Celebrate Earth Day ... and our campus

Posted on Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Man watering plants in a community garden on campus

On April 22, we celebrate Earth Day and highlight the importance—and urgency—of saving our planet. Since this is a good time to review what we currently do and what more we could do, the Gazette team met with the Office of Campus Sustainability to take stock of the progress the University has made in terms of sustainable development.

Since its creation in 2006, the Office of Campus Sustainability has been working hard to integrate sustainability into daily life on campus. For Jonathan Rausseo and Holly Gordon, two sustainability experts who work at the Office, adopting a sustainability mindset means “taking a hard look at all our day-to-day habits and their consequences on our economy, our environment, and our society, in order to contribute to the well-being of everyone.”

In their view, the University’s commitment to sustainability is seen not only in its own progress and in its initiatives to manage its consumption and reduce its impact, but also in the influence it wields.

Leadership in sustainability

When it comes to sustainability, leadership can be exercised in different ways. One example is uOGlobal certification, which encourages students to pursue the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations. Other examples are the University programs related to sustainability, which for the first time this year garnered the University a “gold” standard from STARS, the top international system for evaluating the sustainability of postsecondary institutions. The University is also committed to no longer investing in fossil fuels by 2023, and has adopted more stringent, and more environmentally conscious, construction standards, such that in 2022, five buildings on campus were LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designcertified.

The Office of Campus Sustainability also plays a role in this leadership. It has taken the lead on initiatives to install green roofs, ban bottled water, and market baskets of organic produce from local farmers and community gardens on campus. Its second-hand store, the Free Store, has diverted from landfill nearly 30,000 kilograms of items, worth some $1.5M.

Sustainability is everyone’s responsibility

Every year, nearly 3000 students participate in extracurricular volunteering (EV) or community service learning (CSL) activities hosted by the University’s community engagement team. Of these students, some 100 to 400 volunteers for the Office of Campus Sustainability, which represents over 3000 volunteer hours.

This kind of volunteer work can also be incorporated into a course. Like several of his peers at the University of Ottawa, Professor Jonathan Simon of the Telfer School of Management added a CSL component to his digital marketing course and decided to give his students the option of a placement at the Office of Campus Sustainability. “I didn’t know about the Free Store, but I just love this initiative. I told myself that we needed to get the word out about it. It’s also a great way to raise student awareness of waste management and the impact of throwing things away,” he said.

Faculty and staff members also benefit from many other initiatives sponsored by the Office, including the EcoNetwork, which provides tips, tools, and training to help employees adopt environmentally friendly practices at work.

Want to make our campus more sustainable?

To learn more about our sustainability initiatives, or to participate in one of them, visit the Office of Campus Sustainability website, write to us at sustainable@uottawa.ca, or follow the Office on Instagram.

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