Green streak runs to eight straight
UAlberta named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for eighth year in a row.
By MICHAEL BROWN
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When the University of Alberta created the Office of Sustainability in 2008, it did so not to fend off apathy, but rather to link the university’s growing appetite to do right by the environment with the pockets of sustainability leadership already well underway across campus.
“I like to think of us as brokers, or intermediaries who have the opportunity to see things happening in different places on campus and build a bridge between people,” said Trina Innes, the U of A’s chief sustainability officer. “When you have your head down and you’re doing your work, you don’t see those things, but we do.”
Those individual efforts that turned into campus-wide initiatives have not gone unnoticed beyond the university’s borders as the U of A was named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for an eighth year in a row. The U of A was one of just 65 Canadian organizations, including nine post-secondary institutions, on the list.
In this year’s submission, the Office of Sustainability highlighted its 2014 STARS Gold rating and updating the 2016–2020 Campus Sustainability Plan.
Other high points of the universities greenest employer submission included:
- Zero Waste, a program championed by the buildings and ground services unit, with the goal of eventually eliminating all waste on campus
- Lister Conference Centre and Guest Suites earning a "4 Green Keys" rating as part of the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, a graduated rating system designed to recognize green hotels, motels and resorts that are committed to improving their environmental performance
- the Green Spaces Certification Program, which helps integrate and reward sustainable practices into work and living spaces on campus
- Eco Move Out, a program that provides opportunities for departing students to reduce waste by donating or recycling electronics, non-perishable food items, personal care products, and clothing and household items. Each year, the program helps divert 9,500 kilograms away from the landfill.
- the second cohort of students who will earn the U of A’s Certificate in Sustainability graduate this spring. The certificate, administered jointly by the Office of Sustainability and the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, recognizes undergraduate students dedicated to gaining knowledge about being serious contributors to a sustainable world.
- Sustainability Scholars, which started as a partnership with the City of Edmonton to give graduate students a chance work on real-world problems. All told, 18 students will find themselves in jobs ranging from monitoring air quality to creating a sustainability plan for the Valley Zoo.
And thanks to initiatives like the Sustainability Enhancement Fund, home-grown environmentally friendly projects have had access to funding necessary to make the campus more sustainable.
For instance, the Office of Sustainability just signed off on a proposal from the Organic Chemistry Laboratory to fund a summer student who will investigate ways to reduce chemical use in labs and to promote green chemistry.
“Continuous improvement is part of building this culture of sustainability, and being the best that we can be means that we always look for opportunities to improve,” said Innes. “I get congratulations for these awards, but people need to understand that it’s them. We are a community of people who accomplished this—everyone should be proud.”
The award was announced on Earth Day (April 22) by Mediacorp Canada Inc., a specialty publisher of employment-related periodicals that sponsors other employer awards such as Canada’s Top 100 Employers.
The green award recognizes employers that lead the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness in their organization.