UVic to renew five-year sustainability plan

The Sustainability Action Plan: Campus Operation, UVic’s sustainability project, is wrapping up its first five years, having begun in 2009. The plan consists of a list of various goals; such as ensuring 100 per cent of all university electronic waste is recycled domestically and reducing water consumption by 25 per cent through conservation and innovation by 2015. The main objective of the project is to make operations at UVic more sustainable.

Sustainability Co-ordinator at the Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability Rita Fromholt says, “There was a trend amongst universities to start having a strategic plan specifically focused on sustainability, as sustainability was gaining a higher profile within post-secondary and advanced education. So we did research on what other universities were doing and held a series of consultation meetings with students, faculty and staff.”

The UVic plan takes a multi-faceted approach to creating sustainability on campus, with better cycling infrastructure, expansion of the bus loop and better bus service, and more composting, among other steps. Further, UVic’s campus includes five Canada Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) buildings, rated at the Gold level. LEED buildings are rated out of 110 points on attributes that are considered environmentally beneficial; a Gold building is one that has between 60 and 79 points. UVic also has a sixth building waiting to receive its Gold rating, and any new buildings are now built to LEED standards. UVic is the fifth post-secondary institution in Canada to receive a Gold rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, & Rating System (STARS).

UVic’s action plan has reached many of its goals; however, with such a large group of people using campus resources, it may be difficult to fully realize some of the goals. Fromholt says, “Twenty per cent reduction of electricity use is pretty tough when your campus is growing and everything we do uses more electricity. Flat-screen TVs and people charging when they come to campus: it’s really difficult. No matter how much you try and tell people to turn off lights, there’s only so far you can get. So there are lots of questions to be answered. So, we’re talking to all the departments that we work with, Facilities Management being the main one because they control all the buildings and the grounds, and the energy use and the waste is all handled through Facilities Management, so they’re our main partner.”

UVic has also developed a running sustainability fund of $250 000, meant to provide financial assistance to projects that reduce energy consumption, greenhouse gas emission, and water use. The resulting savings from the reduction must be enough that the money loaned will be repaid within five years or less. Staff of University Systems who work in the Enterprise Data Centre that contains servers have suggested improvements and received money from the fund; they may not have otherwise had the money to implement their ideas. The servers in the building run all the time and, as a result, require air conditioning to run alongside them. The staff used the money to implement technology that manages the power supply, which allowed the system to go up and down rather than stay on all the time. The plan was so efficient that the money was repaid in approximately a year and a half. The greenhouse gas audit that year also showed the electricity consumption went down and stayed down, despite increased server capacity.

The next step for UVic is to decide new goals going forward and adjust expectations. “We’ve been talking to people about the latest data we have on all the energy consumption and all the waste and the transportation data and sort of saying ‘Well, in some cases we got pretty close to our goal, in some cases we exceeded the goal, in some cases we fell short of the goal.’ So we’re at this state right now where we’re evaluating all of those goals and talking to people about, ‘What should we do for the next five years? Should we keep the same goals? Are there new ones?’ Some are irrelevant now, because we’ve achieved them,” says Fromholt.

The Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability website offers a survey for students and others to help further guide the goals and areas of concentration for the plan’s next five years. An official progress report for the project will be released to the public in June 2014.

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