In March, the McGill Office of Sustainability hosted our third and final Action Team Meeting. Our five multi-stakeholder Vision 2020 Actions Teams consist of students, staff, and faculty who met three times this year to discuss the key actions to be pursued in our Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. At the meetings, the five Action Teams discussed and developed key ideas that were generated during our last round of meetings in November. Team members explored and identified the deliverables, involved units, and social sustainability of each proposed action. Below is a brief summary of each Action Team’s discussion.
In the Research Action Team Meeting, group members discussed possibilities for reducing air travel amongst McGill academics. Participants advocated for an increase in video-conferencing technology and resources, but felt that more information was needed to understand why researchers typically prefer to travel to conferences. Increasing the visibility of sustainability research on campus was also important to participants, who emphasized the importance of showcasing diversity; for example, highlighting research conducting by Indigenous scholars. During the meeting, participants also discussed improving the sustainability of McGill’s laboratories by educating new professors or including lab sustainability as a component of job promotion.
Hosting the Action Team Meetings allowed us to hear diverse perspectives from people with different roles in our community.
During the Education Action Team Meeting, participants discussed raising awareness about carbon neutrality at McGill and encouraging community members to think about how carbon neutrality would impact their lives. Another key topic of discussion was increasing extra-curricular opportunities for students relating to sustainability. In particular, participants expressed that it is important to reach out to students who are not already involved in conversations about sustainability. During the Action Team Meeting, participants also discussed using Orientation as an opportunity to generate knowledge of sustainability early in student’s time at McGill.
Confronting the different ways participants viewed sustainability was an important part of the Action Team Meetings.
During the meeting, participants discussed the Staff Sustainability Program. They felt that offering incentives and prizes to McGill departments to participants would be an effective tool for engagement and that social sustainability should be a key part of the program. Sustainable transportation was also a key topic of discussion and many participants advocated for electric transport between campuses and increased access to bike sharing stations. Offering a climate change residency for for artists, scientists, or writers to work on a project conveying climate change impacts was also explored. Lastly, participants discussed running an accessibility audit of McGill’s campus to ensure that meetings and public events are held at accessible locations.
Transitioning McGill’s vehicles to more sustainable fuel sources was a key topic of discussion. Participants identified the primary challenge to be the cost of purchasing more sustainable vehicles but that McGill could save money over the long-term through emission reduction. During the meeting, participants also talked about reducing waste and expressed that on-going waste audits are needed to understand our progress. The Operations Action Team also discussed the role of McGill’s Climate Officer. The team felt that the Climate Officer should monitor and quantify McGill’s progress on sustainability and have the ability to propose policies and guidelines. Finally, participants discussed building performance and ways of holding facilities accountable.
Governance & Administration
During the Governance & Administration Meeting, group members discussed implementing training on sustainability and equity amongst staff and administration members. Participants also discussed improving the sustainability of events hosted at the university and whether support and resources could be offered to event coordinators. Social sustainability was identified as a key component of event planning, particularly location accessibility and childcare. At the meeting, the group also discussed increasing campus equity more broadly. For example, participants felt that the hiring process must increase diversity and that there must be a way to evaluate equity in individual departments.
The Action Team Meetings provided the Office of Sustainability with key insights into the issues that students, faculty, and staff are concerned about. Vision 2020 Coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, Amelia Brinkerhoff said, “The Action Teams helped us to think about how particular initiatives or projects would affect different people on campus in their unique roles. Confronting the different ways we see sustainability was also an important part of these meetings.” Brinkerhoff also explained that the Office of Sustainability learnt valuable lessons about the importance of community input. She expressed, “Through the Action Team meetings, I learnt that the process is really as important as the results; having so many different people present who were being honest and provided good feedback was really helpful.” In the next few months, the Office of Sustainability will work to combine the different ideas and opinions expressed during this year’s Action Team Meetings into a cohesive set of priority actions for 2017-2020. This summer, follow along on our website or Facebook page.
Originally published on April 28, 2017