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

  • Let’s Talk About Waste

    Blog Contributors: Kaitlin James & Shelby McFadden

    Guernsey Market

    Did you know that the most waste on campus comes from Schmon Tower? The area otherwise referred to as “Tower” produces almost double the amount of waste as the area ranked second in waste contributions on campus.

    This is something to think about when you’re eating your meals in Market. A way to help reduce this is by using the conveyor belt system in Market properly. In fact, many Brock students don’t know how this system works, and as a result do not use it.

    Did you ever notice that there are no garbage bins in Market? This is because all “garbage” products are to be placed on the conveyor belt. The only items to not be placed on the belt are plastic recyclables, or containers that can be recycled in the blue bins which are located adjacent to the conveyor belt.

    This means all leftover food, napkins, and paper products can be left on your plate and placed on the conveyor belt without having to think about what bin to place them in. These products are then sorted properly in the back, with food and paper waste being put through a pulper, before being sent to be composted. The pulper reduces ten bags of garbage down to one, reducing the amount of waste Brock is sending to landfills, and reducing the frequency of waste pick-ups.

    Brock’s current Master of Sustainability students recently toured the kitchens in Market and got to see the sorting operations and pulper in action, to better understand the current sustainability initiatives taking place at Brock.

    “It’s really cool to see such a simple but effective process being utilized to reduce waste, especially considering that organics represent the largest category within Brock’s waste stream. That being said, the system only works if people use it properly, and it seems like there’s a lot of students, staff, and faculty who are unaware of the proper process,” reflected Shelby McFadden, one of the students on the tour.

    So next time you’re in Market, dispose of your waste using the system that is meant to divert items from going to the landfill, which will help increase our diversion rate from 67% to even higher!

    This system is meant to ensure proper sorting of all products into their appropriate streams; landfill, compost and recyclables. Be conscious of this and read the signs in place to help you dispose of your products properly!

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Keeping up with the Kindergarten Kids!

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Rosalind Blauer Centre for Child Care Kinder Program

    Photo Credit: Rosalind Blauer Centre for Child Care Kinder Program

    Did you know that the Rosalind Blauer Centre for Child Care Kinder Program is found on the campus of Brock University adjacent to the Lowenberger Residence?

    The Kinder Program is an alternative to Junior Kindergarten that has run for the past four years. It uses research, observation, documentation and communication between children, parents and educators. Additionally, it allows children to develop skills through experiences in the natural environment by exploring the forest, making choices and solving problems with limited adult intervention.

    The children spend two mornings each week from September to June in an “Outdoor Classroom”, which is the forest that surrounds and is located on campus.

    The students still explore more traditional topics such as literacies, math, science, arts, and social sciences, which allows for the perfect balance. This past year, the class consisted of eight children and one Registered Early Childhood Educator, which is an added bonus as kids are able to engage with the educator on a one on one basis.

    Brock University is the perfect location for this program as it is located within a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with a vast amount of wildlife and vegetation to explore! This program allows children to have a voice in what and how they do things, whilst exploring the great outdoors and learning at the same time!

    The class and their educator made a stop by the ESRC in the summer to tell us about their discovery of a snapping turtle laying eggs on campus to see how they could help! It is even these small day to day discoveries that show what a unique learning experience this school offers!

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Getting to know the ESRC

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Theal House

    Photo: Theal House at Brock University is home to the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.

    You know that quaint white house by Zone 2 Parking Lot on your way out of Brock? Many of you in the Brock community have no idea what I’m talking about, but take my word for it—there’s a building there alright, and this building in question is known as Theal House. Named after Samuel Theal who is believed to have built the house, where his family then lived for decades, Theal house is the oldest building on campus and one of the oldest in St. Catharines.

    As its been around since the 1800’s, it has served many roles and housed many tenants over the years, but most recently, it became the home of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), as they officially settled in by February 2018.

    As a centre within the Faculty of Social Sciences dedicated to environmental sustainability, the building was renovated in a way that incorporated sustainability within its walls. The floors were acquired from Interface, a company known for its commitment to sustainability, which represented 3 tonnes in emissions reductions. Used furniture was acquired from antique stores, and live edge desks produced by Brock carpenters with certified sustainable timber. LED lighting was installed, with dimmer and daylight harvesting light switches, and sensors to save energy. An integrated system that controls HVAC, lighting, and monitors real time energy use is also present in the building.

    But Theal House does so much more for sustainability than its physical features.

    Similar to how there’s many people at Brock who do not know about Theal House, there’s also many people who do not know about the ESRC, or only vaguely understand what it is, and what it does.

    The ESRC is dedicated to research and education advancing environmental sustainability both locally and globally, and runs several initiatives, all made possible by the supportive base that is Theal House.

    As one of five transdisciplinary hubs on campus, the ESRC has had the capacity to do some great work since 2012.

    But what exactly are these great things that the ESRC does?

    Well, the ESRC has created a highly productive research culture and impressive output, with 392 peer-reviewed publications meant to resolve complex environmental/social problems being published between 2012 and 2017.

    They also carry out several projects and programs to support this research, such as their seed grant funding program started in 2013 that supports projects related to the ESRC’s mandate. There is also a postdoctoral fellowship that creates opportunities for faculty and fellows to carry out research. Theu also run a visiting scholars program that brings high level scholars engaged in research on the environment, sustainability, and social ecological resilience to interact with ESRC members and SSAS students.

    They have also formed research partnerships with community groups to pursue projects of mutual benefit, conducting valuable research, while also engaging communities.

    One example of this is the Brock Lincoln Living Lab which was created in 2017, and will continue for the next five years. In this partnership with the Town of Lincoln, students contribute to the community through experiential education, putting more resources into municipal planning and research to investigate local needs and policy development.

    Another important partnership is with the Niagara Parks Commission, which created the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative in April 2018, which will last until 2020. The partnership is meant to inform and enhance practice, improve the NPC’s capacity to make evidence-based decisions, and advance understanding of environmental stewardship.

    But beyond research, the ESRC also offers academic opportunities within sustainability. This includes a minor program in environmental sustainability that can be recognized in conjunction with any major degree program, and which offers courses in 15 units across campus.

    A Masters program in sustainability science and society was started in 2014, where students can gain problem solving skills through enriching research and applied experiences, in one of the two following schemes:

    Scheme A- Major research project and co-op (16 months)

    Scheme B- Thesis (24 months)

    As a part of this program, transdisciplinary seminars are held bi-weekly, which anyone is welcome to attend.

    Finally, the ESRC also offers a PhD program in sustainability through an agreement with the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, where a scholarship allows a student to study in both places under the supervision of researchers from both universities.

    All of this is beneficial for Brock, but the ESRC has recently taken on an additional exciting role alongside Facilities Management.

    The two departments signed a charter in February, which outlines their agreement to work together on Sustainability at Brock. The charter provides an important bridge between the academics and operations sides of campus, creating a partnership where the two can collaborate on projects of mutual benefit and create mechanisms to communicate sustainability initiatives and progress with the Brock community.

    The two agreed to contribute cash and in-kind contributions over an initial 5 years, and the ESRC has been working hard on providing administrative support to meet the goals of the charter this summer, partly through the work of summer students hired through the Charter. In fact, these blogs and the Sustainability at Brock social media channels they are posted to are part of this important work!

    So, the next time you’re near Zone 2 parking lot, look for the cottage-like white building that is Theal House, and when you see it, now you’ll know what it’s for and what kind of work is going on inside.

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