Housing co-ops have long been interested in the environment. Some co-ops were early adopters of energy efficient technologies and committed to recycling and waste sorting even before municipalities made significant moves in those directions. There is much work to do and co-ops regard that work as ever more urgent. Here we collect some news and resources to help you.

Green Co-ops

Individual action is important—the choices each of makes matters—but government and business set regulations and the frameworks with live with and in. Where do housing co-ops fit in?

There are two broad areas: (1) how co-ops deal with their buildings directly, and (2) how co-ops manage their day-to-day operations and influence behaviours in their members.

Our Buildings

Canada’s building sector is the third highest source of emissions in the country. Heating and cooling use energy, so choosing and maintaining efficient systems is important.

The materials we select when building or renewing capital assets also matter. Where do the materials come from? Are they sustainable? Do any of them create health concerns?

Our Behaviors

An estimated one third of our global emissions are tied to our behaviors. Daily choices such as taking transit, choosing more plant-based meals or opting for the non-packaged kiwis while we shop, can have a significant cumulative impact on emissions.

When we as a communities take control of how we make these options easier to individuals, we can affect real change. Members in co-ops can work collectively to reduce consumption (through sharing), to invest ethically, to lobby, to educate each other on best practices, to grow food locally or create habitats for native species or those that require less water to maintain.

Learn more

Actions towards Sustainability

Co-ops and their members can take a wide range of actions that have environmental impacts.

Get motivated! Download a partial list of actions taken by co-ops to improve their sustainability. Tell us about what your co-op has done! Here are some high-level ideas:

  • Consider the long-term impacts of purchasing decisions and building renewals beyond dollar costs alone (ethics and environmental protection).
  • Create and maintain habitats that support life, and in particular native species.
  • Commit to choosing energy-efficient products (appliances, lights) and building systems.
  • Manage waste responsibly (which can include marking drainage gates and encouraging members not to dump chemicals).
  • Maintain boilers, water tanks and sewer lines to avoid leaks and contamination.
  • Using clean/renewable energy where possible.
  • Work within the co-op and outside the co-op to promote use of partners that favour sustainable supply chains.
  • Make use of bulk-buying opportunities and plan ahead to minimize total costs.
  • Commit to reducing food losses and optimizing disposal of waste (reuse > on-site composting > green waste streams > landfill disposal)
  • Promote landscaping appropriate to a changing climate.
  • Develop emergency preparedness plans and supplies.
  • Lobby for more systematic changes by voting and contacting your political representatives to let them know these issues are important.


Climate Emergency Task Force

The Climate Emergency Task Force was set up in response to a resolution adopted by members at CHF BC’s 2019 Annual General Meeting. The committee features a mix of CHF BC directors, CHF BC staff and directors from member organizations.

The mandate of the Task Force is to:

  • to assist the CHF BC board in reporting to members annually on how CHF BC’s tools, resources and programs are helping member housing co-ops become more environmentally sustainable and resilient;
  • support CHF BC’s efforts to assist housing co-ops in discussions with their members on how they can take tangible steps to reduce their co-op’s impact on the environment.

The Task Force first met in early 2021.  Read an interview with member of the Task Force, Kathryn Sheps, here.

For updates on the committee’s work, sign up for our sustainability and environment e-newsletter.

Learn more about the Task Force

Sustainability Goals

The United Nations, in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, set out 17 Sustainability Goals. Many of these are tied to environmental concerns and demonstrate how environmental challenges also connect to social justice issues.

Many of the targeted areas of action are relevant to how housing co-ops operate. In particular, co-ops make decisions that can affect efforts on climate change, clean water, responsible consumption, life on land or below water, and others.

Check out the UN’s 2030 Agenda.


Sustainability Resources

A selection of sustainability resources and links for housing co-operatives and organizations involved with community housing.

Decolonizing Environmentalism

It is clear there are connections between the goals of Indigenous reconciliation and decolonization, equity, and environmental resilience, In thinking about the environment, we also need to consider past injustices and exclusions, and different perspectives. Here are some links you may want to look at.

Environmental Racism & Justice

Even as housing co-ops have more conversations about sustainability, the environment, and climate change, there’s a risk of paying insufficient attention to marginalized groups and communities. Indigenous, racialized, and poorer communities are often impacted more strongly by climate change, and some policies and practices can even intentionally or unintentionally create more pollution or health risks for already vulnerable communities.

Here are some links that can get you thinking and help start conversations about environmental racism and justice.

Green YouTube

There are many YouTube content creators that touch on or focus on environmental matters. Here are a few suggestions for channels or videos to check out. For the most part, they're discussing energy or water use in a residential context.