Greening York: Tales of trash and tri-bins

York community members moving into the new York Research Tower located on the Keele campus adjacent to York Lanes and above the Ontario Archives Building will be participating in a new pilot project. The Green Cleaning project, launched by York’s Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO), will see occupants managing their own recycling and trash disposal, and the introduction of "green" cleaning products. The pilot is expected to take three months to complete.

Above: The York Research Tower

If successful, the project will be rolled out to the entire University community in 2010. As part of the initiative, York Research Tower occupants will get up close and personal with their trash. Everyone, including senior management of the University, will be responsible for managing their own office waste and recycling. Staff and faculty in the research tower won’t have a garbage bin in their offices, only a blue recycling bin. Tri-bins (three-sectioned recycling bins) will be placed in central common areas and kitchens. Tower occupants will be responsible for depositing office paper products into their office blue bin, which they can empty when full into the common area paper bin.

"This project coordinates with York University’s environmental initiatives," says Joseph Sanguedolce, manager of custodial services. "We need to consider how much waste we produce, this is important given the City of Toronto’s initiatives and the growing concern about the environment."

Left: Joseph Sanguedolce

Those who generate other waste products at their desks, including kitchen organics, will also be responsible for depositing that waste into a kitchen area tri-bin or a common area tri-bin. Both the common recycling tri-bin and the kitchen tri-bin will be emptied regularly by custodial staff. "Organic waste bins will be emptied daily, and paper, glass and plastic tri-bins will be emptied as required," says Sanguedolce.

He hopes those involved in the pilot will look for new and innovative ways to reduce their waste. Several come to the top of his mind, including bringing litterless lunches, taking compostable materials home to be added to green bins or backyard composters, and reusing paper. 

In addition to the recycling initiative, CSBO is rolling out a green cleaning product initiative. The cleaning products used to keep the research tower spotless are environmentally responsible. These products are much less corrosive, and airborne (volatile) contaminants are reduced because the surfactants in the formulation rend the products environmentally acceptable as compared to historical product formulations such as bleach. The enzymes continue to work destroying unwanted germs for a longer period of time, which translates into a cleaner environment and reduced product usage.

"The green cleaning products are very effective disinfectants," explains Sanguedolce. "New procedures for dispensing these products mean that we can be more accurate with mixing the cleaners, which are all biodegradable. As well, the storage jugs for these cleaners are 100 per cent recyclable."

The pilot project is part of the ongoing efforts to secure a silver Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the York Research Tower. An internationally recognized green building rating system that was initially developed in the United States, the LEED Green Building Rating System requires the adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.

Information about the pilot, along with information on the different green cleaning products used by custodial staff, will soon be available on the Custodial Services Web site.

More about the LEED program

The LEED program provides building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance. The program takes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health:

  • sustainable site development
  • water efficiency
  • energy efficiency
  • materials selection
  • indoor environmental quality

Certification is based on the total point score achieved following an independent review and an audit of the building’s construction and operation. With four possible levels of certification (certified, silver, gold and platinum), the Canadian rating systems are an adaptation of the US Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System, and are tailored specifically for Canadian climates, construction practices and regulations.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor