York University launches first institutional Sustainability Strategy

York University’s Sustainability Strategy was released today. Led by a working group comprised of members of the President’s Sustainability Council and other key stakeholders, including faculty, staff and students, the strategy was developed over the past 12 months to guide the University in advancing sustainability in key areas over the near and long-term.

“Whether it is through teaching, research, engagement, or volunteerism, all members of the York University community are essential to our continued success as a leader in sustainability in higher education,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton. “The launch of this strategy underscores our steadfast commitment to sustainability as an embedded value, and it will support our efforts to communicate and implement a shared vision, inspire positive change and empower people, build capacity, harness innovation and creativity, and foster a culture of sustainability within and beyond the University.”

More than 1,000 community members participated in the process through workshops, presentations, open forums, and an in-person and online survey. This community feedback helped to shape and prioritize the goals of the strategy, which are divided into three key categories: People, Knowledge and Place.

People: York University is working to foster a culture of collaboration that harmonizes the efforts of our community to pursue widely understood sustainability objectives. The York community includes faculty, staff, students, labour and other organizations, alumni and neighbours. York’s holistic understanding of sustainability includes human well-being and social dimensions, and recognizes the social, economic and environmental roles of York University in and with our local neighbourhoods.

Knowledge: Our strengths in sustainability research inform our teaching. York aspires to develop pathways for all students to access sustainability curriculum, especially experiential education opportunities in sustainability. The Task Force on Sustainability Research at York defines sustainability research as research which “generates knowledge that integrates the social, cultural, economic and environmental dimensions of complex challenges at scales ranging from local to global. This interdisciplinary approach emphasizes creativity and collaboration in order to advance research, action and innovation in social, economic and environmental justice.”

Place: With the opening of the subway extension in December 2017, York is seizing the opportunity to reconfigure the Keele campus into a greener, better connected, pedestrian-oriented campus with a network of new and improved green spaces. New development is guided by green building targets, and York is building on successes with waste diversion, sustainable procurement and operations, and nascent initiatives to electrify its fleet. Carbon reduction is increasingly a goal, particularly in light of the Province of Ontario’s new Climate Change Strategy and carbon trading market.

“The year-long process of developing the strategy was a true community effort, with students, faculty and staff participating in the process from beginning to end.” said Professor Martin Bunch, who chaired the Sustainability Strategy Working Group. “We now have a long-term, strategic document that can help to guide us as we focus our efforts in ensuring that sustainability is a built-in consideration in all aspects of the University’s resources, programs and services.”

The strategy will be implemented through a variety of new and existing plans, including the Energy Management Plan, University Academic Plan, Strategic Research Plan and other University initiatives. Implementation will be coordinated by key staff and the President’s Sustainability Council.

To read the full Sustainability Strategy, visit http://sustainability.info.yorku.ca/strategy/.

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