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

  • Meet Brock’s newest commitment to sustainability: The Brock University Environmental Sustainability Plan 2018

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Brock University - Campus LR

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and Facilities Management signed a charter in February, which outlines their agreement to work together to support Sustainability at Brock. One of the major projects worked on this summer was the creation of the Brock University Environmental Sustainability Plan 2018, as required under the Greenhouse Gas Campus Retrofits Program (GGCRP). The completion of this plan has allowed Brock to receive $7.9 Million to put towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus. The funding is being used to complete DEEP 2, which is a project replacing old equipment in Brock’s district energy plant with updated and efficient equipment that will allow Brock to produce 100% of its own energy, while also significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    The plan outlines the current initiatives working towards low emissions and an overall sustainable campus, identifying issues and setting priorities, goals, targets, and strategies to increase sustainability at Brock within the three following areas: 1) energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, 2) environmental sustainability management, and 3) education for sustainability (green skills)/co-benefits.

    Along with these initiatives, the plan outlines a commitment to sustainability through Brock’s plans to pursue an emissions target of 20% below 2013 levels by 2023. These efforts will contribute to the provincial emission reduction targets of 37% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, based on 1990 baseline levels.

    The Sustainability plan builds on Brock’s 2016 Sustainability Policy and 2017 Draft Strategic Plan, further strengthening its commitment to uphold sustainability as one of the seven core values of the university.

    The plan is now posted to the Sustainability at Brock website and can be viewed at the following link.

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, Sustainability at Brock

  • Finding the green in our own backyard

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Everyone’s been there. Waking up to your alarm and knowing you have to get out of bed to go to work or school and dreading every moment of it. This is a rather normal occurrence for me as I am definitely not a morning person. But of course, I get up anyway, yawning and entering autopilot mode as I force myself to walk to work. I used to walk down Sir Isaac Boulevard North, staring at pavement and Zone 1 Parking lot, until I crossed Flora Egerter Way and up the grass to Theal House. But I never felt content taking this route, and so often switched it up a little bit each day, crossing at a different spot, walking across Lot V and U instead, or walking through the grass between the North and South boulevards. One day after crossing the intersection at Sir Isaac Brock Blvd and Merritville Highway, I decided to walk along the unpaved bit of grass and dirt beside the tree line framing Lots V, U, and T. Since then, this has become my morning ritual, and one of the best parts of my day.

    We often think about nature as this pristine, large-scale, and untouched wilderness, but the reality is that things are always changing and evolving, alongside other species, including humans. We need to start seeing these small patches of plants and animals as nature too, and to appreciate them just as much as the larger ecosystems. Walking through the shade, I feel myself slip back together like a completed puzzle, feeling alive and safe and revitalized as I breathe in and take in the sights. It’s so quiet and peaceful, listening to the occasional bird sing or the tall plants bend in the breeze, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

    One day as I was approaching Theal House, I noticed a plaque hidden amidst the greenery at the edge of the line of trees. Stopping for a moment to read the inscription, I learned that this line of trees I walk beside each day, is actually one of the remaining hedgerows of Osage orange trees on campus that predates the university, lining some of the historical property boundaries. The trees are native to Arkansas and Texas, but brought over by settlers and used as natural fences to keep livestock in fields. These trees are extremely rare to South-Western Ontario, and the ones at Brock represent one of the last known locations in South-Western Ontario. These trees are a living tribute to the Niagara Region’s cultural heritage and agricultural history, which makes them that much more of a special feature at Brock.

    But more than their history and rarity, they are lovely friends that give me strength in the mornings when I need it most. Being surrounded by the striking green and reaching trunks, hearing the soft crunch of dirt under my shoes, and having my focus taken by spots of colour in the form of wildflowers, gives me that extra bit of time I need in the morning to wake up and pull myself together. We can all benefit from spending a little bit of time outdoors, and Brock provides a perfect opportunity for this. There are little pockets of nature all around campus, from the Healing Garden, Pond Inlet, Jubilee Court, the Bruce Trail with different access points around campus, the courtyards with picnic tables and trees, to the hedgerows of Osage orange that have captured my heart. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes out of their day to explore the nature right here at Brock and to enjoy the small gems hidden in our own backyard!

