Ontario colleges are leading the fight to tackle climate change: report

Through multiple initiatives and research projects focused on sustainability and a commitment to sound building principles, Durham College (DC) announced today that it pleased to be part of a group of Ontario colleges that are playing a leading role in Canada’s efforts to tackle climate change.

A newly released report, Moving to Net Zero: Colleges Leading the Way, highlights the achievements of the province’s 24 publicly funded colleges in everything from leading-edge research that promotes energy efficiency to the development of programs that prepare increasing numbers of graduates for careers in areas such as renewable energy and sustainable building construction.

“Doing our part to improve the health of the planet is a priority at our college,” said Don Lovisa, president, DC.  “We are firmly committed to the global effort to fight climate change.”

The report documents achievements in five areas: research, community leadership, college programs, transportation and campus upgrades. The examples in the report confirm that all 24 colleges are playing an active part in the effort to reduce the province’s carbon footprint.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, DC is continually implementing new measures to reduce its carbon footprint and demonstrate environmental stewardship in Durham Region and well beyond.

For example, in September 2016, the Centre for Food (CFF) at the Whitby campus received international recognition from the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics Awards of Excellence, winning gold in the Green Colleges category. The college was recognized for its work to advance environmental sustainability, including its field-to-fork philosophy and 3 Star certification from the Green Restaurant Association. In addition, in June 2016 the CFF was recognized with an Eric Krause Innovative Plans/Policies/Initiatives Award from the Durham Environmental Advisory Committee for its commitment to conserving energy and protecting the environment and in July 2016 Bistro ‘67, the college’s full-service, teaching-inspired restaurant, was honoured with a Feast ON designation in recognition of its use of local food and beverages.

Home to a range of complementary post-secondary programs, the CFF offers numerous sustainable features and extensive grounds that include an apple orchard, agricultural planting fields, an unheated hoop house, gardens and greenhouses. The south side of the building includes a ramped garden with a pollinator garden for native birds, bees and butterflies and a two-acre arboretum. These areas also feature trees, shrubs, perennials and fruit-bearing plants, providing a teaching and learning environment for students, the local agri-food industry, community organizations and the general public.

Additional examples of DC’s commitment to sustainability include:

  • A dedicated Sustainability office that leads initiatives on campus, including partnerships with local environmental organizations such as Durham Sustain Ability, GM Canada, Friends of the Greenbelt and the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, and roles with regional committees including the Durham Region Roundtable on Climate Change.
  • Sustainable transportation options for students and employees travelling to and from campus, including electric vehicle charging stations, designated carpool lots and bicycle storage units.
  • A commingle recycling program with a diversion rate of 53.2 per cent as well as additional recycling programs for items such as batteries, e-waste, spent lightbulbs, used textbooks and furniture.
  • Water conservation through the installation and use of low-flow toilets, waterless urinals and sensor taps.
  • Energy conservation and efficiency through the use of a comprehensive energy monitoring system, replacement of existing windows with high-efficiency models, installation of variable speed drives and lighting occupancy sensors.
  • Adoption of renewable energy models at the Whitby campus including the installation of 350 solar panels that provide clean energy back to the grid; six vertical axis wind turbines on the roof of the main building that serve as a learning tool for students in the Renewable Energy Technician program; a white roof that reduces energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions; and a 70-tonne geothermal system that provides energy efficient heating and cooling.
  • Applied research projects, including a recent collaboration with industry partner DynaCurrent Technologies Inc. on the development of a new and innovative technology to heat liquid using electricity in a significantly more efficient way than other electrical heating technologies in the marketplace. The technology has the potential for commercial use as an alternate heating source to oil, propane and electricity in homes and small- to- medium-sized buildings.
  • Programs such as Construction Carpentry – Sustainable, which provides students with the knowledge required to construct energy-efficient and environmentally responsible residential buildings and obtain the skills required to upgrade existing buildings in a little as 16 months.

The college’s initiatives are reflected in the overall findings of the report, which include:

  • Throughout the province, colleges offer more than 300 programs that prepare graduates to work in sectors that directly impact emissions reductions, conservation and renewable energy.
  • In 2015-2016, more than 20,000 students were enrolled in programs that prepare them for careers that address climate change. That represents an increase of more than 20 per cent over the previous five years.
  • Millions of dollars have been invested in retrofit programs and other upgrades at campuses across the province. The retrofitting projects have included weatherization initiatives, energy and greenhouse gas audits, the installation of wind turbines and solar panels, and the integration of new designs that include green roofs and pollinator gardens.

“While we’re proud of our successes, we also know there is more to do,” said Lovisa. “We are aware of the important role DC plays in producing a strong workforce determined to reduce emissions and help Ontario combat climate change and ultimately achieve greater sustainability.”

The full report is available here.