Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit: Vehicle Emission Reduction

Project Partner – Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is responsible for the health of communities from the southern border of the County of Simcoe, to the northern border of the District of Muskoka. The region, which covers total area of 8,736 square kilometres, is made up of a mixture of municipalities, both urban and rural, with a population of approximately 500,000 people. The Health Unit provides programs and services for a variety of health programming, including environmental health, chronic disease prevention, family health, oral health, and sexual health programming.

Project Name

Vehicle Emission Reduction

Project Description

To be able to provide necessary health services throughout Simcoe Muskoka, some health unit staff must be on the road every day, increasing the carbon foot-print of the agency. The health unit wanted to ensure that these services were available throughout the region, while still being environmentally responsible and decreasing emissions associated with public health services. To do this, the SMDHU has implemented numerous initiatives which help to decrease our emissions, including:

  • travel conservation policy
  • vehicle idle-free policy
  • right-sizing’ fleet vehicles
  • purchasing hybrid vehicles when appropriate
  • implementing prime carpooling spots at our main office site to encourage carpooling among staff and the public
  • promoting carpooling among staff with prizes during our staff education days.
  • increased access to teleconferencing technologies which allow for virtual meetings, reducing the number of kilometres staff travel for internal meetings.

Project Contact (Staff)

Morgan Levison

Public Health Promoter

P: 705-721-7520 ext. 7638


Date of Implementation

This project was first identified as a component of the Environmentally Sustainable Business Practices report (2009) and has been evolving since that time.

Project Goals

Decrease the number of kilometres traveled by SMDHU staff (e.g. implemented travel conservation policy and enhanced access to teleconference technology, which led to a decreased mileage reimbursement from 1,330,941 kilometres (kms) in 2007 to 995,773 in 2015, a 26% reduction in mileage)

Increase the amount of carpooling occurring among SMDHU staff (e.g., Supported the implementation of 4 carpooling spots at the 15 Sperling office location in Barrie and associated staff education)

SMDHU fleet vehicles are ‘right-sized’ to ensure the most fuel-efficient fleet possible for the required task (e.g. - reduced the size of our Tobacco fleet vehicles from SUVs to more fuel efficient compact sedans; purchased hybrid vehicles for staff use while conducting agency business)

Decrease carbon emissions created by idling cars (e.g. Implemented anti-idling policies at all seven health unit locations)

List of Project Partners

Internal collaboration with multiple departments (Human Resources, Facilities, and program teams) for the implementation of policies and purchasing fleet vehicles

Collaboration with office Landlords for implementation of carpooling spots and anti-idling signage


The Health Hazards team within the Environmental Health Department at the SMDHU are responsible for the sustainability program within the health unit. In 2009, the team created an Environmentally Sustainable Business Practices report which highlighted areas for improvement across the agency in various sectors, including paper usage, waste reduction, energy conservation, and vehicle emissions. In addition, our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner, is a champion for the sustainability program within the health unit, and has been a huge driver to support these projects as they move forward.


Fleet-rightsizing: prior to right-sizing our fleet, vehicles purchased had traditionally been Sport Utility Vehicles; there was some reluctance by staff to switch to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles due to perceptions of vehicle safety. Communication and education needed to occur with the program teams to increase understanding of the benefits of right-sizing vehicles for the agency and the environment, and to alleviate any safety concerns, prior to the program teams signing on as partners in this purchase.

Carpooling Spots: The SMDHU does not currently own any of the buildings in which it is located. Therefore if we want to implement any sustainability initiatives, we must first get the approval of our landlords. While we have a good relationship with our landlords, and they are very supportive of our endeavors to be more environmentally sustainable, it does mean that we have one more step within the approval process, increasing the amount of time required to implement a project.

Financial Considerations

  • Creation of the anti-idling and travel conservation policy utilized SMDHU staff time, and did not require other resources. Signage stating that the properties are ‘idle-free zones’ were purchased for a nominal cost, and were funded internally through our facilities budget.
  • The implementation of the carpooling spots at 15 Sperling required the purchase of 4 signs indicating the requirements to park in the carpooling spots. Signage for the carpooling spot was purchased by the landlord, who covered the cost of the 4 signs.
  • Increased fuel-efficiency among fleet vehicles decreased agency fuel costs; the hybrid vehicle also was able to save the agency money, with the cost to run the hybrid averaging $0.20 per kilometre lower than the 2015 mileage compensation rate.

Measures of Success/Impacts

The health unit has had a substantial decrease in the number of kilometres driven by staff in their own vehicles, reducing from 1,330,941kms in 2007 to 995,773 in 2015, a 26% reduction in mileage. The health unit has also seen an increase in the amount of public transit used by staff to perform their duties.

Project Rationale (Summary)

Not only does this program benefit the environment by decreasing carbon emissions, working towards a more sustainable travel policy also helps the organization financially, by decreasing the amount of resources utilized to pay mileage reimbursement and fuel costs. This can translate to significant cost savings for an agency, while ensuring the environmental impacts of providing services is reduced.

Contact Information

Morgan Levison

Public Health Promoter

P: 705-721-7520 ext. 7638


Type of Case Study

☒Education and Outreach

☒Policy Adjustment or Development

☒Partnerships & Collaboration

☐Enforcements & Incentives

☐Implementation of Programs & Services

☒Facilities & Infrastructure Improvements

Website: Visit Site


15 Sperling Drive
Barrie, ON , L4M 6K9