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‘Sign here’ for sustainability

by Archives April 8, 2008

Quebec will match student funds to set up sustainable campuses across the province, announced Quebec’s Environment Minister Line Beauchamp before a crowd of students and environmentalists at the Biosphere on April 3.
The provincial government will contribute $250,000, matching sustainability funds already in place at Concordia, McGill and HEC universities.
The announcement coincided with the conclusion of the Generations Pact tour, a 10-day trip to 10 of Quebec’s 18 universities calling on students to follow Concordia’s lead and start their own sustainability funds. The Generations Pact’s aim is to gain government funding to match dollar-for-dollar what Quebec universities raise themselves; seeking to make schools “carbon neutral” within a generation.
Generations Pact co-founders Christophe Dossarps, Peter Schiefke and Gabriel Lopez (Lopez and Shiefke graduated from Concordia last year) hope to continue touring schools across Canada in the fall.
The Generations Pact tour finished Thursday night at Concordia with a speech by environmentalist David Suzuki.
Shiefke compared the students working on the tours to youth who had struggled for social change in the civil rights and anti-war movements in the 1960s and ’70s. “Students have always been at the forefront of social change . . . youth have always led and been actively involved in issues that affected [their] generation. The current climate crisis is no different. Students are showing in record numbers that they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure that environmentally disruptive social habits and activities are brought to an end.”
The Generations Pact is organized by Evolution Consortium and Youth Action Canada, which was set up by Concordia students last spring. Spearheaded by Shiefke and former CSU president Mohamed Shuriye, the “1% campaign” was established last spring when students voted to dedicate one per cent of their tuition toward green campus initiatives.
That money, now totaling $150,000 in what is now called the “Sustainability Action Fund,” goes toward sustainability projects initiated by Concordia students. One of those projects is the Generations Pact.
Two more schools, McGill ($40,000) and HEC Universities ($60,000) set up their own funds in September. Bishop’s University is currently holding a referendum asking students if they will support a fund at their school, and Laval University will likely follow suit.
While the student leaders were pleased with the announcement, all consider it just a first step and hope the government will continue to partner with students. Shuriye called the money “a step in the right direction and [it] provides an incentive to the other 14 universities in Quebec who don’t have a green fund to develop one.”
He said Concordia’s own sustainability fund has been very successful, citing a few of the changes he has seen over the past year: Reggie’s eliminating plastic cups, R4 diverting 100 tonnes of waste into organic fertilizer and all Art Matter’s Festival promotions being printed on 100 per cent post-consumer paper.
The Sustainability Action Fund donated $15,000 toward the Generations Tour, which Shuriye said went mainly toward the cost of bringing Suzuki to Concordia. Other sponsors included Concordia University, the Concordia Committee for Student Life, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations, le Regroupement des jeunes chambres de commerce du Quebec, Oxfam-Québec, the Sierra Youth Coalition and le Regroupement national des conseils regionaux de l’environnement du Quebec.

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