food

"This is by far the most expensive crop we've ever grown," said Roger Chevaux, farmer and chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission.  Chevaux's fertilizer costs are at $2,300 per tonne — up from $850 last year.  CBC News · May 29, 2022

We are losing farmland

Over the past two decades, Ontario lost farmland at a rate of 175 acres (about 70 hectares) a day, the equivalent of five family farms each week, according to a recent analysis of census data from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA).  CBC News · May 31, 2021

Farm soils can’t continue to take the strain

"If you have heavy machines churning the soil and impacting it, if you drench it in chemicals that improve yields but in the long term undercut the future fertility of that soil, you can increase yields year on year but ultimately you really are cutting the ground away from beneath your own feet. Farmers know that." CBC News · Jul 23, 2022

The way of the future - Some things have to change

Some of the solutions are indoor and some are local.

Vertical farming refers to indoor, hydroponic food production.  No pesticide is needed, no fertilizer is released into the environment.  Water is recycled so there is very little water used.  These farms can be located anywhere regardless of local climate and are not affected by the unpredictability of weather.  Indoor vertical farms will definitely be an important part of the future of food.  Here are some examples.

Jones Food company operates four indoor vertical farms in Britain.  They have 100 times the yield per m2 compared to an outdoor farm and a lower operating cost. (photos, Jones Food Company)

Lufa farms in Montreal has greenhouses located on top of local buildings. Heat from the buildings keeps the greenhouses warm. (photos, Lufa Farms)

Closer to home

Other solutions are close to home. At one time almost all food was produced close to home. We need to return to eating more food that is locally produced.

Our local grocery stores all sell produce that was grown in Alberta greenhouses. It is easy to check where the produce was grown. We should know where our food comes from. If we buy food that is grown close to home, we are supporting our local economy. We are providing an income for people that live close to us. If food travels a short distance from farm to table, it has a smaller carbon footprint. It just makes sense to check where the produce comes from and choose to buy the food grown closest to home. (Photo below, Big Marble Farms, Medicine Hat)

What makes food production local?

The diagram below comes from Marian Williams, a Food Artisans of Camrose County. The ‘bullseye’ at the centre represents food that is harvested from your own garden. The further from the centre, the further the food travels from farm to table.

At home

Food we grow in our garden or on our balcony is the freshest, most tasty and nutritious. We are not eating pesticides if we grow the food ourselves. Because there are no transportation costs, the carbon footprint is zero. We need to think local. We need to eat local.

The photograph below shows a well-organized Camrose yard that yields a bountiful harvest of nutritious food each year. (Photo credit, Rob Hill)

The photograph below shows a tomato plant off to a good start in the spring on a Camrose balcony. (Photo credit, Green Action Committee)

The photo below is of a jar of fresh nutritious sprouts, perfect for salads or sandwiches, grown with equipment and seeds purchased in Camrose. (Photo credit Rob Hill)

What people think

Augustana students carried out a ‘What Local Means to You’ survey to uncover attitudes about eating local produce. 

To find out more about the thoughts and opinions of over 200 individuals from across Alberta, a survey was conducted using the social media platform Instagram. The results from the survey are shown in the series of pie charts below, each corresponding to one of the four questions listed below.

  1. Do you check the country of origin when you buy food in a grocery store?
  2. Are you more likely to buy Alberta-grown food to support the Alberta economy and Alberta workers?
  3. Do you check the cost of different food products before you buy?
  4. In your opinion, is local produce important?

To summarize, most respondents think local produce is important and are more likely to buy locally produced produce, but since only 8% regularly checked the country of origin, it is fair to conclude that most people don’t know where the food they are buying comes from. However, they do pay attention to the cost.
Although sustainability is global, let’s look at eating local! You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local!


1 Saba, R. (2020). Canadians Are Hungry for Locally Grown Food, but High Costs Curb Our Appetite for It, Study Finds.

Astyk, S. (2007). The Bullseye Diet.

3 Schnell, S. M. (2013). Food Miles, Local Eating, and Community Supported Agriculture: Putting Local Food in Its Place - Agriculture and Human Values. SpringerLink.

4 Ferguson, B., & Christopher, T. (2020). “Why Buy Local?” Journal of Applied Philosophy, 38(1), 104–20.

5 Barnett, B. (2021). 15 Reasons to Shop Locally. MetroFamily Magazine.

6 Newell, R., Newman, L., Dickson, M., Vanderkooi, B., Fernback, T., & White, C. (2021) Hydroponic fodder and greenhouse gas emissions: A potential avenue for climate mitigation strategy and policy development. FACETS.

Meal Planning and Meal Prepping to Reduce Food Waste

By Augustana students Macy McDonald, Janiel Dillon, Shaelynn Graumann, Keira Slusarczyk, Tessa Reed and the Camrose Green Action Committee

Do you want to save money, time, energy and stress? Try meal planning!

Meal planning is the practice of deciding what you are going to eat ahead of time. If you wanted to take it one step further, you could plan and prep all of your meals for the week in one day, so that they are ready when you need them.

Why is Meal Planning A Great Option for You and the Planet?

