What is sustainability?
McGill adheres to the definition of sustainability set forward in the Brundtland Report (1987) in which sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This concept has been practiced for thousands of years in Indigenous cultural traditions, including those of the Haudenosaunee people on whose territory McGill is located. Among the many values and traditions central to Haudenosaunee culture is the Seventh Generation Principle, which explains that all decisions and actions made in the present must consider the welfare of the next seven generations.
While many of McGill’s sustainability initiatives look ahead to the upcoming decades, the Seventh Generation Principle and Brundtland Report remind us to look even further: to live and act today as if we are only borrowing the world from future generations.
The concept of sustainability recognizes the interconnections between environmental, social, and economic dimensions, also referred to as the three dimensions of sustainability.
McGill ensures its sustainability efforts consider all dimensions of sustainability, with environmental sustainability serving as the foundation for a healthy society and, subsequently, economy.
One framework used to examine sustainability challenges is the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs set out a plan of action to achieve a greener, more prosperous, and more equitable world by 2030.
Learn more by studying sustainability at McGill or completing the online module Creating a Brighter Future: Sustainability at McGill, available to all students through myCourses.
What is McGill doing to be more environmentally sustainable?
McGill is building a culture of sustainability on campus and beyond by embedding sustainability considerations into all the University’s activities, from academics to operations, and engaging all members of the University community in its efforts.
Some key initiatives that promote sustainability on campus include:
- The McGill University Climate & Sustainability Strategy 2020-2025, which unifies McGill’s sustainability initiatives under shared objectives, with tangible objectives and actions across eight categories,
- A commitment to achieve a platinum sustainability rating by 2030,
- A commitment to become zero-waste by 2035, and
- A commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.
Many sustainability initiatives on campus are supported by the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF), the largest of its kind in Canada valued at $1 million annually. The SPF provides seed-funding of interdisciplinary projects, ranging from under $300 to over $100,000. It creates opportunities for the McGill community to actively engage in sustainability initiatives on campus, empowering individuals to be change agents in their own studying and work environment.
What are easy ways to live more sustainably?
Living sustainably can mean different things to different people. What’s most important, however, is doing whatever is accessible and achievable for you, even if that means starting small.
Some simple ways you can adopt sustainable habits while at McGill include:
- Bringing a reusable water bottle and using the water refill stations supported by Refill McGill
- Making low-carbon commuting and travel decisions, such as prioritizing active and public transit, with the McGill University Sustainable Travel Guide.
- Learning how to reduce and properly dispose of your waste with the McGill University Zero-Waste Knowledge Base.
How can I make my club, group, or department more sustainable?
The McGill Office of Sustainability can help groups and units on campus reduce their environmental impact and promote social wellbeing through a variety of offerings:
- The Student Sustainability Network brings sustainability student groups on campus together to share resources, best practices, and support each other.
- The Sustainable Events Certification provides consultations, training, and resources to encourage and support more responsible events at McGill.
- The Sustainable Workplace Certification encourages groups to foster sustainable habits through individual and collective practices.
How can I get support for my sustainability project or initiative?
McGill’s Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) is the largest of its kind in Canada valued at $1 million annually.
The SPF provides seed-funding of interdisciplinary projects, ranging from under $300 to over $100,000.
It creates opportunities for the McGill community to actively engage in sustainability initiatives on campus, empowering individuals to be change agents in their own studying and work environment.
How can I learn about sustainability events or opportunities on campus?
The Office of Sustainability shares sustainability events, news, and opportunities to get involved.