The University of Ottawa has been ranked as the 27th most sustainabile university in the world for 2015. uOttawa is ranked second in Canada for sustainability.

Every year, the UI GreenMetric University Rankings for sustainability loom over my head. It is kind of a strange feeling really. I know that uOttawa is a leader when it comes to sustainability but sustainability is a broad topic and depending on how you want to measure sustainability, the results could vary.

Let me give you an example. uOttawa has amazingly low GHG emissions. Compared to other campuses of our size, we are a third to half the emissions of others. But when it comes to the number of courses that we offer related to sustainability... well we have some but a place like the University of British Columbia or Dalhousie have us beat hands down. Or what about green space? uOttawa has a dense urban campus, meaning that we have a very small energy footprint, but we aren't like Royal Roads who have over 300 hectares or natural forest setting... Which one is more sustainable?

I worry about what our score will be not because a bad score will reflect poorly upon our office, but because I don't want the campus community ti lose faith in the effectiveness of our programs. We do good work and the people in my team deserve to be recognized for their tenacity, grit, and sacrifice.

Well I am not going to dangle you on a hook and not tell you how we did until the end of this blog post, I mean the title probably gave you a big hint. This year the University of Ottawa ranked 27th in the world, and second in Canada for sustainable institutions! You can check out the overall rankings on the UI GreenMetric website.

No we weren't number one in Canada, that honour goes to the University of Sherbrooke. We did improve a lot since last year though. In 2014, we ranked 126th in the world and 8th in Canada (I contend this was because of a clerical error but c'est la vie). In prior years, uOttawa has been ranked as high as 14th, but the competition increases every year with dozens of more institutions getting ranked. Not to mention that new criteria are added every year.

When you break the numbers down, uOttawa does pretty good in a lot of categories. We are top 20 in transportation, water, and waste. We are a little further down this list when it comes to Infrastructure (346) and Education (134).

uOttawa UI GreenMetric breakdown for 2015. uOttawa ranked favourably in Waste, Water, transport, and energy & climate change

The GreenMetric rankings have been criticized for a couple of things that are worth mentioning. First, there is very little transparency and accountability. An institution could conceivably lie about their performance and no one has the capacity to check up on them. Second, it is hard to see how the scoring works and which points are valued more. As I mentioned, uOttawa doesn't have as much forest cover as other institutions, but we do have a cornucopia of community garden spaces.... shouldn't that count for something?

But then again, there aren't any other groups out there trying to measure sustainability at this scale. The Cool Schools Rankings by Sierra Club are starting to make some headway, but it is still mostly just a United States thing. The UI GreenMetric ranking has representatives from dozens of countries.

Of course, all this might be moot because it is impossible to accurately measure sustainability, especially for the purposes of ranking institutions. Every place has its unique physical, social, and political characteristics that mean that one person's reality is completely unrealistic somewhere else.

That being said, I am more than happy to take this victory for now and thank the dozens of people who have made the University of Ottawa one of the most sustainable universities in the world.

~ jonathan rausseo - campus sustainability manager
Food waste at uOttawa

I am going to talk today about something that happen on the university campus that really frustrate me every time I see it and which is the food waste at the caff by the students.

Last year, university of Ottawa renovated the caf and it became open buffet dining hall. All the students were really happy when they found out, but there is something that a lot of people don’t realize and it is the amount of food waste that is coming out of the dining hall!

Student are either part of the meal plan or they pay at the door to get in. They get access to an open buffet and they typically put so much food in their plates that most of it ends up in the compost. People are over-consuming, and over-consuming leads to an unsustainable environment.

This issue makes me sad and mad at the same time for so many reasons. One of those reasons is that in my religion, and I think in many other religions as well, wasting food is something we are simply not allowed to do.

Another reason is that there are a lot of poor countries out there that only dream to having half of the food that we throw away. So many children in Africa die every single year because they don’t have enough nutrients and enough food to eat.  Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in fouris undernourished. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under 5 years of age - 3.1 million children each year. ~United Nations World Food Program
I don't know about you, but to me, that is a very scary number.

In my opinion, we should not be allowed to waste that much food. Frankly, something should be done to help stop food waste on our campus.

First of all there should be programs or people out there to help inform/teach students about sustainability. We can put up signs in the dining hall that shows how many people are suffering every year from hunger; hopefully that will help students realize how wrong it is to throw out food and maybe they will start taking smaller amounts of food and thus stop throwing it out.

Another thing that could be done is to make a new rule in the dining hall which would make people pay money if they throw out food or if they don’t finish the food in their plates. This is a popular tactic used in many restaurants. The amount of money they have to pay will depend on the amount of food they are throwing or wasting. This way people would be encouraged to take smaller serving sizes and more reasonable portions.

