Sunday, January 05, 2014

So 2013 has come and gone, but not without some pretty cool sustainability things happening at the University of Ottawa.

The year started out with some great news about uOttawa being recognized as the 14th most sustainable university in the world by the UI Green Metric World University Rankings. This was some welcome news after all the hard work that was accomplished by the staff and volunteers at the Office of Campus Sustainability.

The Food Services contract was up for renewal and this year marked the first year under a new contract that required much more stringent adherence to sustainable practices. This includes more local food, more recycling, and more promotion about green products, just to name a few.

This led to two interesting initiatives in 2013. The first was the push to donate more food to charities rather than throwing it out. The second was the push to become a Fair Trade campus, thereby rendering all the non franchised coffee on campus Fair Trade Certified. The University of Ottawa's submission was entered in late December and we are currently waiting for our submission results.

On the subject of coffee, 2013 saw the return of Muggy Mondays in a big way. Since September, the group has managed to distribute over 750 cups and free fair trade coffee to anyone toting a reusable mug, double the amount given away last year. This is great news as it indicates that our message about carrying reusable is spreading.

The SFUO's Sustainability Centre also got in on the action, running a sustained series of popular Farmer's Markets.

This spring, the Bike Coop, in conjunction with the various unions on campus, purchased a series of outdoor bike repair stations for the campus. This initiative was quickly backed up with the introduction of BIXI bikes on campus and the creation of a new counter-flow bike lane. The campus is now one of the most bike-friendly hubs in Ottawa. if not the country.

There was also some good news from the community garden this year, with the addition of some new plots, some mobile plots, and some new pollinator hot spots. The Free Store saw the hiring of two coordinators to help manage the space, a big win for the super popular space. These coordinators are hoped to increase the productivity of the Free Store, much in the same way the hiring of a coordinator for the Furniture Reuse Program has increased the popularity of the program (as of December, the amount of furniture reused over the past six months surpassed the amount of furniture reused during the previous year).

Finally, there were a couple of firsts for programs that we hope will have a very promising future. The Green Umbrella Program is an initiative to unite sustainability minded student-groups on campus and coordinate major programs common to all the groups. So far there are six groups in the coalition.
The Office of Campus Sustainability is experimenting with a new social marketing initiative to get students and community to reduce their energy consumption. This includes both students living in residences and staff working in administrative offices. It is hoped that we can reduce energy consumption by $1M if all goes well.

2014 will mark a series of challenges for the office. Two of our senior sustainability coordinators are graduating and moving on to bigger and better things (thanks so much Merissa and Kira). This means that we will be looking to hire new student staff to fill in their roles as well as some for the energy outreach program. This past year we didn't get a lot of work done on the Sustainable Development Committee portfolio and so we would like to double our efforts this year to bring back the committee. We would also like to strengthen our volunteer base so we will be focusing our efforts on creating a better volunteer experience.

We hope that all of you out there had as good a year as we did. The new year is all about trying new things and resolving to better ourselves. This coming year we will resolve to make a better campus and a better planet.
If you want to get involved, volunteer at an event, work on a committee, or event just send us your suggestions, we would love to have your help. Campuses aren't green because they have an Office of Campus Sustainability, they are green because people on those campuses care.

~jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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