Sustainability at Brock

  • 6 Tips for Green Gift Giving

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Did you know that Canadians throw out 25% more garbage over the holidays than the rest of the year? The holiday season is extremely wasteful due to wrapping paper, tape, cards, foil and plastic that are all used for gift giving traditions. That being said, what if this time of year wasn’t synonymous with excess waste and extreme overconsumption? As an individual, there are a lot of strategies that you can employ to cut down on the unnecessary waste from gifts and its wrapping. This article will help you navigate the season without feeling overwhelmed by the environmental effects of gift giving.  

     Here are a few tips to reduce waste while still participating in your family’s and friends’ gift exchange traditions: 

    1. Buy local: This tip is often suggested because buying local immediately reduces the carbon footprint of your goods, and usually the products purchased come with significantly less packaging than what you can find at a retail store. Added bonus: purchasing local goods encourages small businesses (who naturally have lower carbon footprints than corporations) and stimulates the local economy.  
    2. Give the gift of an experience: Many people enjoy receiving an experience as a gift rather than a material object that takes up space and that they may never use. By purchasing an experience for someone such as tickets to a sports game, a relaxing getaway or a play, you are able to quickly reduce packaging waste (experience-type gifts are usually minimally wrapped, if wrapped at all). Additionally, you are avoiding purchasing a material product that will eventually make its way to a landfill.  
    3. Purchase reusable gift wrap: Thankfully, more and more people are considering the environment during this gift giving season and small companies have started selling festive cloth bags for wrapping purposes. These cloth bags are perfect for wrapping gifts or even baked goods! They can also serve as a gift themselves in addition to what you’ve added inside. Their designs resemble wrapping paper and they add a nice crafty feel to your presents.  
    4. Donate to a charity: Instead of purchasing a material gift, show your family and friends how thoughtful you are by donating to a charity that means a lot to them in their name. This kind of gift is very touching to those receiving it, and you’ll feel great knowing that you helped a charity in need this holiday season. It really is a win-win gift idea! 
    5. Get thrifty: Thrift stores are gaining popularity for many great reasons. First, they repurpose and resell clothing that would have otherwise been thrown out or creating clutter in someone’s closet. Second, their prices are usually quite affordable and if you’re lucky, you can even find designer brands! Thrift stores also sell home décor, small kitchen appliances, and accessories so it’s a perfect place to purchase some unique gifts without buying and creating demand for new items. 
    6. Give your time: So many of us lead busy lives and have trouble dedicating time to those who matter most. An easy way to lessen your waste this holiday season is to give someone the gift of quality time! Plan an exciting weekend with a loved one or make time for a friend so you can enjoy a nice home cooked meal together. These gestures go a long way and you have the ability to get creative with activity planning!  

    Hopefully these tips are helpful and inspire you to think outside the “giftbox” this year as we all strive to create less waste during this season of giving. Always remember to be patient with yourself. Small changes definitely make a big difference as you can lead by example and further inspire others to live more sustainable lives.  

    Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canadians-to-toss-100000-elephants-worth-of-wrapping-paper-this-year-advocacy-group/article37448496/ 

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Sustainable Development Goals Training Day: A Reflection

    Blog Contributor: Nolan Kelly

    On Saturday November 16th, Brock University hosted a Sustainable Development Goals Training Day on campus, after months of planning and countless hours of hard work. The event was made possible through a collaboration between Sustainability at Brock, a partnership between Facilities Management and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, and the Brock student Model United Nations Club. The focus of the event was to provide an introduction to the 17 SDGs and to highlight how we can address these goals at both the global and local level in our everyday lives. The event included an overview of the goals, a simulation to showcase the interconnectedness and implementation of the goals, and a workshop that aimed to put participants knowledge to use in addressing issues in the Niagara Region.  

    The event kicked off with an address from Brock President Gervan Fearon, where he discussed the importance of the SDGs, both globally and locally at Brock and in the Niagara region. Next, there was a presentation from Nour Hage and Kaileen Jackson, Secretary Generals of the Brock Model United Nations Club, in which they gave a complete overview of the 17 SDGs and explained the purpose and significance of the goals as well as how they all connect. Following this, the participants watched a UN SDG video that highlighted the urgency and importance of achieving the goals followed by a video created by Brock graduate student, Nico Gadea, which highlighted how specific regions were addressing the SDGs  

