Sustainability Week: U of S to publicly commit to sustainability

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With a myriad of issues facing students across the country, from pollution to debt to isolation, important figures at the University of Saskatchewan are set to sign a memorandum that will affirm the university’s commitment to environmental, economic and social sustainability.

On Oct. 11, president Peter Stoicheff and the Sustainability Committee of the U of S Students’ Union will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on sustainability, a document that signifies a pledge to support, promote and champion sustainability initiatives on campus. The signing ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. in the North Concourse of Place Riel.

Renata Huyghebaert, USSU vice-president student affairs, stresses the importance of this memorandum, an agreement that, she says, has been made between few sustainabilitystudent groups and university administrative bodies in Canada.

“We thought it was very important for us as leaders to come together and make a commitment, saying that, ‘Hey, sustainability is very important.’ It’s important for our community and it’s important for our campus and for society as a whole,” Huyghebaert said. “So we will be signing an agreement between both of our parties, not only to say that sustainability is crucial, but also to really strengthen a relationship between students and administration when it comes to sustainability.”

According to Matt Wolsfeld, communication engagement co-ordinator for the U of S Office of Sustainability, the ceremony will also include funding commitments, information about the USSU Sustainability Committee and details about the future of sustainability at the U of S. Following the ceremony, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the Climate Friendly Zone will host a Local Action Workshop.

“[The workshop] will help participants co-ordinate and initiate positive change in their local communities. Participants will learn how to leverage social media to their cause’s advantage, how to lobby municipal government for change and how to engage partners through effective writing campaigns,” Wolsfeld said, in an email to the Sheaf.

The signing ceremony and subsequent workshop marks the beginning of the USSU Sustainability Week, set to run from Oct. 11-14. The week will also feature, on Oct. 12, a speaker series on climate change in Saskatchewan and the significance of how water interacts with landscapes.

On the same day, an art installation, created by senior sculpture students from surplus assets taken from the university’s landfill-bound storage, will be displayed in Place Riel. Various student groups, including Parents on Campus, the Peer Health Mentors and the Environment Studies Student Association, will also host events throughout the week.   

Wolsfeld, also the main organizer of Sustainability Week, explains what the event is all about.

“Campus Sustainability Week is an annual October event where we showcase the successes, programs and issues key to sustainability at the U of S. We highlight student and staff groups, projects and initiatives and bring to life important issues that can be addressed through co-operation and collaboration here on campus,” Wolsfeld said.

Other prominent events include a tour of the Loraas recycling facility on Oct. 13, as well as a campus farmers market and a winter cycling workshop on Oct. 14.

While Huyghebaert is excited for all of these activities, and the memorandum signing in particular, she wants to remind students that they can organize such initiatives themselves by applying to the USSU and the Office of Sustainability’s newly created Sustainability Fund.

The $5,000 fund is dedicated to student initiatives in environmental, social and economic sustainability and is open to all undergraduate students through an online application. According to Huyghebaert, such an initiative could take the form of a building project, yoga in the park, a plan to minimize carbon footprint, a community gathering, a concert, educational art, sustainable investing or anything sustainability related that a student could imagine.

“I definitely think, when students realize they can engage in their communities and that sustainability is about contributing to a better future and that [the USSU is] willing to facilitate that through our fund and through this agreement with the university, that they can really build something lasting and powerful.”

Jessica Klaassen-Wright / News Editor

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor