From mitigating emissions to student hackathons, sustainability has taken hold on campus. Given the importance of addressing global climate change, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions to help reduce USask’s carbon footprint is a focus of efforts throughout the university.
“More than 85 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are directly related to energy consumption in buildings,” said Kevin Hudson, energy and emissions officer in the Office of Sustainability. “If the university wants to reduce its emissions, there is no target more worthwhile than reducing energy use in our buildings.”
Recent years have been a testing ground for renewable energy potential on campus. Both of the university’s solar arrays have set records for monthly energy production this year and investigations are underway to identify new opportunities for renewable energy around campus.
When it comes to waste, the university is working on a formal organics strategy. Culinary Services and the USask grounds department’s collaborative food waste dehydrator initiative at Marquis Hall has been a successful first step, helping to turn close to 150,000 pounds (68,040 kg) of food waste per year into compost used across campus, while also resulting in cost savings for the university. USask’s sustainability successes also including saving water through a variety of new initiatives across campus.
Outside of operations, the Office of Sustainability engages the USask community through programs and events focused on learning and awareness. Their educational workshops are available to book free of charge by anyone interested. The Sustainability Living Lab also helps connect students to funding and staff resources to shape campus through their coursework. Students looking to take on projects or initiatives independent of their studies also have access to funding through the USSU Sustainability Committee, which funds students looking to address campus sustainability issues.
The sustainability office hosts a number of events throughout the year to bring awareness and action to campus sustainability issues. EcoHack, the province’s first environment- and sustainability-focused hackathon, took place October 4-5, with 70 USask students participating and connecting with community partners to solve real world problems. This week’s Campus Sustainability Week events also included cycling and zero waste workshops, the ART*Cycled sculpture exhibition, and a special edition of the campus Farmers’ Market.
Currently, the Office of Sustainability is preparing the university’s 2020 Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) submission. This report covers all areas of campus sustainability and assigns a rating based on total points. USask currently maintains a Silver STARS rating from its most recent 2017 report. Regardless of the STARS rating, the sustainability office is hopeful for the future.
“There are many projects, studies, and discussions underway to make the campus future-ready and sustainable for decades to come,” said Bill Hale, manager of Facilities Sustainability and Engineering. “It will take dedication, thoughtful planning, tough decisions and hard work, but we can absolutely become the university the world needs while maintaining sustainability as a pillar of our great institution.”