Faculty, staff and students at York University will be part of a progressive next step to build a more sustainable future for all as outlined by a new aspirational target for the University to reach net-zero emissions a decade earlier than originally planned.
Shared on Nov. 23 by President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton during a special event, the announcement highlights one of the most ambitious net-zero targets in the Canadian post-secondary sector.
With bold ambition to become one of the most sustainable institutions in Canada, York University is accelerating its timeline and aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040 – a decade sooner than its previous commitment.
The new aspirational target is part of York’s renewed sustainability policy, which includes a commitment to develop and implement a process to track, measure, evaluate and report progress toward net-zero emissions.
To support this ambition, York recently released its own comprehensive emissions data and ecological footprint assessment from the Ecological Footprint Initiative – a group of York’s scholars, students, researchers and collaborating organizations working together to advance the measurement of ecological footprint and biocapacity – making it the first Canadian institution to do so. This new report provides York with information to identify opportunities to reduce its emissions and develop innovative solutions to support a more sustainable future.
“The United Nations has stated that climate change is the defining issue of our time, and the world is at a pivotal moment requiring urgent action,” says Lenton. “As an internationally recognized leader in sustainability, York University has a responsibility to act on global challenges facing humanity, including ecological degradation, climate change and growing socio-economic inequality. The bold actions we are taking on our campuses, and in our local and global communities, will build on the strong foundation we have created and move us closer to our goal of becoming one of the most sustainable institutions in Canada.”
York’s ability to strive toward ambitious sustainable change is due in part to the expertise, experience and forward thinking that takes place across its campuses. The University draws on the strengths of its diverse community to approach sustainability through a holistic lens of collaboration, innovation and knowledge mobilization.
As a core value of the institution, York has embedded sustainability in every aspect of University life – teaching, learning, research and operations. An example of this expertise in action can be found in projects supported through York’s Sustainability Innovation Fund, including a green career fair, a campus composting centre and more.
To further advance the cutting-edge sustainability research done by the York community, the University announced a new $1-million allocation to the fund, which is currently accepting applications for projects that advance the University’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action).
The power of community engagement to create positive change has long been part of York’s legacy in becoming a more sustainable university. Activities conducted through the Office of Sustainability and sustainability-focused student groups empower York students, faculty and staff to take part in events such as campus clean-ups, film screenings, learning opportunities and tree plantings. In the past two years, community members have planted over 1,000 trees on the Glendon and Keele campuses.
The York community is also being engaged though consultations that are currently underway to update the Sustainability Strategy, with an aim of completion for spring 2024. York students, faculty, instructors and staff can provide their input in person or virtually to shape York’s sustainability priorities and help create a more sustainable future.
“Sustainability starts with our own actions,” said Mike Layton, York’s chief sustainability officer. “We also have a responsibility to our communities – locally and beyond – to ensure we are all contributing to advancing environmental and social sustainability across society. This new announcement demonstrates York’s commitment to sustainability and I look forward to the many ways we will work with the community in service of our new target.”
The Nov. 23 event included a panel about how York is using data and innovative solutions to shrink its footprint. Insights were also shared by York experts, including: Eric Miller, director of the Ecological Footprint Initiative in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change; Pirathayini Srikantha, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Reliable and Secure Power Grid Systems at York’s Lassonde School of Engineering; Usman Khan, associate professor at Lassonde; and Steve Prince, director, Energy Management, Facilities Services at York.
The announcement also featured a short play with students from York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design; a short video about sustainable travel by Burkard Eberlein, former provostial Fellow and professor from York’s Schulich School of Business; and samples of Las Nubes coffee for attendees to take home. After nearly a decade, Las Nubes coffee has made its way back to Canada and is available in select locations on York’s campuses, including Central Square and Glendon Marché. Part of the proceeds from the coffee sales will go toward supporting York’s Las Nubes Research and Conservation Program.
For more on the event, visit News@York.