Agents of Change

Clean Air Foundation

Founded in 2000 through a partnership of governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations, the Clean Air Foundation (CAF) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing, implementing, and managing public engagement programs and other strategic approaches that lead to measurable emission reductions to improve air quality and protect the climate. Programs range in scope from pilot projects at a community level, to broad national campaigns.


Keep Cool collection kioskThe Clean Air Foundation delivers six programs which are designed to make it easier for consumers and businesses to reduce air pollution and combat climate change. The programs provide incentives, one-to-one public engagement and education, and assist with the responsible handling and recycling of old, inefficient consumer products and provide easy access to cleaner and more efficient alternatives. Each program relies on a unique range of partners and generates quantifiable results. Partners include federal, provincial and municipal governments, utilities, retailers, manufacturers, recyclers, contractors, and other not-for-profit organizations.

Keep Cool is a market transformation program that encourages individuals to permanently retire and recycle their old, inefficient room air conditioners (RACs) and to adopt cleaner more efficient cooling alternatives. Individuals who bring their RACs to participating retail outlets receive a gift card in exchange after they complete a short survey. Customers are educated about energy conservation and air conditioning alternatives from Keep Cool in-store representatives and are encouraged to purchase a new Energy Star® RAC which uses 10 to 70 percent less electricity than older models. A detailed account of the energy consumption of each unit retired is documented and this information is used to estimate the environmental impact and energy savings achieved by the program.

Switch Out is a national program designed to remove, collect and manage mercury-containing convenience lighting switches and anti-lock braking system (ABS) sensor modules in end-of-life vehicles before they are flattened, shredded and recycled into new steel. In 2008, Switch Out began receving funding from Canada's steel and automotive industries through the Canadian Steel Producers Association (CSPA) and Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association (CVMA), and is the delivery agent to assist these industries in meeting the federal Pollution Prevention Planning Notice to prepare and implement pollution prevention plans in respect of mercury releases from end-of-life vehicles processed by steel mills, which was published in December 2006.

Car Heaven was the founding program of the Clean Air Foundation, launched in July 2000. It offers a free and easy solution to accelerating the retirement of old, higher-polluting vehicles. The program is unique as it encourages a shift from old vehicles to new, cleaner, more efficient technologies, by removing barriers and providing real benefits for taking action. Car Heaven engages Canadians through various media, including one-to-one public engagement through the Car Heaven Angels (a team of energetic and environmentally-conscious youth), as well as radio, newspaper advertising and other event-based promotional activities.

Mow Down Pollution was created to address the negative environmental impact of small-engine emissions and has become Canada's largest gas lawnmower and trimmer exchange, recycling and rebate program. During the eleven day event, individuals are encouraged to bring their old two-stroke and four-stroke gas mowers and trimmers to any Canadian Home Depot store location for free recycling. In exchange, participants receive a valuable instant rebate towards the purchase price of cleaner alternative products such as electric, push-powered or low-emission gas mowers and trimmers. The program has been running for 8 years at Home Depot locations and each year Canadians respond with increasing returns and interest.

Go Solar is a market transformation campaign that provides Ontario residents with the information and resources they need to install solar energy systems to heat water or generate electricity. The Go Solar program manages an informative web site, staffs a hotline and facilitates outreach events that provide valuable information to the public about solar technologies, what they need to know to make a solar purchase, and how to take advantage of the incentives and rebate program in place.

The Cool Shops program began as a grassroots campaign encouraging small commercial businesses to close their doors while running air conditioning in the summer to reduce cooling needs. In 2004, Cool Shops built on the support and interest of businesses that wanted to do more, and expanded the program to include an energy audit. Participating businesses receive one-on-one engagement/education through youth ambassadors; a free energy audit; a free installation of 2 compact fluorescent bulbs and 2 light emitting diode (LED) exit sign bulbs; free installation of low flow pre-rinse spray valves in restaurants; and direct access to discounts off energy efficient products. The program has evolved and in the summer of 2008 Clean Air Foundation conducted a pilot program in partnership with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) in Kelowna.

In partnership with the OPA and 8 local utilities, Power Savings Blitz builds on the success of the Cool Shops program model and provides qualifying small businesses in the Guelph, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Stratford, Port Hope and Clarington areas with free energy audits and electricity-saving products. This initiative provides a complete list of retrofit recommendations and up to $1000 (including installation) in energy saving products and access to qualified contractors for installation to help businesses in these constrained areas become more energy efficient.

