Queen’s shorts on sustainability

Comparison with other Canadian universities finds that Queen’s is lagging on environmental sustainability. While UBC is celebrating 10 years of having a sustainability office, Queen’s is only now announcing its intention to create one. Landfill use has been a major problem for Queen’s and a composting system has yet to be implemented. Any food waste from the cafeterias goes to landfill but Physical Plant Services (PPS) information co-ordinator Rebecca Spaulding suggested that as Kingston
plans to implement a composting system, the University will likely follow.

Other green projects underway include a $335,000 retrofit to replace inefficient light fixtures in hallways, classrooms and offices on campus. The University has said it will pay for the retrofit if the costs are covered in savings within three years.

Spaulding said she believed most students have at least a drive to recycle. Although PPS has initiated a project to make recycling bins more visible on campus, labelling what goes where isn’t the reason students are tossing water bottles into garbage cans. Recycling bins are rare sights in many Queen’s buildings and if we want to reduce waste, there needs to be a recycling container for every garbage can on campus.

Projects such as the retrofit lighting system are steps in the right direction but the effort’s hamstrung if the University puts unreasonable time constraints based on their perceived cost-effectiveness.

Environmental sustainability isn’t a goal that can be achieved in a few years. While the University claims to be thinking long-term, its short-sighted actions indicate otherwise. The University’s priorities are skewed—rapid climate change is demonstrating that our practices aren’t sustainable and serious adjustments have to be made.

The Queen’s Centre will be the first campus building deemed environmentally friendly by the leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating system. Although this project—and endeavours such as retrofitting—shows some commitment to sustainability, there’s a lot more Queen’s should do to generate a greener campus.

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