Laurier’s environmental initiatives

By placing an increasing emphasis on environmental sustainability Wilfrid Laurier University has made, and will continue to make, several changes to its day-to-day operations. While the benefits of these changes are primarily environmental, they also extend to reducing costs.
Since June, Laurier employees have no longer received printed pay stubs. Employees now have only an online pay stub, which they are able to access through Laurier Online Registration and Information System (LORIS).

“For human resources, it’s a great step towards a more green department,” says Pamela Cant, director of total compensation of Laurier’s human resources department.

“[We are saving] between $20,000 to $25,000 per year in printing costs alone, not including the staff time required to sort [the stubs] and for them to be distributed by department,” she said.

It is estimated that the switch will save over 5000 pay stubs from being printed each month.

In January 2009, library receipts also became paperless, saving an average of 1000 slips being printed everyday. Receipts are now only printed upon request, as patrons can monitor their accounts online through the library system TRELLIS.

According to Don Hamilton, manager of information and technology at the Laurier library, 75 per cent of library patrons have since chosen not to have receipts printed. Cutting down on the volume of printing not only saves paper and extends the life of printers, but saves about $300 per year.

“Not a lot of money [will be saved], it’s more the fact that it’s environmentally friendly, saves you time and you have up-to-the minute information about your library account online,” said Hamilton.

Beginning this September, the Laurier Bookstore will also be working on a number of eco-friendly practices, such as charging $0.05 per plastic bag.

Such an initiative has taken the same form as a recent Toronto bylaw, designed to reduce the number of plastic bags heading to landfills.
Gary Nower, assistant vice-president of physical resources at Laurier, states that the changes in production are indicative of campus support for more sustainable practices.
“Students and staff are right behind it and [are] supportive of these initiatives.”
Nower highlights the importance of Laurier’s environmental sustainability office, which will be opened in the fall. At the 2009 Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union elections, students voted to increase the $0.50 per term green fee to $5, with the profits helping to fund the new office.

“WLUSU is moving to higher sustainability, [by implementing] an officer that can pull everyone together effectively,” said Nower.

Nower continued, stating that the most important environmental changes on campus need to be behavioral.

“We can put in new bins and switches, but if no one uses them, we’ve come no further.”

Nower states that the availability of information, which will be provided by the sustainability office, can help generate change. “[More information] needs to be made available. We’ve got to let people know what they can take advantage of on campus.”

Nower’s hope for the upcoming year is to find an individual to fill the role at the sustainability office.

“I don’t know where we’ve been in the past, but I’m happy with where we’re going. We’re moving forward in a good way, and it’s exciting for the university.”

Katherine Laycock, environmental awareness co-ordinator for the EcoHawks, a campus club devoted to improving ecological practices at the university, believes Laurier to be an environmentally conscious community and is happy with the recent changes to operate in a more sustainable manner; however, she knows that there is still a long road ahead.
“There’s always room for improvement. We’re starting [to make changes] but it will take time to take us to the level we should be at.”