Seeing a greener future for Albertan Communities
When Shanthu Mano and Godo Stoyke discuss their vision for Edmonton and Alberta, they paint a picture of sustainability. For nearly 30 years, they’ve worked to decrease the environmental impact of communities through Carbon Busters, a builder of net-zero homes and buildings. Through Carbon Busters, they offer a range of services to encourage low- or zero-carbon developments, including energy auditing, utility consumption monitoring, green building design consultation and educational workshops.
For many years, much of their work took place in communities across North America and Europe. In Alberta, soaring oil prices often made sustainability a hard sell. But that didn’t dampen Mano and Stoyke’s passion for creating a greener future for Edmonton. Today, Carbon Busters is involved in several major projects across Alberta, including the city of Edmonton’s highly anticipated low-carbon community, Blatchford.
“At first, we saw a great deal of success in European markets, but over time, as understanding of climate change and environmental issues began to rise, we started to gain momentum here as well,” says Mano. “We started to see more desire for change, more of a push for sustainability.”
So in 2011, with support from the city of Edmonton, the pair helped to launch C-Returns, a non-profit dedicated to retrofitting existing buildings and helping building owners understand how to best invest in sustainable renovations. Mano and Stoyke understood the complex and often costly nature of making the jump to a net-zero lifestyle, and through C-Returns, they hoped to lower the barrier for Edmontonians to make changes wherever possible. Their focus was simple: finding the best return on investment in three areas—the three Cs of Cash, Carbon, and Community.
“We know it’s not entirely simple for a homeowner or building owner to receive an energy audit and just make all of the changes it outlines,” says Stoyke. “Part of what we try to do through C-Returns is to think of the long-term capital plan, and the carbon footprint of the retrofit itself.”
“When you’re replacing something, you of course want to ensure that you’re doing so with the most efficient option. So we calculate those costs and create a customized plan to help owners reduce their environmental footprints in ways that make sense for them,” adds Mano.
Although C-Returns received initial grant funding from the city, it quickly became clear that additional financing was needed to get the project up and running at capacity. With SEF’s support, C-Returns was able to keep Edmonton moving towards a net-zero future.
Today, C-Returns provides energy audits and retrofits for residential buildings, as well as audits (provided in tandem with Carbon Busters’ team of energy auditors) and retrofits for commercial buildings. In keeping with their mission of making sustainability accessible and achievable for all Albertans, they also offer comprehensive project management and grant application services, helping to ensure building owners can tap into any financing, rebates and grants available.
To date, the company has completed nearly 200 residential projects, and more than two dozen commercial ones. Of these larger-scale commercial and institutional projects, they’ve worked with community leagues across Edmonton, installing solar panels and completing energy-efficient renovations. With each project completed, they’re creating conversations and opening minds to greener futures.
“Of course we’ve gotten some pushback from residents who maybe don’t understand the value of what we’re trying to do. They might ask why we’re doing this, or who asked us to take them to net zero,” says Mano. “Our job is to give them the roadmap and explain what’s possible. The value is there if they’re ready to invest in their community.”
Entrepreneurs, and in particular social entrepreneurs are usually moving pretty fast.