WLU recognized for sustainability

Graphic by: Lena Yang
Graphic by: Lena Yang

Wilfrid Laurier University was recently highlighted in the Climate Action Plan for Waterloo Region (WR) for its sustainability action plan, a plan which aims to reduce the institution’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent over a five year period ending in 2016.

The Climate Action Plan for WR is a document outlining the ways in which the region as a whole can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was produced by ClimateActionWR, a collaboration between the Region of Waterloo and two local non-profit organizations: REEP Green Solutions and Sustainable Waterloo Region. The organizations have been working closely over the past three years, alongside the three cities in the region: Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge.

Four sectors are included in the plan: institutional, commercial and industrial (ICI), residential, agricultural and industrial.  Laurier is part of the ICI sector, as an institution. However, Claire Bennett, sustainability coordinator at Laurier, explained that it is “basically a small community because there are so many students and staff here.”

Bennett represented Laurier as part of the ICI sector.

Last year, ClimateActionWR completed the first step in the process, taking an inventory of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions. It calculated that WR produced 3.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. The goal outlined in the plan is to reduce this by six per cent by 2020.

“Now the point that we are at is asking local councils…to give their endorsement of their plan,” explained Sarah Brown, project manager of ClimateActionWR. “Then also to approve continuing to work together to implement it.”

From here, the plan will enter the implementation period and begin monitoring their progress.

Beyond the overarching target for greenhouse gas reduction, the plan also outlines ways in which the community can move towards contributing to this goal. It also highlighted projects that have already been set in motion by local community members.

This is where Laurier comes in.

“We’re doing the same thing that Waterloo Region is trying to do right now,” Bennett explained.
Laurier’s sustainability plan involves the implementation of a metering project. All of Laurier’s buildings have been sub-metered, sending all utility consumption information to a centralised data base.

“In our very first year of measurement we … reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 11 per cent,” said Bennett. “We’re very well on our way.”

“In order for it to be a true community plan there has to be a number of leaders across different sectors that are committed to taking action on the things that are within their control,” Brown said.

This is why Laurier was highlighted, as its own initiative will contribute to the overall community target.

“We chose to highlight them for that reason- as a significant land owner, as a significant educational leader, to say that if Laurier can do it we would hope that lots of institutions would follow suit,” explained Brown.

When asked what this recognition says about Laurier, Brown said, “I think it just reinforces what Laurier or universities are, which are forward-thinking, progressive institutions that set the standard for progress. So for Laurier to be at the leading edge of looking at its own sustainability operations, I think that says a lot for them to be able to get their own house in order.”

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