Sustainability summit aims to keep Laurier as Ontario’s most sustainable campus

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Photo by Jackie Vang

Last Friday, Nov. 23, students, faculty and others were able to partake in the first-ever Laurier Sustainable Summit, hosted by the Laurier Sustainability Office and Laurier Naturalists, in the Hawk’s Nest at the Waterloo campus of Laurier University.

Bringing together over 50 students, groups and associations interested in sustainability efforts, speakers from WWF Canada, the Region’s waste and recycling centre, as well as the Office of Research Services, dedicated and environmentally-conscious individuals presented their thoughts on sustainability.

“Over the last few years, I found that a lot of those groups were doing very similar things, but not doing them together, collaboratively — at least rarely,” said Tyler Plante, outreach and program coordinator of Laurier’s Sustainability Office.

“There’s been an increase in the number of groups and [the] volume of students that are interested in sustainability here on campus, so we thought it would be a really good idea to get them all here together and talk to each other, so we can hopefully have a greater collective impact than groups working on their own silos.”

The main goal of the event was to build the collective student voice for sustainability at Laurier, as well as facilitate network-building and cooperation efforts towards eco-mindfulness.

However, Plante made sure their role in the event was to act only as a catalyst for these actions — not as a motivator.

“We have a lot of great resources with our food services department, with our Veritas Cafe, with our Students’ Union, as well as the infrastructure that we’ve got in our residence buildings and across campus.”

“I think that anything that comes out of this needs to be student-led, at the grassroots level. I hope that something does come out of it, but I think the first step is bringing all of the students that have the passion and the diverse perspectives that they bring,” Plante said.

From business to geography and arts students, as well as the full spectrum of first-years to MBA’s with a few PhD students in attendance, diversity in perspectives was definitely accomplished at the first sustainability summit.

“I think bringing them all together, in one room, with the overarching umbrella of sustainability, that is the goal for me,” Plante said.

Looking to the future, Plante hopes for more events and collaborative opportunities like these.

“I think this is a long time coming, I’d like for it to grow … I’m really thrilled that we sold out, we hit capacity,” Plante said.

Given the timing of the event, both taking place during the holiday season and Black Friday, a holiday typified by consumeristic excess, materialism and waste, the Laurier Sustainable Summit highlights the growing need for a shift in the conversation of sustainability. It is one that has been reflected on an international level as well.

“One of the things that we’re focused on here on campus is waste reduction; both in terms of the waste that leaves our campus, in terms of recycling, organics and landfill streams, but also reducing waste at the source — so the amount of waste we generate to begin with,” Plante said.

“We have a lot of great resources with our food services department, with our Veritas Cafe, with our Students’ Union, as well as the infrastructure that we’ve got in our residence buildings and across campus.”

“So really, I would challenge the community here to be conscious consumers as we head into the holiday season,” he said.

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