As part of Concordia’s increasing efforts to promote ecological, economic and social sustainability, the university opened its Office of Sustainability in spring 2019.
Environmental Health and Safety previously oversaw most of Concordia’s sustainability functions, including waste management and food. These functions have since moved into Facilities Management and Hospitality Concordia, respectively.
“We take a broad overview of sustainable connections and sustainable programs,” explains Cassandra Lamontagne, the office’s coordinator. “Our role is outreach and education, assessment and improvement and planning. We bring people together, forming connections and conversations — and we are always looking for new opportunities to bring sustainability at Concordia to the next level.”
The new office’s duties include upholding the university’s Sustainability Policy, which was approved by Concordia’s Senate and Board of Governors in 2016. It collaborates with community members on sustainability initiatives, strategies and programs.
As part of its sustainable assessment function, the office works to secure relevant accreditations such as the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) certification, awarded every three years. “Last time, Concordia received a gold rating. The next STARS ranking is in 2020 and we hope to once again achieve STARS Gold, as well as earn additional points to reflect our achievements since 2017” Lamontagne says. “We’re also applying for Vélosympathique, which recognizes bike-friendly institutions.”
In addition, the office recruits Student Sustainability Ambassadors, who help increase sustainability awareness and behaviours on campus. “Through our new Ambassadors program we link students to sustainable volunteering opportunities and encourage, coordinate and promote peer-to-peer sustainability education,” she says.
We’re now in the dreaming portion of the action plan process
The office also coordinates the nomination and selection of candidates for the Sustainability Champions Awards, which recognize and encourage students, staff and faculty who make important sustainability contributions at the university.
Though a relatively small team, the office’s activities are closely linked with many departments and student groups throughout the university. “We collaborate on recurring and spontaneous events around campus as well,” she says.
The office’s participation in the development of Concordia’s Sustainability Action Plan is an important aspect of its current activities. “The action plan is the backbone of the work we do. In its Sustainability Policy, the university committed to creating measurable sustainable plans that would be informed by community involvement,” Lamontagne says.
“Concordia started to develop its plan in 2018. It focuses on five key areas: food, waste, climate, research and curriculum. We’re now in the dreaming and finalizing portion of the process, and we’ll start to implement the plan over the next year in collaboration with the wider community.”
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