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The report card is in for McGill's campus sustainability, and by all accounts, the university has been a diligent student this year with many successes to bolster its GPA.
Vice-chair of the Sub-Committee on the Environment, Wayne Wood, announced the results during the third annual Rethink McGill forum held on April 1. The event brought together students, staff, faculty and members of the Montreal community for a summary of McGill's achievements and strategies for an even greener campus in the future.
Not coincidently, the highest grade, a B+, was in the category of education. "If there is one thing a university should be good at, it is the education department," Wood told a beaming audience. "I think we have done a good job here." McGill has taken advantage of all available technologies with informative posters, websites and a scrolling board outside the University Centre that notifies staff and students of ongoing environmental campaigns.
The university also received a high grade for waste management, where increased recycling efforts in all of the buildings have allowed the university to keep garbage levels down. It would have been an A but for the actions of mischievous Plexiglas thieves, who drove up costs by taking the lids of the bins.
The categories of transportation and community were also among the highest scores, with the university receiving a B in each. As part of a strategy to improve transportation, McGill will be conducting a vehicle fleet review in order to explore eco-friendly options for fuel consumption, which should bring the university up to an A standing. Members of the McGill community are invited to participate in the Allégo transportation survey, in order to assess transportation needs for the school and its associates.
McGill's still lagging in the areas of buildings and consumption, and Wood hopes this will be boosted by a new series of photocopiers that will allow for copying on both sides with greater ease. Like the University of British Columbia, which displays energy consumption data in every building, McGill intends to make this information readily available with the intention of making people aware of their consumption habits and the associated repercussions.
In the spirit of April Fool's Day, Wood also recommended a couple of less conventional strategies for improving sustainability on campus. Vegetarians who don't mind a late lunch might appreciate a network of grow-your-own salad bars, or perhaps for the nature lover, a rooftop garden at the Molson Stadium. On a more serious note, the committee intends to extend the successful bike-share program at Macdonald Campus to the downtown one. Recycling facilities will also be expanded to include old computers and batteries. Battery collection boxes will be set up adjacent to the porter services in all the main buildings.
Each new project and solution suggested the need to engage all members of the McGill community in order to make the university a leader among environmentally sound campuses. Over the last year, many students have taken the goal to heart and presented their projects and successes at the forum.
"Four years ago, many of these things seemed like a dream," said Saeed Mirza, chair of the Sub-committee on the Environment, introducing the student speakers. "Without the students, these projects would have remained a dream."
Representatives from the Organic Food Co-op, the Environmental Residence Council, the McGill Urban Community Sustainment Program, Greening McGill and the Sustainable Concordia Project explained their work to the audience.
Students may be in the best position to encourage their peers to adopt more environmentally savvy habits, as Nina Berryman, coordinator of the ERC has learned. In addition to setting up composting sites in the Royal Victoria College, McConnell and Douglas Hall residences, the group extended their sense of civic responsibility to the McGill ghetto where they spent part of the last weekend of March picking up trash.
For their part, members of Greening McGill reminded the crowd that an environmentally sound decision could be something as simple as printing on both sides of the sheet or purchasing post-consumer paper. "We really feel we have the potential [to succeed]," said Michelle Lee, Greening McGill coordinator. "We need everyone's cooperation because everyone uses paper." Currently there is no university-wide paper purchasing policy and only the philosophy department and the School of the Environment use 100 percent post-consumer paper.
Also present was Montreal city councillor Dida Berku, who applauded McGill's successful year and emphasized the need to work in collaboration with the larger Montreal community. She made the parallel between McGill's bike-share program and the car-free day that the city sponsored in the downtown sector last fall. "We are going to have to do this together, this is a collective challenge," she said. "I see universities as an incubator for the larger Montreal community."
The university is in good company for environmental innovation on campus. The second half of the forum focused on building green and incorporating environmental consciousness into the architecture itself, via a framework called Leader in Energy and Environmental Design. Created in 1993 in the United States, LEED emphasizes sustainability, including elements like rain collection, water efficient plumbing, maximized natural light and efficient energy use. With a standardized framework, LEED also fosters competition within the architectural community so that being eco-friendly doesn't cost a ton.
The program has been implemented at both the École Polytechnique for the Pavillons Lassonde and the Université de Québec à Montreal for the Pavillon des sciences biologiques. The Lassonde project was the first of its kind in Montreal and managed to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent, according to design team representative, Sylvain Grand'Maison. Similarly, the new Pavillon des sciences biologiques curbed water use by 40 percent, which can serve as an inspiration for future architectural planning at McGill.
For more information on Rethink McGill initiatives, visit: www.mcgill.ca/rethink
Rethink McGill intends to make your commute to campus easier. Until April 15, McGill community members can make their transportation needs known via Allégo, an online survey. The group will be compiling the information in order to develop effective transportation strategies with the City of Montreal that fit your needs.
Take five minutes and you will be entered into a draw to win one of 10 great prizes. The survey is restricted to members of the McGill community. A Minerva ID number is needed.
Fill out the survey at www.mcgill.ca/rethink/initiatives/allego/