From bans on the sale of bottled water to organic campus farms and bike repair stations, Ontario universities are proving their strong commitment to shrinking their environmental footprint, concludes the Council of Ontario Universities’ (COU) annual Going Greener report.
The report, now in its sixth year, illustrates how universities in Ontario are becoming more sustainable in their operations and policies surrounding food sustainability, conservation efforts, and the creation of partnerships that are building a greener community.
The COU’s Going Green report highlights the University of Windsor’s Cycling Association. The UWCA was founded in September 2013 and has grown tremendously. This student club hosted a Bike Week in both the spring and fall of 2014. These events have featured sessions on nutrition for cyclists, locking clinics, safe biking practices, free bike tune-ups, group rides and raffles. The group was also instrumental in obtaining the university’s first Fixit station, which provides a hangar and tools for members of the cycling community to perform minor repairs on their bikes. In addition, the group has partnered with Share the Road for the UCycle program, and hosted group rides to encourage cycling among members of the UWindsor campus.
(Earlier this year, UWindsor was also one of only five Canadian universities ranked among the greenest in North America by the Princeton Review’s Guide to 353 Green Colleges. The ranking is based on healthy, sustainable quality of student life on campus, environmentally responsible school policies and how well students are being prepared for employment in an increasingly green economy.)
Patrick Deane, Chair of COU and President of McMaster University, says environmental sustainability is a top priority for Ontario universities and they are showing leadership in building a cleaner future.
“Our universities have demonstrated truly exceptional commitments to sustainability across critical areas -- from expanding course offerings and innovative recycling programs, to furniture reuse and green building initiatives,” says Deane. "Their collective effort to protect and preserve our environment is impressive."
A few highlights from the report:
- More than 200 sustainability focused programs are offered by Ontario’s universities
- 41 per cent of university campuses have imposed a sales ban on bottled water
- 91 per cent of campuses offer discounted or free transit passes to students
- 77 per cent offer a car share station on campus
- 64 per cent offer a carpool or rideshare program
- 64 per cent offer a bike repair station
- 96 per cent of campuses have local food initiatives
- 86 per cent have a community or teaching garden
- 77 per cent have a farmer’s market on campus
- 73 per cent have implemented food donation initiatives
"Universities are teaming up with students, other members of their communities, municipal governments and local businesses to make positive changes,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, President and CEO of COU.
“They are growing academic programs, designing sustainable buildings, and expanding options for earth-friendly transit. There is increasing interest among students in attending ‘green’ universities and this report demonstrates not only the strides being made in going greener but also serves as a tool to share best practices to encourage future progress.”
Beginning with a sustainability pledge in 2009, universities report annually on their environmental progress through a survey administered by COU. Included in the report are highlights from the 2013-14 Green Universities’ Survey, which reflects data from 22 campuses.
COU is the voice of Ontario’s universities, promoting the value of education, research and innovation that leads to social, cultural and economic success.