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“Sustainability” in Cambridge revolves around how we develop, how we move, and how we interact with our natural environment. We must also consider how we make decisions with an eye to the future and the “triple bottom line”, our energy use, and what each of us, our community organizations, and the City as a corporation, can do to make this place healthier for us and our local ecosystems.

The City has a number of Master Plans that address aspects of environment and sustainability such as the Stormwater Master Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Urban Forest Plan, and Cycling Master Plan among others.

Environmental Planning

Read on below for more information about the steps and processes behind environmental planning at the City of Cambridge.

 Subwatershed Studies
 The planning process starts with Subwatershed Studies to outline at a bioregional scale the features, species, habitat and ecological processes that require protection and/or buffers.


 The Official Plan
 The Official Plan contains policies for protecting environmental features, sustainable design, and parkland greenspaces acquisition.
 Environmental Assessments
Environmental Assessments are completed for infrastructure projects.  Environmental Impact Studies are submitted prior to development in order to take a more detailed view of the potential impacts on natural features, systems and organisms on a proposed development site.  Contaminated sites are identified and addressed through the planning process and the City offers incentives for their clean up such as the Contaminated Sites Grant.  
 Planning Applications
 As part of the development process, and at the site scale, various planning applications require that trees are inventoried, street tree plans and other landscape plans are submitted (for example, environmental buffer plans or stormwater management plans with native vegetation and seed mixes beneficial to pollinators and target species may be a requirement for developing a site).

Climate Change

The City declared a climate emergency in 2019 (Resolution 19-230 to 232).

Climate change is addressed by the City through our “corporate” Energy Conservation Demand Management Plan which deals with our City-owned buildings and vehicles. Our objective is to meet the Council-adopted target of 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. Our “community” climate change plan (TransformWR) lays out a community-based vision for 2050 and a strategy on the actions needed in the businesses, schools, households and broader community to achieve emissions reduction targets.  The "Our Progress, Our Path 2020" report (April 2023) looked at the 2010-2020 timeframe of the first community climate action plan, ("A Climate Action Plan for Waterloo Region"), the closure of the Provincial coal plants, the impacts of COVID, and how the community reached its 6% reduction target. 

 Some sustainability projects are best tackled by collaborative partnerships and so the City partners with Reep Green Solutions, Sustainable Waterloo, Energy+, and other partners on initiatives such as the Community Energy Investment Strategy. The City reports its energy use and GHG emissions annually for all its buildings and fleet. The City has a Climate Adaptation Plan for building resiliency in our infrastructure and operations to address the projected impacts of climate change. 

Corporate Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan

The updated Cambridge corporate Energy Conservation and Demand Management (ECDM) Plan, in accordance with O.Reg 507/18, received Council approval on December 15, 2020. This Plan, which builds on the previous 2014 ECDM Plan proposes:

  • Actions for reducing GHG levels and energy use related to services provided by the City
  • Evaluates and prioritizes these actions
  • Highlights anticipated energy and GHG reductions

The GHG Reduction (Energy Management) Plan also outlines how the City will reduce GHG emissions across our corporate operations and services by 50% below 2010 levels by 2030 and 80% below 2010 levels by 2050. 

The implementation of the initiatives identified in the previous 2014 ECDM Plan has led to a reduction of corporate GHG emissions of 17% below the 2009 levels. This exceeds the 2019 target of 6% below 2009 levels as approved by Council in 2014.  The City is now using 2010 as the baseline (instead of 2009) in order to be consistent with other baselines such as the community plan TransformWR.  The baseline is the starting point from which we measure progress toward reducing GHG emissions.

The City was recognized in 2023 by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) for achieving Milestone 5 of the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program for the 2014 Energy Conservation Demand Management (ECDM) Plan and Milestones 1-3 for the 2020 ECDM Plan.  The PCP program reporting is voluntary, covers all of the City's emissions (e.g. fleet, buildings, etc.) and compliments the City's regulatory reporting on facility emissions under O.Reg 507/18.

Reporting the City’s Energy use and GHG Emissions

The City of Cambridge reports annual energy use and GHG emissions, in accordance with the Ontario Regulation O. Reg 507/18. Our goal is to reduce our GHG emission levels towards the Council approved targets (e.g. 80% reduction by 2050 as well as interim targets).

 View our previous annual reports:

Climate Adaptation

 The City of Cambridge, together with the Cities of Waterloo and Kitchener, and the Region of Waterloo, asked the University of Waterloo to provide some modelling and insight into what climate change might look like LOCALLY in anticipation of producing climate adaptation plans. The Changing Climate of Waterloo Region one-page information sheet and this two-minute video provide a summary of the report Localized Climate Projections for Waterloo Region.

City of Cambridge Climate Adaptation Plan

The City of Cambridge has prepared this Climate Adaptation Plan to address potential impacts of climate change. The purpose of climate adaptation planning is to identify where existing and planned buildings, infrastructure, programs, and services could be vulnerable.


Our plan is based on the following principles:

  1. Public & Staff Safety
  2. Property Protection
  3. Service Delivery to Community

Through assessing our risk and vulnerabilities, we can make more informed decisions in the years to come.

 Region of Waterloo Climate Adaptation Plan
 While the City of Cambridge Climate Adaptation Plan looks at corporate municipal operations, the Region of Waterloo Climate Adaptation Plan looks at potential impacts on the community and sets out a number of objective and actions to be better prepared.

