Raise your GPA (that is: your Green Particip-Action)

Rachel Deloughery and Emma Kiley, Sustainability columnists

You have been at Dalhousie for about a week now and are probably starting to wonder what kind of wicked, awesome sustainability stuff goes on at Dal, and how you can get involved. Or maybe you’re secretly wondering what this sustainability business is all about (and what the heck “sustainability” even means). As your new ‘Sustainability Columnists’, we’re going to take a shot at answering some of those questions each week, and hopefully by reading along you’ll discover some part of sustainability that matters to you!

To find out about what the upcoming year holds, sustainability-wise, we talked to some of the people responsible for making 2010/11 Dal’s greenest year yet.

Rochelle Owen is the Director of the University’s Office of Sustainability, which was formed in 2008. From its position within the administration, the Office is responsible for implementing the “walk” that matches Dal’s “talk” when it comes to sustainability. Their Facebook page has tons of info, including upcoming events.

“The critical mass is reaching a tipping point … the growing energy of students is going to make Dal greener than most.”

Sue Gass and Shannon Sterling are faculty in the Environmental Science Program. The list of ENVS courses is always expanding, and with majors, double majors, minors, and honours programs, there are plenty of ways to incorporate a little, or a lot, of Environmental Science into your undergrad.

Emily Rideout works as the Policy and Communications Officer in the Dalhousie Student Union Sustainability Office. Funded by student levies, DSUSO bridges the gap between the Student Union and the student body when it comes to sustainability-related info and initiatives. Drop by DSUSO’s digs on the third floor of the SUB during weekday office hours to chat up the staff, or check them out online (on Facebook, or at dsuso.ca).

We met with each of them to ask what kind of ‘eco-citement’ is in store for the upcoming year, and here is some of what came up:

The Mona Campbell Building (the real name for the “new academic building”) incorporates tons of environmental features and technologies; a self-guided tour is going to be available, if you want to check them out for yourself. And although students new to Dal might be oblivious, anyone familiar with the Life Sciences Centre of old (reminiscent of a concrete bunker) is grateful for the changes made as part of the $27 million retrofit project currently underway. From new coats of paint to low-flow toilets, the project is designed to reduce the water, electricity, and energy usage of the building.

In other energy news Dal’s central heating plant (which keeps most buildings on campus warm) will start burning natural gas, instead of Bunker C fuel oil, starting this fall. The switch will lower the school’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tonnes.

For DSUSO, moving the Fourth Annual Green Week from spring to fall means their biggest event kicks the year off right. Taking place from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, Emily Rideout describes it as a “series of events that are designed to be educational, inspirational, and get students engaged in issues surrounding sustainability, particularly on campus, but also in their own lives.” With this year’s theme of food, it’ll be hard to resist the deliciously tempting keynote speaker, workshops, and finale dance party featuring Two Hours Traffic!

We were also curious about how Dal sets itself apart from other Canadian universities with respect to environmental leadership. Owen thinks our “three-pronged approach”, where environmental principles are equally integrated into student life, academic curricula, and university operations, makes us unique.

Rideout echoes the sentiment that sustainability is an important value amongst students. “I think the critical mass is reaching a tipping point … the growing energy of students is going to make Dal greener than most Canadian universities.”

Sterling concurs; she sees a large proportion of students as active participants in environmental groups, which gives them a strong voice not only within the university, but also in the broader community of Halifax. Gass identifies the academic programs offered here as a big part of what distinguishes us. Through the College of Sustainability, it is now possible for nearly any student to take their environmental passion into the classroom, “it’s empowering students from all disciplines to think sustainably,” she recognizes.

With all these initiatives, programs, and events gearing up, your job is easy: just join in!

Public lectures are really great for meeting likeminded people and staying current on sustainability happenings. The College of Sustainability (which celebrated its one year anniversary this year!) hosts the Environment, Sustainability & Society Lecture Series every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the Ondaatje Auditorium in the McCain Building (see ‘Upcoming Lectures’ for details). Make sure to check them out, you will not be disappointed!

Perhaps you’d rather get your intro to green in black and white? Then the 2010 Green Guide is the perfect resource, whether you’re trying to shop for toxin-free cosmetics, or grab a mug of fair trade organic coffee. Download a PDF of the Green Guide online (sustainability.dal.ca), or pick up a copy around campus.

Dalhousie is full of student societies, a number of which are sustainability related. Check out the full list in the  Green Guide, and keep an eye out for an upcoming article where we’ll highlight the perks of signing up!

As you can see sustainability is becoming part of everyday life for many Dal students. Even if you aren’t a student activist, or aspiring to campus politics, there are a huge variety of fascinating and fun ways to add a splash of green to your Dal experience. But if none of that convinces you, maybe this will: Rideout says that if you don’t integrate sustainability into your campus life, she “will put you in a headlock.” Trust us, you don’t want that.

 

Where to pick up your Green Guide

Killam Library

Sexton Library

Law Library

Office of Sustainability

College of Sustainability

Residences

Student Union Building

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Dalhousie Gazette Staff

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