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Sustainability

About Sustainability at RBG

At RBG our mission is to connect people, plants and place for the purpose of nurturing and preserving healthy growing life on our planet. We are a biodiversity based organization, and we know that climate change poses enormous threats to the plants that sustain our planet. Thus our mission, mandate and future are deeply connected to sustainability – working to meet our needs today in a way that doesn’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

As part of our sustainability efforts we look to engage with other groups who share our goals. RBG is a member of Sustainable Hamilton Burlington’s Sustainability Leadership Program (formerly the Sustainable Business Initiative) and a participating member of the American Public Gardens Association’s Public Garden Sustainability Index.

Sustainability Projects

We’ve completed a variety of types of projects to reduce our impact at RBG. Learn more about the specific projects that we’ve rolled out, how they’ve reduced our impact, and what we’ve learned along the way.

We’ll be keeping this up to date as more projects complete so check back soon!

Learn More

Sustainability Highlights

  • 54%

    waste diverted from landfill (in 2019)

  • 16%

    annual reduction of water consumption (in 2019)

  • $3.7k

    estimated avoided waste costs using monitoring equipment (in 2019)

Environmental Performance

To understand our environmental impact, we track our greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and waste diversion. Wbelieve that you can’t manage what you don’t measure and these metrics help us better understand the impact of our operations. As part of this process we want to share this data with our members and the public to be transparent with our efforts and progress. 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Goal: 20% from our 2017 Baseline by 2027
Updated May 2022

RBG has committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 20% of our 2017 emissions over ten years. This target was selected as part of Sustainable Hamilton Burlington’s “Sustainable Business Initiative” in 2018 (now known as Sustainability Leadership). As part of our GHG emissions calculation we take into consideration the energy used to heat and power our facilities, the fuel used to operate our vehicles, tools and equipment, as well as employee business travel. Using Sustainability Leadership’s carbon accounting tool, we convert our data into tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) on an annual basis.

While we have been making efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we are not currently on track to meet our reduction target, with our aging and inefficient propagation and display greenhouses being among our largest emission sources. Check back in the future for blog posts with more information on our greenhouse gas emissions and the initiatives we are taking to reduce them.

2021 Review

  • 2021 was our first year where our greenhouse gas emissions fell below our 2017 baseline levels. The work in 2020 to replace old natural gas boilers with newer efficient models played an important role in this reduction.
  • We acquired 19 commercial grade electric landscaping tools into our equipment fleet in addition to a fully electric ride-on lawnmower.
  • Work was completed in Hendrie Park to expand the garden’s electrical capacity. This meant we did not need to use generators for Winter Wonders, and should be able to use them less overall in the future.
Bar graph indicating greenhouse gas emissions from 2017 to 2027
Greenhouse gas emissions by year: Baseline (2017) – 907.73 tonnes CO2e, 2018 emissions – 1046.62 tonnes CO2e, 2019 emissions – 1,143.09 tonnes CO2e, 2020 emissions – 978.65 tonnes CO2e, 2021 emissions -897.10 tonnes CO2e, Target (2027) –726.18 tonnes CO2e – note that these values may vary between years as emission factors are updated to reflect the most accurate sources available.

Our GHG emissions are determined using activity data from our electricity, natural gas and propane utility bills, our internal fuel tracking system, and our employee mileage expenses which are converted to tonnes of CO2e using the Sustainability Leadership Program’s Carbon Accounting Tool.

Water Consumption

Updated May 2022

As a botanical garden we have a significant demand for water to irrigate our living collections. While we’re making efforts to choose plants that aren’t as “thirsty” where we can, it is critical that we track water consumption in detail so we can identify areas where there are opportunities to conserve and reduce our impact. We have many kilometers of irrigation lines and have invested in our systems to better monitor water use in our gardens and our buildings in the last two years and we are seeing a reduction as a result.

2021 Review

  • 2021 water consumption remained relatively similar to last year. Part of the increase in 2021 can be attributed to slightly higher early season irrigation use, which will be looked closer at in 2022.
  • On-going monitoring efforts detected three unusual water consumption events that were addressed, and as a result saved an estimated 500 m3 of water.
  • Irrigation rain sensors were installed in Hendrie Park, RBG Centre, and the Rock Garden. These sensors automatically shut-off scheduled irrigation in the event of rain and prevent systems from re-starting until conditions have begun to dry out.

We are still working on a target for reduction. To learn more about our water conservation initiatives check back for future blog posts.

bar graph indicating water consumption by year, 2017 to 2021
Water consumption by year: 2017 – 35,576 m3, 2018 – 35,068 m3, 2019 – 29,637 m3, 2020 – 21,357 m3, 2021 – 22,336.36m3. Our annual water consumption is calculated using our utility bills.

Waste Diversion

Updated May 2022

Waste Diversion is a measure of how much material disposed is diverted away from landfill to be recycled or re-used. A 100% diversion rate would mean nothing is going to landfill, so a higher diversion rate is ideal. In 2017 we invested in an entirely new waste diversion program and rolled out dozens of new two- and three-stream bins. We set a goal to achieve a 65% diversion rate, aligned with Halton Region’s Waste Diversion target at the time. While we have seen improvements, and have most recently created a single-use plastics policy, we still have a ways to go to reach our target. Part of the challenge in reaching our goal is that some material can’t be recycled at RBG, such as most commercial coffee or drink cups (the cups we use at RBG are all BPI certified compostable).

2021 Review

  • Our diversion rate has been hovering around 55% since our last major system update. In 2021 audits were completed to help inform updates to outdoor signage planned for 2022.
  • In 2021 we coordinated the start of an on-site metal recycling service which will allow us to capture and recycle a number of scrap metals from our operations more efficiently. This information has not yet been incorporated into our waste diversion calculation.

For more information on our waste diversion initiatives check back for future blog posts.

bar graph indicating waste diversion rate from 2017 to 2021
Waste Diversion is a measure of how much material disposed is diverted away from landfill to be recycled or re-used. A 100% diversion rate would mean nothing is going to landfill, so a higher diversion rate is ideal. Waste Diversion by year: 2017 – 48.6%, 2018 – 55.9%, 2019 – 54.5%, 2020 – 59.7%*, 2021 – 55.9%, Target – 65%

Our waste diversion rate is calculated using service summaries from multiple waste and recycling service providers.

RBG’s Sustainability in the News

Read more about RBG’s sustainability efforts from our partners and news outlets!

Sustainable Hamilton Burlington

Sustainability Leadership

Support Sustainability at RBG

These projects are possible thanks to the generous support of RBG Members and donors. With a donation to Growing up Green, you can ensure an active, vibrant and healthy future for the children of today and tomorrow through our horticultural and conservation projects.