A man studies a honey frame covered with bees

So I know a guy, well actually he is a friend. And if you need the sweet stuff, he's got you covered. Last year Vince decided to start an apiary. He did some online research, spoke to a couple of people, and decided to order up some equipment and get going.

Fast forward to last week and there I am paying a visit to Vince's bees. I learned a couple of really interesting things about bees including one important thing that I didn't know: bees don't usually sting you unless you are directly in their flight path. (Also, they will attack you if you threaten them, try to kill them, or try to steal their honey, etc.)

This was a profound moment for me because I have always wanted to have an apiary on campus. But of course whenever someone brings up the idea of an apiary in a dense urban space, the first thing that comes to mind is the dreaded bee sting.

I watched Vince as he inspected the hive and added a bit of smoke to scare away some bees so he could open up the boxes and monitor the health of the colony. Up until the point that he was manipulating the honey combs, he didn't have any protective gear on at all. Later on his dad joined us as we were harvesting a little bit of honey and his dad didn't even wear a long sleeve shirt!

Vince stands directly beside his apiary with no protective clothing to examine his bees. 

I got a little more excited about the idea of bringing a hive on campus and asked Vince a couple of probing questions about what was needed to run a successful apiary. Despite his limited experience, he brought up several important factors to consider.

Food Source
Bees need a good source of food during the year, especially if they are going to build up their reserves for the winter. Fortunately they are resourceful and can exploit a lot of their surrounding environment. The uOttawa campus might be a good location because of all the flowering trees on and around campus, and the of course the many garden spaces on campus and in Sandy Hill.

Turns out that bees don't actually need that much space if they have a ready supply of food. They are willing to travel up to 3 km for their food but only if needed. Spiking the campus with a few pollinator hot spots could be very helpful.

Most variety of North American honey bees aren't that aggressive. They usually don't attack you unless they have a good reason, they usually don't swarm unless the hive is provoked, and they tend to keep to themselves. Lighter colour clothing seems to keep them calm.

Now I am super excited by the idea of some hives at uOttawa? Think of the potential for what it could do for the flowering plants on campus. But there are still a few things that would need to be worked out.

Bee stings
I was very satisfied with the idea that the bees were not aggressive. Nevertheless, if someone is allergic, we have to do something to make sure that they are safe on campus. Confining the hive to a secure location and relying on flowering trees for pollination would do a lot to keep human and bee populations separate. In the end, the potential of stings has to be taken seriously.

Harvesting honey
We will of course want to harvest some of the good stuff for the campus. We would have to probably do some testing of the honey before we use it. Maybe we would be able to sell some jars or offer them as gifts to visitors and dignitaries. Harvesting would require some experienced personnel to maintain the equipment and collect and process the honey.

Food Source
I mention this again because we need more food sources on campus. Even with all the trees and gardens available, more could be required. There would have to be some coordination with Grounds Services to plant more trees and flowers that would benefit honey bee production.

We would also need to do some public outreach to inform people about bees, what their role is in our community and how to avoid mishaps. We would need the community to act as our eyes and ears to spot new nests popping up and warn us if they were dead bees in a particular space. Also, sharing information about what to do when someone is experiencing a severe allergic reaction to a sting could be beneficial to everyone.

What do think? Are bees a good idea on campus or is this a disaster waiting to happen? Have you ever thought about this idea and what do you think it would take to make it happen?

~ jON - campus sustainability manager

RecycleMania 2015,  uOttawa campus

You could almost feel the tension blanket the entire office. For the past couple of days Brigitte, our waste diversion coordinator, would snap into her chair, quickly head over to the RecycleMania website, and then let out a little huff. The computer would diligently inform her that the results of the 2015 competition were still be tabulated.
Great, another couple of hours before she could check again.

It's kind of strange to think that we were a little nervous to get the results for RecycleMania this year. This certainly wasn't our first rodeo, uOttawa has been the Canadian champion for the past six years running. But this year, well this year we were hoping to set a personal best, We really wanted to set a new high point for ourselves.

So ignore the title of this post for a moment and put yourself in our shoes. What could we do to engage the community? Well we ran a couple of fun events that I think were worth mentioning.

