Environmental sustainability is one of today’s hottest topics. Everyone wants to reduce their carbon footprint, but few know exactly how to do so. The Office of Campus Sustainability (OCS) at the University of Ottawa works on environmental conservation and plans to transform the university into a zero-waste campus by 2020. OCS believes that by producing only reusable and recyclable items, and by recycling or reusing these items, the University of Ottawa can become truly waste free.
For the past four years, the OCS has partnered with the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement to raise student awareness of recycling, waste management, and sustainability during the February reading week. This year, as part of the Alternative Student Break (ASB) program, students attended a workshop on waste management, conducted waste audits around campus, and analysed and produced data on uOttawa’s recycling programs.
The ASB program requires students to reflect on their experience. “The waste audits we performed will positively impact the sustainability of the uOttawa campus because of the recommendations we’ve made in our reports. We were able to learn where our campus’s sustainability was weak and where it was strong, so hopefully, the university will understand that and work to improve the areas highlighted by the audit,” said one ASB participant. The students reported that the project had generated positive results and that it had affected them them and the uOttawa community. All the participants enjoyed working within their team, and 92% felt more connected to the community after the project.
“The experience with the program was delightful. Good initiative to attain a zero-waste campus. Cheers to the volunteers and the department,” said one student. Another participant highlighted that this ASB program combined awareness of environmental issues with an opportunity to meet new people and enhance student skills. The participants discussed how they had developed their critical thinking, problem-solving, and communications skills during the week, and that the project had motivated them to promote awareness of the planet. “Through initiatives, big or small, changes can be made to greatly reduce waste.”