Blueprint for a green campus

By Chris Beauchamp

The University of Calgary is moving forward with broad new environmental sustainability initiatives, though specific proposals remain undefined.

U of C Vice-President of Finance and Services Mike McAdam commissioned Campus Infrastructure to start an ongoing report examining sustainability issues. According to Steve Dantzer, Director of Campus Infrastructure, the first report outlines eight focus areas for sustainability issues on campus: transportation, solid waste, hazardous materials, indoor/outdoor air quality, potable water/storm wash, landscaping techniques, green buildings and energy use.

Dantzer did not outline any concrete plans, explaining that policy creation is still in the early stages. He said that Campus Infrastructure would be managing sustainability efforts.

However, Students’ Union President Bryan West said that a plan is underway to create an autonomous institute to deal specifically with sustainability issues.

“We sat down with Mike McAdam [earlier this week] and asked him about sustainability,” said West. “There’s a plan to build a new faculty, that is a sustainability institute. Someone’s been hired.”

The SU has been looking at its own policy on sustainability issues, but is holding off on action until the university’s plans have been cemented, according to West.

“We really don’t want to create a duplication of services here on campus,” he said. “Until we know exactly what they’re doing, it really doesn’t make sense for us to go forward.”

The SU has been criticized by a pair of former Campus Recycling Board members for not taking concrete steps to promote environmental issues. Yori Jamin, and Lisa Willott have been lobbying the SU to create a Student Sustainability Coordinator since January. Facing repeated rejections, the pair sought and received letters of support from 11 campus groups, including the departments of Biological Sciences, Physics and Astronomy and Environmental Science.

“The ball moves slowly,” said Jamin. “Here’s an opportunity for the SU to speed things up.”

West said the SU is “not completely hostile to doing something in that area,” but believes sustainability issues can be handled without the creation of a new SU position.

Though he was unable to confirm any of the U of C’s definite policy plans, Dantzer suggested possibly abandoning the use of poisons in campus landscaping, constructing buildings to current and future sustainability standards, encouraging the use of alternative transit and further refinement of the university’s hazardous waste disposal. Ultimately Dantzer sees improving sustainability as an effort everyone will have to make.

“Can we turn off lights, turn off computers?” he asked. “It’s going to require participation by everyone on campus.”