Engagement at all levels
Concordia’s institutional sustainability efforts continued to spread across sectors from May 2019 to May 2020. With the Office of Sustainability’s help, students, faculty and staff worked together and pushed forward on their initiatives.
“Sustainability projects have a tendency to involve more than just one department. One group’s priorities quickly becomes the business of other units too,” says Cassandra Lamontagne, sustainability coordinator.
“For example, when students approach the University wanting to know what we’re doing to reduce food waste and how they can get involved, different departments are pulled in — both in terms of supplying data and taking action. That means coordinating with students, with Facilities Management, with Hospitality and Food Services, just to name a few.”
Composting and reusing more
During 2019-20, composting efforts expanded on both campuses, notably in Loyola Campus buildings where compost bins were missing in some areas.
“Our community is really keen to divert as much waste away from landfill as possible. Between May 2019 and May 2020, we diverted 24 percent of our waste away from the landfill. That’s 273 metric tonnes of waste sent for compost, recycling, and reuse.”
Some of that wasn’t just diverted from landfill but actually destined for reuse by community members like Faculty of Fine Arts students and instructors. Through the Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse, they had access to over 4,000 kilograms of materials like wood, fabric, paper and plastic — just in 2019-20 alone.
Taking action on sustainability and climate change
In September 2019, at the start of another busy term, the Office of Sustainability helped coordinate the university’s first-ever Sustainability Action Week. There was something for everyone, from bike repair workshops to sessions on food to the Sustainability Fair, where 19 different institutional, student and external groups gathered to raise awareness about the many ways Concordians can engage with sustainability issues.
The week wrapped up with the introduction of the Shuffle for the Climate team, which helped raise $6-thousand for scholarships for students focusing on sustainability in their studies and campus activities.
“We were supporting our students while also taking part in the historic Montreal Climate March. A couple days before, we also became a signatory of the climate emergency declaration. That was a very exciting time,” Lamontagne recalls.
As if fall 2019 wasn’t busy enough, it was also during that period that the university announced that its foundation was divesting from investment in fossil fuels by 2025 — a commitment many students, staff and faculty had worked on diligently.
Then, right before the frost hit, the Office of Sustainability team literally rolled up their sleeves with faculty, staff and students throughout the university and planted 185 new trees at Loyola. The project, financed directly through VPS in partnership with the non-profit organization Soverdi, has resulted is a more biodiverse campus with young trees for budding biologists to study through their courses.
Validating and budgeting
Early 2020 may not have been marked by as many public events, but it was just as busy because of work to finalize the operational and budgetary elements of the Sustainability Action Plan.
Over the previous few years, the office oversaw public consultations on what actions community members thought the university should do and in what order. It collected data and recommendations within five main streams of activity: Climate, Food, Waste, Curriculum and Research.
“Between summer 2019 and winter 2020, we had to review findings with each of the implicated operational and academic units implicated to understand what we could implement first and what funding was needed,” says Lamontagne.
That validation process boosted efforts already underway and allowed for the drafting of commitments in areas where work has yet to advance, providing a framework and benchmarks.
“The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic might have thrown a damper on a few of our spring initiatives, but sustainability means taking a long-term perspective,” she says. “We pushed forward with our Earth Day Drawdown Ecochallenge and continued to lay the groundwork for our strategic initiatives. It’s clear that the culture of sustainability at Concordia is going strong even under these challenging circumstances, and that’s thanks to our entire community of students, faculty, staff.