U of M one step closer to a more eco-friendly campus

The University of Manitoba sustainability committee recently released a draft of their sustainability strategy, which aims to present an organized vision of a sustainable university, and introduces a path for how to act and lead a more eco-friendly campus.

The sustainability strategy development process was formally started after the U of M’s Board of Governors officially approved the university’s sustainability policy in January 2011.

Four working groups were implemented to develop the three categories of the strategy.

Each of the working groups is composed of a mixture of students, administrative staff and faculty, with a total of approximately 10-12 people per group. Each group was given a category to focus on, which included strategic planning and administration, university operations, and education and research.

In total, there are 16 key themes covered in the draft sustainability strategy under the three categories; plans include reducing waste as well as water and energy consumption, implementing sustainable methods of transportation on campus, and promoting sustainable landscape development.

Other recommendations included in the draft sustainability strategy were:
Increasing the number of people using alternative transportation to get to and from campus. This includes providing preferential parking for carpooling, affordable transit passes, pedestrian/cycle friendly infrastructure on campus, and gradually increasing the cost of parking permits on campus — all within the next two to five years.

Developing community/student gardens on campus, as well as creating a for-credit summer course centring on participation in the UMSU student garden in the coming years. The creation of butterfly gardens, bat houses and birdhouses in order to cut down on mosquitoes without the use of pesticides is also in long-term plans.

Increasing the number of sustainability related courses offered to students, and providing internship opportunities to undergrads related to sustainability in the next two to five years; long-term plans include the development and delivery of a mandatory U1 sustainability course, and providing students with the opportunity to promote sustainability through course work and projects.
Banning sales of single-serve water bottles from university facilities within the next two to five years. Short-term plans to ban the use of plastic shopping bags on campus are also in place.

In the process of developing the draft strategy, the sustainability committee invited the university community to share their ideas through the U of M’s sustainability web page and on social media sites.

Feedback received from the community on the draft has been very positive so far, said John Sinclair, chair of the sustainability committee.

“There’s something in there for everyone,” Sinclair said.

“We heard lots of things from students about different initiatives they would like to see the university take in relation to sustainability, and I think we’ve captured those in the actions that we’ve outlined in the draft strategy,” he continued.

Currently, the draft sustainability strategy is in consultation phase. Opinions of both internal and external stakeholders at the university will be considered in forming the final draft of the strategy, said U of M sustainability coordinator, Maire McDermott.

“Ultimately, the more people we hear from [during the consultation phase], the more robust the strategy that comes out at the end.”

Once the months of consultation come to an end, the final draft of the strategy will be submitted to the university Board of Governors for approval. The sustainability committee and office will still be working to implement change on campus during the consultation phase, while waiting for approval of the final draft.

A copy of the draft sustainability strategy can be found online at: http://umanitoba.ca/sustainability/