58% of the food that is produced in Canada gets wasted? That equates to about 35.5 million tonnes of garbage, and around 49 billion dollars! According to the most recent waste collection and diversion study of Camrose (completed in 2010), it was found that residents disposed of 360 kg/person of waste annually compared to the provincial average of 290 kg/person, 31% of which was organic. This means that in 2010, each individual in Camrose threw away the amount of trash that roughly equates to the weight of 50 of the heaviest possible bowling balls!
Although the world produces more than 1.5 times the amount of food needed to feed the world’s population, so much is wasted that we fail to effectively feed all people. All of this wasted food also has significant environmental impacts on our planet, such as the release of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. So much of our agricultural land, water used for irrigation, and energy required for the planting, processing, and transporting of food, ends up being wasted when food gets thrown out. And according to recent studies, “food now represents the single largest component of municipal solid waste brought to landfills” in North America, thus demonstrating the dire need for us to take action and reduce food waste at the consumer level.

Many of us think throwing away food is okay because it will decompose naturally into the ground, however, most of the food that gets buried actually does not decompose properly. The toxic environment created in landfills also increases the likelihood of the bacterial production of methane gas, which is estimated to contribute to 3 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as 8 to 10 percent globally. So next time you find yourself throwing away food, we encourage you to consider the resources (land, freshwater resources, etc.) that are not only being wasted but are also affected by this process as it goes from farm to landfills.

Both meal planning and prepping help to promote an eco-friendly lifestyle, and reduce food waste and overall energy consumption. Planning out a weekly menu and making a grocery list also reduces food waste by making individuals less likely to buy products that they don’t need and won’t use.

Why Should You Meal Plan? It Helps The Environment, But What’s in it For You?

Why Don’t People Meal Plan? Myths and Facts

By adopting the practice of meal planning, you can help take preventative action against food waste and the climate issues that accompany it. Not only will you be contributing to a more sustainable Camrose, but you will be helping to create a cleaner and brighter future for generations to come!

Additional Resources To Help You Through Your Journey



[1] Janis, A. (2019, January 17). More than half of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted. CBC News.

[2] City of Camrose. (2010). Solid waste collection and diversion study.

[3] Holt-Giménez, E., Shattuck, A., Altieri, M., Herren, H., & Gliessman, S. (2012). We already grow enough food for 10 billion people … and still can't end hunger. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 36(6), 595–598.

[4] Gunders, D. (2015). Waste free kitchen handbook: A guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food. Chronicle Books LLC.

[5] Evans, A., & Siemens, A. (2016). Food waste behaviours: Influences and impacts on residential waste and waste reduction. University of Alberta.

Trees for Camrose

The City of Camrose Green Action Committee is a committee of City Council. It is formed of both Council members and dedicated local residents. The Green Action Committee works to maintain Camrose as a healthy and vibrant community. One of the most effective and direct means to support our local urban environment is to improve the local urban forest / urban trees.

(43 Ave as viewed from Mt Pleasant. Who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of a tree lined street? Photo credit – Rob Hill)

Communities all across Canada are now engaged in ambitious projects to increase urban tree cover. Planting trees is seen as the simplest, least expensive and least controversial action we can take to make our communities more resilient. The Green Action Committee presented the following values of trees to City Council.

  • Trees moderate our community’s temperature on hot summer days.
  • Trees shade neighbourhoods and homes to make the neighbourhoods more comfortable in summer and reduce home cooling costs.
  • Trees shade soil to allow more soil organisms to create healthier soil.
  • Trees provide a habitat for wildlife.
  • Trees provide colour and beauty, encourage residents to get out and about increasing physical and mental health.
  • Trees reduce run off during heavy rains to reduce flooding and reduce the strain on our storm sewer system.
  • Trees in a community increase the value of properties in that community.

We are confident that our efforts will have widespread support among Camrose residents. You can help. There will be volunteer tree planting opportunities and we hope you will consider joining us.

All of us can contribute to building a better community and we would love to have you be involved. You can help us make a more sustainable Camrose.


The Importance of Pollinators and the Importance of You

The importance of pollinators

From the US Department of Agriculture:

Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects.

You may have heard that bees are disappearing and bats are dying. These and other animal pollinators face many challenges in the modern world. Habitat loss, disease, parasites, and environmental contaminants have all contributed to the decline of many species of pollinators. Pollinators that can’t find the right quantity or quality of food (nectar and pollen from blooming plants within flight range) don’t survive. Right now, there simply aren’t enough pollinator friendly plantings to support pollinators.

The importance of us

The Camrose Green Action Committee wants to help. We can all help. All we have to do is to have in our yard, on our patio or on our balcony one or more plants that provide flowers that pollinators need to survive.

The Camrose Green Action Committee invites you to join us by participating in our Camrose Pollinator Garden Challenge!

  • Email a photo or photos of your pollinator-friendly space to 
  • Include your postal code (this is just to verify that you live in Camrose)
  • 3 winners will be chosen randomly among all entrants to win a bird feeder
  • Emailing a photo implies consent that the CGAC and City of Camrose can use these photos in social media and to announce winners

Deadline: August 31, 2024

Pollinator gardens include the following:

  • Giving priority to native plants
  • Having a range of plants that provide food from spring to fall
  • Having plants and habitats that give pollinators a place to live (shrubs, houses, bare soil patches, stems and dead stalks)
  • And importantly, an insecticide-free space!

Profile of Net Zero House in Camrose (in development)

Coming Soon!

Tips to Reduce Home Energy Use (in development)

Coming Soon!
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