Amidst the rise of global temperatures, sustainability has never been more important. The well-being of present and future generations is contingent on the health of our planet.
In recent years, the University of Toronto Mississauga’s (UTM) Sustainability Office has made efforts to promote a greener future and become a leader in sustainable practices. Back in 2020, UTM launched its Sustainability Strategic Plan, a collaborative effort by the Principal’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, which involves students, faculty, and staff working together to devise a strategy to create a more sustainable UTM.
Influenced by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the plan features 26 goals, each divided across five pillars: academic programs and curriculum, research, campus engagement, civic engagement, and human resources and infrastructure. Some short-term objectives have been completed since the introduction of the plan, while others are more long-term and not set to be fully completed until 2030.
The Medium reached out to UTM’s Sustainability Office to get a deeper understanding of the Sustainability Strategic Plan, the university’s role in environmental protection, and the importance of this plan for sustainability on campus.
A spokesperson for UTM explained that “sustainability represents a fundamental commitment to creating a better world for all people.” The Sustainability Strategic Plan was designed to integrate sustainability into all campus operations, from academics to facility management and student life. “By embracing sustainability as a cornerstone of campus operations, we are not only investing in the longevity and prosperity of our institution, but also setting a powerful example for others to follow in the pursuit of a more sustainable world.”
The plan also emphasizes the importance of UTM becoming a leader in sustainability. “Being a leader in sustainability goes beyond simply holding the top position on a list. It means embodying a sincere commitment to the belief that sustainability is essential, and continuously seeking ways to advance our progress in this critical endeavor,” explained the spokesperson.
UTM has committed to becoming climate-positive by 2050. Additionally, UTM is a participant in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System program (STARS), which assists post-secondary institutions in tracking their progress in sustainability. This initiative has contributed to the university’s path toward sustainability and “highlighted the necessity of collaboration in the pursuit of sustainability.”
Since its publication three years ago, the Sustainability Strategic Plan has been annually re-evaluated by the Principal’s Sustainability Advisory Committee (PSAC) to ensure that it remains relevant. “We will be releasing our 2022-2023 progress report before the end of the year,” stated the spokesperson.
An example of the university’s progress is the project to reduce the use of road salt on campus. According to a UTM spokesperson, UTM reduced its road salt use by over 80 per cent during the winter of 2022-2023. Additionally, UTM is the first U of T campus to be recognized as a Silver certified institution according to the STARS framework.
UTM is always encouraging students to participate in and help advance sustainability efforts on campus. The university also aims for every student to have access to sustainability education. “In fact, by 2030, it is anticipated that 30 per cent of students will have graduated across all disciplines with a sustainability certificate/minor,” explained the spokesperson. Similarly, UTM aims for the number of faculty self-identifying as leaders in sustainability to increase by 25 per cent.
Students may get involved by engaging with UTM’s Sustainable Change Programs—which features checklists and goals to practice sustainability on campus.