Campus Sustainability: A Year in Review

Friday, December 30, 2011

In 2011 there were a lot of positive things going for the campus in terms of campus sustainability. Some setbacks for sure, but I would like to think more positives than negatives. Here is the whirlwind tour of what the office accomplished in 2011.

The year started on a high note with the Vision 2020 process, which included an entire pillar dedicated to becoming a more environmentally sustainable campus. Unfortunately by the end of the year the Destination 2020 plan (which was the implementation phase of the visioning exercise) had dropped campus sustainability as a priority.

Another setback came with the Fair Trade Campus Certification. Brought forth by students with the uOttawa chapter of Engineers Without Borders, the certification is a program created by FairTrade Canada to get campuses to offer more fair trade selection. The program started out very strong in the Spring but slowed down in the fall as issues related to the variety of coffees available as fair trade came into question. It is hoped that the campus can still pursue a fair trade certification in the new year.

This year, the University celebrated its one year ban on bottled water with virtually no violations and an incredible amount of good will from the community.

And finally, the University of Ottawa made some progress both nationally and internationally when it received a "B" in the Globe and Mail University Ratings and a Silver Rating for STARS.

The Office has made strides in engaging the campus community in becoming more sustainable. This year marked the one-year anniversary of the EcoNetwork, which has grown to 44 campus community members. And whereas the EcoChampions focus primarily on staff members, a push was undertaken to create more student volunteer opportunities. The volunteer opportunities webpage was launched.

The relaunch of the Sustainable Development Committee was also a big event for 2011. The reconstituted SUDCOM is working on creating the sustainability targets for uOttawa for the next 5 years.

Finally, the office boned up its social media offerings and launched its Community Calendar and Four Square page this year. Now all our social media pages are synchronized. And the cherry on the cake is our monthly newsletter, which brings together all the news from our office and whatever we could gather from the community.

This year the office pushed the Living Laboratory into full swing and engaged over 300 students in Community Service Learning opportunities. Students helped create sustainability surveys for the campus, a sustainable development policy for the campus, and a series of videos for the upcoming RecycleMania competition.

Good news also came from Destination 2020, when it was announced that the university will create "a living lab where experts from different disciplines will join forces to advance the social, political and legislative aspects of environmental protection and sustainable lifestyles."

Recycling tops the list this year of the most exciting news for campus sustainability. The University of Ottawa once again came out of RecycleMania as the Canadian National Champions and placed 14th overall (out of over 300 institutions). The year also saw the installation of a new recycling counter inside the UCU cafeteria, and the purchase of a new mechanical composter (the old one having already surpassed its capacity). This was accented by the new Plastics Recycling Program, which for the first time allowed us to remove waste as an option from some recycling stations.

The U-pass saw its second year on campus, as did the bike coop. Daniel Spence also stepped in as the new Sustainable Transportation Manager, replacing Danny Albert who moved on to the One Card initiative.

The campus opened its doors to Première Moisson, a family run food provider who will move into the new Social Science Tower and provide sustainable food options. The Community Gardens were also a big hit this year with approximately 50 plots available on campus. This year saw the opening of a new location on King Edward to compensate for the space lost to the new CAPEA building.

I could go on... but in all honest I think that I have made my point and I think that if I add anymore links to this post, our blog will crash.  I didn't get to mention the amazing FreeStores we had this year, or the record breaking Dump & Runs. I didn't get to talk about the inspiring work done by the SFUO's Sustainability Centre, nor did I get a chance to talk about the incredible advancements we made in energy reduction. But truly the most important gain from 2011 is the number of supporters who have come to our aid.

Thank you all, I can't wait to see what 2012 brings.

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