Sustainability new focus for AMS services

Sirin Erensoy, ArtSci ’08, unpacks some of the 1,200 cups used daily at the Common Ground.
Sirin Erensoy, ArtSci ’08, unpacks some of the 1,200 cups used daily at the Common Ground.

3,000 sheets of paper. 1,200 coffee cups. 300 plastic shot glasses.

These are some of the products consumed by AMS services over the course of an average day.

The number of products used, as estimated by service staff members and managers, are part of the reason why Jennifer Holub, AMS social issues commissioner, and John Manning, chair of the SIC Earth Centre Committee, say they have put forth a motion to create the position of AMS environmental sustainability coordinator. The motion will be voted on at the next AMS assembly meeting on Jan. 26.

“It’s not to see how bad the AMS is, but to see how the AMS can improve,” Manning said. “I want to see this [position] have a positive tone [rather] than a negative one.

“It’s not about throwing a pop can in the garbage and slapping someone on the wrist.”

Manning said the environmental sustainability coordinator would have three major responsibilities.

“It’s someone who will assess the environmental sustainability of the AMS operations,” he said. “The second thing will be to improve the sustainability, and the third will be to communicate this to the students.”

Holub said the job will be focused on improving AMS services and training the service managers.

“Doing environmental assessment of services, getting to know the services, developing training modules for training for the AMS [services managers] to use during summer, before students and services get busy,” she said.

Holub added that certain services, including the Common Ground, TAPS and the P&CC are services that are of particular interest for a sustainability assessment.

“[Think of] all the plastic shot glasses used, straws, food waste [at TAPS],”she said.

Christie Hayhow, ArtSci ’07 and employee at the Common Ground, said she thinks her service could be more sustainable.

“I don’t think it’s unsustainable,” she said. “[But] there’s no recycling in the back. When it’s a rush, everything goes into the garbage.”

Hayhow added she has heard some complaints about some of the products used at the Common Ground.

“The Styrofoam is recyclable, but people don’t know,” she said.

Omar Kadrie, head manager of the Common Ground, said environmental sustainability is something his service considers important.

“We always try our best to be as sustainable as can be,” he said. “I have to keep costs in mind, people recognize that, it’s not as easy [to be sustainable] as people make it out to be.”

Kadrie said he thinks the position of environmental sustainability coordinator would be a helpful one.

“The person works with the big picture—[finding sustainable practices] looks like easy solutions but they aren’t,” he said. “It would be a lot of work for an individual to do a good job.”

Andrew Lampard, head manager of the P&CC, estimates the copying service goes through 50,000 sheets of paper a day during courseware copying period. He said he is very concerned about environmental issues.

“Working at a publishing and copy centre, the impact we can have on the environment is great,” he said. “We have a supervisor on staff who has portfolio on environmental issues.”

He added they already have environmental practices such as the trashbooks—which are bound books of scrap paper which are sold in the Green Room—and the Green Machine, which uses all recycled paper for eight-cent copies.

Colleen Hanafin, Green Room human resources manager, said the Green Room is essentially an environmentally friendly service.

“Basically, we are a book recycling store first and foremost—I assume that would count,” she said. “Instead of throwing books out, leaving them on the shelf, students can save trees.”

Hanafin said waste is not a big part of the service.

“We use paper bags, which are recycled, and which can be recycled—we’ve probably gone through upwards of 2,000 so far this year,” she said. “A lot of students save the bag and put [the books] in their backpacks.”

Hanafin added that other environmental practices that need to be looked at for the whole JDUC, where the Green Room is located.

“As far as our daily operations go, we have recycling bins we try to throw all our paper waste into,” she said. “I think everything in the JDUC, we would all do better to conserve energy. We don’t shut down our computers every night.”

Meghan Malloy, marketing manager for TAPS, said Alfie’s and the QP could use an environmental sustainability assessment.

“Some of the products we use to serve [take-out], we go through quite a lot of them, plastic and tins for ketchup,” she said. “I don’t know if we are dealing with them correctly.”

Malloy added that a position like an environmental sustainability coordinator would work well with managers at the service.

“Specific to TAPS yes [the position would be useful],” she said. “The focus has been towards customers, to be as successful as possible, and environmental issues get put on the back burner.”

Manning said that environmental sustainability practices are becoming standard for businesses.

“It shows us adopting business practices that are the norm in the new century,” he said. “It gives the AMS and the environmental movement in the AMS more options.”

Manning said there are already many sustainability practices within the AMS, but they aren’t a high-level priority.

“I don’t want to belittle the work already done—it’s been significant—[but] it hasn’t been as much as it could be. There is no one in the AMS who has a set mandate to do this,” he said.

Holub said that investigating the sustainability of services will be just the beginning of a much larger project.

“I strongly feel that it will be a Pandora’s Box effect,” she said. “Once we look into this, we are going to see how much work we have to do.”

Holub added that the position, which would be a 12-month paid position, faced some tough questions during debate at Assembly.

“People looked at the price tag mistakenly,” she said. “The decision of the salary will be decided by the Management Committee and the Board of Directors. We do expect this will be salaried position.”

Manning said it’s important that the position be a salaried one.

“If you look at the job, it’s very similar to other jobs within the AMS,” he said. “It shows that the AMS are serious, and the job can’t be done as effectively [by volunteers]. The precedent had been set with the AMS that these jobs are paid.”

Paige Olmsted, PhysEd ’06 and co-chair of the Queen’s Sustainability club, said the club is currently doing a formal evaluation of Queen’s practices following the format of the Sierra Youth Coalition model, making Queen’s the first school in Canada to complete such an evaluation.

“The Sierra Youth Coalition has developed a framework, a basis of comparison,” she said. “There are 171 indicators, short and long term goals. We use their bench marks to see where [we] are at any of the indicators.

“[Other universities] have full-time staff, real job people, but we could be the first ones to have a student position, cleaning up our own act.”

The data collected from the Sierra Youth Coalition study will be compiled and released by the end of term, Olmsted said.

Peter Hodson, head of the Environmental Studies department, said he thinks creating the position of environmental sustainability coordinator would be a good idea.

“The AMS’s considering this [position] is very positive and encouraging,” he said. “It’s always the case that if you want someone else to act, clean up your own act first. If there are aspects in the AMS’s control, they need to look at those.”

Hodson said from personal observation, students have a lot to do to improve their environmental practices.

“Moving in and out [of residence], there seems to be a huge amount of waste that gets bundled together as trash,” he said. “The residences have communities of students who are working really strongly to get things in place for recycling.”

Hodson added there are lots of things that could be done to make campus more environmentally sustainable, including some more radical, less likely plans.

“The other thing about Queen’s is, our design and layout of campus goes back a long way,” he said. “A northern campus that was connected internally and fewer doors opening would be more sustainable on energy terms; we probably lose a lot of heat though the doors.”

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