Air quality


If you struggle to breathe, especially on hot summer days, you're not alone. Air quality remains a significant problem for cities - and ours is no exception.

Emissions produced by burning fossil fuels in vehicles and buildings diminish our air quality, and take a toll on our health and the environment.

While global, federal and provincial efforts to improve air quality are important, we've made a concerted effort at the local level to help improve air quality in our community.

 Air Quality Report

Our Air Quality Report contains both short-term and long-term recommended actions to improve local air quality.

From 2006 to 2013, five recommended actions (also referred to as 'Best Bets') were chosen each year to be implemented through various departments within the city, as well as citizens. 

The Air Quality Report recommends that future Kitchener environmental committees continue to pursue, and present to council, recommendations flowing from this document.

We have installed more than 300 anti-idling signs at drop-off/pick-up zones at all city facilities, as well as local elementary and secondary schools. The installation of the signs aligns with one of the related recommendations in our Air Quality in Kitchener report, which asks us to lead by example in promoting environmentally friendly habits to the community. 

 Best Bets

The Air Quality in Kitchener report includes a series of 50 recommended actions to improve air quality in Kitchener. Each year five actions, entitled 'best bets', are put forward by the environmental committee to consider for implementation.

See some of our initiatives from past years:

  • Encourage onsite controls that reduce individual contributions of stormwater runoff and pollutant loading to the municipal Stormwater Management System.

  • Encourage the continued integration of environmentally sustainable / walkable urban design and neighbourhood design principles into the development approvals process.

  • Develop business assistance and recognition programs to encourage businesses to adopt pollution prevention and eco-efficiency measures (LEED incentives).

  • Adopt planning tools to assist with the development of Community Energy Plans that would support the Air Quality in Kitchener - 2010.

  • Ensure that the City is endeavouring to use up-to-date, sustainable park and yard care practices.

  • Continue to preserve and acquire parklands and natural lands in existing developments.

  • Provide creative measures to curb idling at traffic lights by adjusting the timing of traffic lights during non-peak hours.

  • Establish a tree planting and partnership program by offering incentives to residents, community organizations, schools, business improvement areas and volunteers to expand resources for the planting, maintenance and care of trees.

  • Continue to support by way of education, signage, advertising support, and website updates private and/or community vegetable gardens within the city.

  • Promote ecological diversity (primarily native species) in city parks, private, commercial and industrial properties (e.g. butterfly habitat, wildflower sections, plants that attract and/or sustain pollinators and removal of invasive species).

  • Encourage the continuation of retrofits and/or installation of bike lanes, paths and sidewalk connections that link trails to provide safer routes, a mix of recreational routes and encourage more.

  • Promote educational opportunities that would inform citizens of the benefits of natural areas re: benefits of trees and wetlands - particularly native species.

  • Support a public bike sharing program. The system could provide free or affordable access to thousands of bicycles as alternatives to private vehicles.

  • Encourage the Region of Waterloo to open or enable permanent localized recycling / electronic / hazardous waste drop off depots.

  • Encourage considerations of the implications for air quality and global climate change during the development of long-range plans.

  • City staff, in partnership with the environment committee, revised the original Air Quality in Kitchener (2006) and presented the new Air Quality in Kitchener (2010) to city council.

  • The city, in co-operation with the Region of Waterloo's public health department, will develop and implement education strategies to make residents aware how their personal actions and choices affect air quality.

  • The city will expand its existing clean-air plan to include a smog-alert advisory/strategy and management program targeted at the general public, not just city operations.

  • The city will make educational material and assessment tools available to demonstrate the benefits of and encourage energy retrofit initiatives in residential, commercial and industrial applications.

  • The city will assist transport centres (i.e. train and bus terminals) and city facilities (i.e. arenas, libraries and pools) to introduce anti-idling measures.

  • The city will carry on emission inspections and maintenance programs as part of ISO 14001 that effectively reduce emissions from fleet vehicles.

  • Continue to support and implement energy efficiency initiatives.

  • Reduce reliance on automobiles and enhance non-vehicular accessibility.

  • Develop, promote and implement best-management practices for non-manufacturing businesses.

  • Mobilize public opinion.

  • Establish a greenhouse-gas emission reduction target and track implementation progress.

  • Supporting compact urban development. Staff will investigate the potential to: adopt processes that are supportive of compact urban developments; continue to pursue policies and implement actions that target the redevelopment of formerly contaminated brownfield sites.
  • Seeking continuous improvement from industrial/commercial/institutional sources by developing a tiered approach that includes incentives and flexible regulatory approaches. Staff will investigate, among other things, the potential to:

    • Create an incentive program to promote naturalized landscape designs for institutional, industrial and commercial sites.

    • More often implement Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design principles (LEED);

    • Implement pollution prevention measures to existing and proposed new city facilities;

    • Seek to have industrial development designed to accommodate the use of bicycles and walking to work.

  • Facilitating an increase in bicycle transportation. Staff will investigate the potential to:

    • Develop a detailed city network of on- and off-street bike lanes, routes and paths linking the community trails, major recreational and employment destinations in the community.

    • Develop local streets and intersections to include bikeways.

    • Design bike facilities at transit terminals;

    • Develop and implement a program which facilitates and encourages greater and safer use of the bicycle.

  • Enhancing greenspace management. Staff will investigate the potential to:

    • Adopt a regulatory process to ensure natural features of greenfield lands are protected and preserved.

    • Educate residents about the environmental benefits of trees and provide incentives for planting trees.

    • Consider implementing a regulatory process whereby lots in new residential developments are mandated to have, at minimum, one tree at the front of each dwelling.

    • Provide incentives to homeowners to encourage them to naturalize their yards.

    • Providing incentives for energy-efficient development. Staff will investigate the potential to: provide incentives to encourage a developer to undertake a large-scale, energy efficient project using clean, energy efficient space heating.

  • Continue work toward the city becoming certified in the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System. Through this certification, the city will meet a series of voluntary standards designed to help operations improve their environmental performance and make greater use of pollution prevention approaches.
  • Reduce non-residential point-source emissions. This initiative involves exploring potential emission reduction strategies for major sources of air pollution and will mean changes like Stop Idling signs being posted at city facilities and in school zones.

  • Increase green space. With increased growth in Waterloo Region, it is imperative that the city increase green spaces. This initiative will mean that the city will focus more on planning and building more green connections providing greater trail access to public green spaces and more options for walking, biking and other alternative modes of transportation. As well, the report recommends promoting a natural yard care program to residents.

  • Reach out to school boards. Schools need to provide a supportive, healthy environment for students. By partnering with the city, school boards will be able to do such things as request that vehicles do not idle on school property, plant more trees, and promote walk-to-school incentives. The report also recommends a new environmental stewardship program strictly for greening school lands.

  • Promote residential energy conservation. Through Kitchener Utilities, the city is in a position to lead by example by continuing to develop, implement and promote clean and energy-efficient space heating and household appliances.

 Clean Air Plan

The Waterloo Region Partners for Clean Air - a group in which we partner with the City of Cambridge, City of Waterloo, Region of Waterloo, St. Mary's General Hospital, University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University - provides a cooperative framework for positive environmental change by focusing its attention on reducing carbon emissions and improving local air quality. One of the primary goals of the group is to further develop the contents of the Clean Air Plan, which was originally developed by the region in 1999.

We need your help

Together, we can:

  • Learn as much as we can about climate change - and take simple steps to improve our air quality.
  • Advocate action from the federal, provincial and regional levels of government, in addition to business and industry.

You can also join the Smog Alert Network and receive notifications whenever a smog alert is declared due to poor air quality in our area.

Contact Us