Less talk, more rock for green office

In June, Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Andrew Simpson announced the University is creating a new sustainability office to oversee environmental initiatives across Queen’s campus.

This office’s creation is a positive step and indicates the University’s intention to accord some attention to sustainability issues. Our concern is that the new office represents a token gesture—a paper tiger intended to create the impression of concern for sustainability issues that have become in vogue.

At its worst, the office could present one more obstacle to implementing sustainable initiatives at Queen’s: In its professed goal to facilitate green plans and centralize all environmental clubs and bodies on campus, it could make itself one more layer of red tape through which students, staff and faculty are obliged to cut in order to make any tangible difference.

If the sustainability office merely creates a green veneer to enhance the University’s image, and if it stymies any real action, it would be a waste of time.

This isn’t inevitable, however. Simpson said he doesn’t want the office to be “another layer of bureaucracy,” and we agree 100 per cent. The sustainability office can be an agent of positive, sustainable change at the University—and we could use one.

Although the University has already budgeted a preliminary $65,000 towards its operation, the sustainability office doesn’t yet have a specific mandate; Simpson said the first task will be to hire a director, and presumably they will go from there.

For the University, and the still-to-be-hired sustainability director, we’ve compiled a wish list:

• Don’t write endless reports and studies; really liaise with existing sustainability groups and all University departments and give them the money and means to accomplish more, faster. Grants would be an excellent idea.

• Team CMM: You called for a sustainability office as one of your campaign platforms, which is great. Don’t lose this momentum, but make this office active and productive.

• Look to other universities: We can learn a lot from schools with successful sustainability offices such as the University of British Columbia.

• Fix the University’s waste disposal and recycling system. Paper still amounts to 36 per cent of our landfill waste; that’s pretty pathetic. Cut down on paper use, increase the amount of waste that’s reused or recycled and establish composts across campus.

• Approach sustainable consumption in a broader sense and ensure the University’s purchasing policies—from food to merchandise to office supplies—are ethical.

If it can ditch the rhetoric and grow some teeth, the new sustainability office can be both productive and proactive.

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