Task Force Aims to Reduce U of G's Ecological Footprint

January 13, 2010 - Campus Bulletin

President Alastair Summerlee has established a task force to review, co-ordinate and make recommendations for campus initiatives that promote sustainability, both at the University and in the greater local and global communities.

"As an academic and research leader in a multitude of areas that contribute to environmental sustainability, Guelph recognizes the importance of placing fewer demands on the planet," says Summerlee. "We must also take a leadership role in helping others find ways to generate less waste and use less energy, water and other resources."

Members of the University community are already individually and collectively making changes, large and small, to reduce the size of U of G’s ecological footprint, he says.

“This task force will help focus and streamline those efforts, as well as propose new initiatives to ensure that every aspect of our research and teaching is in line with our commitment to contributing to a sustainable future.”

The Presidential Task Force on Sustainability will have representation from the senior administration, faculty, students and staff, with Prof. Kevin Hall, vice-president (research), serving as chair. The committee will report directly to the president.

Hall says the group will take a comprehensive view of sustainability, focusing on the basic principles: the environment, communities and the economy. It will look at issues related to carbon footprint, water use, sustainable practices in teaching and academic programs, and future initiatives that could also benefit other communities.

“Sustainability is one of U of G’s strategic areas,” says Hall, a civil engineer who, prior to joining U of G last January, directed the Centre for Water and the Environment at Queen’s University and started a humanitarian engineering program.

“Fundamentally, it’s a way of thinking and living. It involves making conscious decisions about how our actions — how and what we consume, construct and operate — impact the environment, our community and the people around us.”

Among other things, the task force will co-ordinate current sustainability initiatives; promote new areas, including curriculum, where the University should take a leadership role; propose targets for energy saving and carbon reduction; and develop partnerships with organizations, universities and others to promote environmental sustainability.

The group will also create an annual campus competition to promote sustainable development initiatives aimed at changing institutional practices.

Summerlee says the task force’s actions and recommendations will be important for maintaining U of G’s leadership position in environmental sustainability.

The task force has been asked to present an interim progress report to the president this summer.

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