    Categories: Blog, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Have an old textbook you can’t sell? Donate it instead!

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Textbooks for Change is a global initiative that collects used university-level textbooks and transports them for reuse by students in several African countries. 50% of the textbooks are donated to campus libraries in East Africa, 20% are resold at affordable prices to students and the remaining 30% that are outdated or damaged are recycled. This is a sustainable, educational alternative to a question that many North American students face – how to get rid of my used textbooks?

    These textbooks are collected regularly and then deployed to countries where students cannot afford to pay the high costs of textbooks. They are reused or resold to students at reasonable prices, thus giving them an opportunity to learn and gain knowledge that they would otherwise not have a chance to. Some of the donated books that cannot be reused are recycled in a sustainable method, resulting in reduction of waste. This is a great opportunity for university students to discard textbooks they no longer need, in a sustainable and educational way. The saying really is true “what is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

    Brock University has Textbooks for Change drop boxes across campus at 5 different locations. Click here for an interactive map of the locations. Below is a list of where the drop boxes can be found:

    • Mackenzie Chown A & Taro Hall Hallway
    • Walker Complex – Main Entrance
    • South Hall – 4th floor
    • IRC Library – Welch Hall 2nd floor
    • Entrance of Union Station (opposite Brock Press)

    To date, Brock University’s donations have accumulated to almost 12,000 textbooks, recycled 50,000 pounds of waste and saved 595 trees! As a campus, we can make a difference, even if it’s a small one, in the lives of students in Africa and help positively impact their educational experience!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Summer Wrap-Up: My last week with the ESRC

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Brock Community Garden

    It’s crazy to think that only three months ago I was writing my first blog for the ESRC and Sustainability at Brock, talking about my experiences and expectations after the first week of working in the ESRC.

    Looking back now, it went by fast, but we accomplished quite a bit in such a short amount of time, and I’m really proud of our achievements.

    One of the things I mentioned in my first blog was that I was looking forward to contributing something positive and meaningful to Brock, and I really do feel like I had the opportunity to do this. Over the past few months, we worked on a lot of different research, background documents, and reports, ultimately helping to strengthen sustainability at Brock.

    One of our biggest achievements was the environmental sustainability plan, which outlines Brock’s current sustainability initiatives, sets goals and strategies, and has allowed Brock to receive $7.9 million in provincial funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus. Our efforts have made it possible for Brock to replace outdated equipment in its district energy plant with efficient items that will increase Brock’s energy production capacity, while also significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    But we also worked on several other initiatives. We did a lot of work to help Brock prepare for future long-term planning, and the creation of a campus-wide, long-term sustainability plan. We gathered information on current sustainability initiatives, worked on creating a database to track current and future initiatives, developed an action plan for long-term planning, conducted a SWOT analysis of the current state of sustainability at Brock, completed research on different evaluation tools, wrote a report for Dining Services, and completed several other complementary tasks.

    This research and collection of background documents and reports will be valuable resources for sustainability at Brock going forward.

    Not only do I get to feel good about everything we created, but I can also revel in the knowledge that I gained a lot of valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences in regard to sustainability. As I will be starting in the Sustainability Society and Science Graduate Program in a few weeks, I especially feel grateful for this summer. Working at the ESRC for the summer has helped me get acquainted with Brock, the Centre, ESRC staff and faculty, and my incoming program beforehand, which has given me so much more confidence in starting my program. It has also given me the valuable opportunity to engage with sustainability concepts, and gain insight into how sustainability operates within an institution, the many challenges that arise, and how to go about finding solutions to those challenges.

    While I stand by what I said in May—that there is a lot of good work being done at Brock, but with room for improvement, I have also had a first-hand glimpse into sustainability at Brock, and strongly believe we’re heading into the right direction. A lot of important steps were taken this summer and Brock has impressed me by proving that it is serious about committing to sustainability across campus.

    I will be coming back as one of the two research assistants from the graduate program in the fall and am excited to continue to strengthen sustainability at Brock throughout the 2018/2019 school year.