    After the introduction was complete the participants were split into two different groups. One group took part in the simulation workshop and the other took part in the action-based workshop, before switching after the lunch break. The Simulation Town workshop session offered a unique opportunity for participants to expand the limits of their creativity and build teamwork and collaboration skills in the process. The simulation took place in the fictional town of Brockville and encompassed several elements that parallel real life conflicts, each specifically relating to different sustainable development goals. The rationale for creating this project was to foster an interactive environment with a great deal of replayability that stimulated learning with critical skill development. The simulation aimed at making a game that was inclusive and allowed participants of all skill levels (from high school to post grad) to feel a sense of value and contribution. It took a team of six dedicated Brock student volunteers (Alex Albano, Christina Zugno, Rachel Housser, Noah Nickel, Nour Hage, and Nico Gadea) a total of just over 200 hours throughout the span of four months to complete the project. The simulation received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the participants and in the essence of sustainability, the simulation game along with a full set of instructions will be donated to the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) at Brock. 

    The second workshop session was titled SDGs in Action. This workshop allowed the participants to put their knowledge to use by tackling current issues in the Niagara region. Far too often people believe issues such as poverty, public health, and education are only issues outside of Canada and that there is nothing they can do to help. However, this could not be further from reality as these issues (along with many others) are present and prevalent in Canada and more specifically in the Niagara Region. This workshop gave the participants a local perspective of these issues and showed how those in Niagara are directly affected. The goal was to show that these issues are prevalent all around us and that it takes collaboration along with multiple perspectives to work on solving these issues. After a brief slideshow highlighting the interconnectedness of the SDG’s the groups of participants were broken up into smaller groups and tasked with addressing specific local concerns at home, at work/school, and in the community. The workshop finished off with a poster presentation from the groups which highlighted their ideas. These discussions highlighted the importance of the SDG’s in our everyday lives and what steps can be taken to further advance the goals. This workshop session came to fruition through the hard work of Amanda Smits, Centre Administrator for the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Research Assistants Erica Harper and Nolan Kelly, along with assistance from the Brock Model UN Club. 

    After all the participants had completed the workshops, Dr. Ana Sanchez concluded the event with an overview of the SDGs where she reminded everyone why they should care and take action at both the global and local levels. She stressed the importance of the interconnectedness of the goals, as you cannot achieve one goal without also addressing the others. Dr. Sanchez used many real-world examples and spoke with passion as the event concluded.  

    The event was designed to educate and inspire those who attended so that they can further progress the SDGs and make a difference whether that be in their individual choices, in their community, or on a global scale. We believe this event achieved the overall goals and we could not be happier with the end result. Thank you to all the participants that came out as well as all of the organizers, guest speakers, and volunteers that made the event a resounding success! 

     

    Categories: Blog, Collaborations, Event, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • The Climate Strike: A Student’s Perspective

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Climate March - September 2019

    Photo: Master of Sustainability students taking part in St.Catharines Climate Strike on Friday, September 27, 2019.

    Global Week for the Future took place from September 20th-27th internationally and featured strikes and marches around the globe to bring awareness to the climate crisis.  The attendees included people from all ages who came in impressive numbers to show their disapproval with the direction in which citizens, governments and corporations have taken our planet.  Most had signs made from recycled pizza boxes and Amazon packages with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and Greta Thunberg’s famous “How dare you?” line.  Reading the signs was entertaining, intriguing and sometimes disturbing, but what really captivated me were the speeches at the St. Catharines strike.

    This was my first march, protest or strike of any kind and I truly did not know what to expect, but I was excited to be attending with peers from my cohort in the Master of Sustainability program.  On Friday morning we took our signs and made our way downtown to the St. Catharines library and were surprised by the number of people who came to rally together.  It was a well-organized event with wonderful speeches from Indigenous women, community leaders, young students and people who felt compelled to speak up in the moment.  With each speech that was delivered, I got more and more emotional about the challenges that we and future generations will face.  That being said, the main message throughout the day was to look inwardly and do what you can in your own life to make small differences each and every day.

    Although it can be quite overwhelming, climate strikes are an opportunity to have our voices heard by politicians and large organizations to prioritize our planet in their various agendas.  That being said, a system change unfortunately takes longer than a personal change and it is important to self-reflect and see what we can alter in our personal lives to make our planet a greener place.

    After my experience at my first Climate Strike, I am even more motivated to learn as much as possible about Sustainability Science to make my positive mark on this planet.

