Greater Montreal's VitalSigns 2007
Foundation of Greater Montreal's Website

The recycling rate of households has stalled below government targets and the consumption of water remains high. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions due to motor vehicles are less significant than elsewhere, and car-sharing is making inroads.

  • As Montreal is located in a northern temperate climate, it was essentially a maple grove in the pre-contact era. Today, the city is almost completely urbanized: forests and agricultural land occupy less than 10% of its territory. 1
  • Ragweed is abundant in the St. Lawrence River Valley. In Montreal, 3.2% of the territory is brushland, where ragweed is particularly apt to grow. It has been estimated that ragweed affects between 10% and 15% of the population by causing nasal allergies and asthma attacks. Until the late 1980s, there was a rapid decline in the ragweed pollen index, but there has been a slight rising trend since the late 1990s. The pollen index is always higher is the west end of the city than in the centre and the east end. Several studies predict a lengthening of the pollen period due to climate change. 2
  • In 2003, non-food allergies were at the top of the list of major health problems Montrealers, affecting 24% of residents of the island aged 12 and over. In addition, 8.4% were asthma sufferers. 3
  • In 2004, daily water usage in the region’s homes was 460.5 litres per capita, 9% more than the Quebec average and 37% more than the Canadian average. Since 2001, Montreal’s water consumption has grown by 15.3%, double the average for Quebec (7.3%); during that period, Canadian average consumption declined by 1.3%. 4
  • The city of Montreal’s water supply system, with an approximate total length of 5,250 km, is antiquated and deteriorating: 15 wards exceed the Canadian average of 20 leakages or breakages per 100 km of water pipes each year. This has an impact on the quality of drinking water and, as a consequence, on the number of boiling water advisories published to prevent public health problems. 2
  • The rate of household recycling through the selective collection services available in Montreal (glass, plastic, metal, paper and cardboard) is three times less than the government target of 60% and has tended to stall. In particular, the composting rate for putrescible waste is only 8%, even though it has been estimated that 38.2% of household wastes could be composted. 2
  • Thanks to the availability of hydro power, the island’s record with regard to CO2 emissions is four times better, in relation to its GDP, than the Canadian average, but it must be said that the Canadian average is one of the highest in the world. While the annual average for the island is now 7.2 tonnes per capita, the ultimate goal for a sustainable environment is to reach under half a tonne per capita. 5
  • It has been estimated that the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions on the island include: transportation, 49% (with motor vehicles contributing 86% of the total); industries, 28% (with the two refineries accounting for 71%); and buildings, 20% (with institutional and commercial buildings contributing 58%). While cars are still the main source of emissions in the transportation sector, the rapid increase in the number of trucks and their high energy consumption have been major contributing factors to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. 5
  • In 2001, the production of greenhouse gases caused by road traffic in the region was 59% less than the Canadian average. At 2.37 tonnes per capita, Montreal ranked third, behind Victoria (1.70 tonnes) and Vancouver (2.08 tonnes). 6
  • Road traffic in the region grew rapidly between 1999 and 2003, with increases of 15% on the bridges and nearly 5% on the expressways. Every day, more than 1.2 million vehicles cross the 15 bridges that link the island to the North and South Shores. There has been an increase in car travel in all parts of the region: Montreal, 3%; Laval, 5%; Longueuil, 1%; the North Shore, 11%; and the South Shore, 7%. 2
Car sharing, which emerged in 1987, already has more than 280,000 users in 650 cities around the world, 75% of them in Europe. Car sharing offers an alternative that is cheaper than ownership and more flexible than renting/leasing. At the same time, it contributes to a reduction in both the use and the number of cars on the roads, thus lowering the noise and pollution associated with motor vehicles. This type of arrangement is particularly well suited to high-density areas where parking spaces are limited. Montreal joined the trend in 1995: Communauto, the oldest car sharing company operating in North America, has been gaining in popularity, with 327 vehicles available at 107 stations and serving 6,468 subscribers as of December 2005. Stations were also opened at Longueuil in 2004 and Laval in 2005. 7,8
  • It has been conservatively estimated that each Communauto vehicle replaces 4.6 private vehicles in Montreal – a net reduction of 3.6 vehicles, contributing to the removal of 1,130 cars from city streets and highways. The reduction of 3.6 vehicles accounted for by users who stated that they had given up their cars is comparable to estimated averages in Europe (3.4) and North America (3.8). 7
  • Car sharing subscribers save $5,900 a year, on average. This means they pay nearly five times less for car travel each year than they would if they travelled the same distance with their own vehicles. 7
  • Car sharing also results in an average reduction of some 2,900 km per year in distances driven. This, coupled with the use of vehicles that consume less fuel than those used by the general population, represents a reduction of 38% in energy consumption and an average reduction of 1.2 tonnes of greenhouse gases per user each year. This is equivalent to reductions of 60% in CO2 emissions and between 33% and 44% in other polluting gases. Overall, drivers who join the car-sharing program lower their pollutant emissions from 63 kg to 42 kg per person. 7
U.S. Green Building CouncilLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED® for homes), a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, promotes high-performance green residential homes through the use of such rating criteria as innovation and design, location and linkages, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and air quality. In the pilot test, only 4 homes among the 6,000 tested earned the highest level of certification in the United States. In Canada, the very first home awarded the LEED® Platinum certification was ahead of all its competitors in North America: it is located in the heart of Montreal, on Avenue du Parc near Avenue du Mont-Royal. 9

1 Bulletin statistique régional. Montréal, Vol. 4, No. 1, Institut de la statistique du Québec, May 2007
(consulted on July 31, 2007)
2 Indicateurs de l’état de l’environnement. Bilan pour la période de référence 1999-2003, Conseil régional de l’environnement de Montréal, November 2005
(consulted on July 31, 2007)
3 Portrait de santé du Québec et de ses régions 2006: les statistiques, Deuxième rapport national sur l’état de santé de la population du Québec, Gouvernement du Québec, 2006
(consulted on July 31, 2007)
4 Water use data, Environment Canada, 2001 and 2004
Total average daily flow of water for residential use in litres per capita, 1999, 2001 and 2004, Centre for the Study of Living Standards
(consulted on August 21, 2007)
5 Hervé Logé, Inventaire corporatif des émissions de gaz à effet de serre 2002-2004, Agglomération de Montréal, Service des Infrastructures, transport et environnement, Ville de Montréal, 2007
6 The Impact of Transit Improvements of GHG Emissions: A National Perspective, Transport Canada, March 2005
National Inventory Report, 1990-2004:Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, Environment Canada
(consulted on July 31, 2007)
7 Yves Dallaire, Nadine Lafond, Chantal Lanoix and Marco Viviani, Le projet auto + bus. Évaluation d’initiatives de mobilité combinée dans les villes canadiennes, Tecsult inc., February 2007 update
(consulted on July 31, 2007)
8 Le transport urbain, une question de santé. Rapport annuel 2006 sur la santé de la population montréalaise, Direction de santé publique, Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal, 2006
Qui sommes-nous ? Site Internet de Communauto
(consulted on July 31, 2007)
9 La norme Leed Habitation bientôt au Canada, Novae, June 26, 2007
ÉCOHABITATION, une maison LEED® québécoise la plus verte d’Amérique
Une maison du Mile-End primée
(consulted on July 31, 2007)