    Here’s to a bright, green future at Brock!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Reflections on my summer at the ESRC

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    ESRC Summer Students at the CUB

    Photo: Scott Johnstone, AVP Facilities Management with ESRC summer interns Kaitlin James, Shanen D’Souza, Shelby McFadden

    This summer I had the pleasure of working as a summer intern at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. I am super excited and proud of all of the work we’ve accomplished thus far and feel as though myself and the other interns created documents and reports that will be of great assistance to the Research Assistants in the fall when continuing to develop Sustainability at Brock.

    This experience has really helped solidify some of the ideas I had in terms of next steps in my career and academics. I’ve been interested in environmental sustainability for as long as I can remember, but a real-life experience in the field has really been beneficial for me.

    In April of this year, I decided to declare a minor in environmental sustainability to complement my major in Public Health. The two really do go hand in hand, and impact each other in more ways than many people realize! What a better way to start my path in sustainability than by immersing myself in sustainability all summer.

    This summer, myself and the other interns helped create several reports, plans and documents, whilst conducting background research in different areas of sustainability. I really got to immerse myself in all things sustainability, examining areas such as communications, sustainability indicators and rating systems, and helped collect information on Brock’s current state of sustainability on campus which was really interesting—In fact, I actually learnt a lot about initiatives that are ongoing that I’ve never even heard of in my four years at Brock!

    Overall, it was a great experience and allowed me to meet and work with some amazing people and researchers! I definitely appreciate the opportunity I was given and am glad I took it! The Charter allowed for what I think is some great progress towards a more sustainable Brock! I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for what is yet to come in terms of sustainability during my last semesters here at Brock this year!

     

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Checking out the Cogeneration Plant at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    CUB tour with AVP of Facilities Management, Scott Johnstone.

    Photo: Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President Facilities Management, Kaitlin James, Shanen D’Souza and Shelby McFadden

    Working in the ESRC on Sustainability at Brock for the summer has been an enlightening experience, but while one of the things we discuss and do research on is energy, there is only so much you can learn within a typical classroom or office. So, yesterday, geared with our hard hats, ear plugs, and protective glasses, we excitedly followed our guides, Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management, and Drew Cullen, Manager of District Energy, for a tour of the cogeneration plant in the Central Utilities Building. Tucked away at the back of Brock along the escarpment, lies what Cullen refers to as the heart of campus, providing energy, heating, and cooling to the other branches of campus. Seeing all the engines, pumps, and pipes made us realize how much is going on in this building, and how our energy on campus relies on so many coordinating parts. The plant is really amazing, as it produces 85% of Brock’s energy, while also transferring excess heat and cooling across campus.

    As part of a project started in Fall 2016, known as the District Energy Efficiency Project, steps have been taken to make the plant more efficient and sustainable. To date, four of the older engines installed in the 1990’s have been replaced with two high efficiency electrically cooled units that can produce much more energy. The second phase of the project will replace the remaining four engines with two more new units and should be wrapped up by March. These updates will allow the plant to supply 100% of Brock’s energy, while also being 20% more efficient. Furthermore, the annual nitrogen oxide gas emissions will drop from 55 tonnes to 8 tonnes, and non-methane hydrocarbons from 15 tonnes to four. As the plant is currently responsible for over 80% of Brock’s greenhouse gas emissions, these are exciting initiatives to pay attention to.

    Check out the Facilities Management website for more information!

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

  • Farmers’ Market at Jubilee Court

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Brock Farmers' Market

    Want to take a break from a busy day and enjoy your lunch break with some live music, great weather and a chance to buy some fresh produce? The Brock Farmers’ Market at Jubilee Court is the perfect spot to do that!

    Every summer, Brock holds a Farmers’ Market from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm every Thursday in Jubilee Court. There are stalls set up by vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods and handcrafted items. Barbeque lunches can be purchased fresh off the grill, while live music is played at the court. To put it all off, outdoor games such as ladder ball and bag toss are set up to get in some post-lunch fun. Vendors and stalls differ every week, so all attendees have a different experience every Thursday.

    The Farmers’ Market is a great way to build and grow community at Brock. Students, faculty and staff are welcome to enjoy the summer weather at Jubilee Court, while supporting local farmers and businesses. Brock prides itself in buying local whenever possible, especially for raw materials required for the cafeterias around campus. The Farmers’ Market is an added opportunity for the Brock body to help with this cause, while enjoying lunch in the sun!