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Marilyn I. Walker – A Sustainable Gem in Downtown St. Catharines

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    Marilyne I Walker Building

    The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts(MIWSFPA) is an absolutely gorgeous building full of natural light and art, located off Brock’s main campus, in the downtown core of St. Catharines. Having been renovated from the Canada Hair Cloth Company building in 2015, its construction offered Brock University the ability to do what it does best – research! Facilities Management took the opportunity after renovations to install a piece of software called the Earthright Energy Dashboard. Earthright monitors water, gas, and electricity trends and charts them on a public-facing dashboard for all to see.

    Earthright serves two purposes, the first of which is to inform students, staff, and visitors about utility consumption rates at Marilyn I. Walker. There are a couple of screens that display statistics in relatable and interesting terms, like how many swimming pools worth of water have been saved from one month to the next. By showing people how utilities are consumed over time, it may influence them to change their habits as a group and see what impact they can make!

    The second function is to provide feedback to staff on how the building is operating. Facilities Management has been able to tailor automated systems around occupancy and seasonality requirements, which ensure that utilities are only used as they are actually needed. For example the lights are generally shut off at 11:00 pm and turned back on around 6:00 am, but there are also offices on motion sensor systems, and photocells are used to ensure that lights automatically dim as sunlight becomes available.

    The Earthright Energy Dashboard is a simple way to inform the public about how consumption habits impact the spaces where they learn and work. Newer buildings like MIWSFPA are sustainable by design, but we as occupants have the final say on how much water, gas, and electricity gets used. The next time you are walking along St. Paul Street, stop in and check out part of what Brock is doing to carry out its commitment to stewardship and environmental sustainability!

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Earth Day: a time for reflective action

    Blog Contributor & Artist: Meredith DeCock

    Earth in Watercolour

    Earth Day has been observed by millions and now billions of people worldwide since the 1970’s. Back then, people were starting to see and feel the impacts of the industrial revolution and they wanted to do something about it. It’s because of courageous activists that took a stand and fought for the health of their people and their planet that brought about change.

    The fight is far from over. Our western idea of economic growth and our consumer culture continues to be a driver of environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, effecting the health of our planet. What people often forget is that we are an intricate part of this planet, and when the Earth is unhealthy, our systems become unhealthy.

    I understand the people who reject Earth Day, as the common phrase notes: “every day is Earth Day”. However, I choose to use Earth Day as a time to reflect on my current life choices and consider how, in the upcoming year, I can make personal changes in my life to live more sustainably. You may have noticed that North America is not the focus of either world map shown in my painting. As part of my reflective practice this year, I wanted to shift my perspective, highlighting that this is a global issue and how each decision I make does not only affect the people in my immediate surroundings.

    Reflection is an important practice and increasing your awareness is a crucial step to inspire action. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

    • If you love to read, check out When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce, Wolf Nation by Brenda Peterson, or The Song of Trees by David Haskell.
    • If you love documentaries, there are a wide range of informative films from The True Cost, Virunga, Cowspiracy, to Plastic Paradise, and the list goes on.
    • Consider carpooling more, flying less, or buying items in bulk.
    • Try to buy items second hand, and if you do buy new, buy local, fair trade, and ethically sourced items.

    Happy Earth Day everyone, and I hope that this post has encouraged you to reflect on how you might make changes in your personal, family, or work life to better take care of our planet.

    Until the next Earth Day.

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Thinking Sustainably is Thinking Strategically

    Blog Contributor: Connor Thompson

    Brock Strategic Plan 2018 to 2025

    Brock University closed out 2018 by unveiling a new Strategic Plan titled “Brock University: Niagara Roots – Global Reach”. Meant to serve as a guide to planning and decision-making processes through 2025, you should not be surprised to see environmental sustainability as a focal point of the Plan!

    “Sustainable, accountable, transparent stewardship” is listed as the eighth and final guiding value that the University is committing to over the next seven years. Brock recognizes its position as a steward of public and private resources, which is especially important as the school exists within a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve on the Niagara Escarpment. Understanding how the institution operates and the effect it has on human, financial, and environmental resources will be critical to achieving sustainable outcomes across all three categories.

    Additional focus is given to environmental sustainability in regard to meeting societal expectations and demands. As Brock is a publicly-supported institution, the University is obligated to meet and ideally exceed all legislative requirements including those pertaining to environmental protection and sustainability. The University is in a prime position to serve as a benchmark for other institutions to try and meet, and this new Strategic Plan affirms a willingness and desire to improve our sustainability efforts across campus and into the greater community.

    You can read through the entirety of Brock’s new Strategic Plan: “Niagara Roots – Global Reach: Brock University Institutional Strategic Plan 2018-2025”

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • New plan enhances Brock’s environmental focus

    When it comes to environmental sustainability, Brock University wants to lead by example.

