That’s when the committee hopes to achieve its newly set environmental targets, which were announced Dec. 6 at launch events held at both the Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake campuses. As part of the announcement, the college encouraged students and staff to sign an online sustainability pledge and launched its new sustainability website (NiagaraCollege.ca/sustainability).
NC’s Sustainability Committee, made up of a cross-section of staff, students, and faculty, outlined the college’s sustainability goals for the next three years: Achieving a 65% waste diversion rate, reducing paper consumption by 50%, reducing carbon emissions and electricity use by 10%, and reducing water consumption by 5%. The committee identified the college’s environmental impacts before establishing its targets. Some of them are equivalent to those set by the Niagara Region or the Niagara Sustainability Initiative (NSI), a not-for-profit organization focused on reducing carbon emissions, enhancing sustainability and improving economic performance.
While confident that the college will meet its goals, the committee noted that achieving its goals will require a cultural shift at the college.
Steve Hudson, acting president of Niagara College, noted the college has been working on the initiative for a few years. Sustainability was identified one of the college’s key initiatives in the 2009-2015 strategic plan and formed the basis for most of the redevelopment at the Welland campus, including solar panels on rooftops, geothermal heating and energy efficient new buildings.
“It’s a key agenda for us, not only for those students who are in the sustainability or environmental programs, but for everybody,” he said. “We all know it’s the future for our world and certainly our country.”
Evan DiValentino, executive director of the Niagara Sustainability Initiative which partnered with NC earlier this year, said the announcement was very exciting. DiValentino, who is also a college faculty member and a NC grad, noted that the initiative is not just for the environmental students, but spans all disciplines and sectors. He said this new commitment from the college will also open doors to new student opportunities.
“When you see big banks, financial institutions, commercial businesses, public sector, private sector, committing to sustainability, what it says is that businesses think environmental sustainability is important,” he said. “Now you have the opportunity to get involved with these projects here at the school before you leave, expanding on your expertise … The opportunity is there for students to help not just the community and the college but to help themselves.”
Stefan Johnson, executive VP for SAC at the NOTL campus, asked students to join him in signing the pledge.
“With the tools, the NSC has given to us, we can provide the wind of change for the Niagara region,” he said.
At the Welland campus, Amy Cain, student representative for SAC and co-founders of SESC (Student Environmental Sustainability Committee) also encouraged students to sign the pledge and take action.
“If we don’t start somewhere, we never will get change,” she said. “The thing I love the most about NC is the fact that it’s a community and we do everything together. Our school should be the ambassador of sustainability efforts … We have the ability, the potential and the amazing intellectual minds here at Niagara College.”
The announcement was well-received by students who attended the launch events.
Rebecca Power, second-year Hospitality Hotel Restaurant Management student said she recognizes the importance of sustainability.
“People today can be so naïve and ignorant about sustainability … they just don’t realize the importance of it, so I think it’s great to create awareness,” she said.
Jason Deavy, first-year environmental technician student, was happy to sign the pledge.
“I think it’s a great initiative,” he said. “Signing your name is a great commitment but just a first step. What’s really more important is the action afterwards.
NC has already taken several strides to reduce its environmental impact. It has incorporated HVAC upgrades and new sustainable technologies into its $90-million campus redevelopment, completed earlier this year, and recently implemented a new organics strategy.
Now that the targets have been set, the Sustainability Committee also plans to establish additional strategies to help the college reach its goals. Plans are already in the works to launch recycling and paper reduction campaigns in 2012.