Beginning with reducing its waste footprint
By Jennifer Humphries
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on businesses across the city, and Lansdowne Park is no exception. Sports, entertainment, retail, restaurants – you name it, all have suffered huge losses. In October, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which manages the park and stadium in a partnership with the city, announced the layoff of 40 per cent of its workforce.
It may seem bizarre to think about a sustainable future when you really just need to get back on your feet. But that’s precisely what a group of us has been discussing vis-à-vis Lansdowne. And the timing seems just right.
Pre-COVID, the Zero Waste Committee of the Glebe Community Association (GCA) met with Councillor Shawn Menard to talk about putting waste issues on the agenda at Lansdowne. The park is an Ottawa icon and a central feature of the Glebe, Old Ottawa South and, with the Flora Footbridge now providing quicker access, Old Ottawa East. Its status makes it a model for other parks and event spaces, so the GCA and partner community associations believe it should be a leader in the management of waste.
Over the summer, the committee invited OSEG leaders to meet to discuss waste reduction and diversion. We talked about key waste issues for the community, and we also took the opportunity to raise broader issues of sustainability. OSEG’s CEO Mark Goudie and his team welcomed the topic. Clearly, it’s been on their minds as well. As we collectively recover from the pandemic, Goudie wants to make it a “green recovery” for Lansdowne.
“One of the very few positives about the pandemic is that it’s given us an opportunity to examine our business and business practices from top to bottom with an eye to innovate,” said Goudie. “We’ve identified several promising eco-friendly technologies and processes, and now it’s a matter of working with our partners at the City of Ottawa and the community to determine how best to move forward with their adoption.”
The committee held a separate meeting about waste with Dan Chenier, the city’s general manager responsible for the park. While OSEG oversees waste management for the stadium, arena and urban park, the city has responsibility for two major event spaces, Aberdeen Pavilion and the Horticulture Building.
Less Waste, More Diversion
Going into these discussions, the Zero Waste Committee’s top recommendations were:
Single-Use Plastics (SUPs): End the sale of water and other drinks in plastic bottles in vending machines and at refreshment stands and add more refill stations. Work with caterers to switch to reusable dishware or allow customers to bring their own dishes and cutlery. At a minimum, educate catering staff not to hand out unnecessary cutlery, and don’t place it in open bins that encourage overuse.
Organics: Provide eco-friendly organics treatment in the stadium, event spaces and businesses. (Businesses do not have access to the city green bin program.)
Recycling Bins: Switch from co-mingled to segregated recycling bins to reduce contamination.
In regard to SUPs, OSEG is considering limits to water bottle sales and has pledged to add three more refill stations over the next two years. There are now four water-bottle and two soft-drink refill stations in the stadium/arena complex and three in the urban park. As well, in June 2019, OSEG and Levy, their food and beverage provider, eliminated plastic straws and switched to biodegradable bamboo plates and cups.
As for organics, food waste in the stadium is managed using a technology that sends liquefied, filtered organic waste into the municipal wastewater management system. OSEG is investigating new options, recognizing that this kind of technology adds to the burden on Ottawa’s wastewater management system. Whole Foods also uses liquefy-filter technology to dispose of food waste through the city’s wastewater infrastructure while Craft Beer Market does its own composting.
Other businesses, however, do not have access to any facilities or programs, so much of their organic waste goes out with the garbage. To fill the gap, the GCA and partners are urging the city to expand the green bin program to all businesses in the park. There has been progress. In 2019, the city began providing green bin service at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market.
Co-mingled recycling containers (metal, glass, plastic, paper) are located throughout the stadium and park, and OSEG later segregates the contents for appropriate recycling. Still, the GCA is encouraging the switch to segregated bins to reduce the chances that some material will still wind up in landfill.
On the city front, Chenier told us that event organizers (such as City Folk, Tulip Festival, 613flea) are responsible for their own waste collection. While they are encouraged to ensure recycling and composting, using private services, there is no strict requirement. We are urging the city to implement requirements similar to Toronto’s “Waste Management Diversion for Special Events in Parks.” Chenier noted that this could be a component of the city’s new Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) that is now in development and could apply to all city parks, not just Lansdowne. Yes to that, but since the SWMP could take two more years to complete and another year to take effect, the GCA will be pushing for quicker implementation of waste diversion requirements.
Soon into our talks with Goudie, we realized that he shared our ambition to make Lansdowne a “green showplace.” Think solar panels, green roofs, rains barrels for watering trees and lawns. And certainly, thriving trees on Aberdeen Square and on the avenues in Lansdowne.
Lansdowne was built to environmental principles and achieved LEED Stage 3 Silver Certification. Among energy and water-use reduction efforts, it has installed energy efficient LED lighting throughout the arena and its concourses, remotely controlled stadium and arena lighting and video boards, high efficiency pumps for water and variable speed drives for mechanical equipment, automated night-time set-back system to lower energy consumption by the arena ice plant in off-hours, a heat exchanger to utilize waste heat from the ice plant and low water consumption taps in most arena washrooms.
But OSEG wants to do more. In an email, Randy Burgess, vice-president of communications and special projects, said, “As new, socially responsible technologies emerge and best practices evolve, we are committed to assessing their relevance to Lansdowne and analyzing their potential impact on our sustainability initiatives.” OSEG recently joined the Green Sports Alliance to access best practices worldwide.
We appreciate the willingness of the city and OSEG to share information on their efforts to date and planned future actions, and on their openness to dialogue. We plan to pursue the discussion, in cooperation with the Lansdowne Working Group convened by our councillor.
Next steps? We’ve committed to work together to identify specific actions that can be taken in the next months and year toward a green recovery.
And we’re looking for your ideas. Ways to reduce Lansdowne’s waste footprint. Eco-friendly organics treatment. Using solar energy to power facilities. Innovative design spaces that attract crowds and inspire new green initiatives, along the lines of the soon-to-open Community Pop-Up Art Gallery organized by the Glebe Art in our Gardens and Studio Tour, the GCA Lansdowne Committee, OSEG and the Glebe BIA.
Lansdowne Park is a community treasure, an Ottawa landmark and a historic site. It has so much going for it and so much potential to be a true environmental showcase. As its home communities, it’s in our interest to engage.
Jennifer Humphries is co-chair of the Glebe Community Association’s Environment Committee. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org