The Student Ambassadors Rock My Green World

Saturday, September 07, 2013

an image of the uOttawa campus tinted green for a presentation to the student ambassadors

Last night, as I do every year, I gave a presentation to the University of Ottawa's student ambassadors team. If you aren't in the know, the ambassadors team is, and I quote, "an essential tool for the University of Ottawa. It represents an invaluable resource for prospective students and their parents, providing everything from tours, tele-counseling and special recruitment events." So every year I give a presentation to the ambassadors about the neatest green things on campus so that they in turn will tell prospective students about them.

I love presenting to the ambassadors. Not only do they dress nicely, but they also ask really great questions, which makes sense since they have to explain everything to our visitors. But last night the questions were better than my answers, so I thought I might take this post to clarify some of the great questions I got.

1. Is the University going to create a park in the middle of parking lot X?
Yes, the plan is to one day construct a park at the heart of the campus. This can't happen until the light rail project is finished though. The University needs to use parking lot K as a staging area for the construction and so the parking spaces from there have been temporarily moved to paring lot X. Parking lot X would make a great space for a park because it is centrally located and could be used as a space for convocations, concerts, and studying.

2. When will the campus become car free?
I would love to say that there is a definitive date, but no such luck. First, when I am talking about car free, I don't mean that you won't be able to bring your car to campus, what I am talking about is limiting the number of cars that can actually come onto the campus. By pushing parking to the periphery, we can limit the number of potential vehicle / pedestrian incidences. How much time this will take is completely unknown but a lot of effort was put into making the campus more bike friendly this summer.

3. How does the fish water cool down the campus?
Although this is kind of a tricky question, the answer is simple. We have heat recovery units in buildings that act like giant vacuums sucking up as much heat as possible. That heat is then dumped into the excess dirty water from the aquariums (but not into the aquariums themselves) and brought out to the cooling towers to evaporate away. Voila! Heat taken away.

4. What kind of energy does the campus us to heat itself?
For the most part, the campus is heated using natural gas. A couple of days a year the campus sometimes has to switch to oil if there is a shortage of natural gas. I know that a lot of people would love to hear that we use some kind of super clean energy to heat the campus but sadly many renewable energies are still just too expensive for us. So we burn things as efficiently as possible and use heat recovery units to really get a bang for our buck. (check out the energy section in last year's annual report)

So those are a couple of answers to the questions I got. I was super impressed by the ambassadors great questions and their own sustainable efforts. As a parting gift I was given a fancy paper bag with a card and a cupcake. The paper bag is reusable, the card was in an unsealed envelop so it can be used again, and the cupcake was promptly composted.... in my stomach.
Thanks ambassador team!

~jON - campus sustainability manager
Photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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