VP (Finance) keen on green office

Administration enthusiastic about sustainability office despite hurdles

Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne said she thinks a campus-wide sustainability office would be a good idea
Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne said she thinks a campus-wide sustainability office would be a good idea

The idea of a campus-wide sustainability office is a radical one at Queen’s but has succeeded at other universities, said Blake Anderson, AMS sustainability co-ordinator.

Team CMM approached Anderson with the idea of the office in December.

“They told me some of their ideas and wanted to know some of mine. They wanted to bounce some ideas around,” he said. “This is something I’ve been working on all year.” There has been interest on
campus from student groups, faculty members and administrative staff, but there needs to be omething to co-ordinate everyone’s efforts, he said.

According to the team’s platform, the plans for a greener Queen’s aim to create “a campus-wide sustainability office that will bring together students, faculty, staff and administrators to tackle the ssue of campus sustainability together.” anderson worked previously with CMM’s Vice-President
(Operations) candidate John MAnning when the AMS executive candidate was pushing for the creation f the position of AMS sustainability co-ordinator.

“I know he’s done a lot of research [on similar offices at other universities]. Just by looking at other schools and looking at what they’ve done, these offices are very successful,” he said, citing the university of Toronto, the university of british Columbia (ubC), McGill university, the university of Guelph and Laurentian university as examples.

On Nov. 17 last year, 25 students—all co-chairs of Queen’s environmental groups—and 15 staff and administrators met to discuss how to approach sustainability issues.

“We’ve just been sharing ideas and forming network connections,” anderson said. “a few recommendations came out of this group and one was this need for an office.” anderson said one of the biggest challenges will be financing the office.
“It does have paybacks but it’s a two-year pay-back or longer, so there needs to be some upfront money to be able to hire someone … to make it successful,” he said. “The money still isn’t there. I think the school needs to create an environmental policy that can get the office some guidelines.” anderson said he would like to see a reduction in energy use at the JDUC.

“It’s expensive for the AMS to be in the JDUC because it’s such a large building. If you can focus on
energy use, then returns can come quite quickly,” he said. Dean of student affairs Jason Laker said he’s working with anderson on ways to build momentum around sustainability issues to bring students, administration and faculty together. Laker asked anderson to work next year as an intern and they have discussed ways in which anderson can continue on with his work as AMS sustainability co-ordinator with the support of Laker’s office.

“It might mean educational programming for students,” he said. “What blake and I really talked about was, ‘How can we build a support network to have all these conversations connected somehow?’ ”

Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance), said the idea of a sustainability office has
been around for the last few years. “It’s one of the most important new areas of focus within the university community in recent years,” he said. “It’s really appropriate that it is. … It influences so much of what we do on campus and how we interact with the environment on a day-to-day basis.”

Simpson said he was less certain two to three years ago as to whether the university needed a separate office because the funds needed to staff a sustainability office would come out of other resources. However, he said the increase in support and commitment through the creation of a sustainability officer at the AMS has proven that sustainability is becoming a bigger issue.

“It’s been a very positive trend. It’s not jut a campus trend. It’s a trend in the broader Canadian community … and the world community.” associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne said she foresees the biggest challenge to implementing the initiative would be bringing all the different groups to a consensus. “Right now there are so many groups going in different directions, so to bring everyone to a common understanding and a common ground is going to be the toughest thing,” she said, adding that Physical Plant services is already working on several sustainable initiatives, including finding environmentally friendly furniture and carpet manufacturers and using low-mercury lighting. Browne said a lot of consideration would have to go into who would be responsible for the office.

“I’ll be honest, I really don’t know, and I’ve had this conversation with Andrew Simpson and there are so many ways of looking at it,” she said. “I’m just not sure where it should report into, and maybe it reports into two places. “I think we have to be very careful about where that reports into. … Make sure it’s not being biased by one group or another.” Funding for the office could be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one, Browne said. “One of the things I’ve been thinking of is, couldn’t they be funded through cost-savings—it could be a self-funding position,” she said.

Ruth Abramson is the communications manager for the sustainability office at UBC, which began in 1998 after the university created a sustainable development policy.

“We started with a director of sustainability and she was told that she had to earn back her salary within the year or she would be fired,” she said. “She looked at capturing energy savings, she managed to do that … and saved more energy. “We saved so much money that we’ve been able to expand our office with more than seven staff and more than 12 programs,” she said. These programs include student outreach and working with other departments to create a sustainable food program on campus.

Abramson said several challenges arose when the office was created.

“Even though we’re in Vancouver, a lot of people didn’t know what sustainability was,” she said. “What we started doing was talking about our successes on campus.”

—With files from Lisa Jemison and Anna Mehler Paperny

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