Award signals purple is green at the core

It’s almost like every day is Earth Day on campus.

Last week, Western was named among Canada’s Greenest Employers, recognized as an institution that leads the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness, Mediacorp Canada announced as part of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project.

“This recognition belongs to each and every person on campus who is considering their impact on the environment,” said Lynn Logan, Associate Vice-President (Finance and Facilities).

Western was among nine universities receiving the honour.

The school has many employee-led green initiatives, including waste recycling programs, community partnerships and environmental management systems – making Western green to the core, according to Logan.

Last year alone, Western diverted 60 per cent of its waste by recycling and composting, with a goal to becoming a zero-waste campus by diverting more than 90 per cent by 2022. This year, the university is being acknowledged for its efforts.

Judges highlighted a number of areas for Western’s honour, including:

In-House Waste Reduction

Western has an extensive recycling program which includes plastics, batteries, printer cartridges, light bulbs and electronic waste. All plastics numbered 1-7 are accepted for recycling.

Batteries and common recyclable items can be taken to recycling stations on almost every floor of buildings on campus. Often, these stations are found near Green Boards, bulletin boards with sustainability updates. Each Green Board has posters that guide individuals through the sorting of their waste and provides contact information if there are any unique items that need disposing.

In some buildings, garbage auditors randomly check waste streams to see what is being discarded and to make recommendations for further waste diversion.

The goal of waste audits is to determine waste composition, the success of current waste diversion programs, and to identify possible program improvements in reducing, re-using and recycling waste.

Community Partnerships

In partnership with the City of London, Western launched a carpooling program. The program provides a number of reserved parking spaces for employees who regularly travel to campus together in a group of two or more.

Together with the Million Tree Challenge and a local non-profit organization Reforest London, Western also participates in National Tree Day.

Each year in September, the university orders 400 trees and gives them to staff, students and faculty as a way to showcase our commitment to plant one million trees over 10 years in the city of London.

To date, 243,210 trees have been planted, including blue ash, red maple, white pine, blue beech and red oak.

Last year, Western was also recognized by ReForest London with the Tree Team Award – honouring a campus volunteer group that gives their time to plant and care for trees in the city. The Western Serves group has planted 3,802 native trees and shrubs in nine different parks since 2007.

Paris Pledge Signing

Western recently joined the global community of universities, businesses, cities and other groups in signing the Paris Pledge for Action, committing to doing its part to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

The target was set at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in December. Western is already a leader in greenhouse gas reductions, having mitigated emissions by 12 per cent since 2009.

As an institution of higher learning, there is an expectation the university set an example for its constituents and in the larger community, Logan said.

Green Office Program

Western’s Green Office Program is another way the Western community is improving environmental consciousness. The program includes a self-reporting tool to help offices across the university gauge their ongoing sustainability efforts.

“Western is committed to achieving our goals related to campus sustainability and with finding ways to improve awareness of sustainability initiatives campus-wide,” Logan said. “We believe in raising the bar of environmental consciousness across campus and so far, we’ve been successful but we can always do more.”