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2008 Planning

City of Pickering

The Sustainable City Project

Population: 94,000

In September 2005, faced with a large-scale development project that would essentially double its population, the City of Pickering began to research and implement a city-wide sustainability project called Sustainable Pickering. The city credits a large part of its success in implementing the project to staff education that imparted a "lead by example" approach to the effort and engaged the community in sustainability issues. In a pilot project, more than 1,000 households pledged to reduce energy consumption by 1,169,925 kilowatt hours (10 per cent) and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 253 tonnes. City council eventually approved GHG reduction targets of 35 per cent per capita for the community and 50 per cent per capita for corporate entities by the year 2016.


Pickering, Ontario, located on the east side of the Greater Toronto Area, is made up of both suburban and rural communities and is designated an "urban growth centre." In the mid-2000s, the city was faced with a large development project on provincially owned land with a target of 70,000 new residents and 35,000 jobs. The new development would almost double the city's 2006 population of 95,000.

In response to the development, city council decided to make a positive statement: they engaged the community in discussions. Work by a "benchmarking committee" created to measure the sustainability of development in the community led to the realization that the community discussions were just the beginning. Soon, a much larger process — a broader city-wide sustainability effort, a new way of doing business, and a key differentiator for the municipality — was born: the Sustainable Pickering project.


  • The City of Pickering provided staff orientation and training to approximately 400 city employees.
  • To make information on the project available to the community, the city designed and launched the Sustainable Pickering website.
  • In June 2005, the City of Pickering purchased a Ford Escape Hybrid that will produce approximately 28 per cent less emissions than a conventional gasoline vehicle and that will reduce fuel consumption by 50 per cent.
  • In May 2006, council established an annual Sustainable Pickering Day.
  • In an important partnership with DSA, the municipality helped launch the "We Have the Power" program, which collected approximately 1,000 household pledges to reduce energy consumption by 1,169,925 kilowatt-hours (10 per cent) and GHGs by 253 tonnes.
  • The municipality completed milestones 1, 2, and 3 of the PCP program in March 2007, setting council-approved GHG reduction targets of 35 per cent per capita for the community and 50 per cent per capita for corporate entities by the year 2016.
  • In 2007, the municipality retrofitted City Hall with energy efficient lighting, saving approximately $70,000 annually and reducing GHGs by 400 tonnes.
  • A "Measuring Sustainability" project initiated in 2007 will establish key indicators and targets for sustainability. Five related working groups were formed to develop a list of indicators to help measure sustainability. Progress with respect to these indicators will be measured, analyzed, and reported to city council and the community.

Lessons Learned

  • DO YOUR HOMEWORK. When the Sustainable Pickering Project first launched, research showed that the magnitude of the issues it faced presented a "once in a career" opportunity. Thomas Melymuk, director of the office of sustainability in Pickering, knew that timing is an important factor in municipal government. He recognized that "we had to do our homework to actually put in place something that was solid enough that could stand the test of scrutiny." Without a solid foundation, city council would be unlikely to support a project.
  • GET COUNCIL SUPPORT. The support of council is imperative. Melymuk commented that "we had a couple [of] councillors particularly interested, but we recognized from the get-go that if the council and the chief administrative officer weren't supportive of the project, it really wasn't going anywhere."
  • ENGAGE THE COMMUNITY EARLY. Community interest, support, and participation are an integral part of reaching sustainability goals. By engaging the community early in the process with town hall meetings, a Sustainable Pickering Day at the local shopping mall, and the Sustainable Pickering website, people were able to see that the city was building momentum and moving forward.
  • TAKE THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE. Melymuk recommends looking at what is already happening in a community. If an area of opportunity seems open, pursue it. "You may find that what might be a small or modest opportunity actually explodes into something a lot larger, and that people will jump on board and engage in something that you wouldn't have otherwise thought of doing." Find champions in the community, as well as in the organization.
  • MAKE IT REAL. Fully committing to making sustainability real within an organization is extremely important. Create a dedicated office or employment position to oversee the work, and assign a budget. Having dedicated staff makes the work a priority and puts it "front and centre," Melymuk says.

Partners and Collaboration

  • Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade
  • Durham Strategic Energy Alliance
  • Durham Sustain Ability
  • Enbridge Gas
  • Evergreen
  • FCM's Green Municipal Fund
  • Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure
  • Ontario Power Generation
  • Regional Municipality of Durham
  • University of Ontario Institute of Technology
  • University of Toronto
  • Veridian Corporation
Page Updated: 21/12/2015