Local Material and Energy Flow Analysis for the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

To address global environmental challenges, resource use patterns at local and sub-national scales can provide relevant insights into drivers and how these link to local policy and decision-making. The Region of Waterloo is often referred to as “Canada’s Silicon Valley” consists of the townships of Wellesley, Woolwich, Wilmot, and North Dumfries and the tri-cities of Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo. Close to Toronto, and reputation of being the tech hub, Waterloo’s population (mainly from immigration) is on the rise and region is under rapid transition from a rural to an increasingly urban system being connected by rapid transit systems. To better understand the region from a systems perspective and to provide input into sustainability policies of the region, the concept of social metabolism is applied. Society’s metabolism measures pressures on the environment where increasing throughput can have negative impacts on ecosystem and human health in the short and long term. Material and Energy Flow Analysis (MEFA) is conducted to calculate derived indicators of biomass and energy use for the Region of Waterloo in accordance with established conventions. Using a number of MEFA indicators, the paper will outline some of the major sustainability challenges in resource use patterns in the region since 2006. This study is the first to conduct a material and energy flow analysis for the Region of Waterloo in three points in time. Data on extraction, consumption, imports, and exports of various biomass and energy flow indicators will be presented. Results from MFA show that the Region of Waterloo has a high import dependency for food crops and high domestic extraction of feed crops mainly fodder corn And results observed from Energy Flow Analysis indicates that the Region of Waterloo imports 100% of its technical energy and is highly dependent on outside markets. This study will encourage discussions on food and energy security in the region and help the policymakers in the region to make informed decisions. This research adds to the growing data points of research on Material and Energy flow analysis and social metabolism and serves as a starting point for more related research in sub-national socio-metabolic studies.

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