All CAF programs have steadily evolved, and in recent years, the collective impact has grown to a remarkable level. Canadians have demonstrated a willingness to act to conserve energy, reduce pollution, and divert waste from landfill, which leads to improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.



  • Keep Cool: Since its inception in 2002, 38 177 old, inefficient RACs have been permanently retired and recycled, representing over 26 megawatts of peak energy demand reduced – enough electricity to power approximately 7000 homes.
  • Switch Out: Since 2001, as a direct result of the voluntary participation of 690 automotive recyclers across Canada, the Switch Out program has collected more than 238 000 mercury-containing switches from end-of-life vehicles. This is equivalent to the recovery of approximately 202 kg of mercury, given that each vehicle switch contains approximately 0.85 g of mercury.
  • Car Heaven: To date, over 86 000 vehicles have been permanently retired and recycled in an environmentally responsible manner. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recovered, non-emissions related parts are salvaged and reused, and operating fluids and hazardous materials such as mercury switches are recovered. The retirement of these vehicles has also reduced on-road emissions by over 44 000 tonnes of carbon monoxide emissions (CO), and 4600 tonnes of smog-forming emissions (nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds).
  • Mow Down Pollution: Since the program's inception in 2001, 26 800 gas lawnmowers and trimmers have been returned to the program's partner retailer, Home Depot, and have been permanently recycled, resulting in the reduction of 740 tonnes of greenhouse gas and smog-forming emissions.
  • Go Solar: The Government of Ontario has a target of installing 100 000 solar systems on roofs in Ontario. Go Solar is providing the information, answers and opportunities for thousands of individuals across the province to learn how they can Go Solar and help meet this provincial target.
  • Cool Shops: The program achieved a reduction of over 4191 megawatt hours of electricity and an estimated reduction of over 1265 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty pre-rinse spray valves have been installed in restaurants reducing natural gas and water consumption by 36 960 m³ and 7449 m³ respectively.


  • Keep Cool: Program events have created employment opportunities for 100 representatives, mainly university students. An Energy Star® RAC uses about 10 percent less energy than conventional models which translates into economic savings for the utility customer, especially given that air conditioning is the largest contributor to summer peak demand.
  • Switch Out: Collection kits are distributed to participating auto recyclers enabling them to collect and ship the reclaimed mercury switches to certified storage facilities entirely free of charge.
  • Car Heaven: In May 2005, General Motors Canada partnered with Car Heaven to provide a $1000 incentive for participants to put towards a new vehicle purchase. The introduction of this incentive nearly tripled the number of donations received in 2004. Other incentives include transit passes, car-sharing incentives, discounts on bicycles, charitable tax receipts and the free tow of the donated vehicle. Over $3.3 million dollars has been raised for affiliated charities across Canada.
  • Mow Down Pollution: In addition to the short term financial incentives offered to consumers on cleaner alternative products, the program in the long term also creates an increase in demand for these products thereby driving the market towards better products for the environment and allowing manufacturers to pass on savings to customers in the future.
  • Go Solar: By adopting PV and solar water heating technology, homeowners now have the opportunity to generate a portion of their home's energy use. Solar energy systems are also a key part of the conservation ethic because they make homeowners more aware of where their energy is coming from and how it is used.
  • Cool Shops: Participating businesses in Ontario saved $419,000 in 2006 through the installation of CFLs, LED exit lights, and other energy efficient products. In order to raise their profile, business who participate in the program become branded as an "Official Cool Shop" and receive a decal to be placed in their window informing their customers that "Shopping here Supports Clean Air."
  • Power Savings Blitz: Working in collaboration with the OPA, 8 utilities and local contractors, Power Savings Blitz is easing the strain on the power grid in the above mentioned constrained areas. By employing auditors and contractors for installation, Power Savings Blitz has created new jobs. Small business will also continue to benefit financially from the installation of these electricity saving measures long after the program concludes.

Awards and Recognition

  • 2007 – Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Pollution Prevention Awards – Institution, Organization or Group Award, Honourable Mention
  • 2007 – Canadian Environment Awards – Gold Award in the Climate Change category for Car Heaven
  • 2008 – Canadian Environment Awards – Silver Award in the Environmental Health category for Switch Out and Switch the ‘Stat
  • 2008 – Recycling Council of Ontario Ontario Waste Minimization Awards – Silver Award in the Not for Profit Award category

Contact Information

Fatima Dharsee Crerar
Acting Executive Director
201-1216 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario
M4T 1W1
Phone: 416-922-9038 ext. 248
Fax: 416-922-1028

Date Submitted

June 2007

Date Updated

July 2009