Our Food Future releases strategic go-forward priorities.

Action plans will tackle critical issues, including climate change, food waste and food access.

Guelph, Ont., February 9, 2023—Guelph-Wellington’s Smart Cities Office is launching three action plans that lay the groundwork for long-term environmental, economic, and social gains through proven circular economy practices across our regional food system and beyond.

The three action plans provide the framework to build a sustainable model that continues and strengthens the ongoing work. Each plan includes strategic priorities based on research and experience. The Smart Cities Office will lead the implementation of the plans, with activation in the communities they serve, to embed the strategic priorities into systems and programs across Guelph and Wellington County.

The Our Food Future initiative was launched in 2019 to implement a circular food economy in Guelph and Wellington County after being awarded $10 Million from Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge.

“Congratulations to the City of Guelph and Wellington County on all your accomplishments through Our Food Future. The Government of Canada is proud to see that our support, through the Smart Cities Challenge, has helped plant the seed of innovation. The results have had a positive impact on the community and the program can serve as a model for other communities across the country,” said Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament for Guelph, on behalf of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities.

The Food Security Action Plan includes barrier-breaking initiatives like a regional healthy food prescription program, increased local food infrastructure, and a community food growing strategy.

The Circular Business Action Plan focuses on building a thriving circular business foundation, commercial models that challenge status quo thinking, and creating markets for recovered materials and upcycled products.

Finally, the Waste as a Resource Action Plan includes ground-breaking behaviour change strategies for consumer food waste reduction, and technology solutions to access real time data to further refine to these strategies.

“Our Food Future and COIL have always been community driven projects, with hundreds of organizations stepping up to advance the shared vision of a regional circular food economy. These action plans set a clear road map forward to sustain the momentum around the circular economy in this region into the future,” notes David Messer, executive director, Smart Cities Office.

These efforts are strengthening communities.

Our Food Future has gained remarkable momentum and worldwide attention including a recent Special Mention award from the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact Awards. Efforts by the local circular economy network, representing government, industry, academia, public health, and community agencies, have produced research and pilot projects that are guiding waste reduction strategies and winning awards. More than 200 businesses have adopted circular approaches to reduce waste and launched new services and ‘upcycled’ products.

Regenerative agriculture practices are being tested on over 60 hectares (150 acres) of local farmland—an area 12 times the size of the Roger’s Centre (SkyDome), and dozens of grassroots food access projects have been funded or supported including first-in-Canada programs to tackle food insecurity.

“We have an exciting and busy year ahead,” adds Messer. “2023 will involve extensive community engagement and conversations through Reimagine Food and the Food System Resiliency Table, and new projects and leadership to continue embedding circularity across the local food system and beyond.”

Additional Quotes

“What an incredible success story already. When we first applied for this funding, we knew we were a place where food problems could be solved, and this work is proving that. As our communities have struggled with the pandemic and rising food costs, Our Food Future has been immediately beneficial, while the long-term promise of environmental and economic outcomes is also clear.”

Cam Guthrie, Mayor, City of Guelph.

“Wellington County has a long history as an agricultural powerhouse, and the food innovations happening in our region today are truly inspirational. The success of the Experimental Acres Farm Pilot demonstrates that our producers are keen to have their innovation supported. Farming is the perfect place to build on circularity in action. We look forward to growing an even brighter, reimagined food future.”

Warden Andy Lennox, County of Wellington

About Our Food Future

Inspired by the planet’s natural cycles, a circular food economy reimagines and regenerates the systems that feed us, eliminating waste, sharing economic prosperity, and nourishing our communities. In Guelph-Wellington, we are working to build Canada’s first tech-enabled circular food economy that will achieve a 50 per cent increase in access to affordable nutritious food, create 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and a 50 per cent increase in circular economic benefit by unlocking the value of waste.

Our Food Future demonstrates one of the ways the City of Guelph and County of Wellington are contributing to a sustainable, creative and smart local economy that is connected to regional and global markets and supports shared prosperity for everyone.

About Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL)

COIL is a sister initiative to Our Food Future – both led by the Smart Cities Office, a joint local government project of the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington. Funding for COIL program participants is provided in collaboration with 10C’s Harvest Impact Fund, a social-finance initiative that supports impactful projects to strengthen local communities.

COIL programs, tools and resources are delivered as a collaboration between the City of Guelph, the County of Wellington, Innovation Guelph, 10C Shared Space and Anthesis Provision.


Graphic – Impact tiles

2022 Annual Report – Smart Cities Office

Media Contacts

David Messer, Executive Director
Smart Cities Office
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3661
[email protected]

Momentum building for local construction and demolition circularity lab

Co-operators providing additional funding for COIL Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab.

