Laurier integrates sustainable projects on campus

Photo by Paige Bush

Photo by Paige Bush

Wilfrid Laurier University unveiled a bike sharing station on its Waterloo campus on May 13, just one of numerous recent projects Laurier has recently launched in its bid to develop itself as an increasingly environmentally friendly institution. The station is part of the Community Access Bikeshare program, run by The Working Centre, and includes seven other stations throughout the uptown Waterloo and downtown Kitchener areas, at which members can borrow and return bicycles.

“We’re the first educational institution in the region to have a bike share station on campus,” said Claire Bennett, manager of the Sustainability Office. “[They] connect to other bike share stations in the region; so there’s a couple uptown, there’s a couple downtown, so it helps connect students.”

The bike share station, along with Laurier’s work with the region’s TravelWise program, which helps provide bus passes and facilitate other eco-friendly commuting options to staff and faculty, all contributed to Laurier winning the TravelWise leadership and innovation award at Sustainable Waterloo Region’s seventh annual Evening of Recognition. Laurier was additionally awarded with the very first environmental awareness award for its efforts to promote sustainability within the community.

All of this work is made possible by the university’s sustainability office, which has worked to integrate a culture of sustainability into all aspects of Laurier, from compost bins to community gardens, move-out waste reduction projects to classroom engagement.  One such partnership has led to the implementation of a sustainable energy management initiative, a multi-year project which will commence over the coming spring term.

“We actually had an MBA team do an independent study on the feasibility of ESCO [Energy Service Company], which was fantastic, and then they presented it to the vice-president of administration and finance, which went over very well,” said Bennett.

The project is funded through a unique pay-back model in which utilities savings cover the cost of the renovations over the course of an extended period of time; in Laurier’s case, 20 years. This will include an energy audit of all main buildings, to be followed by recommendations on energy conservation measures. This will be paired with solar panels placed on the exterior of Brantford campus’s Grand River Hall, as well as the Library and Bricker Residence in Waterloo.

“Hopefully it’s going to make us a more resilient university, so we’re not actually putting money into utilities. That frees up money that we would be paying just for heating and cooling the university to student programs, student facilities,” said Bennett. “That money can go to improve more research and academic facilities rather than paying for the utilities.”

The Sustainability Office hopes that they will continue to make strides in improving the sustainability of Laurier as an institution and that the movement will grow to appear more on students, staff, and faculties’ radars.

“I kind of like the solar-wall because not only does it make sense in terms of energy savings, it’s highly visible,” said Bennett. “And students, I think, are really starting to value more and more doing sustainable projects, because they’ll actually be able to see it.”

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