Blog Posts

  • Fighting the Climate Emergency

    Blog Contributor: Noah Nickel

    Each day it appears that the future of our planet seems to be more dire than the day before. While to some that might sound hyperbolic, for anyone following the news, they know this to be true. Day in and day out we hear about another animal being added to the endangered species list, another that has gone extinct entirely, and a plethora of scientific studies that say we have been underestimating the impact of the climate crisis on our environment.

    Additionally, we cannot ignore the recent flooding events that we have seen in our local region and throughout the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, as they have prompted declarations of emergency throughout these provinces. This type of news seems to come up incredibly often, always increasing in regularity and in the severity of rhetoric, implicating our societies and their inability to effectively act on this issue.

    While our situation on earth appears to be reaching its final turning point before we are guaranteed a harsh fallout as a direct result of the ever-worsening climate crisis, this reality has seemingly struck a chord with a large swath of the general population, especially young people. Across Canada, the United States, and beyond, we have seen countless school walkouts, organized demonstrations, and even attempts at lobbying elected officials by high school and university students in an act to raise awareness for and force institutional action to address the climate crisis – something that has never been seen before on this scale.

    That is what makes me so excited about working with the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre here at Brock University, because I think young people are in an ideal position to bring about institutional change within their schools, their public institutions, and their governments to combat the climate crisis head on unlike ever before. I believe that the ESRC is in a unique position within this fight, as they possess the ability to organize events and influence individual decisions to live more sustainably, while also having the institutional, national, and even international connections to have a broader impact on large scale sustainability efforts. This means that they can affect not only individual actions, but our collective action and discourse regarding environmental sustainability and climate change.

    Regarding their individual and community impact, on International Women’s Day this past year, the ESRC, in collaboration with Facilities Management, hosted a Women in Sustainability panel event. The event touched on both the barriers that women in environmental sustainability face today as well as the amazing contributions they have and will continue to make in the field of environmental sustainability and in the fight against climate change.

    On an institutional level, the ESRC was instrumental in securing $7.9 million in funding from the Ontario government through the Greenhouse Gas Campus Retrofits Program to replace Brock’s co-generation engines that produce electricity and provide heating and cooling on campus. The replacement engines will reduce Brock’s annual nitrogen oxide gas emissions from 55 tonnes to just 8 tonnes and will consume 26% less fuel.

    I hope that through my time with the ESRC I am able to further engage my peers in issues of environmental sustainability and the fight against climate change, while also highlighting and contributing to the efforts that the ESRC makes on an institutional level at Brock, as well as on the national stage, to reduce harmful emissions, alter our wasteful practices, and ultimately shift our national discourse on the environment and climate change.

    It’s clear that the climate emergency has motivated a generation, and I believe that we must channel that energy into productive initiatives that will bring about the change that we as young people hope to see in the world. This isn’t simply a personal goal, it’s an international imperative, as our future truly does depend on our ability to act, and act quickly.

    Categories: Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Community BBQ in Jubilee Court

    Brock Farmers' Market

    Blog Contributor: Noah Nickel

    Want to take a break from a busy day and enjoy your lunch break with great weather and some great barbecue? The Brock Community BBQ at Jubilee Court is the perfect spot to do that!

    Every summer, Brock holds a Community BBQ from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm every Thursday in Jubilee Court. The fresh BBQ offerings differ every week, so all attendees have a different experience every Thursday.

    The Community BBQ 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. Brock prides itself in buying local whenever possible, especially for raw materials required for the cafeterias around campus. The Community BBQ 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: Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • NOTL Banning Single Use Plastics

    Blog Contributor: Noah Nickel

    Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

    A few weeks ago, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Town Council voted to ban single-use plastics from their town facilities. While this is a newer trend in the Niagara Region, it simply can’t be ignored. This ground breaking decision to come from a sleepy farm town like Niagara-on-the-Lake speaks to how the lived impacts of the climate emergency are reaching people where they are at, wherever that may be, and how its sparking real institutional change.

    The increasing regularity of flooding is one of the key reasons cited by town councillor Norm Arsenault as to why he brought this motion forward. Having lived in the Niagara Region my entire, albeit short, life, I had not once seen any considerable long-term flooding since I could remember. However, now just within the last 3 years, we have had two seasons of record high water levels in Lake Ontario, resulting in weeks-long floods. This flooding has not been without consequence either, as many lakefront properties and public spaces such as Lakeside Park, for example, have not been able to open for the summer season on schedule, to the detriment of thousands of St. Catharines and Niagara residents.

