A week to sustain awareness

(Edmonton) Ever wonder what your campus is doing to be environmentally, economically and socially responsible? If so, you need to see SAW.

Sustainability Awareness Week, organized by the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability, kicks off Oct. 29. Over the next five days, a host of events will take place on North Campus, Augustana and Campus Saint-Jean to showcase university initiatives and promote the student-driven groups that aid the institution in being a more sustainable place to live and work.

The event may only be one week long, but Trina Innes, director of the Office of Sustainability, says it celebrates achievements reached through constant and consistent work on issues related to sustainability on campus.

“Sustainability Awareness Week is an opportunity to profile all the things going on around campus. A great deal of what happens on campus related to sustainable initiatives is behind the scenes,” she said. “This is an opportunity for groups to profile what they’re doing, to bring attention to the topics that they want to get out in the community, and for us as a community to showcase our accomplishments over the last year.”

A sustainable (role) model

There’s no shortage of cause for celebration. Innes says that as one of the greenest employers in the country, with the second-highest rating among 21 post-secondary institutions in Canada following the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System, the U of A is making itself known for its sustainable-development planning. And as an institution that produces enough electricity to meet 30 per cent of its own needs and offers over 400 classes focused on or related to sustainability issues, it’s also becoming a model and de facto mentor for other post-secondary institutions seeking to develop a similar program.

“We get calls regularly from other post-secondary institutions thinking about creating offices of sustainability,” said Innes. “We’re one of the few institutions that have three arms of focus within our office and a dual report. They want to learn about that, and we’re happy to share our information.”

Are you sustainably experienced?

But she says it’s not just about celebrating—it’s also about educating and motivating the entire community. Be it a serenade of sustainability-themed songs from the Voices of Nature concert, an electronics roundup or a fair-trade learning session, staff, faculty and students will all find something to partake in. They may also find opportunities to get involved or gain insight into how to change behaviour and how those behaviour changes can have residual beneficial effects on the community and the planet.

“One of the great things about SAW is everyone has an opportunity to get involved in activities where they are ready to make change,” said Innes. “You can take a workshop on local food and how to cook sustainably. If you don’t know anything about green purchasing and you want to change your behaviour there, there’s an introductory workshop. There are lots of places to plug in."

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