University faculties are going greener

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Photo by Ramona Leitao
Photo by Ramona Leitao

The University of Waterloo began its Green Office program in January 2016. The program’s goal is to promote campus environmental sustainability by encouraging departments on campus to participate, done through selecting an ambassador for the respective department to practice and enforce environmentally friendly practices in their offices. Sustainability co-ordinator Matt Thijssen said, “There are currently 19 different departments participating in the program, ranging from small offices of only a few employees to large departments such as the library.”

The Green Office program is a five-step program: Go Ambassador, Go Check, Go Pledge, Go Action, and Go Awesome. These steps help ambassadors learn about the program and the steps they can take to implement sustainability in their workplace. This program motivates colleagues engaged in office sustainability through campaigns and initiatives.

Departments aim to be certified as a gold green office, which is tracked by 10 categories on a scoreboard out of 123 points. Departments track their progress by checking off completed or undertaken actions on the scorecard. “Actions are divided into two categories: A. culture-building activities such as forming green teams, communicating progress, and providing training to current/new staff. B. impact-focused activities that reduce the office’s impact in energy, waste, transportation, food, purchasing, and grounds/spaces,” said Thijssen. According to Thijssen, each action is weighed based on how impactful or difficult it is.

There are currently 19 departments involved in the Green Office program, seven of which have earned bronze medals. The bronze winners include Centre for Teaching Excellence, Dean of Arts and Arts Undergraduate Office, Dean of Engineering Office, Dean of Environment Office, Graduate Studies Office, Libraries, and People Centre for Population Health Impact.

Departments can achieve a gold certification by earning 75 per cent of the points available on the score. “Because offices are very different, we do not mandate any particular actions for each level of certification, but offices will need to be taking on some more ambitious actions to get to that level,” said Thijssen.

According to Thijssen, some departments have implemented a different action plan as part of the Green Office program. Some of these action plans include green teams who have built the culture of sustainability by establishing relationships with campus compost to collect food waste in staff lounges, putting up reminders to conserve electricity by turning off the light or electronics, to practice double-sided printing, and to use recycled paper in copying machines.

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