Partners for Climate Protection

The City participates in the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program. PCP is a joint voluntary program between Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). The program supports municipalities in their efforts to reduce GHG emissions. The City was recognized by the FCM and ICLEI for achieving Milestone 5 of the PCP program for the previous (2014) Energy Management/GHG plan; the City was also recognized for achieving Milestones 1-3 for the 2020 Energy Conservation Demand Management Plan.

Online Natural Heritage and Trees Mapping Tools 

These online mapping tools let you see the tree canopy on your property, size and species of your street tree, geological history and natural heritage sites:

The City of Cambridge, Region of Waterloo, and Grand River Conservation Authority also have online mapping tools.

Community Involvement

 The City and its partners have received acknowledgement and awards over the years for environmental stewardship including a GRCA Watershed Award, Ontario Parks Association Protecting Tomorrow Today award, Tree Cities of the World and Bee City Canada designations.

Cambridge has a rich history of individuals and small groups, schools, community associations, rare Charitable Research Reserve, Idea Exchange, Grand River Conservation Authority, community organizations such as the Ancient Mariners Canoe Club, and businesses that are making a difference in our local environment through their stewardship, citizen science, and planting projects.  Check out some of the local organizations and their projects and the opportunities below with the City.

Cambridge Bee City

Bee City Canada designated Cambridge as a Bee City in 2021. Bee City designation was pursued through an application to Bee City Canada and a City Council Resolution (see the Bee City Council Report) that highlighted two decades of community organizations and their projects dedicated to biodiversity, habitat enhancement, food security, monitoring and education around pollinators. The designation sets the stage for continuing projects, hosting an annual pollinator event in partnership with the Bee Region, and annual reporting to Bee City Canada.  Residents can find information (e.g. on native plant nurseries, how to design a pollinator garden, etc.) on the Bee City Canada site, or consider registering your pollinator garden as part of rare's "1000 Gardens Project", an effort to create a Toronto-Waterloo corridor for pollinators.

 Past Pollinator Accomplishments
  • A Butterfly Loop walking trail with interpretive signage specific pollinators (rare Charitable Research Reserve)
  • The establishment of the Cambridge Pollinator Preserve, on two acres of flood plain along the Grand River in Riverbluffs Park (Ancient Mariners Canoe Club)
  • The creation of a community seed library (Idea Exchange)
  • Five local, pollinator-friendly gardens to serve the vulnerable (Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank)
  • Planting of more than 12,000 native trees, wildflowers and shrubs at 30 sites across the city (Cambridge City Green and community partners)
  • Commitment to City beds and gardens that use pollinator-friendly plants and areas to encourage bee and butterfly habitats (City of Cambridge)
 Cambridge Bee City Canada Application Organizations

Cambridge City Green

Cambridge City Green is a group of volunteers who encourage and coordinate community projects that benefit our local environment. The group leverages the enthusiasm and effort of thousands of volunteers. Cambridge City Green is a subcommittee of the Cambridge Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC). Projects led by Cambridge City Green volunteers include the Cambridge Community Clean Up, walks (e.g. TREEmendous Cambridge, Jane's Walk, etc.) and planting projects (e.g. Cambridge Pollinator Preserve, seed balls, etc.).  For more information contact CambridgeCityGreen@Cambridge.ca or sign up to get notification of upcoming events at www.CambridgeCityGreen.ca

Cambridge Stewardship project

The Cambridge Stewardship project started in 2007. To date, the project has:

  • Planted more than 10,000 native trees, shrubs and wildflowers
  • Established more than 150 native species at 23 sites across the city
  • Hosted more than 80 planting events, supported by more than 3,000 volunteers and 75 community groups

Community partners contribute $3 for every $1 the City contributes to the Cambridge Stewardship project.

Cambridge City Green thanks the following groups for their financial support of this project:

Cambridge Environmental Advisory Committee

The Cambridge Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) advises Council on ways to protect, maintain and enhance the natural environment.

Learn more about Cambridge's boards and committees.

Recycling, Waste Management, Green Bins, and a future Circular Economy

Garbage and recycling services in the City of Cambridge are provided by the Region of Waterloo.  Information on curbside collection programs can be found on the Region of Waterloo Waste Management’s website. To check how to dispose of an item, set collection reminders or find your collection day, the Waste Whiz app is an easy, handy reference.  Download the Waste Whiz app to your cell or use the search tool on the website. There are also a number of online opportunities to learn about the waste programs for in the classroom or community groups. 

Special waste items such as household hazardous waste, batteries, e-waste and tires cannot be collected with curbside garbage collection.  Mandatory provincial regulations require the makers (producers) of these items to collect them for reuse or recycle and to provide safe, convenient and free public collection sites across the province. To find a collection site near you, visit the RPRA's Find a Collection Site page.  For more information on hazardous and special waste collection, see the RPRA (Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority) website

The Region’s Cambridge Waste Management site (located at 201 Savage Drive) can also accept common household hazardous waste such as paints, motor oil, lawn chemicals, etc.  Please keep these in the original container and tightly close the lid.   

The Green Bin program has seen year over year increases since 2017 in volume of material collected.  By composting Green Bin waste the environmental impact is huge in terms of diverting waste from our one and only landfill in the region, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the benefit of compost. 

The provincial government is working on changes to waste diversion and under the Waste Free Ontario Act, the onus will be on the producers of consumer products and packaging  to be responsible for end-of-life management when consumers dispose of them. The goal is to reuse or recycle these materials into the production of new items.  For more information about this shift to a “circular economy,” refer to the Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority website.