Think back a few years; back to a time when paper, disposable cups and plastic bags were flowing freely from every classroom, restaurant and store at Concordia.
It wasn’t that long ago. But, like they say, what a difference a few years can make.
Until recently, environmental issues weren’t a main concern of students, staff or administration. But today, Concordia is considered a trailblazer in terms of university sustainability.
Here is a list of some of the projects at Concordia.
A conference hosted by Concordia where businesses can discuss and encourage ecologically-sound business practices. In its fourth year now, the conference will focus on the food industry, discussing the value fair trade, genetically modified organisms and local versus organic sourcing.
Rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle. By following the four R’s, this campus group hopes to divert waste from landfills. R4 launched a composter at Loyola in September, which will divert the biodegradable portions of the university’s waste.
L’Agence metropolitaine de transport piloted this program, which encourages commuters to leave their cars at home whenever possible. It promotes environmentally-friendly modes of transportation such as walking, public transportation, and biking.
Allego Concordia supplies students with information and resources in order to enable sustainable transportation.
Concordia Campus Sustainability
An assessment is carried out every three years. It is an imperative component to sustainability on campus since it gages projects and their effectiveness.
The greenhouse focuses on educating a research. The goal of the project, which provides access to green space on campus, is to create a community that is ecologically, socially and economically sustainable.
Since 2002, Sustainable Concordia, an organization composed of students, faculty, staff and administration, has focused on achieving sustainable goals. Working with the group is the sustainability coordinator, who holds a paid fulltime position and whose mandate is to guide members and facilitate administrative change. Sustainable Concordia has produced two sustainability assessments since its creation and has contributed to the drafting of a sustainability action plan.
As for green purchasing policies, also included in the administration section of the report card, Concordia lacks a university-wide sustainable purchasing policy. The school’s policy has failed to consider sustainability as a buying criterion since 2005, prioritizing cost instead, as reported in the latest sustainability assessment. However, the department of geography, planning and environment has implemented a sustainable purchasing policy and others have since followed. The university’s paper purchasing has also dramatically declined since the first sustainability assessment in 2003.
Climate Change & Energy: A
For nearly a decade now, Concordia has been ranked one of the most energy efficient large universities in the province. All of the school’s recent renovations have included energy efficient designs and the university has tackled retrofitting of older, less efficient structures. In the past three years, Concordia has won awards for energy savings in the new science complex on Loyola campus and renovations in the Hall building. Most of the school’s energy is produced through hydroelectric power, with a small fraction coming from renewable wind power. Heating is mostly provided by natural gas. Greenhouse gas emissions at the university have increased by 16 per cent per square metre from 1990 to 2005. However, compared to McGill’s 48,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases for 2004-2005, Concordia’s 13,471 metric tons for the same year shows the university as a clear front-runner.
Food & Recycling: B
Concordia’s current food service provider is Chartwells. The university, unlike others like the University of Toronto, has no direct influence over the supplier’s food purchasing policies. Chartwells does deal with regional distributors for its fruits, vegetables and dairy, which means some local foods are being purchased by the company, but the proportion is not known. Chartwells is doing well when it comes to coffee, offering the fair-trade variety at many of its on-campus outlets. Alternative providers, such as the People’s Potato and the Frigo Vert do offer environmentally-friendly foods.
Most on-campus food outlets continue to use disposable containers. Reggie’s Bar is moving towards replacing plastic cups with glassware. SC launched a reusable dish rental project, which provides free locally-made dishes for conferences and events. Recycling bins and signage are present throughout the school, along with collection of non-confidential one-sided paper that is then made into note-books and other recycled items by workers in a job reintegration program. Also, more than half of hazardous waste is recycled, including computers, batteries, used oil, and halogen light bulbs. Concordia is also a leader in composting, with the recent installation of a large-scale composter on Loyola campus, and the university also practices vermiculture.
Green Building: B+
Concordia has increased water and energy efficiency and improved quality of space in its recent building and renovation projects. Facility Planning has sought Sustainable Concordia’s help in finding sustainable and cost-effective options for floor coverings, paint and furniture, especially for dorms. SC has also built a greenhouse on the Hall building’s roof, which is an all-organic space open for research, education, sustainable horticulture and community building. The new John Molson School of Business, set to be completed in 2009, will be Concordia’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building.
Student Involvement: B-?
Students continue to be the driving force behind Sustainable Concordia. They run the group’s activities and initiatives, organize events, as well as conduct research. Some have work-study positions, but most are volunteers. SC hosts conferences and includes sustainability tips for students on its website to promote its cause. Unlike the majority (55 per cent) of universities surveyed, the university does not organize sustainability-related competitions. It also fails to emphasize sustainability in the orientation of new students.
Concordia has installed 300 new spaces for bicycle parking to encourage students to bike. It also has a cooperative-run, not-for-profit bike work shop, called the Right to Move, located behind the Hall building. The Right to Move is a world-class, cooperative run, do-it-yourself bike workshop. Staff can help repair mechanical problems and, for $20, you can obtain a yearly membership to register your bike’s description and serial number in case of theft. Furthermore, Concordia’s shuttles run on four per cent biodiesel and students have access to a free on-line carpooling database and an online rideshare board. As part of the Guaranteed Ride Home program, Concordia offers to pay cab fare in case of emergency (theft, crisis, etc.) situations for students who normally carpool or bike to school.
Summer 2002 – Undergrads Geneva Guerin and Melissa Garcia Lamarca start the Sustainable Concordia Project, and set out to conduct a campus audit to assess sustainability at Concordia.
2004 – A researcher from the Campus Sustainability Assessment Project ranked the Concordia Assessment second out of 1,400 in North America.
2005 – University administration took the passion and diligence of the students’ sustainability movement to heart and hired Lamarca as the first sustainability coordinator that summer.
Later in 2005 – Despite a willingness to act on the audit’s recommendations, the venture proved difficult because of a lack of capital and monetary support. As a means to fund the projects, students voted in favour of a 5 cent-per-credit fee levy in winter 2005, thus providing a $33,000 budget per yearfor five years to Sustainable Concordia.
2006 – The R4 Compost and Greenhouse programs were officially launched, as well as special recycling depots for used ink cartridges, batteries and cellphones.
2007 – The 1% Campaign, later renamed the Sustainability Action Fund, was spearheaded by Mohamed Shuriye and Peter Schiefke to advance sustainability on campus through special projects funding. A 25 cent-per-credit fee levy was proposed to students. The campaign promises include reusable mugs, reusable bags, electric shuttle busses and a composting facility among other things. Eighty-two per cent of students who voted supported the fee levy, but three of those promises were never honoured.
Spring 2008 – Quebec’s Environment Minister Line Beauchamp announced the government will contribute $250,000, matching sustainability funds already in place at Concordia, McGill and HEC universities.
Fall 2008 – CSU council drafts a referendum question for students to vote on whether to continue the SAF fee levy.