Dal Office of Sustainability
Ryan McNutt - April 12, 2012
Listen to Rochelle Owen discuss the work of Dalhousie’s Office of Sustainability and you may wonder if she ever sleeps.
This past Wednesday, she hosted a “sustainability celebration” to highlight the extensive work that her office has undertaken over the past school year: lighting projects, Ecolympics, a fridge replacement program, water and energy savings, natural environment reviews, transportation planning…the list went on and on.
She has help, though: more than 50 students worked with the office this year alone, in a variety of different roles. Some projects, like the natural environment plan documenting the campus’ flora and landscaping, are almost entirely student driven. Students also take on leadership roles: seven students, for example, sit on the President’s Advisory Council on Sustainability and its subcommittees.
“We couldn’t do this work without students,” said Ms. Owen. “Their research, their guidance and their leadership are crucial to our ongoing projects.”
Fridge exchanges, bike racks and energy savings
In her presentation, Ms. Owen highlighted some of the office’s results from the past year. Remember the fridge exchange program, for example? With the support of Efficiency Nova Scotia, the Office of Sustainability replaced 491 fridges and freezers on campus, at no cost to individual units. The project will save Dalhousie more than $26,000 each year and reduce the university’s CO2 output by 220 tonnes.
The oldest fridge that was replaced belonged to Dalhousie biologist Ron O’Dor, who received a special prize at the event for the honour. Just how old was the fridge?
“GE doesn’t even know,” he laughed, saying that the model may date back to the 1940s. “It’s older than I am, for sure.”
Other successes highlighted include the addition of 272 new bike rack spots on campus, reaching the planned target for CO2 emission reduction a year ahead of schedule thanks to the move to natural gas, and a research project during the demolition of houses on LeMarchant Street to make way for the new mixed-use residence.
Three of those houses diverted 84 per cent of materials from the landfill, exceeding the LEED gold standard of 75 per cent. For the fourth house, Dal used a unique deconstruction technique that diverted 90 per cent of waste, and will be sharing its results with the provincial government to identify ways that such a method could be made more feasable and cost-effective for other projects.
At the event, Ms. Owen also presented prizes for the winners of the Residence Ecolympics and the ReThink Sustainability Teams’ Challenge. The former went to Gerrard Hall, which conserved both the most energy and water (23,000 litres' worth) during the two-week event. And for the third straight year, the Killam Library won the ReThink award, with initiatives including a waste diversion project with environmental science students and making sustainability kits available for patrons to check out.
Future projects for the Office of Sustainability include a major lighting retrofit getting underway this summer, and sustainability assessments of Dalhousie Food Services’ seven commercial-sized kitchens on campus. The office also hopes to complete final approvals on its Institutional Cycling Master Plan (in cooperation with other universities and local hospitals) and launch employee bus program with Metro Transit.
For the latest on the activities of the Office of Sustainability, or more detail on its programs, visit its website.
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