York makes the grade for a greener campus

For the second year running, York University has scored a B+ on the annual College Sustainability Report Card, the second-highest ranking achieved by Canadian universities in the survey.

The 2011 report card, released yesterday, looked at sustainability in 322 schools across Canada and the United States, grading them in nine categories. York received a “Campus Sustainability Leader Award,” given to institutions that achieve an average grade of A- or better across all six campus categories.

“At York, we recognize that we have a responsibility to provide leadership and dedication to sustainability, not only on our campuses, but to the greater community,” said President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “I would like to thank the York community for all of their efforts in helping our University become better stewards of the environment. Our B+ rating is truly the result of a collaborative effort between students, staff and faculty.”

“This is the second consecutive year that York has scored a B+ on the College Sustainability Report Card 2011 and was awarded the Campus Sustainability Leader Award,” said environmental studies Professor Jennifer Foster, chair of the President’s Sustainability Council. “This recognition will help further enhance our efforts in continuing to implement York University’s sustainability initiatives, projects and practices.”

The report card highlighted York’s achievements in building a greener university, including:

The President’s Sustainability Council works on a variety of efforts and is currently developing a campus sustainability ambassadors program. One full-time staff member works in the Office of Environmental Design & Sustainability and 13 staff members devote a portion of their time to sustainability initiatives. All computers purchased are Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool certified; almost all appliances and lighting are Energy Star qualified; and most paper products contain post-consumer recycled content.

Climate change and energy
York University has reduced greenhouse gas emissions 17 per cent since 2006 and aims to achieve a 25 per cent reduction by 2011. The majority of HVAC systems on the Keele campus have been recommissioned and most of the University’s heating and cooling needs are delivered through an on-site natural gas cogeneration facility.

Food and recycling
The University spends 18 per cent of its food budget on local and organic items. Dining services purchases only milk that is hormone and antibiotic free, as well as seafood that meets sustainable fisheries guidelines. Cafeterias are tray-less; preconsumer food waste is composted at all meals; and postconsumer compost bins are located across campus. The campus diverts 59 per cent of its waste from landfills and recycles electronic items.

Green building
The University’s green building policy emphasizes low-impact development and sustainable principles, including the use of environmentally preferable materials, efficient airflow systems, and storm water retention. Five buildings on campus are built to Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. A building and grounds maintenance policy mandates the use of green cleaning products, native plant species, and minimal use of pesticides.

Student involvement
Numerous student groups focus on the intersections of food, energy, resource use and social justice. The University supports 20 paid and 25 volunteer internships and eco-rep positions. The Res Race to Zero competition reduced energy use by 5 per cent amongst the eight participating residence halls.

More than 65 per cent of community members commute to the University via environmentally preferable means. York runs two natural gas buses between its campuses, offers a discount on public transit passes and awards incentives to carpoolers. To encourage biking, racks are placed at major buildings, indoor monitored bike parking is present at one location and shower facilities are available for cyclists.

The College Sustainability Report Card is provided to the public free of charge by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.