    Directions to Jubilee Court can be found using Brock’s interactive map.

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

  • Waste Not, Worry Not—Brock’s Got it Covered

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Battery Recycling

    Sitting in the basement of Mackenzie Chown’s G-Block, I scribbled like crazy, trying to document all of the current initiatives and associated numbers for waste collection here on campus. Sitting next to me was Kevin Lawr, supervisor of the day-to-day operations of the Central Shipping/Receiving, Maintenance Stores, and Mail Services departments.

    Though initially confusing to find the office tucked away in the belly of Mackenzie Chown, the meeting was extremely interesting and enlightening, and I ended up walking away with a hopeful feeling.

    The fact is that there are already a lot of great opportunities for recycling and diverting waste on campus, managed by a skilled team of staff and faculty who are enthusiastic about sustainability at Brock.

    But there is still a lot of room to increase our usage of these programs, and it begins by becoming aware of existing opportunities, and spreading the word on to our friends, roommates, and fellow Badgers.

    Batteries, ink cartridges, cell phones, and other electronics are all collected and recycled at Brock, helping to reduce waste and keep dangerous toxins out of our landfill.

    In 2017, Brock recycled approximately 4800 pounds of used batteries! Many departments already have pails, but if you are looking to order a pail for your department, make sure to contact Kevin at klawr@brocku.ca

    Students can also participate by accessing a pail in the nearest department or the North and South Service desks in Decew and the Lowenberger lobby.

    Another opportunity for recycling is with ink cartridges, of which an estimated 500 pounds were recycled last year.

    Faculty and staff can place their cartridges in a box labelled “used cartridge,” and send it to Central Shipping and Receiving through interoffice mail. Students can make use of the pail on the help desk in Computer Commons or in the Campus Store.

    No discussion on recycling programs would be complete without addressing electronics, as they play an increasingly large role in our lives.

    An overwhelming number of items are accepted, from cell phones, tablets, laptops, computer cables and monitors, routers, cameras, speakers, gaming consoles, fans, power tools, etc. Make sure to check Sustainability at Brock’s website to view the list of all accepted items.

    Departments can fill out the following form to send to klawr@brocku.ca, before contacting custodial services to pick up the desired item(s). At this time, there are no collection points for e-waste, but students are encouraged to bring their items down to Central Shipping and Receiving (MC G207). It’s a little bit confusing to find at first, but let’s face it—as students, sometimes we need a mini adventure and excuse to wander around.

    To make it easier, if it’s a cell phone you’re looking to recycle, they can be dropped off at the ITS desk.

    There’s definitely room for improvements in waste management at Brock, but we have to start somewhere, and it’s important to support the existing programs that are already working to do good work. By taking an extra few minutes out of our day, we can demonstrate our commitment to waste reduction, and do a little bit of good.

    To do a lot of good, share this with other Brock students, staff, and faculty, so we can all do our part!

    Look forward to a future blog article on food waste initiatives at Brock!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Walking Trails located around Brock University!

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Bruce Trail - Brock University

    Did you know that Brock is located in the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO Biosphere Reserve?

    UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are ecosystems worldwide that have been recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) as important, and are communities committed to conservation, education, and sustainable development among other things (Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, n.d). Brock University falls within the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere reserve which stretches over 725 km, one of the 18 found within Canada (UNESCO, 2015).

    Within the beautiful Niagara escarpment that surrounds Brock, is the Bruce Trail, which is the longest and oldest hiking trail in Canada. There are so many different trails, short and long, that surround main campus. Perfect for a break between classes or lunch!

    I personally walk the trail that connects to the bottom of Lockhart Drive, right by the Brock University Research and Innovation Centre, which brings you right outside of Market! Just a quick 10-minute hike up the hill to class. What a great way to see some wildlife and get some fresh air!

    There are many access points to the Bruce Trail from the top of the escarpment! To find out more about the Bruce Trail, and the many access points found across campus, click the link below!

    https://brucetrail.org

    References:

    Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. (n.d) UNESCO Biospheres. Retrieved from https://www.gbbr.ca/about-us/unesco-biospheres/

    UNESCO. (2015).  Niagara Escarpment. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/biosphere-reserves/europe-north-america/canada/niagara-escarpment/

     

     

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