Working together for a cleaner, sustainable future

It’s no longer just scientists and environmentalists who are sounding the alarm about the potential global devastation of climate change.

Ontarians are just as concerned. In an online survey about Ontarians’ hopes and concerns about the future we carried out this year, many respondents wrote that they are worried about the province’s natural environment, threats to fresh water and clean air, and the negative effects of climate change. On a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the most positive, the average response to the question of whether our environment will be valued and protected in the future was only 5.6.

Ontario’s universities take the issue very seriously too. That’s why they are working in partnership with students, their communities and businesses − and taking the lead on their own campuses − to meet environmental challenges and help build a cleaner future.

The myriad of green initiatives taking place on campuses across the province, from major capital works such as retrofitting buildings to grass-roots, student-led projects, are laid out in a new report from the Council of Ontario Universities.

Going Greener 2017: The Road to Low-Carbon University Campuses, plainly demonstrates Ontario universities’ commitment to environmental sustainability.

The report, its eighth annual edition, looks at the growing number of courses and programs to help educate students with the skills they need in the green economy, and reports on case studies that demonstrate partnerships between municipalities, businesses, industry and postsecondary institutions that are essential to taking a holistic community approach to environmental issues.

The report also profiles campus initiatives such as switching to high-efficiency energy systems, buying local food and products, and promoting clean transportation. There’s a section on research and innovation, showcasing some of the breakthroughs in low-carbon and clean technologies that aim to revolutionize the way we drive and store energy.

Some highlights from the report:

  • 100 per cent of universities have buildings constructed to recognized green-building standards, including LEED and Green Globes.
  • 89 per cent of universities have an official sustainability strategy, or one underway.
  • 94 per cent of campuses regularly set and review targets for reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, or are in the planning stages.
  • 72 per cent of campuses generate on-site renewable energy such as solar power.

Ontario’s universities recognize that they need to work together with government, municipalities, and the public and private sector to make progress in cutting emissions and harnessing the power of new, clean technologies. We welcome the commitment to sustainability enshrined in the Ontario government’s newly released Long-Term Infrastructure Plan, and we will continue to press for its sustained investment in the retrofitting of university buildings.

Collective action is the key to a cleaner, greener future, and universities will continue to partner in making that future a reality.

Read the 2017 Going Greener report here.

Check out the 2017 Going Greener infographic here.