    While its students and researchers can often be found working with local communities to develop environmental initiatives, the University recognizes that in many cases, change begins at home.

    With that mantra in mind, Brock has been working toward reducing its carbon footprint and increasing sustainability on its campuses. Building on the momentum of several initiatives already underway, the University has created an Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP) to map its existing efforts and provide guidance into the future. The document aims to identify strategies, objectives and actions that will allow Brock to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2023 (based on 2013 levels).

    A requirement of the $7.9 million in provincial government funding received by Brock through the Greenhouse Gas Campus Retrofits Program (GGCRP) in March, the plan covers the University’s environmental performance in energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction, environmental sustainability management and education for sustainability.

    The document was informed by the Brock University Sustainability Committee, which  oversees implementation, and is the result of efforts by students, staff, faculty and senior administration. It is one of the first major deliverables of the Brock University Charter, an agreement formed between Facilities Management and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC).

    The Charter agreement is an “innovative mechanism to advance sustainability at Brock in an integrated fashion,” said Ryan Plummer, Professor and Director of the ESRC. “The plan is the first comprehensive overview of sustainability activities at Brock University and will provide an essential basis as the University continues to move forward with our collective core value of sustainability and becoming a pillar for sustainability in the Niagara region.”

    Through the Charter, the University successfully applied for Canada Summer Jobs funding and hired three student interns to assist with sustainability at Brock.

    Guided by staff from the ESRC and Facilities Management, the trio of fourth-year Business Administration student Shanen D’Souza, fourth-year Public Health student Kaitlin James, who is also minoring in sustainability and Master of Sustainability candidate, Shelby McFadden, spent much of their time from May to August focused on the ESP.

    “Environmental sustainability is fundamental to everything we do at Brock,” said University President Gervan Fearon. “This plan conveys our achievements regarding environmental sustainability and our balanced approach to supporting Ontario’s future. Brock University is making the decisions today for a sustainable and vibrant future tomorrow.”

    The University, he said, “looks forward to building upon our current efforts.”

    “In moving forward, we will broadly engage the Brock community and thereby advance environmental sustainability across our functions in innovative and exciting ways.”

    Funds received through the GGCRP are being used to complete Phase 2 of Brock’s District Energy Efficiency Project (DEEP), upgrading and modernizing the University’s co-generation facility, which is a reliable and energy-efficient source of electricity, cooling and heating on campus.

    The plant has “enabled research to continue and grow without interruption, even in the face of adverse weather events, such as the 2003 Northeast Blackout,” said Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management.

    “However, ranging from 22 to more than 50 years old, some of the equipment was at its end of life.”

    Provincially-funded upgrades to the co-generation plant include replacing eight engines with four new high-efficiency models as well as the installation of a new lithium-bromide absorption chiller and new magnetic-bearing electric chiller.

    The new engines are roughly 20 per cent more fuel efficient than their older counterparts, and will consume roughly two million cubic metres less fuel to power the campus. The reduction is the equivalent of removing 720 small passenger cars from the road.

    Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Plan is available online.

    Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management, gives students Kaitlin James, Shanen D’Souza and Shelby McFadden a tour of the University’s Central Utilities Building.


    Story originally published in The Brock News.
    Categories: Innovative Partnership, Sustainability at Brock

  • We Can All Be Washroom Warriors

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Dual Flush Toilet Handle

    We all visit the washrooms while on campus, but how often do we pay attention to the environmental impact we’re having during these short visits? In 2016’s waste audit, washrooms were the fifth largest generator of solid waste on campus. Paper towel made up most of the waste, and while Brock has reduced this impact by removing paper towels from many of the washrooms, there are a few washrooms where they still remain. Instead of using paper towel or toilet paper to dry your hands, take a few extra seconds to take advantage of the hand dryers.

    A lot of organics are also thrown out in the washrooms, which is an issue we still need to work on. Rather than putting all your waste in a single garbage bin, make your way out of the washrooms to an area on campus that provides bins for recyclables and organics.

    Another common wasted resource in the washrooms is water. While water use is inevitable, we should all do our part to minimize the amount of water we use. This can be as simple as making sure to turn taps off all the way after washing your hands. Many of the toilets and urinals on campus now have low flow flushers, where you can either push the switch up or pull it down depending on how much water you need. This technology can help save water, but only if we take the time to use it properly. Take an extra second to read the instructions before flushing in order to reduce your footprint.

