Western recognized for environmental leadership

Special to Western News

Western was named Tuesday among only nine recipients of the Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence. Presenting and receiving the award were, from left, Arthur Potts, parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Dan Larkin, Western controls systems specialist; Mary Quintana, compliance, energy and water project coordinator; and Glen Murray, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

Purple Pride turned a bit ‘green’ as Western was named among only nine recipients of the Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence, an honour announced today by the provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Launched on World Water Day in 2011, the award recognizes local environmental and sustainable achievement, leadership and innovation, honouring individuals and organizations working to enhance and protect the environment. Since its inception, the program has recognized the environmental achievements of 40 organizations.

“We are honoured to be chosen as a recipient of the award,” said Beverley Ayeni, Western’s energy and environment manager. “It means a lot to a lot of people to have their work recognized at this level. As a university, we’re doing some exciting things in this area. This kind of encouragement only further proves we are going in the right direction as an organization.”

Western was the only university recognized with the award.

“Today, we celebrate just a few of the most outstanding efforts of individuals, groups and companies in protecting our environment,” said Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. “We hope the examples we see today inspire others to be innovators in protecting our natural heritage; not only because it’s good for the environment, but because innovation helps build a strong economy and create new jobs.”

Western was honoured for its Energy Dashboard project.

The website – found at energy.uwo.ca – is accessible to anyone on or off campus, and allows users to view campus-wide electricity demand in real-time, including a building-by-building breakdown. Facilities Management staff has also started expand the dashboard to include real-time water and steam consumption information.

Dashboard data can be sorted in a number of ways, revealing consumption for the day, week, month or year, and can be compared with previous data to identify increases or decreases in consumption habits. The online tool has been instrumental in improving energy conservation at Western.

While campus buildings and residences continue to reduce energy consumption, Facilities Management identified the energy dashboard as a major contributor to the 4.3 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas production on campus from 2011 to 2012.

“This innovative and highly interactive tool is the result of hard work on behalf of our great team,” Ayeni continued.

Other winners included:

  • County of Simcoe
    The County of Simcoe partnered with five area school boards to develop and operate the Learning and Living Green program. More than 40,000 students from more than 100 schools participated, recycling and collecting organics. The school boards’ waste and organics diversion rate increased by an impressive 70 per cent.
  • Regional Municipality of Durham
    Durham is the first region in Ontario to launch a curbside battery recycling program. The program collected more batteries in the first week of collection than the region’s four hazardous waste drop-off facilities received in a year.
    Keeping batteries out of landfills prevents their mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals from contaminating the environment. During the first two collection periods, 39,000 kilograms of batteries were collected.
  • Alderville First Nation Black Oak Savanna
    Alderville First Nation naturalized 150 acres of farmland with native species, and are protecting tallgrass prairie and oak savanna ecosystems that are currently more threatened than rainforests. Community members and visitors participated in education workshops, tours, and special events to help protect these rare ecosystems.
    The Alderville First Nation are protecting their lands from development, and restoring rare ecosystems that are home to over 20 species at risk and 163 species of birds that use the site for nesting, foraging or as a migrating stop-over.
  • Murray and Wilma Scott
    Murray and Wilma Scott controlled their farm’s nutrient and sediment runoff through erosion control berms, new wetlands and natural channel design. They have also improved the water quality in a nearby municipal drain and Belgrave Creek. They provide tours to encourage other farmers to use the same best management practices. The Scotts manage their woodlot and collect data for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to be used for a case study.
    The Scott’s environmentally friendly farming practices resulted in the return of brook trout and wildlife such as bobolinks and other species at risk, and captured the interest of other farmers.
  • Teknion Limited
    Teknion, an office furniture manufacturer based in Toronto, uses less toxic chemicals in its cleaning and paint finishing processes by using a new phosphate-free chemical. The company has also reduced its water and energy consumption.
    Teknion reduced its water use by 31 per cent. Rinse water, no longer contaminated with phosphorus, can now be recycled and reused. Teknion also reduced their hazardous waste by 50 per cent, their natural gas consumption, and their greenhouse gas emissions by 367 metric tonnes.
  • Credit Valley Conservation and IMAX Corporation
    Credit Valley Conservation and IMAX Corporation, along with six local industry leaders (Imbrium, Unlock, Aquafor Beech, Ontario Centre of Excellence, Maxxam and the University of Guelph) partnered to reconstruct a parking lot, making it the first parking lot in Ontario to treat stormwater and prevent pollutants and nutrients from entering Lake Ontario.
    This parking lot retrofit reduces stress on municipal stormwater infrastructure and protects drinking water quality. The learnings from this project are being shared with more than 600 local professionals.
  • Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) Ontario
    ALUS helps farmers and ranchers improve their crops and livestock while conserving and restoring native habitats. Farmers are rewarded for land management practices that create productive agricultural systems and a healthy countryside.
    More than 250 farms are enrolled in the program, participating in 500 projects that cover 1400 acres of farmland. ALUS projects conserve wetlands, retain soils with hedgerows and windbreaks, provide habitat for pollinators and native biodiversity, and increase vegetative cover along streams and rivers.
  • Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association
    Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association, a community-based organization, rehabilitates aquatic ecosystems on Manitoulin Island feeding into Lake Huron. The association restores these ecosystems through bioengineered site designs, landowner support, and community engagement.
    Restoring streams and riparian habitat, tree and shrub plantings, and installing fencing for livestock have improved water quality, bank stability and aquatic habitat, and brought back brook trout.

Award recipients were celebrated today at a lunch with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.