Monday, December 11, 2017

Environmental explorations: taking a look at Camosun College’s sustainability initiatives

October 29, 2014 by Pascale Archibald, contributing writer

Camosun College recently released a sustainability report outlining the college’s efforts to reduce the environmental impact of operation. The 35-page report is full of interesting projects and governance initiatives happening on both campuses, but college administrators and environmentally conscious students on campus say there’s more that can be done.

Understandably, the sustainability report places particular emphasis on certain projects that involved the direct application of skills and training obtained at the college. Lynn Bartle, manager of environmental sustainability, transportation, and parking at Camosun, had a hand in the creation of the report and cites 13 different sustainability projects (called Living Labs) as the most interesting aspects of the report. These include projects such as composting, rainwater harvesting, and solar-power technology at the college.

“I find that the most exciting projects are the Living Lab projects, where students, staff, and faculty all work together to do something for the college,” says Bartle.

There are many more sustainability initiatives that have been implemented behind the scenes. In addition, the report boasts an impressive amount of student-learning opportunities in regards to sustainable technologies.

But while it’s easy to celebrate a report filled with impressive stats and catchy project names, some say it’s only a beginning.

Behind the green curtain

When president of Camosun Students for Environmental Awareness Stephanie Hurst read the Camosun report, she noticed something missing.

“Camosun has recently started a lot of really good initiatives toward reducing our carbon footprint, but I think we could do more, especially in regards to not just how students get here, but also how the staff and faculty get here,” she says. “Staff have their own parking lots, and maybe a reduction to the amount of parking they have access to and promotion of carpooling, cycling, or public transit would be good.”

Are Camosun College’s sustainability initiatives enough? (Photo by Jill Westby/Nexus.)

Hurst isn’t the only one who thinks there is more to do at Camosun. There are many more opportunities for the college to make sustainable changes in how they operate, agrees Bartle.

“There is always more to do; we wouldn’t have a job if there was nothing else left to do,” says Bartle. “I think that the college has made a substantial start in moving towards sustainability, but there is always more that we can do.”

Environmental sustainability at Camosun may not be a new idea, but it certainly played a small role in the vision of Camosun up until quite recently. It was only in 2012 that the college’s Office of Environmental Sustainability was created and the initial development of the first Sustainability Plan began.

The Sustainability Plan differs from the college’s annual Sustainability Report in that it sets important metrics and targets to show that the college is moving forward, says Bartle.

“It’s basically just saying that we are assessing what we are doing already, or what we have done, and we’re making sure that we are moving forward toward a more sustainable institution,” she says.

Camosun is just now starting the shift in how its business is run toward a more environmentally focused approach, something the University of Victoria has been doing for quite some time.

Neil Connelly is UVic’s Director of Sustainability, and he and his colleagues work in the university’s Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability. It’s a different title than Camosun’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, but it’s essentially the same thing.

“Campus Planning and Sustainability goes back here with UVic to the late 1990s,” says Connelly. “It sort of started through student initiatives and interest to advance sustainability on campus, and it started with one individual who worked with our facilities manager department. Then, in 2006, we transformed into our own little office with two sustainability coordinators and myself.”

Understandably, UVic is farther along the environmental path than Camosun is, and recently received a gold rating from the Association for the Advancement and Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

AASHE is a resource centre for educational institutions that wish to adopt environmentally sustainable practices. In addition, the organization has a sustainable tracking, assessment, and rating system, also known as STARS. With this rating system, an institution can receive Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum. Camosun College is not yet listed in the STARS rating system.

The future of sustainability

It seems like the adoption of an environmentally focused business strategy is not only good for the environment, but also good for business. In light of the global awareness of climate change and the ever-increasing need for green technologies, environmental training will come along with that future.

Camosun has already implemented new learning opportunities involving alternative energy technology into their curriculum. The best examples of this integration can be seen at Interurban, with courses in clean technology in the pipe trades and an introductory class in solar electricity: photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal.

An understanding of future educational needs can also be seen in the Sustainability Plan. This 21-page report has one main theme: environmental awareness. It includes long-term goals such as a declaration that by 2025 Camosun will be a college that excels in environmental sustainability innovation.

Only time will tell whether Camosun can meet its target, but what’s important is the overall attitude toward environmental awareness. In the report’s President’s Welcome, Camosun then-president Kathryn Laurin had this to say: “The Sustainability Plan was initiated in support of Camosun College’s Strategic Plan and further driven by an overwhelming desire to reduce the college’s environmental impact, as well as embed sustainability into the curriculum to promote life-changing experiences to our students.”

“We will strive to integrate sustainability into all teaching and learning,” Laurin continued, “and engage students with real-life experiences in support of the college’s initiative to reduce its environmental impact and be a leader in sustainability innovation.”

Camosun comes alive

Camosun manager of environmental sustainability, transportation, and parking Lynn Bartle says she thinks a series of Living Labs are the most exciting projects in Camosun’s recent sustainability report. Here are a few of the 13 projects that students, staff, and faculty are working on together.

Solar power charging station

The college installed a 4KW Solar Photovoltaic array at the Interurban Campus to offset the charging of electric vehicles, bikes, scooters, grounds-keeping golf carts, and battery-powered hand tools. The energy provided by the array feeds power directly into Camosun’s electrical grid and is fully monitored, along with the energy consumed by the various charging stations.

Solar-powered Environmental Technology field project

A solar-power generator and solar panel were purchased to store solar energy for use at the Environmental Technology (ET) spring camp as a charging station for student electronics and as a teaching tool. Some ET students proposed an idea to create laptop-docking stations that would use solar power as their final project.

100 percent bio-diesel from cafeteria waste

In 2010, with President’s Funds grant money, the Environmental Technology and Chemistry programs in the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Plumbing and Pipe Trades programs in the School of Trades and Technology, began producing bio-diesel on campus. Staff from Facilities Services assembled a bio-diesel generation plant that produces 100 percent bio-diesel from waste cooking oil from the Lansdowne and Interurban cafeterias and Dunlop House restaurant.

Brainy drains

In 2013, Mechanical Engineering faculty at Camosun’s Centre for Applied Research and Innovation developed an oil sensor and wireless communication system as part of a hydrocarbon capture and remote monitoring system development project. Seven remotely monitored oil-barrier systems have been installed into storm drains at Royal Roads University, and the work was done in conjunction with Royal Roads and Petro Barrier Systems Inc. (PBS). The drain system captures and immobilizes any oil, gasoline, or solvents that come from large spills, or that wash off roadways and parking lots, preventing them from entering storm water systems and polluting waterways and estuaries.

Compost program initiative

A sustainable organic waste compost system has been developed at both campuses. At Lansdowne, Environmental Technology students and Facilities Services installed 22 green cone digesters, resulting in the diversion of an average of 700 litres of organics per month from the waste stream in 2013. A similar program was implemented at Interurban involving six cone digesters installed in October of 2013. The square green compost bins can be found throughout both campuses at most waste stations.

Rainwater harvesting

Rainwater that is currently entering the municipal stormwater system is harvested and used by the Cross Connection lab in the plumbing shop for washing floors and for plumbing mock-ups. Purchase of a storage tank and pumping treatment equipment was supported by the 2012 President’s Funds grant.

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