Revisiting our green projects

Students can get involved in reducing UTM’s footprint


Wondering why it seems impossible to get a bottle of water on campus? It’s because of the bottled water ban, one of UTM’s recent green initiatives.

At UTM, Facilities Management and Planning is responsible for campus construction, renovation, and maintenance, as well as the energy projects and green buildings on campus—including the three LEED-certified buildings on campus and the two that are currently under construction.

From the bottled water ban to the anti-litter campaign launched in September, Facilities Management and Planning and UTM environmentalists are gradually working on making the campus greener.

As a fairly large university, this campus has a large impact on the environment. Many students commute to and live on campus, so it’s important that those who spend so much time at UTM reduce their carbon footprint, says Chelsea Dalton, Facilities and Management Planning’s environmental and sustainability coordinator. Dalton adds that as leaders and innovators, universities should be green and strive to be leaders in sustainability.

It can be hard to motivate people to add what are often inconveniences to their lives. “We want to decrease the barriers and increase the benefits,” says Dalton. “When the U-Pass came in, that decreased a barrier as far as taking the bus because now you have a bus pass included in your tuition. We also want to increase the benefits, such as better bus routes to get to campus.”

Dalton explained that encouraging other forms of active transportation depends on removing obstacles; for example, bike-riding requires “having our roads cleared quickly in the wintertime, having adequate parking for bikes, and having protective parking for bicycles” and will benefit from being promoted as an opportunity to exercise and get some fresh air.

Meanwhile, an anti-litter campaign was introduced in September as a partnership between Facilities Planning and Management and UTMSU. Dalton says UTMSU had their frosh leaders pledge to avoid littering on campus, and an online pledge was made available for signing during Orientation Week. Whether pledges like this will be effective in terms of changing students’ behaviour remains to be seen.

The ban on serving or selling bottled water, which all three campuses began putting in place three years ago, was brought to completion on September 1 after enough time was given to install infrastructure to provide alternatives to bottled water. “In order to ensure students still have the choice to drink water, we’ve retrofitted eight fountains to have bottle-filling spouts,” says Dalton.

The other programs Dalton cited include the carpooling program, the shuttle bus, and BikeShare.

Students can also get involved in this work, for example through the UTM Green Team, which offers paid and volunteer positions, or through clubs and societies with an environmental focus, such as WWF, the Student Association for Geography and Environment, and Residence Council’s Green Team. These opportunities and the projects that come out of them are sometimes hit-or-miss, but they have been the catalyst for some of the more well-known developments on campus.

Dalton says that future projects will be aimed more at faculty and staff than at students. For example, the university is working on green course certification to reward professors who avoid environmentally wasteful practices like printing redundant lecture slides.