Guelph, Ont., January 26, 2023 – Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab (the Lab) is receiving an additional $350,000 in funding from Co-operators. The Lab is a Smart Cities initiative, co-led by the City of Guelph and County of Wellington through the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) project.

The circular economy project focuses on the diversion and recovery of construction, renovation and demolition materials from landfill and the creation and support of secondary markets for these resources. The additional funding comes just one year after Co-operators provided an initial $350,000 to help launch the project and the Lab. The renewed commitment from Co-operators strengthens the unique local public-private collaboration to tackle challenges contributing to climate change while supporting principles of a circular economy.

Research to address challenges

In 2022, the Lab produced two research reports that are contributing to an improved understanding of the construction industry’s material use and recycling conditions in Guelph-Wellington. The research identified the variety, quantities and carbon impacts of construction waste. Additionally, the research provides insight into why construction, renovation and demolition materials are either landfilled or recycled. Both reports are available on the COIL website. Together, this research will help inform targeted ways to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

“To reduce what’s going to landfill, we need to find ways to create new value from materials that are currently considered waste while doing so in a way that reduces the carbon footprint of our built environment. Our research gives us both the material and business perspectives for where waste happens, which will help us make better choices to change the system,” notes David Messer, Executive Director, Smart Cities Office.

The Lab is piloting construction material separation

A material source-separation pilot project will launch this year with two innovative companies, AET Group and The Better Bin Company, the pilot is a new circular approach to separating construction materials on local building sites. Interested local homebuilders and contractors are encouraged to contact COIL to participate in the pilot project.

“We see large amounts of construction materials going to landfill, however most materials can be reused or recycled if they are separated properly on-site. Our pilot project will help build the business case for separating materials on local construction sites using best practices and increase material recycling rates,” says Madeline Carter, project lead, Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab.

The Lab recently announced plans for a first-ever National Construction & Demolition Circular Innovation Challenge that will be presented in collaboration with Vancouver Economic Commission and Halifax Partnership. Funding will be made available across Canada to encourage the development of new climate-smart circular ideas and solutions to the materials recovery, reuse and recycling challenges currently faced by the construction, renovation and demolition sector. The challenge is slated to launch in spring 2023. Check the COIL website for updates.

Additional quotes

“As the City and County continue to grow, the work of the Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab will help us develop sustainably and with less waste. Co-operators is a circular economy leader in our community, and we sincerely thank them for working with us to find solutions to big challenges that affect us all.

Cam Guthrie, Mayor, City of Guelph

“We know significant waste and emissions are generated through the insurance claims process, in demolition and rebuilding after an event occurs. Guided by our vision to be a catalyst for a resilient and sustainable society, we are committed to reducing our environmental impact and seizing opportunities to drive positive change in our communities. We’re thrilled to support the Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab and help bring the circular economy to life.”

Karen Flamand, associate vice-president, Co-operators

“We’re pleased to see this innovative pilot combine two of the County’s priorities: more homes for families and strong environmental stewardship. Our thanks to Co-operators for supporting circularity in this sector.”

Andy Lennox, Warden, County of Wellington

About Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL)

Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) is an innovation platform and activation network focused on creating, proving, and scaling transformative solutions across organizations, supply chains and material streams. It launched in April 2021 with support funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. COIL programs, tools and resources are designed and operated to help move Canada toward a climate-smart circular economy.  The initiative is a collaboration between City of Guelph and County of Wellington and its program delivery partners, including Innovation Guelph, 10C Shared Space and Anthesis Provision.

COIL Zero Waste Economic Transformation Lab was launched in January 2022 with the goal of expanding Guelph-Wellington’s circular economy work to new sectors. Its first focus area is the CRD sector. Using circular economic principles, the Lab tests and develops new approaches to recover and recycle more materials that are currently perceived as waste.

About Co-operators

Co-operators General is a leading Canadian multi-product insurance company and is part of The Co-operators Group Limited (Co-operators). Co-operators is a leading Canadian financial services co-operative, offering multi-line insurance and investment products, services, and personalized advice to help Canadians build their financial strength and security. The company has more than $64.6 billion in assets under administration. Co-operators has been providing trusted guidance to Canadians for the past 76 years. The organization is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. Achieving carbon neutral equivalency in 2020, the organization is committed to net-zero emissions in its operations and investments by 2040, and 2050, respectively. Co-operators is also ranked as a Corporate Knights’ Best 50 Corporate Citizen in Canada. For more information, please visit: www.cooperators.ca.

Media Contact

David Messer
Executive Director, Smart Cities Office
City of Guelph
[email protected]