Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Category Archives: Carbon

Carson Award – Customer Service

Each year Morrison Hershfield gives out employee awards.  These awards are called the Carson awards, in honor of our founder Carson Morrison.  What makes these awards so special is that they are peer nominated.  Anyone can nominate a colleague for an award.  These nominations are then reviewed by a panel of judges made up exclusively of Morrison Hershfield clients.  Winners are chosen and are honored during a company event.  This year I was selected as the winner of the customer service award for my work in the field of greenhouse gas verification.  It is an incredible honor and I am humbled to have been chosen.



Our Ottawa office took home 3 Carson Awards in 2016 (left to right): Judy Jeske, winner of the Teamwork Award, Fin MacDonald, winner of the Customer Service Award, and Jamie McKay, winner of the Environmental Leadership Award.


No Fracking Way – Reducing my household heating impact through bio-gas offsets

My family recently moved into a new townhouse in Ottawa.  Our house has a Goodman natural gas furnace which is only a couple years old.  It has an annual fuel utilization efficiency of 95% and is Energy Star certified.  Despite its high efficiency I’m still worried about our consumption of natural gas (otherwise known as Methane).  Methane burns cleaner than most fuels however the hydraulic fracking process used to extract it from the ground can damage the water supply, and it also creates fugitive methane emissions which are very difficult to measure and therefore largely unaccounted for in current greenhouse gas accounting programs.

The alternative to using methane from hydraulic fracking is to get it from landfill sites.  Landfills and composting facilities produce methane from organic waste.  Things like rotting fruit, vegetables, or other biomaterials produce methane.  The conventional practice was just to vent this methane into the atmosphere so it doesn’t build up and cause a risk of explosion.  Venting it to the atmosphere contributes to global warming much more than burning it would (20-80 times as much).  This methane can be captured and injected into the current utility pipeline for natural gas.  Methane is much more potent of a greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide, and when methane is burned it produces Carbon Dioxide.  This means that by capturing and burning the methane that landfill sites produce, we are not just reducing the global warming potential of landfills, but also providing a source of fuel.

Most fuel providers don’t sell landfill gas, however Bullfrog Power now provides green natural gas from bio-gas facilities.  As mentioned above they harvest the waste gas from rotting bio materials and inject it into the natural gas pipeline on your behalf.  The facilities that they use are both local and innovative, and the cost premium you pay directly funds this innovation.  They are currently funding three bio-gas locations in Ontario, including the Toronto Zoo’s Zooshare project which captures methane emissions from “animal poo”.  The cost of offsetting your home’s natural gas consumption with natural bio-gas is approximately $20-$30 each month.  Its even cheaper for us because we have an Energy Star certified furnace and our home is a semi-detached townhouse.

Our Household Carbon Footprint: 2014

After working in the Carbon industry for a couple of years I felt it was time to prepare our household’s carbon footprint, and set a few goals for the future.  If the few years I spend working in the accounting industry have taught me anything, its that what gets measured gets managed.  This carbon footprint will serve as a baseline for future years as I try to reduce our impact on the environment.  I also wanted to try to go beyond just global warming though.  For that reason I have also included a metric on nuclear waste.  The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Corporate Standard was used to calculate emissions.  The values calculated do not include upstream emissions or embodied energy.

Our current apartment is located at 1833 Riverside Drive.  We have a one bedroom apartment which is roughly 637 square feet (60 square meters).  Our building heats the units with a natural gas boiler.  We cool the unit using two electric air conditioning units.  We also have electric lighting and various plug loads.  The apartment houses myself, my wife, and a cat.

Our transportation consists of a family car.  We own a 2003 Hyundai Elantra.  Green & rust coloured.  I use this car for work, and our family uses it for errands and weekend or vacation getaways.  In the past year we have driven from Ottawa to Nova Scotia once.  My wife works on a major bus route downtown and uses transit to get to work.  We did not travel by airplane at at all during 2014.  We took two long trips by train to Niagara Falls and Nova Scotia.  Our emissions are as follows:

Scope 1 (Owned Automobiles): 3,451 kg CO2e

Scope 2 (Purchased Electricity and Imported Heating): 1,780 kg CO2e

Scope 3 (Train and Bus Transportation): 601 kg CO2e

Total Emissions: 5,832 kg CO2e

Footprint Breakdown

Breakdown of GHG Emissions by Source

Our carbon footprint shows that driving a car is really impacting our emissions in a bad way.  Taking the bus on the other hand is a great way to travel and reduce emissions.  Our heat related natural gas emissions are high, but that is to be expected.  In Ottawa’s climate we need lots of heat in the winter.  Our electricity emissions are quite low.  This is due to the great work Ontario’s electricity grid has done to remove coal and reduce other high carbon sources of electricity.  Ontario generates a lot of electricity with nuclear plants though, and as a result we created 40.64 kg of uranium waste.

In April we are moving into a townhouse.  We chose a location that was on a major bus route for both of us.  It is also walking distance for me to get to work when the weather is agreeable.  We will also be welcoming a baby into the world in August, which means our house population will be increasing.  With this move in mind, I have set the following goals for the next year:

  1. Cut automobile transportation emissions in half by driving considerably less.
  2. Keep electricity emissions from increasing by carefully managing plug loads and phantom power.
  3. Evaluate and consider responsible options for local natural gas offsets using landfill gas.
  4. Quantify any airplane emissions which are planned for 2015.