For the University of Saskatchewan’s Office of Sustainability, the former seems to be the case. The U of S has been increasing commitments to making the campus more environmentally friendly, and the Office of Sustainability plays a large role in that.
In a national report card of campus sustainability, ranking 19 different Canadian universities, the University of Saskatchewan scored a C+ rating. Only three other universities are at the same rank or lower.
Alex Ferwerda, U of S students’ union vice-president of student affairs, was not surprised by the ranking but said the university is doing what it can to solve the problem.
“Something recently released was a greenhouse gas emissions report…. The university has decided to match 2006 [carbon dioxide] emissions in 2020,” he said.
This may not seem like a lot, though previous, more ambitious goals were slightly unrealistic. In 2008, for example, the university announced that they would be reducing campus waste by 90 per cent by 2012. That, as you might have guessed, fell far short.
“With this [initiative], because it is endorsed by the vice-president of finance [Richard Florizone], it will be a little more binding,” he said. “One of the problems that was discussed was whether this was a realistic goal given that the university is going to continue to be expanding, so it’s going to be difficult.”
However, Ferwerda remains optimistic. The Office of Sustainability currently works through the Facilities Management Division. But, they have been working on severing that tie and becoming their own independent office. Despite not being fully independent, they have made headway in more convenient sustainability. He cited the recent move to single-bin recycling, where no sorting is required. He also mentioned the bike repair stand near the Arts Building, which gives cyclists a chance to keep their bikes tuned up.
You might be asking yourself whether it’s really such a good idea to ride a bike in a Canadian February.
Ferwerda motioned to the bike helmet on his desk before saying, “In my opinion, it is. It’s a question of culture and values. In our current urban planning system, our cities are built for cars. You just need some studded tires and some sweet gear.”
In closing, he emphasized the value of student co-operation, saying that sustainability initiatives can’t work from the top down. He cited a recent move by the University of Toronto to ban bottled water on campus, providing drinking fountains suitable for refilling bottles as an alternative. The student body was not on board with the plan and eventually lobbied to get the ban repealed.
“The point is that it is very important for [change] to come from the bottom, the people, and also those who are leading. You can’t just convince someone by just doing something, you have to convince them by showing. We can be a leader by showing it is something that can be done.”
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/Photo Editor