    While perhaps it may seem too abstract to some, as the correlation between rising water levels and banning single-use plastics may seem extraneous at best, the fact of the matter is that due to the scale of the climate crisis as we see it today, any and all institutional actions that reduce waste, encourage and facilitate greater levels of recycling, and commit to using renewable and low carbon energy sources are all great examples of the bold institutional initiatives that need to be implemented if we want to change course for the better.

    As Councillor Arsenault noted in his report on single use plastics, an estimated 4,000 plastic bags and about 20,000 plastic straws are used daily in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which should not be taken lightly. While a ban of single-use plastics at town facilities won’t eliminate this waste entirely, it is a crucial first step in changing the conversation and culture around single-use plastics amongst residents and tourists; this is why this type of change is so important.

    If there is any hope of changing the course of our climate emergency for the better, we will have to attempt to change our institutions from within in order to truly impact the communal, national, and international conversation on climate change, and this decision is a great example of that. Similarly, the recent announcement by the federal government to commit to similarly banning single use plastics on a federal level by as early as 2021 is another great example of this, albeit on a national scale.

    While attempting to live a more sustainable life as an individual is a worthwhile thing to do, it is essentially like putting the cart before the horse. This is because not only is making any and all drastic lifestyle changes as a lone actor incredibly difficult, it will not have the cultural or environmental effect that we need it to in order to spark greater action on this issue.

    However, when we are able to change our governments, our laws, our public spaces, and business practices to make more sustainable choices and to promote sustainability, this has a knock-on effect on our culture – and thus the lives of individual people – as we can focus the community, national, and international conversation on the climate crisis, and how we as individuals can do our part by leading more sustainable lives.

    In other words, we can’t only be the change that we want to see in the world, we have to fight for it, too.

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    Categories: Student Contributor, Sustainability

  • Brock’s Schmon Tower to be illuminated in colour

    A new nighttime look is on its way for Brock’s signature building.

    Since its construction in 1968, the Schmon Tower has been a key component of the University’s landscape and is visible on a clear day from miles around.

    But with the help of a new LED lighting system, the 13-storey landmark will soon be just as eye-catching at night.

    On Canada Day, Sunday, July 1, the University will flip the switch on the new system, which will cast colourful lights down all four sides of the building.

    “People might remember the Tower’s original white ribbon lights, which were decommissioned almost 10 years ago,” said Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management. “They used a lot of energy and were literally falling apart. They had reached their end of life.”

    When the lights went out, Brock heard from community members who wanted to see them return.

    “We heard a lot from people, especially boaters and marine folk who liked to see the Tower from out in Lake Ontario,” Johnstone said. “People in general seem to like looking at the escarpment and seeing the Tower lights.”

    Residential-style floodlights were installed as a temporary fix while staff worked to find a more suitable and affordable option.

    Recent years brought a drop in the price of energy efficient lighting, which has allowed the University to now purchase a Philips Color Kinetics high-performance system. The new technology offers a full rainbow of colour options and light show possibilities.

    Beginning with a red and white light display for Canada Day, the Tower will be lit up in the evenings with colours changed for holidays and special occasions throughout the year.

    “It’s great that we’re able to do different things for special days, but at the end of the day we’re still saving a considerable amount of energy from the original lights, using almost 10 times less energy,” Johnstone said.

    The new lighting system adds to the dozens of energy saving projects, both large and small, that are underway across campus, he said.

    “They all count towards lowering the University’s carbon footprint and increasing our energy efficiency.”

    Story originally published in The Brock News


    Categories: Sustainability at Brock

  • Fair Trade Campus!

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Did you know that Brock University is a Fair-Trade Campus? Brock became Canada’s sixth Fair Trade Campus in 2013 and is the second university in Ontario to be designated by Fairtrade Canada after Guelph.

    In fact, in 2015 Brock was named Fair Trade Campus of the Year.

    So, what is fair trade? Fair trade aims to create a relationship between producers and consumers that is mutually beneficial. It uses support from consumers to influence and drive business towards increased social and environmental sustainability.

    Dining Services at Brock is dedicated to building these relationships by providing fair trade products such as coffee, tea, dairy milk chocolate and Camino products in campus stores and vending machines. They also integrate sustainability into their daily operations by supporting local businesses; providing cage free eggs, buying locally, using recyclable and biodegradable packaging and provide biodegradable take-out containers.

    Every year starting at the end of May until the end of summer, Brock holds a weekly farmers’ market in Jubilee Court every Thursday. This provides students and staff with access to produce, farmers and bakeries, while supporting local vendors and economy.

    As you can see Brock provides various fair-trade products across campus!

    To find out more, check out the Brock website in the link below!

    https://brocku.ca/sustainability/initiatives/fair-trade/

  • 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: Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Brock’s tunnel bikes find new home

    After years of dedicated service to the University, a fleet of subterranean bicycles are finally seeing the light of day.

