Let’s talk about the perks first. The campus is peppered with roof-based projects. The Athletic Centre has state-of-the-art solar panels, a New College roof is home to a bee colony, and Trinity hosts both of those, plus a lovely green roof. Victoria College is home to a bike co-op, and last year they won a student-led water conservation contest between colleges. These are just a sampling of the campus’ accomplishments.
The Centre for Environment is a real force amid the greater U of T community, as is the Sustainability Office. The SO’s goal is to collaborate with students and staff to develop projects that reduce energy consumption on campus, as well as provide funding. The Centre for Environment also hosts Ecolink, a site that acts as a sort of repository for information on their environmental goings-on and contests. As well, both groups offer Work-Study positions. If you’re used to a more hands-on, student approach and want to explore outside of your college, there’s the University of Toronto Environmental Resource Network. UTERN unites students from all campuses, and provides funding for green initiatives. Another inter-college resource is ReWire, present in most residences. It provides a great way to get involved right off the bat: by acting as your floor’s representative and encouraging your floormates to make simple consumption reduction activities a habit.
If you bike, the folks at BikeChain (on 33 St. George St.) are here for you. They offer inexpensive bike repair for U of T students. And if you’re unhappy with the options (and the origins) of your college’s meal plan, you can always check out the U of T Farmer’s Market, held Thursdays 2-5pm outside Sid Smith on Willcocks Ave.
One thing’s for sure, there is no shortage of resources. It’s just a matter of putting them to use where they’re most needed. But promoting large-scale change is quite different from incorporating sustainability into daily life on campus, and enabling your peers to do the same with minimal inconvenience. Aside from getting involved in what already exists, scope out the situation in your immediate vicinity.
Your residence room almost certainly has a recycling bin, but if it doesn’t, talk to your administration. If your residence kitchens don’t have green bins, that’s another good place to start. Even if those containers are in place, what matters is where the waste ends up. Find out if custodial staff are trained in how to correctly dispose of the recycling you caringly separated. You don’t want to see it getting dumped into an all-purpose bin with the trash at the end of the day.
Check out your windows and make sure they seal well, so in the winter you won’t be wasting heat. If they’re not functional, you can put in a work order. Your college administration is also a good resource, at the very least from a research perspective. Chances are, they have records of their energy consumption, and if you can access it, you can see the areas that need the most improvement and measure success as your group implements initiatives. If you have a meal plan, it’s worth investigating the practices of the providers your college employs. The companies have to be open about their practices, and they also have representatives within your college’s community that you can contact with questions or suggestions.
Most importantly, take advantage of your college’s most powerful resource—your peers. You’ll be surprised by how many people really do care, they just don’t always know how to start living green.