In an ever-changing world that is facing a plethora of environmental challenges, sustainability trends have never been more important for organizations to implement.
Community recreation centers have a unique opportunity to be powerful examples of conservation due to their status within neighborhoods and cities. Leaders at the Newton YMCA and North East Scarborough Community Recreation and Childcare Centre recently made large investments to foster a more sustainable culture by embracing strategies best suiting their goals and environments.
The roof of the Newton YMCA in Newton, Iowa is almost completely covered with solar panels thanks to four months of hard work. The project first began in November of 2021 after several years of consideration from the YMCA’s leadership. But after striking up a partnership with a vendor, SimpleRay Solar, the idea finally become a reality.
“Until recently, we just couldn’t find the funding,” said Lucan Hughes, the CEO of Newton YMCA. “We have always felt that we are a leader in our community and across our nation. This project is just another example of the Y’s ability to lead by example and showcase its social and sustainable responsibility.”
Hughes said the installation of more than 500 panels was finally completed in March. A team hired by SimpleRay Solar worked throughout the coldest part of the year to finish construction.
Overall, the project cost an estimated $300,000. However, Hughes said the panels will allow them to save an estimated $30,000 per year in electricity. The switch has also helped save 115,000 carbon dioxide emissions thus far — which is equivalent to planting 872 trees.
“The solar industry has proven its viability in terms of liability when looking at long-term investments,” said Hughes. “It’s also an amazing technology that will help save this planet over the course of our lifetime. If you have the resources to invest in this industry, do it. Be the pioneer who takes the first step forward in saving your community and our planet one panel at a time.”
The city of Toronto’s North East Scarborough Community and Childcare Centre will become Ontario’s first net-zero energy consuming community recreation facility with swimming pools when it opens in 2024.
The city recently began construction on the new facility located in Joyce Trimmer Park in February of 2022. It will feature a 25-lane swimming pool and leisure pool, a full-size gymnasium, and more.
Nate Berg of Fast Company Magazine said most community swimming pools are massive energy hogs and are bad for the environment. However, citizens still demand for their cities to provide them with the popular amenity.
Enter Toronto’s new model for a net-zero community center.
Berg said the center’s pools will be half-buried underground thermally insulating them from freezing temperatures. The pools also will use electric air-source heat pumps transferring heat to and from outside air. These highly efficient heat pumps can produce three times the heat of a conventional fossil fuel-based heating system for the same amount of energy. Similar to Newton YMCA, solar panels covering the roof answer for the rest of the energy demand.
While the final price tag on these initiatives should not be underestimated, the total saved long-term and the positive environmental benefits outweigh short term concerns.