Ugly Sweater Day
Yes I know this isn't a recycling event but it took place during RecycleMania so we did add a little waste reduction twist. This year we used recycled sweaters from the Free Store to do a photo booth style event.
Facebook photo album

Waste Bucket Challenge
The WBC was a great event targeted at getting people to use their own social networks to promote recycling. We got a lot of participation this year and thanks to Chelsea over at UTM, we got coverage in the Toronto media.
Promo video

This was a partner event with the SFUO during Green Weeks (also during RecycleMania... I mean RecycleMania is so long that almost everything happens at the same time). This DYI cosmetics workshop brought together a group of people interested in personal/environmental health and in no packaging.

Mug Shots
Another partnership event, this time with Muggy Mondays, designed to encourage people to carry around their reusable mugs. We took pictures of people with their mugs and offered a prize for participation. Again, a great way to get people to share their pro-environmental behaviour in their own social networks.
Winner on Facebook

And now....
The cans had been counted, the paper had been stacked, and the results were in... the University of Ottawa claims the crown as Canada's premier recyclers for an unprecedented 7th year in a row!

This year was a personal best in a bunch of categories. Overall we placed 23rd internationally as well as 1st in Canada. We ranked in the top 50 in five categories and diverted a whooping 56% of our waste. Check out the infographic below for the complete rundown.

Thank you to all our partners, to the upstanding people who participated in our events and shared info about RecycleMania, and a special thanks to Brigitte Morin, who worked tirelessly to make sure uOttawa was on top of the recycling mountain again.

 ~jON - campus sustainability manager
planet art from Vancouver, uottawa, office of campus sutainability, literacy

The results are in for the 2014 uOttawa Sustainable Literacy Survey and the results are... well I don't know. They aren't good but they definitely aren't bad either.

Last year, students from a first year Environmental Studies program participated in the distribution of a sustainable literacy test on campus. Students approached campus community members, including professors, students, and external community members, and asked them to fill in a simple 11 question test. The questions were multiple choice and all the tests were conducted in person. The results.... on average a score of 54% was achieved.

So just in case you don't know, a sustainability literacy test is essentially a tool that helps measure understanding of sustainability concepts. The hope is that with a tool like this you can help increase knowledge about sustainability, and by extension promote more sustainable practices. Furthermore, organizations can use this tool to measure the impacts of messaging campaigns.

The test, although quite brief, asked questions related to the three pillars of sustainability, social, economic, and environmental. The questions were designed to be a bit tricky but they did not require any special knowledge about sustainability. Essentially, you could ace this test with some good ol' common sense.

The idea behind this kind of literacy testing isn't new. Groups like The Natural Step and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education have been working on sustainability literacy for quite some time. Many groups are starting to partner up to discuss a common test that could be administered across large populations. The hope is that the results of a large scale study would tell us if we are doing a good enough job as a society when it comes to teaching people about the complex idea of sustainability.

The study conducted by our office yielded some pretty interested results. Of note, external community members had an average score between 19% and 26% lower than professors, undergraduate students, and support staff. This implies that there is some degree of sustainability knowledge that resides in the uOttawa community. Surprisingly, there was no real differences between age groups. Older and younger respondents seemed to fair just as well.

I guess you are pretty interested now in knowing what questions really stumped people and which ones didn't. I won't spoil it for you by giving the answers, but here is the list of questions in order of most correctly answered to least correctly answered.

  • Ozone forms a protective layer in the earth's upper atmosphere. What do you think ozone protect us from? (70% - Potential strong word in the correct response option may be a hint.)
  • What is the most commonly recognized definition of sustainable development? (63%)
  • Which of the following is an example of sustainable forest management? (62%)
  • What is the most significant driver in the loss of species and ecosystems around the world? (58%)
  • What is the name of the primary federal agency that oversees environmental regulation? (56%)
  • Which of the following do you believe is the primary reason why gasoline prices have risen over the last several decades in Canada? (54%)
  • Why do many economists argue that electricity prices in North America are too low? (46%)
  • Which of the following is considered a leading cause of the depletion of fish stocks in the Atlantic Ocean? (44%)
  • What would you think is the most common cause of pollution of streams and rivers? (33%)
  • Which of the following has been identified as a potential effect of global climate change? (32%) 
  • Which country do you believe produces the most waste per capita? (8%)

So, how do you think you would have done? If you are interested in taking the sustainability literacy test in the future, send me a message and I will send it off your way. In the future, we are hoping to create a much bigger test (maybe 20 to 25 questions). We are also hoping that some of these results will give us a good idea of where we need to work on our messaging.