    Due to a new water main installation that will cause height restrictions, Facilities Management staff at Brock are no longer able to ride bikes through the tunnels running underneath the University.

    The bikes had been used to speed up staff members’ ability to travel throughout the lengthy tunnel system (restricted to staff only) as they completed various maintenance projects around campus.

    Rather than send the bikes to a landfill, the Facilities Management and Campus Security teams were able to find a more acceptable way to pass along the two-wheeled treasures.

    On Friday, June 15, more than 20 of the bikes were donated to Port Colborne High School’s Broken Spoke program.

    The program aims to engage students in the understanding and benefits of refurbishing bicycles to provide enjoyment and transportation for themselves and those less fortunate while also reducing landfill waste.

    Once the bikes have been refurbished, they will be donated to those in need, and have, in the past, been sent to places as far away as Haiti, Cuba and Africa.

    Story from The Brock News

  • 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: Student Contributor, Study Sustainability at Brock, Sustainability at Brock

  • Exciting Scholarship Opportunity for Brock’s Environmental Sustainability students!

    By: Shanen D’Souza

    Toromont CAT Scholarship Presentation

    Photo: Cheque presentation by ToromontCAT representatives to Scott Johnstone, AVP Facilities Management and Dr.Ingrid Makus, Dean of FOSS at the reopening of Theal House in February 2018.

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) along with Brock Facilities Management is offering $5,000 in scholarships for the upcoming year! ToromontCAT Construction donated these funds to the University to encourage and foster sustainability education and research at Brock.

    For students enrolled in the Master of Sustainability program, three scholarships of $1,000 each will be awarded to students in good academic standing. The three designations are as follows: one current student in Scheme A, one current student in Scheme B and one incoming student who will begin studies in the Fall of 2018. For students who have declared a Minor in Environmental Sustainability, two scholarships of $1,000 each will be awarded to students in good academic standing.

    For more information on the scholarships and applications please visit our website.

    This scholarship is another indicator of the quality research and education that is carried out through these Environmental Sustainability courses. It also displays Brock’s commitment to becoming a national leader in sustainability, while striving to create beneficial educational opportunities for its students. According to Ryan Plummer, Professor and Director of the ESRC, these scholarships recognize as well as support excellence in Environmental Sustainability.

    Applications include an essay question to be answered in 1500 words or less and the applicant’s unofficial transcripts. All completed applications must be submitted via email by August 22, 2018 by 11:59pm to sustainability@brocku.ca. Successful recipients will be notified via email by September 7, 2018.

    Categories: Student Contributor, Study Sustainability at Brock, Sustainability at Brock

  • Milestones achieved by Facilities Management at Brock!

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Brock Engine Room at the CUB

    Photo: Engine room at the Central Utilities Building, Brock University

    Facilities Management (FM) is the department responsible for all activities related to the maintenance, operations and development of Brock’s facilities and grounds. The department is heavily focused on sustainable development and the functioning of the campus. FM is always looking to reduce its impact on the environment and community around us. The recent grant of $75,000 awarded to Brock by the Ontario government to install 10 new electric vehicle charging stations is a testament to FM’s continued work towards Brock becoming a more sustainable campus.

    In the past year, the efforts of Facilities Management have reduced the energy consumption of the university as well as its greenhouse gas emissions. These efforts have also created thousands of dollars of yearly savings for the university. Installing new Variable Frequency Drives to two return fans in the Schmon Tower has led to over $86,000 in savings and 456,000 kWh in energy saved! These frequency drives coupled with a new high efficiency motor reduce the energy consumption of the Tower, the most used building on campus. Even a simple change in the LED lighting in both the 1st and 5th floors of the Tower have resulted in annual savings of over $3,000 and 17,000 kWh in energy.

    Another notable initiative by FM was the recommissioning of the Chiller in the Plaza building. A chiller is a machine that is used to cool the various buildings on campus. By using the Central Cooling Loop on campus instead, FM was able to shut down the Plaza chiller, as the Central Loop provided the necessary cooling on its own using innovative engineering methods. This has resulted in over $82,000 in annual savings and 435,000 kWh saved of energy. Subsequently, recommissioning the electric boilers in Decew Residence is now saving the university $140,000 annually and reducing energy consumption by 75,000 kWh!

    These proactive projects, along with several others in the last year, have cumulatively saved 1,750,000 kWh of energy and $332,000 on an annual basis! As the Facilities Management department leads Brock’s structural initiatives towards sustainability, the campus as a whole, can reduce its environmental impact and continue to be a good social citizen in the community.

    Categories: Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock