Putting it in writing

- April 22, 2009

Policy can be a powerful tool to define the need for change, articulate values and commitment, and guide decisions. Dalhousie just passed its own Sustainability Statement and Policy that provides directional guidance to the university community. These documents articulate key principles and goals for the university community.

Dalhousie has previously signed three international declarations related to environment and sustainability: the Halifax Declaration, the Talloires Declaration and the UNEP International Declaration on Cleaner Production. These declarations provide broad statements on sustainability action for areas of operations, university and community life and curriculum. This new statement and policy provide more specific guidance and a deeper level of commitment.

The Sustainability Statement and Policy provide context for specific operational policies, plans and programs to be supported or developed. For example, setting green building standards would be in a potential operational policy related to sustainable building design. The Sustainability Policy outlines goals that address areas such as enhancing values and knowledge; decreasing natural resource use (energy, water, products) and associated waste and emissions; increasing use of renewable energy; enhancing the campus ecosystem; and increasing sustainable transportation.

Around campus there are existing examples of this sustainability policy in action. For example, Information Technology Services (ITS) requested this year that departments consider reducing their requested copies of the Aliant White/Yellow Page Directory. This effort resulted in a reduction of 1,180 copies or approximately 1,774,720 sheets of paper. Facilities Management recently completed a project that improved the lighting system of the Tupper Link by adding light and motion sensors. This project is expected to save up to 70 per cent in electricity. The College of Sustainability was recently launched and will be accepting students for the fall into the Environment, Sustainability, and Society program. 

Around campus there are also areas for improvement to meet recognized sustainability targets. We can use the Sustainability Statement and Policy to help guide our efforts. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Review existing policies and programs to see if they are meeting the sustainability principles and goals. Identify the need for revision or the creation of new initiatives.
  • Include a copy of our Sustainability Statement and Policy with bids and contracts.
  • Send a copy of the Sustainability Statement and Policy to employees and students in your department, faculties, and organization.
  • Incorporate the policy goals in information for new employees and students, as part of orientation activities and communications.
  • Make personal and organizational changes that meet the policy goals such as reducing paper by having paperless meetings; double-siding all copies; making business processes more efficient. Other changes may include or assigning a last-person-out role to turn off the lights, the photocopier, and other electronics and ensuring waste is properly sorted during meetings and special events.

There are many ways to implement Dalhousie’s new Sustainability Statement and Policy. Implementation action can have a direct benefit to individuals and departments through economic, ecological, and social and health savings. Book a meeting with the Office of Sustainability to talk about how to integrate the policy into your organization.

Copies of the Sustainability Statement and Policy can be downloaded from the Office of Sustainability website at http://office.sustainability.dal.ca/Governance/

Rochelle Owen is the director of Dalhousie’s Office of Sustainability.


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