Greenhouse gases on decline at WLU

(Graphic by Stephanie Troung.)
(Graphic by Stephanie Troung.)

The Wilfrid Laurier University Physical Resources department reported that the university’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have reduced 11 per cent since 2009. This puts the department ahead of their goal to reduce emissions by 15 per cent by 2016 as outlined in the universities’ sustainability action plan.

“The GHG reductions are intensity based,” said sustainability coordinator Claire Bennett. “Take into account the square footage we have grown as a campus in the calculations, so we increased physically by 19 per cent since 2009 but out emissions only increased by six per cent, which gave us the 11 per cent GHG intensity reduction.”

Created in 2012, the Sustainability Action Plan aims to “strategically develop sustainability initiatives across our campuses,” explained Bennett.

Laurier measures its energy output based on its use of electricity, gasoline, water and  waste. Waste is a scope three emission,  an emission produced through organizations on campus rather than the university itself that is usually ignored in calculations, but Bennett insists Laurier is striving for accuracy in its assessment.

“It’s about holding ourselves accountable,” said Bennett. “Not just here, but we have become a pledging partner with Sustainable Waterloo Region, so we are even more accountable to the public.”

The biggest way for Laurier to lower emissions is to design buildings to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. So far, only one Laurier building meets those standards: the

Research and Academic Centre in Brantford. That number will increase upon completion of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIE) building. There are also future plans to renovate the Peters Building to meet LEED standards.

Students have also taken a leadership role in helping Laurier increase sustainability. Laurier’s Sustainability Council — a leadership program for first years — is currently running a competition between residences to see who has the greatest energy reduction over a two-week period from March 11 to 25.  As of Tuesday, University Place was in first place.

“The Sustainability Council has the opportunity to reach out and teach students from the get-go,” said Samantha Tremmel, one of the advisors for the Sustainability Council. “I think this is why this program is so important to have and why it’s so effective.”

Laurier’s Sustainability Office has also had great success with its waste management programs over the past few years. All public area garbage cans now have recycling bins attached, so students are more inclined to recycle properly. Along with the introduction of water fill stations across campus, the program is making it easier for every student, regardless of level of involvement, to helpcontribute towards a more sustainable campus.

“I do think students care about sustainability and the environment,” said Lisa Truong, an event executive for the EcoHawks. “I think caring about the environment is a choice. It takes two seconds to dispose trash in the proper bins and understanding that our everyday choice we make on a daily basis has a consequence for the environment and out campus.”

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