Concordia launches its Sustainability Action Plan

Concordia plans to fully divest from greenhouse gasses and go 90 per cent waste free by 2040

On Nov. 3, Concordia held an online panel on the official launch of its Sustainability Action Plan. The plan is a five-year strategy that consists of five groups: food, waste, climate change, research, and curriculum.

“This plan is an ambitious living document with five streams that were developed in tandem, because we recognized that in order to be successful we cannot pursue this work in silos,” said Michael Di Grappa, the new vice president of services and sustainability, and a speaker at the panel.

For the five groups of the Sustainability Action Plan, the goal is to have aspects of them in action by 2025, with the end-goal of them being fully implemented by 2040.

Cassandra Lamontagne, the sustainability coordinator for the project, went into more detail about what the five groups meant during the panel.

She explained that the first group is food, with the goal of creating more sustainable, local food options on campus. Environmental and social sustainability will be considered in every agreement regarding food at Concordia. Another aspect of this group is to provide affordable and healthy food on both campuses.

The next group was the zero waste plan, with the goal of keeping 90 per cent of Concordia’s waste out of landfills by doing such things as recycling and composting. Another aspect of this is to reduce the waste generated by Concordia.

According to an article by the Montreal Gazette, Montreal is going through a recycling crisis, and it is unknown what percentage of waste is actually recycled.

Then, for the climate action plan, Concordia is to transition from gas to electric and stop all greenhouse gas emissions on campus, including transportation. This will be done by improving infrastructure for biking and electric cars. Concordia also promises to completely divest from the coal industry.

The plan for sustainability research aims to create more interdisciplinary research opportunities for students, as well as ensure Concordia is a leader in research on sustainability in Canada.

The final group is sustainability in the curriculum, which would work with faculty and professors on how they can integrate sustainability into their own curriculum, as well as give graduate students the skills and knowledge to implement sustainability in their fields of work after university.

According to the Concordia website, this plan was put into motion in 2017 when Concordia held a community consultation, which started the concept of the five groups. Then, in 2018, committees were created to represent each of the five groups. After another community consultation in 2019, a final draft of the Sustainability Action Plan was finalized.

“Last year the University foundation committed not only [to] divestment from coal in five years,” said Graham Carr, the university’s president and vice-chancellor, at the panel. “We are the first university foundation in the country to commit to a portfolio of 100 per cent sustainability by 2025.”

Carr also explained that Concordia was the first university to launch a sustainability investment practicum in 2020, which is a collaboration between the John Molson School of Business and Manulife Investment Management, a company that facilitates sustainable investment.

Paula Wood-Adams, the vice president of research and graduate studies, explained during the panel that in 2019 Concordia received $9.1 million from the The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The funds were for 49 research projects in natural science and engineering, including research on climate-resilient buildings and biodiverse ecosystems.

Wood-Adams also talked about how in the same year Concordia received $6.3 million in funding from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for 88 projects, and 1.6 million in a grant from NSERC’s collaborative research and training experience program.

During the Q&A part of the panel, Wood-Adams stated that the best way to get involved with these newly funded projects is to reach out to faculty and professors at Concordia. “Contact them and say that you want to get involved,” she said.

“The Sustainability Action Plans have come from many years of tough conversations, and we’re glad that they are now available to the community,” said Emily Carson-Apstein, the external and campaigns coordinator at Sustainable Concordia. Carson-Apstein

She explained Sustainable Concordia is going to ensure the University keeps their promises and is transparent about the progress and decision making.

“Student leadership and activism have been a driving force behind every positive change at Concordia, and that’s what we want to highlight.”


Graphic by Taylor Reddam

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