And the green get greener

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By Ian Vandaelle

Ryerson is one of 20 Ontario universities looking to become greener and more sustainable, according to a provincial report.

The Council of Ontario released their annual “Going Greener”

report this week, which looks at sustainability initiatives and what Ontario universities are doing to improve green ventures on campus.

The report, which is based on statistics from 20 Ontario universities on measures such as recycling, water efficiency upgrades and purchasing criteria. The data is used to examine whether universities are trying to become greener, creating more sustainable spaces and encouraging ethical purchasing habits.

This year’s report contains data from 2009 and 2010 and compares the two to determine how much progress universities have made.

Ryerson has been aiming for a more sustainable campus for some time, according to Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.

“Every time we take on a project, we are thinking about [the environment],” he said.

Ryerson has won a number of sustainability awards in the past several years, including a Garden of Recognition Award earlier this year, a Bicycle-Friendly Business Award in 2009 and three Ontario Waste Minimization Awards in the last five years.

The university has been working to improve sustainability through initiatives like the environmental sustainability certificate available through the Chang School and the green roof of the George Vari Engineering building, an award winning installation that covers 10,000 square-feet of the roof.

But Levy maintained that, to create a truly sustainable campus, the university must constantly push forward with new initiatives.

”It’s not something you can ever take your eye off of, and you have to always believe that everyone is contributing to the same end in your community,” Levy said.

“When we look at every building, we look if we can get to gold, or platinum [standards],” he said.

Levy cited the green roof, the elimination of bottled water and Ryerson’s “Master Plan” as examples of the university’s commitment to future sustainability.

Ryerson’s “Master Plan” includes plans for creating more green space in the downtown core and received the American Institute of Architects 2010 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design.

Ryerson’s food has also been shifting towards sustainability in recent years. The university has improved recycling by hiring a specialty company that picks up used cooking oil, while campus food services have been using bio-degradable take-out containers in the cafeterias since 2005, according to the department of Administration and Finance.

The International Living Learning Centre (ILLC) has also been praised by the Hotel Association of Canada for implementing sustainable practices in training, management and waste reduction.

By the numbers

In the Ontario Universities: Going Greener 2010 report, 20 Ontario universities were asked what they think of student involvement in advancing campus sustainability.

75%

Thought the student community is a key driver of change, compared to 46% in the 2009 report.

80%

Thought students have the chance to contribute in solving sustainability challenges as part of their on-campus living arrangements and/or extracurricular activities.

65%

Thought students, while not being able to directly drive the decision-making process, are a key part in developing new strategies and goals.

80%

Thought the involvement of students in finding solutions to the sustainability challenges that universities face should be encouraged with specially designed educational and/or research programs.

— Lee Richardson

Photo courtesy of Ryerson University

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