Al Unwin, co-chair of NC’s Sustainability Committee and Academic Chair of the College’s School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies, presents Environment Minister Jim Bradley with an NC Sustainability jersey at an event held to celebrate the Wine Visitor + Education Centre’s newly achieved Carbonzero Certified Status.
College president Dan Patterson announces NC’s exciting environmental news at the Wine Visitor + Education Centre on Jan. 7.
Niagara College got a green start to 2013.
On Jan. 7, the Wine Visitor + Education Centre was announced as the first postsecondary educational facility in Canada to earn Carbonzero Certified status. The certification means that carbon emissions resulting from the WVEC’s operations have been quantified, audited and offset.
“Environmental sustainability is a key strategic priority for us,” said president Dan Patterson. “We offer comprehensive programs in environmental education, and we support a region that is looking to renewable technologies as a key economic opportunity. It is important that we lead by example through innovation and build a responsible, sustainable college community.”
A celebration was held at the Centre which drew Environment Minister Jim Bradley, representatives from Walker Industries, Carbonzero and other dignitaries.
Environment Minister Bradley, who addressed the crowd at the event and was presented with a NC green sustainability jersey, congratulated the College for its efforts.
“Niagara College has been an outstanding leader, not only in environmental education, but in environmental innovation and in the areas of ideas and research,” he said. “This is a great advantage to not only to those who reside in the Niagara region but to our province and our country.”
The path to NC’s Carbonzero Certified status
NC’s Carbonzero certification was achieved by working with the Walker Environmental Group – a division of Walker Industries that has created a carbon neutral building service with a vision of making sustainable building operations more accessible for small- and medium-sized businesses and organizations. Over the spring and summer, Walker Environmental Group worked with students and stakeholders to identify opportunities to reduce emissions onsite. A building operations greenhouse gas inventory was conducted at the WVEC and reviewed by Carbonzero – Canada’s leading carbon offset provider and public registry.
With the purchase of Carbon offsets, the WVEC earned its Carbonzero certification for carbon neutral building operations. The price was covered from revenue generated through the College’s participation in the provincial government’s Feed in Tariff program. Thousands of dollars in revenue each year is generated by 500 solar panels at the College’s Welland Campus.
Greenhouse gas inventories will also be conducted at the WVEC every year to ensure the WVEC remains carbon neutral and to provide more opportunities to improve.
“We are honoured to welcome the Niagara College Wine Visitor + Education Centre as the first Carbonzero Certified educational institution in Canada,” said Dan Fraleigh, chief operating officer of Carbonzero. “The College’s diligent approach to sustainability and its commitment to the environment will continue to put it on the map as a high quality destination for postsecondary education for many years to come.”
“We are proud to have been part of the WVEC’s journey to Carbonzero Certified,” said Kirsten Groody, manager of Business Support for the Walker Environmental Group. “We appreciated the opportunity to work with students to quantify the facility’s greenhouse gas impact, identify energy efficiency opportunities and use carbon as a driver for continuous environmental improvement.”
Mike Watt, VP, Walker Industries Inc., thanked the College, Dan Patterson and the Sustainability Committee.
“We look forward to using this as a model not just for more facilities here at the College, but also in Niagara and beyond,” he said.
Planting the seeds of sustainability
Al Unwin, co-chair of the College’s Sustainability Committee and Academic chair of the College’s School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies, noted that sustainability was incorporated into Niagara College’s Strategic Plan in 2009, which led to the formation of the Sustainability Committee. Having a better understanding of the College’s environmental impacts has been a key goal of the committee. In 2011, the committee established goals in five areas to be achieved in five years – waste diversion (by 65%, which ws achieved in 2012), water consumption (by 5%), electricity consumption (by 10%), paper consumption (by 50%) and greenhouse gas emissions (by 10%).
Unwin pointed out that students from the College’s Environmental Management and Assessment program have played a vital role in NC’s progress.
“They will continue to assist with the calculations and collection of date to further NC’s inventories of environmental impacts and work towards reducing the College’s consumption of fuel and electricity, resulting in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Celebrating our progress
President Patterson applauded the student role in achieving the certification, and everyone involved in the College’s sustainability movement.
“It does take a team,” he said. “It’s been a total commitment to make a difference, personally and as an organization, and today is a great manifestation of that.”
The Carbonzero certification, he said, is an achievement made possible by working together with industry partners Walker Industries and Carbonzero.
“It also speaks to the important role we believe we play in environmental issues,” he said.
Patterson also spoke of how the announcement is another example of education stepping up to make a difference.
“This initiative is a great example of the power of applied learning at NC,” he said. “Our environmental students have been directly involved with the audits and measurements, providing invaluable experience that is highly valued by companies seeking skilled graduates.”
The fact that NC has already begun to make strides was also demonstrated by Patterson, who spoke of the College’s ban on the sale of plastic water bottles since September 2012. With new hydration stations on campus to keep track of water refills, NC has already saved more than 54,232 plastic water bottles from being used since September.
Patterson noted that more exciting initiatives will be underway in 2013.
“This is just the beginning.”
Kirsten Groody, manager of Business Support for the Walker Environmental Group, takes the podium (left), along with Dan Fraleigh, COO, Carbonzero (right).
Pictured from left: Dan Patterson (president, Niagara College), Mike Watt (VP Walker Industries Inc.), Minister of Environment Jim Bradley, Al Unwin (co-chair of NC’s Sustainability Committee,), Kirsten Groody (Business Manager, Renewable Energy from Walker Environmental Group) and Dan Fraleigh (Chief Operating Officer of Carbonzero).