Laurier’s sustainability initiatives, including an innovative energy management plan, received kudos in a recent report by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) on “green” practices at 19 Ontario universities.

The Ontario Universities: Going Greener Report 2011 outlines nine areas where universities have taken steps to advance sustainability. Among the 19 universities included in the report, Laurier’s programs and practices are specifically mentioned in five of those areas, including emissions and energy use, water management, waste management, teaching and learning, and partnerships.

“We are very pleased with the fact the COU chose to highlight so many of our sustainability initiatives in its report,” said Gary Nower, assistant vice-president: Physical Resources. “These initiatives have been a collaboration with students, faculty and staff, and this just reinforces the need to continue to work together. It shows the power of partnerships and what you can achieve when everybody pulls in the same direction.”

In the category of emissions and energy use, the COU report details Laurier’s new energy management plan, which uses submeters to capture data about electricity use in buildings. The university will be able to benchmark the data through an energy management system that will track greenhouse gas emissions and allow for programs to reduce energy use.

“The energy management plan will not only reduce emissions but also provide a direct financial savings to the university,” said Claire Bennett, coordinator of Laurier’s Sustainability Office. “It’s a program that makes sense on many levels.”

Bennett also noted that Laurier’s central recycling centres have had an enormous impact in a short period of time, with a 40 per cent increase in recycling since Laurier began introducing new centralized waste disposal and recycling bin systems two years ago. These improvements were noted in the waste management category of the COU report.

In the water management category, the report mentions Laurier’s use of water harvesting to capture ground water for future grounds maintenance, which will save over 16,000 gallons of water each year for the university.

Laurier’s Centre for Community Research, Learning and Action is one of the examples of new sustainability-focused research projects outlined in the category of Teaching and Learning. The centre is compiling information about local environmental organizations and initiatives as a resource to those at Laurier and in the community.

The university was also mentioned in the partnership category for its membership in Sustainable Waterloo, a local not-for-profit that helps organizations set and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The other four areas outlined in the COU report include: building a green culture; green buildings; green transportation; and purchasing and procurement.

This is the third annual Going Greener report. The 2011 report is based on a survey completed by 19 Ontario universities.

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