Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Greening of Canadian Campuses ; Students Are Teeming with Ideas to Shrink Their Environmental Footprint

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Greening of Canadian Campuses ; Students Are Teeming with Ideas to Shrink Their Environmental Footprint

Article excerpt

Sustainability has become more than a fashionable buzzword on Canadian universities; it has become enshrined in both official policy and daily student life.

Athletes at the University of Toronto shower with water heated by solar panels. Hundreds of elderly Montreal residents eat meals prepared from food grown by students on a McGill University campus.

Sustainability has become more than a fashionable buzzword on Canadian campuses; it has become enshrined both in university policy and in daily student life.

McGill's Sustainability Projects Fund, for example, imposes a student fee of 50 Canadian cents per credit that is matched by the university.

"That's an amazing level of support at a time of economic hardship when everyone is cutting back," said Martin Krayer von Krauss, manager of the McGill Office of Sustainability. "Students stepped up and put their own money into it."

"There is a general sense that as one of Canada's leading universities, we have a responsibility," he said. "Manifesting excellence means finding solutions to Canada's most pressing problems."

McGill Feeding McGill has responded to student demand for more organic, locally sourced food by bringing together dormitory cafeteria services and the Plant Science Department.

The agriculture program, based at the Macdonald campus in Sainte- Anne-de-Bellevue, about 40 minutes outside the city of Montreal, produces 40,000 kilograms, or more than 88,000 pounds, of vegetables annually for student dining halls downtown. Meanwhile, downtown students taking part in the Edible Campus project grow vegetables that are used by a Meals on Wheels program that serves mobility- impaired residents in a low-income neighborhood.

At the McGill Life Sciences Complex, students spearheaded a Shut Your Sash program, which encouraged lab users to close their fume hoods when they were not in use.

"The students set out to create behavior change in one campus building and they reduced energy consumption per hood by 80 percent," said Dr. Krayer von Krauss, adding that the change saved 77,000 Canadian dollars, or $75,800, a year.

Students are now considering how the project can be rolled out in other laboratories, with the potential for another 1.3 million dollars in savings if they achieve the same rate of success.

Susanna Klassen, a fourth-year environmental science student, has been involved with sustainability projects since her freshman year, when she became one of the coordinators of the McGill Farmers' Market, which is held on campus during the autumn. It offers a program in which shareholders preorder a weekly box of food before the harvest, with the funds going to farmers during the time of year when their expenses are the highest.

"You share in the risks of agriculture," she said. "Some crops aren't as available in some years, depending on the weather. But you always get your money's worth, are introduced to new varieties and eat more seasonally."

The program also helped broaden the appeal of the market. "It has been a way to reach out to professionals in the city," Ms. Klassen said.

Neil Connelly, director of the Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, said he saw increased interest in environmental matters among young people. …

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