It’s been nearly two years since we launched Vision 2020, McGill’s long-term sustainability strategy. Since then, the community has made leaps and bounds in creating interdisciplinary involvement and excitement around sustainability at McGill. Now that 2020 is on the horizon, we’re looking to turn words into actions! Between September 26th – September 29th, we had a series of Action Team Meetings across five categories: research, education, connectivity, operations, and governance and administration. Over the course of a week, participants discussed the most meaningful ways to create a culture of sustainability on campus. Each meeting was different – some conversations were fraught with tension as participants brought up conflicting views on sustainability and institutional change, while others revealed surprising consensus across the board.
The stakeholders in the action teams included students, staff and community members from diverse departments and faculties at McGill. We had members of student organizations such as SSMU, PGSS, Edible Campus, and the McGill Spaces Project. We also had representatives from Housing and Hospitality Services, MDIIM, SEDE, TISED, Teaching and Learning Services, the Office for Students with Disabilities, the First Peoples’ House, the Media Relations Office, Student Life and Learning, and Campus and Space Planning. We made sure to include staff from operations projects, too, including representatives from McGill’s energy, buildings, construction, and procurement teams. Finally, in addition to community partners such as Santropol Roulant and Quartier de l’innovation, we had several professors in Geography, Environment, Urban Planning, Education, and Management joining the conversation.
Before each meeting, we explained the context of the gathering. The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan 2017-2020 is the second step in the implementation of Vision 2020. It aims to create new priority actions for the next three years and incorporate initiatives related to climate change into the strategy. We asked a series of questions to get ideas flowing. Ultimately, we were interested to hear what types of actions were both ambitious and realistic and which actions could adress climate change.
At the research meeting, we talked about strengthening sustainability considerations involved in projects and proposals. Participants were focused on creating better connections between existing research and students, encouraging sustainable procurement and waste audits, and ensuring more community-based, actionable research. The teams thoughtfully discussed how research initiatives at McGill could best address climate-based problems, and they left with many more questions to pick up in the next action meeting in November.
Some of the themes which emerged from the Education meeting were climate change literacy, student engagement, and research. The action teams were interested in mapping out study areas at McGill, creating ‘themed’ semesters to focus on, and increasing experiential learning opportunities on campus. They talked a great deal about creating specific, tangible, and exciting methods to incorporate interdisciplinary concerns into learning projects.
The connectivity action teams focused on the root of the vision for connectivity; they brainstormed ways to decrease inter-office silos, discussed accessibility initiatives on campus, and talked about sustainable event planning, ridesharing, and transportation mechanisms. At the end of the meeting, we left with the sense that connectivity benefited everyone at McGill, and could be incorporated into every aspect of the university.
The operations meeting brought ambitious scientists and quantitative minds to the table. They discussed carbon neutrality, increased support for students working on operational projects at McGill, collaborating across universities on procurement policies, and hiring a sustainable operations staff member! They were interested in creating more sustainability training and programming, implementing a campus-wide composting plan, and collaborating across departments. It was clear that the operations participants cared deeply about improving McGill’s sustainability performance indicators.
Governance and Administration
Finally, the governance and administration action teams concentrated on combining the social and environmental dimensions of sustainability in the action plan. They talked about opportunities to incorporate equity across the university, ensuring more information and data-sharing, and hiring a climate officer at McGill. They were also interested in creating more partnerships to ensure effective mentorship, community engagement, and accessibility. After the conversation, we all left with a sense of responsibility about creating a more transparent and representative university.
It’s been a busy few weeks here at MOOS, but we’re not done yet! In November, we’ll be sitting down with the action teams again to refine our priorities for 2017 – 2020. You can follow along with the Vision 2020 process on social media or on our website – stay tuned for more!
Originally published on October 7, 2016