Office of Sustainability provides opportunities for students

By in News

March 2016 will mark the second annual Energy Conservation Month at the University of Saskatchewan and the Office of Sustainability is working to get students more involved in the initiative through numerous energy-saving programs.

One of the practices of Energy Conservation Month is to dedicate time to reflect on the past years’ successes in order to critique and improve upon current programs and services surrounding energy conservation on campus. For the Office of Sustainability, this entails reaching out through social media and generally spreading awareness of how energy can be used more efficiently and how it affects the environment.

Matt Wolsfeld, community engagement co-ordinator for the Office of Sustainability, explains how the U of S is combating waste and promoting sustainability.

“The Office of Sustainability is in charge of the university’s recycling programs, so we handle all sorts of recycling and waste reduction efforts on campus. It’s a single stream recycling program just like the city has, so everything goes into one bin and everything gets sorted on Loraas’ end once they pick it up,” Wolsfeld said.

Leaving the sorting to recycling and waste management company, Loraas, allows for bins that do not confuse patrons with too many compartments.

According to Wolsfeld, there has been some miscommunication via mismatched recycling bins and posters around campus and the Office of Sustainability is looking to create a more unified recycling program to remedy this issue for U of S students and staff.

The office is also working toward installing a food dehydrator in Marquis Hall as well as a composting program. However, due to the complexity of providing composting to a larger facility like the U of S, it will take some time to come into effect.

In 2015, the Office of Sustainability also initiated the Campus Sustainability Revolving Fund made possible through a one million dollar backing by the U of S.

“It’s supposed to fund sustainability initiatives around campus that are set to see returns on their investment. For example switching out regular lighting to LED lighting in a specific area, which we’d see general energy reductions at the time which would save us money on that front and replacement costs which would save us money there,” Wolsfeld said.

The revolving aspect of this fund is that each successive investment will not only return money to the fund, but it will also stimulate growth of the fund, which is open to anyone on campus who is willing to process an application and present a financially sound endeavour.

If students have a smaller scale idea in mind, that might not necessarily see returns on their investment, there is a stipulation in the fund allowing for smaller amounts to be attributed to those initiatives.

U of S students may also reap the benefits of the Office of Sustainability Living Lab, which includes a variety of supports for student research in energy conservation.

“Essentially if you are a part of a program that has a capstone project, say an honours research project … we help connect you with the right faculty members or the right people around campus to help you do your thing, grant you all the resources and support we have and, in some cases, even funding,” Wolsfeld said.

An example of a project from the Living Lab that will be making a return in fall of 2016 is the farmer’s market that took place in the Agriculture Building during the 2016 winter term.

Wolsfeld explains that there are many ways to get involved with sustainability and to ensure financial resources are being put to use in a way that will not negatively impact the future.

“People kinda get caught up in the environmental side of it; it’s important, though, that sustainability involves environmental, social and economic sides. Social sustainability in terms of food security and rights to life. Economic sustainability in terms of long term investments.”

Jack Thompson