AMS talks sustainability initiatives

Society introduces reusable mugs, tests composting abilities of TAPS products

Despite funding cuts, the AMS is seeking ways to make campus green.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo
As the school year gets underway, the AMS is introducing a host of sustainability initiatives, including reusable Common Ground Coffeehouse mugs and a review of services’ products to determine how compostable they are.
 
Following the announcement of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) in January, which significantly decreased AMS funding by making the Society’s fee non-mandatory, the incoming AMS executive was forced to abandon their original plan of reinstating a commission focused on sustainability within the Society. 
 
As Sustainability Week approaches, AMS President Auston Pierce and Vice-President (University Affairs) William Greene told The Journal despite limited funds, the Society has been seeking other ways to make its services green.
 
Although the AMS was unable to reinstate a commission focused on sustainability, Greene said through collaborations with the social issues commissioner, the deputy of environmental affairs, and other senior management on both the corporate and government sides of the Society, they were able to initiate sustainability projects through fundraising efforts. 
 
Pierce and Greene said that instead of banning and eliminating product lines, they’re aiming to change students’ personal habits by giving them an opportunity to choose products that are compostable. 
 
“One special thing that has been done is a 30-cent discount on a Common Ground-branded reusable mug,” Greene said.
 
According to Greene and Pierce, the discount will make Common Ground coffee the least expensive on campus, and will provide an opportunity for students to save money. 
 
Greene said there will also be changes made to sustainability promotion on campus, like the product graphics on receptacles in the JDUC and the Queen’s Centre. According to Greene, the graphics currently don’t reflect what is supposed to be disposed of. 
 
“[We] want to work with Plant Physical Services (PPS) to conduct a report and see how we can make the labeling more specific,” Greene said. 
 
The AMS has also partnered with the Sustainability Office to test products from Common Ground café and TAPS to determine how compostable they are.
 
“We were pleasantly surprised to find out that a lot of the product line is compostable,” Greene said. “Now that we have that data from those tests, we know which areas we need to focus on and which areas to further transition away from plastics and recyclables to more compostable products.” 
 
According to the AMS, every “to-go” product except for cutlery items from The Brew are compostable. Queen’s Pub has also introduced compostable takeout containers and serving paper. 
 
For the first time this year, the AMS introduced an auditing program to measure the sustainability of Orientation Week events like the Sidewalk Sale. 
 
Through a sustainability orientation review, student volunteers filled out forms addressing waste, energy, food procurement, and other categories to measure environmental impact.
 
Greene said the program witnessed a strong turnout of first-year students, exchange students, and engagement from PPS, which the AMS marks as a sign of success.
 
While the data from Orientation Week isn’t fully synthesized, the executives hope it will lay a foundation for future leaders to improve the carbon footprint on campus.
 
“It’s clear to us that people on this campus care deeply about the environment, so our whole job this year is to push the needle and change the culture on campus,” Pierce said. 
 

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