New office to lead green initiatives

University allocates $65,000 towards campus-wide sustainability office

Stauffer Library, shown here at night, may have energy-efficient light fixtures installed.
Stauffer Library, shown here at night, may have energy-efficient light fixtures installed.

The University is establishing a sustainability office it hopes will facilitate campus-wide environmental initiatives.

“Sustainability is part of the growing community priority as well as University priority,” said Andrew Simpson, vice principal (operations and finance).

With increasing concerns over the level of environmental sustainability at Queen’s, Simpson says the University must adapt its practices to accommodate concerns over issues such as energy use and waste management.

“The University reflects the values of society more broadly. We certainly need to be committed to meeting the obligations of the University.”

Simpson said the new office will also work to improve awareness of existing environmental initiatives.

“One of the issues that I’m concerned about is the impression that the University isn’t doing anything with regards to sustainability.”

AMS president Kingsley Chak said promoting sustainability in the University is a priority in the student government as well.

During this year’s AMS elections, team CMM initiated the idea of an AMS sustainability office, a move Chak is thrilled the University administration is following suit.

“It’s great that they’re doing it,” he said. “We’re in talks right now to look at the framework of the project.”

One of the most important issues is the question of whether or not to leave lights on in campus libraries and buildings at night, an issue Chak says is not black and white.

“That would be ideal, but they leave the lights on for security reasons,” Chak said. “It’s a toss-up between the two extremes. Keeping a select number of lights on at night might be a good alternative.” Another challenge Chak pointed out is that faculty and students don’t have an incentive to turn off the lights when leaving a room because they don’t pay the utility bill.

“Office lights could be high efficiency, but they’re not,” he said. “Those would be a lot better.” Chak says the first step in the strategic planning process is an internal review of how the AMS approaches environmental issues.

“We need to see how we can minimize the impact we have on the environment,” he said.

Logistical details are still being decided, but Simpson said a $65,000 preliminary budget has been approved for the University’s project.

The final cost of the project, however, has yet to be determined.

“I don’t know what the final cost will be,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

The first thing, Simpson said, will be to hire a director, whose role will be to facilitate and co-ordinate various initiatives on campus.

Applications will be open to anyone who is interested in the position.

“I just want the best person for the job.”

The appointment could happen as early as the fall, but may be delayed, depending on the amount and variety of applicants.

“The application process may be very rapid or it may prove more difficult.”

Simpson stressed the need for a committed director who will lead effective initiatives, rather than bog down the process with restrictions and red tape.

“I’m not trying to establish another layer of bureaucracy,” he said. “I think what we need is a point of leadership.”

For the sustainability office to thrive, Simpson said a sophisticated level of communication and co-operation from members of the Queen’s community is needed.

“We need an enhanced level of co-ordination and an enhanced level of reporting on these initiatives.”

Simpson said he hopes an efficient and well-run sustainability office will produce a positive response from the Queen’s and surrounding community.

“We hope that we can generate an increased level of commitment not just from Queen’s

administrators but from other members of the Queen’s community.”

However, establishing a sustainability office is no quick-fix to the ongoing issue of environmental awareness within the University, Simpson said.

“We want to establish an overall sustainability target in the long term.”

Simpson says sustainability is multi-dimensional, and more research will be generated on issues such as waste management and energy use within campus buildings.

“I suspect this is an area where there’s not a single target.”

—With files from Erin Flegg

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