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Ontario universities make significant strides towards greening their campuses: COU Report

Posted by Michelle Cholak on August 19, 2014

The Council of Ontario Universities’ (COU) released their fifth annual report last week on their sustainability initiatives taking place across the province. From infrastructure to day-to-day operations, the Growing Greener Campuses at Ontario Universities 2013 Report outlines the steps Ontario’s 20 universities are taking to decrease their emissions and overall environmental footprint. Efforts include sustainability policies, green buildings and retrofits, sustainable food initiatives, awareness campaigns, research, sustainability benchmarking, as well as teaching and learning initiatives.

“Sustainability is a key priority for Ontario universities, and it is great to see our students, faculty and staff working within our institutions to develop greener goals and strategies,” said COU President and CEO Bonnie M. Patterson in a media release. “Universities are incorporating more renewable energy sources, adopting green building standards, and conducting waste audits across the province.”

In 2009, each of Ontario’s universities signed a pledge, called Ontario Universities: Committed to a Greener World, committing them to environmental sustainability with measurable outcomes and mandatory reporting. The 2013 Growing Greener Campuses Report focuses on the progress made since the pledge was signed. Some of the significant improvements include:

  • all 22 Ontario university campuses have begun reporting their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions totals under new Green Energy Act regulations;
  • all campuses conduct waste audits and have at least six streams of recycling;
  • of 22 campuses, 21 have adopted green cleaning programs;
  • 20 university campuses have protected bike racks, 14 universities offer bike-sharing programs, and nine have installed bike lanes; and
  • two Ontario universities introduced green revolving funds that invest in sustainable projects to save money through energy conservation; the savings are then re-invested in the fund to support future projects.

“Ontario universities are showing exceptional leadership in building a cleaner future,” said Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, in a statement. “I’m looking forward to engaging with these bright, innovative minds as we create a new strategy to combat the challenges of climate change.”

The Report put the spotlight on two of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)’s green initiatives:

  • the installation of a ventilation control system in laboratories, which has improved energy efficiency and resulted in a reduction of 55 tons of greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • the launch of a hydrogen production research program at the Clean Energy Research Laboratory.

Since its inception in 2003, UOIT has prioritized environmental sustainability initiatives and become a leader among North American universities in sustainable design and technology. The energy efficiency features on campus are multi-faceted and use both simple and highly technological approaches. From geothermal Borehole Thermal Energy Storage System (BTESS) to simple green roofs to an efficient on-campus combined heat and power plant, UOIT has promoted the principles of environmental stewardship and energy conservation.

Most recently, UOIT developed the Go Green Stay Blue platform, which is focused on strengthening green initiatives on campus and in the community through active student, staff and faculty engagement. The University also recently implemented an Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan to support its continuing commitment to improving energy performance and reducing overall energy usage throughout the UOIT campus and community.

“In 11 years, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology has thrived as a young, innovative, future-driven institution,” said Melissa Mirowski, Asset and Sustainability Planner, Office of Campus Infrastructure and Sustainability in a Link Tomedia release. “UOIT has become a leader in sustainable design and technology-enriched learning environments, prioritizing innovative research excellence and the application of energy performance technologies – most notably, the largest geothermal well field system in Canada. Recognizing that sustainability is a moving target where methods are ever changing and improving, UOIT continues to dedicate resources to the application of effective, long-lasting solutions.”

Filed under: Sustainability 101