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Toward a collective and lasting impact

A commitment to sustainability is woven into the fabric of Concordia — from research to student life and beyond. This is evident through initiatives such as our Sustainability Action Plan, PLAN/NET ZERØ and Sustainability in the Digital Age think tank, and the university’s pledge to reach carbon neutrality across all operations by 2040.

Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, the Office of Sustainability presented Concordians with an impressive number of ways to get involved and make a difference.

Cassandra Lamontagne, manager of the Office of Sustainability, says the past year built off and expanded upon earlier successes.

In May, the Student Sustainability Ambassadors Program earned a International Sustainability Campus Network Community Engagement (ISCN) Award. The ISCN’s aim is to provide “an international forum to support higher education institutions in the exchange of information, ideas, and best practices for achieving sustainable campus operations and integrating sustainability in research and teaching.” It recognized the ambassador program for how it successfully “promotes sustainability and drives positive change on campus through student engagement and leadership.” 

Sustainable Event Program

The Office of Sustainability, a unit under Environmental Health and Safety, launched its Sustainable Event Program in fall 2022, with 15 certified events in the first year alone. The program is organized around a comprehensive planning guide designed to help all Concordians host more socially and environmentally sustainable events. It offers guidance on diversity and inclusion, accessibility, waste reduction, digital consumption and much more. 

“The Otsenhákta Student Centre Pow Wow was a really good example of a certified event,” Lamontagne says about the September 2022 gathering. “They really went above and beyond. The accessibility features and barriers that their event could pose were highlighted in their event description, and we actually share that description with other event planners seeking certification.”

She also highlights Concordia’s Digital Skill-Share Conference in February 2023 as an important example, since it was the first hybrid event to get certified. The conference received a Gold sustainable event certification. They provided live training to speakers on how to make their presentations accessible, established an event code of conduct, and donated leftover food. 

The Office of Sustainability delivered a presentation about the Sustainable Event Guide’s at the Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education last year, providing an important opportunity to share knowledge with other institutions. 

Campus Sustainability Month and beyond

For the second year in a row, the office coordinated Campus Sustainability Month in October. This edition included 43 events across four weeks and was organized around four themes: wellness in the climate crisis, zero waste, urban agriculture, and biodiversity and sustainable solidarity.

Throughout the rest of the year, the team hosted or co-hosted more than 20 events, including orientation activities, sustainability workshops and more, which engaged some 1,100 Concordia community members.

Once again, the Shuffle for Climate Justice team gathered for the Concordia Shuffle fundraising event. Led by the Office of Sustainability, 45 faculty and staff collectively raised more than $6,000 for the Shuffle Award in Leadership in Environmental Sustainability. Some team members walked along the usual Shuffle route between the Sir George Williams and Loyola campuses, while others opted to join up with the Montreal Climate March that took place on the same day.

Assessing progress

The Office of Sustainability disseminated a commuter habits survey of the Concordia community in partnership with the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis, which elicited participation from more than 2,700 respondents.

The official report is pending, but Lamontagne was able to share some preliminary findings: “Our community is taking part in a modal shift away from less sustainable to more sustainable forms of transport. People are going back to public transit and biking more, which is really encouraging.”

The survey results will help inform important Concordia projects, such as determining how many indoor bike parking and electrical vehicle parking spots are needed in the J.W. McConnell (LB) Building’s garage renovation.

Another significant undertaking during the year was the application for Vélosympathique recertification for both campuses. The time-consuming application process highlighted exciting new initiatives, such as a shower and locker pass now available through the PERFORM Centre for cyclists at Loyola Campus. 

Sustainability ambassadors

Finally, the Sustainability Ambassador Program continues to attract enthusiastic participation from Concordia students. The 2022-23 cohort included 18 students from all four faculties and all levels of study. They developed and implemented new projects, such as a collaboration with Zero Waste Concordia on the design and implementation of the university’s first full waste audit since 2013.

On the staff and faculty side, the Employee Sustainability Ambassador Program was launched in January 2023 with a cohort of 10 employees. “It’s going well,” Lamontagne reports. “The employees have been able to implement important waste practices in their departments, including proper battery disposal and implementing more sustainable purchasing habits. A lot of them have switched over to fair trade coffee for their meetings.”

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