In the end, all I want to say is that we should all help each other, we should all think about each other, and by doing all that, it will lead us to a better and more sustainable environment.
Let's make this year the year we deal with food waste!

~ salem abdallah, guest blogger

the University of Ottawa has eliminated disposable fountain drink cups

It is official; there are no more disposable fountain drink cups being sold at uOttawa!

These have been one of the many items that posed such a challenge since they are not recyclable; they are composed of several different materials and (unlike coffee cups) there is no cost-effective way of separating/reusing them.

Not only were they not recyclable, but people often thought they were, which led to them contaminating the metal/plastic/glass category in the recycling stations at food service locations.

When there is simply too much of the wrong item in the bin (50%+), we sadly end up throwing it out; either the company leaves it in our garage or the employee just doesn’t have time to go through the bags of recycling and sort the items inside the recycling stations. But as of September 2015, we no longer have to worry about these cups! (Thank you Food Services!)

When you aren’t on campus, and do end up coming across a location that still uses these (most fast food locations), why don’t you just ask them if you can fill your reusable bottle/mug?

~ brigitte - waste diversion coordinator

As part of Waste Reduction Week (October 19-25, 2015), the Office of Campus Sustainability started working on an independent art project, a photographic essay that hoped to document the lives of adherents to a growing, subversive subculture on campus known only as… “mug life”.

Okay, so we set up a photo booth at Muggy Mondays, but the photos were still awesome!!
Every day the campus needlessly produces over 6000 paper cups; that’s already a lot of waste, but many wind up impossible to recycle as well.

“What most people don’t realise is that you can’t recycle one of those paper cups if there’s still coffee in it: if you toss it in the recycling bin and the coffee seeps into the rest of the paper, it can’t be recycled – it becomes waste”, explains Brigitte Morin, Recycling Coordinator. “That’s why it’s really important to dump the coffee out first. Most of the recycling stations on campus have a drain built in to them, below the orange “liquid” sign, for exactly that.”

To encourage and promote the use of reusable mugs instead, Muggy Mondays visitors could have their “Mug Shots” taken with their mug, or send a picture over social media, to be entered in a draw to win some goodies from our awesome sponsors Bridgehead, David’s Tea, and Ben & Jerry’s!

We looked for photos that were original, with either funny poses (or personas!) or a good message on the board.


First place: Christian Potworowski

Second place: Gasline T. Deslouches

Congratulations to the winners and all the runner-ups, and a big thank you to all those who participated. Help us make campus waste-free – keep using those reusable mugs!

~ alex latus - communications agent

Dans le cadre de la Semaine de réduction des déchets, qui s’est déroulée du 19 au 25 octobre 2015, le Bureau du développement durable a entamé un projet artistique indépendant : un essai photographique chroniquant les activités des adeptes à ce mouvement subversif de plus en plus répandu sur le campus, nommé… « la vie de tasse en tasse ».

Donc, voilà, nous avons installé une cabine photo aux Matinées caféinées et, croyez-le ou non, les photos sont plutôt géniales!!

Mais une cause importante sous-tend ce projet. En effet, savez-vous que chaque jour, plus de 6000 gobelets en carton s’ajoutent aux déchets sur le campus? Un nombre impressionnant, surtout quand on sait qu’ils sont souvent impossibles à recycler.

« La plupart des gens ne comprennent pas qu’on ne peut pas recycler ces gobelets s’ils contiennent encore du café », explique Brigitte Morin, coordonnatrice du recyclage. « En plus, si vous le jetez dans le bac à recyclage et que le café imprègne le reste du papier, on ne peut plus recycler celui-ci. Tout s’est transformé en détritus. C’est pourquoi il est très important de vider son café d’abord. C’est simple, puisque la plupart des comptoirs de recyclage sont équipés d’un égout à cet effet, bien indiqué au-dessus avec le mot “liquides” en orange. »

Afin d’encourager tout le monde à utiliser des tasses réutilisables, nous vous invitons à faire prendre votre « photo d’identitasse » aux Matinées caféinées (avec votre tasse, bien sûr!) ou à nous envoyer votre propre photo par les médias sociaux. Vous courrez ainsi la chance de gagner des gâteries de nos formidables commanditaires : Bridgehead, David’s Tea et Ben & Jerry’s!

Pour choisir les gagnants, nous avons sélectionné des photos qui étaient originales, dont la pose (ou la personnalité!) avait l’air amusante ou qui apparaissaient à côté d’un message accrocheur sur le babillard.


Première place : Christian Potworowski

Deuxième place : Gasline T. Deslouches

Félicitations aux gagnants et aux finalistes, et un gros merci à tous ceux qui ont participé. Continuez à utiliser vos tasses réutilisables et aidez-nous ainsi à devenir un campus zéro déchet!

~ alex latus - agent de communication