Sustainability at Queen’s ups its grade

Queen’s moves from a C to a B- in annual sustainability report comparing universities across North America

Audrey Kaplan
Audrey Kaplan

Queen’s is greener than ever, according to a recent report by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

The New College Sustainability Report Card, released annually from the Sustainable Endowments Institute, compares the environmental sustainability of universities across North America.

Queen’s is pulling up its socks, improving from a C to a B-.

Last year, Queen’s received a D in the administration category and the climate change and energy category. The grades in these categories have moved up to B and C, respectively. Queen’s also previously received an F in shareholder engagement, which has now changed to a D.

Audrey Kaplan, director of campus planning and development, said she isn’t surprised the sustainability initiatives on campus increased Queen’s grade.

She said the sustainability umbrella encompasses activities from recycling to environmentally conscious construction.

Kaplan said new facilities at Queen’s are being built with sustainability in mind, using energy efficient lighting, and building materials are chosen for their durability and contribution to low long-term operating costs.

Kaplan said the Sustainability Office has an online form on their new website which allows people to voice their suggestions regarding sustainability.

“The project exploration form is for anyone who has an idea for sustainability. People can fill out a standard form. It’s a way to solicit and bundle ideas,” she said.

The Sustainable Endowments Institute has nine categories: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement.

Student involvement was a new category included this year in which Queen’s received a B. Reasons for the grade cited in the report include the existence of student groups in relation to sustainability and the AMS employment of a student sustainability co-ordinator.

“We are doing more with Queen’s Sustainability Office. The biggest change was in the administration category,” Kaplan said. “Our grade went from a D to a B because we have an office, a sustainability manager and an energy engineer.”

Kaplan said the sustainability manager enables groups across campus to interact and engage with each other. For example, if one group aims to decrease the number of plastic bottles used on campus, the idea needs to be integrated with existing campus initiatives or programs, she said.

“The sustainability manager will see the opportunity, and concepts will be applied systematically to promote sustainability,” she said. “In some cases, [the sustainability manager] needs to use judgment to apply ideas where it is appropriate.”

Kaplan said the energy engineer, Nathan Splinter, is responsible for tracking Queen’s energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

“He has been at Queen’s a year or two,” she said. “We are looking at the reduction of greenhouse gases on campus and are concentrating on energy consumption.”

Kaplan said Splinter has been working with the campus bookstore to install LED lights. The lights are more energy efficient and installation should be completed in the coming weeks, she said.

Kaplan said the change in administration has led to a cohesive sustainability movement across Queen’s campus.

“The Sustainability Office is part of Campus Planning and Development,” she said. “Sustainability becomes part of how we do business. Our office is a vehicle for communication.”

Kaplan said food and recycling is one of Queen’s strengths. This was one of two categories in which Queen’s scored an A. The other A was in endowment transparency. The report cites that information on endowment holdings and proxy voting records is open to the public and information is provided to individuals upon request.

“In regards to food and recycling, we have always done it, but now we’ve found really good contractors,” she said.

Student participation included a new AMS initiative this year for frosh week. During the paperless orientation, the AMS gave out USB keys to incoming students which contained an overview of the Queen’s sustainability activities.

“You may have heard of our paperless orientation. We were one of the key sponsors for giving out the USB keys to frosh,” she said. “This is the first year the AMS did this. They put USB keys in students’ mailboxes this week [week of Sept. 22].

“We’re presenting sustainability in a unified and integrated way. We are engaging our stakeholders,” she said. “Stakeholders include students, faculty members, administration, our partners in KGH and Innovation Park, alumni and the City of Kingston. All of these groups are part of who we see being engaged.”

Kaplan said a communication strategy has also been at the forefront of Queen’s sustainability.

“In residence there’s a display to show how much [food] is wasted. We are doing a lot of education and awareness,” she said. “We campaign to get students engaged. We are more visible now.”

Gail Wood, Queen’s first sustainability manager, has returned to her post as program co-ordinator for the EQuIP Task Force. Kaplan said the position will be filled on Oct. 14 following a period of transition.

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