A huge thank you to the many many students who distributed the tests. And of course a hug thank you to Wesley Chu who conducted all the statistical analysis of our results!!

~ jON - campus sustainability manager
Ottawa recycled garden

You can smell it in the air. The snow is melting, birds are signing, and before you know it, the very first buds will burst forth from the trees! SPRING IS HERE!
Okay, maybe we aren't quite there yet but it certainly is time to start thinking about your garden.

Devoted fans of our office already know that we offer community garden plots through a partnership with the SFUO and OPIRG. The plots are first come, first serve and I would be remiss if I didn't tell you to book a space right now if you want one.

But this isn't a post about our community gardens, well not exactly. This summer, the Office of Campus Sustainability, will be conducting an agricultural demonstration project. We are hoping to prove that we can grow food on campus that could be sold on campus. At the same time we are also hoping to create a new green space.

But rather than telling you what we are trying to do, how about I just show you what we have in mind.

Now, there is no way that we are going to be able to replicate something on this scale but there is no reason that we can't try. Our base of operations will be the UCU Terrace.

So here is the game plan;
  1. We are collecting as many 15L and 20L buckets as we can. The cafeteria has generously agreed to give us all the buckets they have. We are hoping to get about 200 in total.
  2. We have started growing seedlings to put into some of our buckets. (Check out our innovative seed starters created from recycled containers in the title image).
  3. We are going to try to get a bunch of compost from our super duper worm composter to boost the soil quality.
And now, this is what we need.... VOLUNTEERS!
We don't have any money and the only resources we will be able to muster will come from donations. But we still believe that we can create a beautiful space and we believe that this pilot project will be the pivotal step that allows to grow cafeteria food on campus.

Volunteers will be asked to give a couple of hours a weeks to help us water the plants, prune them, collect fruits and vegetables, and of course help us donate the food to the food bank/

If you are interested in being a part of this one of a kind experiment, please contact Jonathan Rausseo for more details.

~ jON - campus sustainability manager

what are some of the new features involved in the uOttawa master plan

There aren't very many times in anyone's academic life that they will have the opportunity to make sweeping changes to the make-up of their campus. How often have you had the opportunity to say where there should be more gardens, if a street should be lined with trees or not, or even where cars should and shouldn't be allowed to go?

On March 10 and 11th, the campus community at the University of Ottawa will have that chance!
Facilities Service at the University is on the verge of completing the latest iteration of the campus master plan. For those of you that aren't familiar with what that means, a master plan is a planning document that indicates what development the University would like to undertake in the near future.

Urban Strategies Inc, a design firm operating in Toronto, has helped create a new development strategy for uOttawa. This plan was created in consultation with many groups and individuals from around the campus community. They are currently in the final stages of the planning process, the community consultation phase, and so this might be your last chance to speak your part.

The master plan has a bunch of goodies and very cool concepts for what the university could look like in the coming years. But what has peaked my interest are the new sustainability features. Of course I can't divulge any of this information ahead of the public consultation, but I can tell you there is some really great stuff in it.

Bike bridges, pedestrians tunnels, a car free zone?!?!?! So many things to see.

The new park in front to the FSS building. Only one of the many green space improvements.

More options for what life could look like along Lees Ave.

Do I think it has everything? No, of course not. And that's why it is so important that the community participate in these kinds of events, to make sure that a diversity of views are being represented. The plan lays out a solid vision for the future but there are still a bunch of gaps that need to be thought out before the whole thing takes shape.

Come out and take a look at the plan. Discuss your thoughts about gardens, trees, energy production, food growing capacity, storm water management, sustainable transportation..... anything you want!
The community consultations takes place on:

  • March 10th from 10am to 8pm in the University Centre Agora
  • March 11th from 10am to 2pm in the second floor of Roger Guindon Hall
~ jON - campus sustainability manager