PNF & CHR talk green initiatives

Team CHR’s proposed solar panels prove hot topic in campaign debates this week

AMS Team PNF presidential candidate Mitch Piper and Team CHR presidential candidate Safiah Chowdhury spar at Wednesday’s debate in the JDUC.
AMS Team PNF presidential candidate Mitch Piper and Team CHR presidential candidate Safiah Chowdhury spar at Wednesday’s debate in the JDUC.

AMS executive candidates have different ideas when it comes to environmental sustainability issues on campus.

Team PNF wants to amalgamate AMS services Destinations, Tricolour Outfitters and the Used Book Store.

“[Destinations] is a service that can essentially be run with a singular computer,” presidential candidate Mitch Piper said. “By amalgamating Destinations with TAMS, Tricolour Outfitters with the Used Book Store, we’re going to cut back on the amount of electricity that’s used because they will all share a common space and that’s really where Destinations can ensure that their footprint is minimized.”

The University’s cold beverage exclusivity contract with Coca-Cola expires on Aug. 31 and Piper said he thinks searching for an alternative to Coke is a possible option for Queen’s.

“I really think that the University needs to ensure that the products that they’re offering on campus represent the culture of Queen’s,” he said. “Lobbying to not have Coke on campus is something that we could look at with the University and we could discuss with Principal Woolf and I’m sure that there are viable alternatives.”

Piper said Team PNF would also look further at the possibility of restricting the use of plastic water bottles at certain events and venues on campus.

“We’ve discussed this with some faculty societies who have expressed concern, just because of the way they run events or conferences; sometimes water is necessary and, unfortunately, a bottle is the most feasible way for them to really have the safety of the people that they’re working with in mind,” he said, adding that one example is outdoor events where there’s alcohol.

Piper said he thinks the AMS should set an example for other groups.

“We can really take steps first within the AMS. … There could be a water bottle ban at AMS Assembly, so you’re bringing a metal bottle that you can refill.”

Piper said he thinks feasible and realistic steps should be taken to create a foundation of sustainability at Queen’s.

Vice-president (operations) candidate Kasmet Niyongabo said he thinks promoting and expanding existing projects, such as vermicomposting, is important.

“[We want to] promote sustainable initiatives on campus like vermicomposters, personal vermicomposters for students who want to do that, so always bringing in the work that’s already being done but making it more mainstream to students,” he said.

Niyongabo said improvements could easily be made in AMS services like Common Ground. “We’re going to work with the cafeteria to kind of see if we could use their facilities and how we’re going to transport the organic waste from our services to there,” he said, adding that reusable cutlery and plates, encouraging bigger rebates for travel mugs are other options the team would explore.

Niyongabo said he thinks the Tea Room is a highly sustainable service, the model of which he would like to see the Common Ground follow.

Vice-president (university affairs) candidate Davina Finn said she thinks it’s the AMS’s job to voice student concerns about sustainability to the University’s administration.

“The environment is something that students care about and something that the University as a whole needs to represent,” she said. “I think that [the AMS] can lead by example in ensuring that our services are completely sustainable and environmentally conscious always. I think there’s something to be said about leading by example.”

Finn said she would like to work with Physical Plant Services to see an increased number of recycling bins on campus, as well as information on how to properly dispose of waste.

“I don’t find that there’s enough visible recycling bins around campus and I think that’s something that’s very simple and very feasible in a very short time,” she said. “People need to understand what goes in what bins. That is an issue we’ve been hearing from everybody; people always say, ‘I’d love to recycle; I just don’t know where and how and what goes where.’”

Team CHR presidential candidate Safiah Chowdhury said her team incorporated environmental principles into their campaign.

“We’ve used a lot of recycled materials in our booth,” she said, adding that the team has bins at their booths where they encourage people to put back fliers they’ve read to reduce waste.

Chowdhury said she wants to create a pan-AMS initiative where all commissioners and service managers meet with the AMS’s sustainability co-ordinator to work out ways to be more sustainable.

“Destinations currently prints a lot and this can be done on recycled papers, even if it’s record-keeping on recycled paper,” she said as an example.

Vice-president (university affairs) candidate Chris Rudnicki said Team CHR doesn’t support the idea to ban water bottles entirely on campus because the choice should be left up to each person.

“I wouldn’t say we should ban anything on campus but instead always be aware of how our personal choices can affect the environment,” he said.

Rudnicki said the team would lobby for Principal Daniel Woolf to follow through on climate change commitments he’s made.

Team CHR wouldn’t push Woolf to sign the University Presidents Climate Commitment, he said, adding that Woolf has already signed the Ontario Universities: Committed to a Greener World document and the Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada.

“We want to say, ‘Enough documents, enough signing’ ... and push Woolf to establish the committee to establish binding greenhouse gas targets and move towards those targets,” he said.

Rudnicki said one of the team’s biggest sustainability initiatives is implementing solar panels on campus.

Team CHR spoke to Joshua Pearce, assistant engineering professor, who conducted an audit of eligible roof spaces on campus for solar panels to be installed.

Using conservative estimates, the University has at least 35,000 square metres of roof space, Pearce told the Journal.

Third-party companies would compete to implement the solar panels so Queen’s doesn’t have to make a capital investment, Rudnicki said. The University would earn money on the rent the companies paid for the roof space.

Rudnicki said Rumble Energy Inc. gave the team a preliminary quote on how much rent a company might be willing to pay Queen’s.

“At present we are paying between Cnd$0.30-0.50 cents per square feet on rooftops that are larger than +35,000 sq ft.,” Rumble Energy Inc. President Kelly Rumble wrote Rudnicki in an e-mail on Jan. 18.

Rumble told the Journal he’s spoken with University administration about solar panel implementation.

“We’re waiting for Queen’s to decide which direction they’d like to take,” he said. “We’re doing the same thing with Western as well.”

This means if Rumble Energy were to rent all of Queen’s roof space, the annual rent would be more than $100,000, Rudnicki said, adding that he thinks the roof space would be split among a number of companies instead of one.

Team CHR wants to implement the panels within the next year and a half because of the Ontario Power Authority Feed-in-Tarrif (FIT).

The FIT program offers $0.82 per kilowatt of energy put back into the power grid to the group that implements the solar panels. One and a half years from now, the rate offered will be decreased by an unknown amount.

“There’s a window,” Rudnicki said. “If you register within the next one and a half years, 10 times the normal profitability for the next 20 years is guaranteed.”

Although FIT payments would go to a third-party company and not to Queen’s for the first eight to 10 years, a higher FIT rate would make Queen’s roof space more competitive among companies looking to rent it, Rudnicki said.

Team CHR would ensure any third-party company implementing solar panels would give internships to engineering students, he said.

“Professor Pearce implied that for this project to get off the ground, it needs a strong student push and this is where the role of the AMS comes in,” Rudnicki said, adding that he was told faculty are in support of the initiative.

Vice-president (operations) candidate Ben Hartley said he thinks this is an example of environmental and financial sustainability going hand-in-hand.

“We as a school have always been proud of our tradition and that’s not to say being sustainable can’t become part of a new tradition.”

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