    These actions may seem small, but small actions can create big change. Let’s be creative and proactive, and do what we can in all areas of campus to be more sustainable.

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock, Uncategorised

  • Students experience sustainability science in the field

    THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2018 | by 

    As a group of Brock students recently learned, sustainability science is all around us.

    It can be found along the Niagara Escarpment, in the waste-sorting stations of Guernsey Market and on the properties of the Niagara Parks Commission.

    Students in the Sustainability Science and Society graduate program got a taste of sustainability initiatives in action during a series of field trips in October.

    The Master of Sustainability program has always encouraged students to think critically about the theories behind sustainability science. Developing a sound theoretical understanding is essential, but practical application also plays a major role, said Ryan Plummer, Director of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) and Professor of Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society.

    “We train students to be leaders in sustainability. They need more than just classroom instruction to prepare them to take on leadership positions when they graduate,” Plummer says.

    A series of three field trips added an experiential education component to the program this year, giving students a first-hand look at how sustainability science is implemented on Brock’s main campus and in the wider Niagara community.

    “Sustainability science extends beyond the classroom and the University campus,” says Plummer. “Modifying the curriculum in our foundational course to include an ‘experiencing sustainability’ module enables new ways to connect theory and practice.”

    On the first trip, Liette Vasseur, Professor of Biology and Environmental Science and UNESCO Chair of Community Sustainability, led an outdoor education-based exploration of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Lisa Gribinicek, Senior Strategic Advisor with the Niagara Escarpment Commission, also spoke with students about the area.

    The second trip focused on sustainability efforts at higher learning institutions and included a tour of Brock’s Central Utilities Building. Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management, and Ryan Stewart, Energy Manager of Maintenance and Utilities Services, demonstrated how current University initiatives contribute to the Brock University Project Charter on environmental sustainability. Students learned how Brock is working towards its goals of low emissions and an overall sustainable campus.

    At Guernsey Market, students visited the waste-sorting area to see what happens behind the scenes to the scraps and recyclable containers left behind after a cafeteria meal. Bryan Boles, Associate Vice-President of Ancillary Services, and Malcolm Dale, Associate Director of Operations, described the sustainability challenges faced in Dining Services.

    The final trip focused on the ESRC’s innovative partnerships with the Town of Lincoln and the Niagara Parks Commission, and included a tour of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

    “Seeing how the world works outside of the classroom is an invaluable experience,” says Meredith DeCock, a candidate in the Master of Sustainability program.

    Each field trip in the series was “unique and engaging” according to DeCock. “I even presented my research to the Town of Lincoln,” she says.

    Readings and assignments took precedence but, beyond the serious work of learning, there was also time for some fun. In Niagara Falls, students enjoyed the famed Journey Behind the Falls.

    “When an experiential learning session includes a trip to Niagara Falls, you really can’t go wrong,” says DeCock.

    “The thoughtful development and execution of the field study modules is a perfect example of why Brock is such a leader in experiential education,” says Carolyn Finlayson, Experiential Education Co-ordinator for the Faculty of Social Sciences. “Bringing to life course theories and concepts outside the classroom is what we do best.”

    The trips were organized with financial support from a Teaching Learning and Innovation grant.

    Story originally published in The Brock News.

    Categories: Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Program, Sustainability at Brock

  • Did you know that Brock offers a car sharing program?

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    ZipCar at Brock University

    BUSU has partnered with Zipcar to offer car rentals by the hour, right from campus. This gives students an opportunity to rent out a car for the day, or for a couple hours. Gas and insurance are included! This is perfect for students without their own vehicle who want an easy way to get around the city, or take a road trip for the day without the stress of car ownership!

    To join, students/faculty/staff need to get a membership. Rates vary depending on your affiliation with the school, meaning whether you are a student, faculty/staff or Brock Alumni. Currently, Students pay $20 per year, and Faculty, Staff and Alumni pay $35 dollars per year.

    To particpate in this program, individuals apply to join. Once approved, Zipcar will mail you your Zipcard. This is your key to unlock the cars; all you have to do is hold your card to the windshield and the doors will unlock. Reserve a Zipcar online or through the mobile app, and  once finished for the day, return the car to the reserved parking spot on campus and that’s it, it’s that easy!

    Driving rates fall between $8-11 dollars per hour, and $72-79 dollars for the day–rates vary depending on the day of the week. Rentals between Friday-Sunday are on the higher end of this range. Additionally, although their website highlights free gas, insurance and kilometers, only up to 200 km are included per day within a 24 hour or shorter reservation, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock