Sustainability: It Goes Without Saying

by julia.hanigsberg | March 2nd, 2011

I was reading a profile recently in Metropolis magazine of our Student Learning Centre architects Snøhetta. One of Snøhetta’s founders, Craig Dykers explained  why he and his colleagues don’t put more emphasis on sustainability. Dykers pointed out that the firm’s projects are all LEED-certified for environmental sustainability. However, he went on, “I don’t normally talk about it, and people always think that if you don’t talk about it, it’s not what you do. I always say, ‘Well, we don’t talk about structure. The building has to stand up, but I don’t have to point it out to anybody.’”

His comment got me thinking: Have we really reached the point where sustainability is such a given that we don’t have to talk about it anymore? There’s no question that green consciousness seems to be everywhere these days, from Ryerson’s commitment to go water bottle free by 2012, to the bins we drag out to the curb (all three of them!). But there are also continuing environmental crises (BP oil spill) or silly unsustainable practices at the local supermarket (plastic and styrofoam around a green pepper). It feels like there is still a way to go.

At Ryerson we assume there’s a pretty high level of enlightened thinking around such issues. That’s not to say we couldn’t be going further in some areas – and we’re working on that every day. But even when we’re doing a lot of things right, why don’t we talk about it more?

Here are a few examples of the many ways Ryerson has gone green:

1)     Last year Duplicating and Printing Services saved 2 million sheets of paper by producing double-sided documents and encouraging everyone to use electronic alternatives.

2)     The Admissions department has switched from mailing printed letters to using a content management system that students can access online.

3)     Financial Services is developing a new green purchasing policy to help all departments factor in environmental impact when buying goods or services.

4)     Campus Planning & Facilities has bought two electric trucks to replace a gasoline-powered pickup.

5)     The new Gould Street pedestrian area eliminates vehicles entirely from our main community crossroads.

6)     The new Centre for Urban Energy is spearheading a number of conservation initiatives around campus.

7)     Thanks to our continued recycling efforts, in 2009 we diverted a record 74% of Ryerson’s waste from landfills. And for the past four years our cleaners have been using only accredited Green Seal cleaning solutions for all of their day-to-day tasks.

And on it goes, through initiatives large and small, throughout the University. All of which perhaps goes without saying. But I suspect it doesn’t hurt to say it anyway – if for no other reason than to thank all the great people who are driving these successes. What’s your favorite Ryerson green success? Where do you think we can do better?

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