Vision 2020: Action Team Meetings, Round Two

Creating a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan for McGill requires the expertise and input of a broad spectrum of individuals. With this in mind, we at the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS) gathered students, staff, faculty, and community members into five “Action Teams” (Research, Education, Connectivity, Operations, and Governance & Administration) to help create this plan.

The week of November 14th, we convened for the second time. Building off our first round of discussions, the teams evaluated four to six actions based on the potential level of interest they would elicit from the McGill community and their potential impact. The groups also had time to discuss what should be added or amended to push our community in the right direction. Read the meeting notes for a more detailed account of these discussions.


Below is a list of proposed actions discussed at each meeting:


  • Develop and implement an integrated water resource management plan, addressing issues including consumption, stormwater, greywater, and impervious surfaces, among others. 
  • Develop LEED Operations & Maintenance standards.
  • Transition McGill’s fleet of vehicles to more sustainable fuel sources
  • Develop & implement a comprehensive waste reduction strategy that includes compost & the ban of unnecessary bottled water.
  • Partner with McGill Athletics to create zero-waste events, audits of machines, and incorporate wellness concerns.




  • Commit to a carbon neutrality target, with considerations to on-setting. Chart a path to carbon neutrality with minimal reliance on carbon credits.
  • Hire a McGill Climate Officer, tasked with managing carbon neutral transition & GHG reduction.
  • Have McGill’s Mission Statement reflect Sustainability as a core value.
  • Engage & facilitate conversation around a sustainable renovation of the RVH property to ensure the project reflects the needs and values of the McGill community.
  • Create a Sustainable Events Policy for all University events. Promote a sustainable events guide and share best practices




  • Embed Sustainability as a core skill in McGill’s new Undergraduate Skills Program.
  • Create and implement a University-wide Sustainability Literacy Test.
  • Collaborate to include more environmental & sustainability foci in community engagement activities, i.e., Alternative Spring Break, Community Engagement Day.
  • Run more trainings, programs, and certifications on sustainability to McGill students and staff. E.g., Run a 5-day Campus Sustainability Leadership Program for students.
  • Create a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on climate & sustainability, accessible for students, staff, faculty and the broader community.



  • Create a climate change residency/fellowship: artists, scientists, writers to work on a project conveying climate change impacts.IMG_6313

    Organize a sustainability huddle: a weekly/biweekly roundtable for staff, students, and faculty.

  • Develop an alumni engagement strategy to strengthen involvement of alumni in sustainability efforts.
  • Run an accessibility audit of campus. Work with other groups on campus and integrate the findings into McGill’s campus map. Seems that it should be necessary/ a requirement.  Why aren’t we doing it?
  • Create a transportation master plan to outline priorities to support active transport, improve bike facilities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commutes. 




  • Enhance the communications and tools for sharing sustainability research, e.g., establish a regular column in an existing paper related to sustainability research or publish a ‘McGill Sustainability Review’.
  • Develop a policy to enable and incentivize the sharing of research facilities and equipment
  • Hold events to foster collaboration and raise the profile of collaborative research, e.g., cross-disciplinary quick talks on sustainability research.
  • Initiate Sustainability review process for research, similar to an ethics review
  • Extend the mandate of the Sustainable Labs Working Group to include a full ecological assessment, carbon/nitrogen footprint for every research lab
  • Incorporate sustainability into McGill travel, e.g., track the carbon footprint associated with travel in a transition towards reducing GHG emissions and develop affordable, effective tools for e-meetings



Many participants expressed how the diversity of voices at the meetings helped produce fruitful discussions. Julia Pingeton, Family Resources Coordinator at Social Equity and Diversity Education said, “There was a lot of disaccord which I thought was actually pretty useful. I feel like everybody is pushing for more.” Management professor Steve Maguire expressed, “There’s genuine interest amongst a broad, diverse coalition of stakeholders to make McGill sustainable. There’s a lot of good will.”

Student Jed Lenetsky added, “I think that how this process is happening is a really good model for how these actions can be implemented. We have people from all different capacities and areas at McGill coming together and working through these solutions, and that’s something that’s missing in a lot of the decision-making levels at McGill. I think that these consultations are a really good example and should be implemented throughout the Vision 2020 process.”

A common point shared by participants was the importance of getting beyond the “echo chamber” to reach individuals who are not already interested in sustainability. Shona Watt, Sustainability Programs Coordinator at MOOS, was most intrigued by the climate change residency/fellowship idea saying, “I think it’s a different way of engaging with people, getting beyond the choir”. Haejoo Oh, Education intern at MOOS said, “I think it’s important to break the barrier between students who are passionate and students who aren’t. I think a key to achieving that is through education and outreach. I’d say implementing the university wide [sustainability survey]—though it was not the most popular idea—could be a way to bridge that gap…”

The question of community interest versus impact was a key concern discussed at the Operations meeting. Sacha Magder, SSMU VP Operations, said “…some of the most impactful projects are the ones that are the least sexy and I think it’s important for us to promote projects that we know are important but that students might not inherently see the importance of.”

These meetings have given MOOS a lot to think about as we move along in this process. Consultations are never perfect, but the engagement displayed by participants in these meetings has continued to challenge and inspire us. For the next few months, MOOS will be reviewing the comments from the Action Team Meetings and liaising with key departments to discuss how we can implement some of the actions. Our third and final meeting will take place in March 2017.

Originally published on November 25, 2016

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