Sustainability Week persists following dissolution of Commission of Environmental Affairs

Zoe Walter says dissolution was “big blow” for sustainability on campus

Sustainability Week sign outside the JDUC.

The dissolution of the AMS Commission of Environmental Affairs last school year left many students concerned about the role of sustainability on campus. Months later, Queen’s is celebrating Sustainability Week in the absence of the commission.

Running from October 1 to 5, Sustainability Week is an initiative that brings together clubs to host events and information booths to promote a more sustainable campus. 

The discussion around sustainability on campus was complicated this January when Commission of Environmental Affairs was dissolved to the disappointment of many students. The decision to dissolve the Commission was brought to a January 19 AMS Assembly, but the Speaker eventually imposed a one-minute time cap on comments from students at large.

The limit placed on open discussion, along with the perceived lack of consultation with students prior to the decision, prompted criticism from students involved in the Commission.

The following week, three students — Charlotte Heller, Monique Ling and Amy O’Rourke — wrote an opinion piece for The Journal saying the decision “weaken[ed] the solidarity and communication of student groups working toward a sustainable campus.”

Zoe Walter, Vice-President of the Society for Conservation Biology told The Journal that the decision was a “big blow” for sustainability on campus. 

“I think Queen’s wants to market itself as a sustainable university but there’s still a lot of things to improve upon,” Walter said. While she believes Queen’s has made good strides in terms of sustainability, she said the school has the potential to make more of a positive impact. 

“We’ve done really well with getting compost in everywhere and we have water bottle filling stations … but there are a lot of other really important aspects of conservation that Queen’s could adopt.” 

According to Walter, conservation refers not only to our carbon footprint, but also our surroundings on campus. A project that Walter thinks Queen’s should take on is native landscaping. 

“Instead of using ornamental landscaping species that don’t provide the right forage for pollinators … use native species that are just as cost-effective that can attract more pollinators that are better for the soil,” she said. 

When asked if the efforts of clubs and individuals on campus were sufficient in lieu of a consolidated environmental commission, Walter said they were feeling the absence. 

“I think a consolidated body would be really nice,” she said. “I think a lot of separate clubs have been working towards sustainability to begin with, but more headway can be made if we have a dedicated group for it and I think it is in the university’s best interest to do so as well.”

Regan McFarlane, ArtSci’18 and Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Affairs to the AMS Social Issues Commissioner, also commented on the lack of consolidated decision-making, but felt that efforts were being made to compensate. “It’s unfortunate,” she said in an interview with The Journal. “But we are still holding weekly meetings to make sure we’re all on the same page with environmental issues on campus.”

Walter stated that she and her fellow leaders will keep working towards sustainability through Sustainability Week and other initiatives. She’s excited for what they have in store for the future. 

“There [are] lots of cool initiatives already happening so it’s a really exciting time for Queen’s to become a more sustainable university,” Walter said. 

“We have an amazing group of leaders on campus in clubs,” McFarlane added. “Environmental initiatives and services have branched out on campus.” 

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