Assessing the University’s environmental sustainability

After more than two years’ work, student group is ready to reveal Queen’s sustainability report card

Gareth Chantler, left, and Charles Liu are co-presidents of Sustainability Queen’s. The club is preparing to publish a report on the University’s sustainability.
Gareth Chantler, left, and Charles Liu are co-presidents of Sustainability Queen’s. The club is preparing to publish a report on the University’s sustainability.

A student group who spent more than two years compiling an assessment of the University’s sustainability still hasn’t found what it’s looking for.

The two co-presidents of Queen’s Sustainability, Charles Liu, ArtSci ’08 and Gareth Chantler, ArtSci ’09, said the report, the third of its kind in Canada, can instigate lasting change by acting as a benchmark against which to compare future data.

“If you don’t have an indication to compare to, then it’s just your opinion, and it’s very hard scientifically to implement changes,” Liu said.

The group’s report measures environmental, economic and social factors at the University.

The majority of the report draws statistics from Physical Plant Services (PPS), the administration and the AMS, as well as surveys the group conducted independently.

Chantler and Liu said they both feel the major problem they ran into while working on the report was the lack of statistical information about the University’s practices.

“We’ve been through a tough process to find the data,” Liu said.

Chantler said a big obstacle was the fact that the University didn’t record a lot of the data they needed when compiling the report.

“The University doesn’t have a centralized tracking mechanism for the kind of information we needed, so we had to go far and wide,” he said.

A draft of the report states that a major problem in its creation has been a “lack of precedence” when it comes to monitoring sustainability within the University.

“[It’s] kind of reflective of where sustainability is in the University’s view right now,” Chantler said.

But John Witjes, PPS engineering manager, said the services’ practices have been monitored for some time and that sustainability has been a long-term project of the service.

“We have a lot of systems already in place that we use to measure sustainability,” he said. “The term sustainability is relatively new but the practice is something we’ve done for a very long time,” adding that PPS currently monitors electricity and fuel use.

Using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, the report covers issues such as recycling on campus, student debt, mental and physical health, and water resources.

One of the report’s findings is that one of the most basic factors in sustainability is being neglected.

“New recycling containers on campus aren’t being sufficiently utilized,” a draft of the report states, adding that there’s “a clear lack of student imperative or social pressure to recycle” at the University.

Liu and Chantler said so far they have about 70 per cent of the data they need for the report.

Even though they won’t have all the data, they plan on publishing the report within the next few months.

Liu said that the report will grow over time.

“The idea is we’d update this report every two years,” he said.

Liu said he hopes Blake Anderson, the new AMS sustainability coordinator, will be able to use their report to make the campus more eco-friendly.

“Our report will be a tool for him to use,” Liu said.

Anderson, ArtSci ’07, said his role will be making sure all the environmental clubs on campus have access to the report.

“There are over fifty clubs which fall under the umbrella of sustainability,” he said. “This document is something that every single club across the board can use.” The two presidents said they’re passionate about the need for change on campus, believing that universities, as public institutions that don’t have to be solely concerned with profit margins, can set a precedent for others. “The University itself is supposed to be a progressive institution dealing with ideas and policy and education ... If this is true, environmental sustainability would be something they’d support wholeheartedly,” Chantler said.

Chantler and Liu said that by creating a sustainable environment on campus, students could adapt a sustainable lifestyle in their personal lives.

“University students are still all [young],” Chantler said. “The future is going to be ours—we’re going to grow up in what this generation leaves us.” Liu said the University can play a vital role in educating students about sustainable living.

“If universities take the first step, [students] take a mindset into the corporate world,” he said.

The report follows an outline provided by the Sierra Youth Coalition, entitled the Campus Sustainability Assessment Framework. By inputting data, the framework can be adapted to measure a campus’s sustainability.

The Campus Sustainability Assessment Framework has already been completely by McGill University and Concordia University.

McGill’s report was created by Sustainability McGill, a group similar to Sustainability Queen’s and comprised of volunteers who published their report last year.

Concordia’s report involved members of the faculty, as well

as hundreds of student volunteers and a full-time Sustainability Assessment Officer.

Liu and Chantler described Concordia as one of the leaders in monitoring their sustainable practices on campus.

“In terms of comparison, Concordia blows our report away,” Liu said.

How University sustainability stacks up

• Percentage of food service outlets that have all listed diet types provided for:

- Sodexho: 100 per cent
- Brown’s Fine Foods: no guarantee
- AMS: No guarantee

• Percentage of University policies dealing with sustainability: 68 per cent

• Percentage of student government policies dealing with sustainability: 31.25 per cent

• Percentage of University sustainability policies with data collection and management systems in place: 24 per cent

• Percentage of student government sustainability policies with data collection and management systems in place: 0 per cent

• Annual volume of potable water consumed by campus (all uses): 58,403.3844 L

• Percentage of water used for non-potable purposes recycled from storm water and grey water: 0 per cent

• Percentage of water pipes tested for leaks: 0 per cent

• Annual paper use: Not available

• Percentage of paper recycled: Not available

• Percentage of food on campus produced within 200 km of campus: 33 per cent

• Total weight of solid waste and recycling produced annually: 104.4 tonnes

• Total weight of hazardous waste produced annually: Not available

• Percentage of renewable energy out of total energy used by University buildings: 0.01 per cent

• Total volume of solid and liquid inorganic fertilizers used annually: 39.53 kg per hectare of managed green space

• Total area of natural areas protected by non-alterable protection strategy: 3.29 per cent

—Sources: Alma Mater Society, Physical Plant Services, AMS Food Services, Brown’s Fine Foods, Sodexho Canada, the University, Purchasing Services, 2002 Queen’s Waste Audit and Residence and Hospitality Services

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