Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to ban bottled water on your campus

Polaris with partners is providing more tools of engagement which you can use to get things done - U of Winnipeg has banned bottled water on their campus.

Here's how the did it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy Obama Day.. Canada style!

Go Anjali!

Pictured here today in this article on, Anjali (Sierra Youth Coalition) is most likely participating in Sierra Club activities around the dirty tar sands, encouraging Obama not to accept weak climate standards from Prime Minister Harper.
Many students across Canada are working hard on the tar sands issue.
Here are some.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Where to start on campus

Looking to move your campus on an issue of sustainability (one with implications on the environment and social justice, and quite possibily on the other bottom line)?
Or have you been pushing the university to adopt a policy, strategy, sustainability office, or signing the President's Climate Committment.. but your student group isn't getting very far?

Here's another recommendation from the research...

 Form a core working group to campaign on an issue and a multi-stakeholder group. Work closely with existing sustainability organizations or Public Interest Research Groups (if they exist) as well as the student union.

A core group of students is key. You need people who are interested in research, public speaking and meetings, report writing, finances and more. They should be committed - and you should constantly try to bring in more people.
The Sierra Youth Coalition recommends forming multi-stakeholder groups to work on issues, because of the amount of support you can gain from working with different partners on moving plans forward. You can also gain significant knowledge about key people and make new and important relationships.
At Dalhousie, a professor from the group brought ideas to senior administrators and the issue was on the minds at the top before students even got to a formal presentation on a office of sustainability.
There are often many student groups with which to partner on campus. Try to look for and talk with others who may be allies - but not necessarily ones who would come to mind (i.e. cultural groups, religious groups, program associations, etc.) You could find support in these groups through endorsements of your proposal, or individual volunteers and interest. Public Interest Research Groups on campus can also be great sources of interested activists, research potential and other resources, and may be keen to pick up your issue.

• SYC Campus Tools – Multistakeholder Guide

• In Ontario the PIRG listings can be found here: OPIRG

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sustainabilify your student union

The Association of College Unions International has come up with a new resource for student unions and university student services wanting to go green.

Information and the report can be downloaded here at the ACUI website.

I don't have prior knowledge about this organization.

This information may be useful for those student unions looking to look at sustainability within their own operations, and also looking to make changes in other areas of campus - what sorts of events and best practices can be achieved throughout campus.
Included is information on STARS, a new sustainability rating system out of the US.

Post a comment if you think this report is helpful or if you have any other ideas on student unions & sustainability.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Getting out of the classroom

"This is the best thing that's come out of the York strike."

Students don't often have a lot of time on their hands, but many remain active - on campus sustainability and beyond. Sustainability for students also means going beyond the university campus, "greening the campus and community", and working on political gains, learning how businesses are changing and having impact in strengthening the work of environmental organizations.

The current strike at York University didn't hurt as environmental and theatre students came out to support the acting out of street theatre at a rally for green energy outside of the Ontario energy minister's office.
See a teaser of their show below, featuring "curious" George Smitherman off on his tour of world renewable energy sources (see The wind at his back).

Find coverage of the rally with photos and audio at the Toronto Social Justice Magazine.

Young people, including past and present from campuses in Scarborough, also went out to support a proposal for a wind turbine research off the Toronto coast at a community meeting today. A little extra time is getting these students into trouble, and pushing other generations to consider the need for a greener future.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes We Can: signing the President's Climate Committment and Joining AASHE

593 American university presidents have signed pledges to becoming carbon netural, and developing accountable plans to get there.
Turns out that during eight years of Bush, someone's been stepping up to the plate.

Now universities in BC - though initiatlly just an American plan - have taken up the task, and students at Ontario universities are working to get the same work done there.

So that brings me to posting the first of my 11 thesis recommendations (how many did Martin Luther have again?)

 Ask your university to join AASHE if not yet a member. Have your student group join external networks that match your goals. Remain knowledgeable and connected with various organizations, strategies and achievements.

This is a good first step in getting your university to that great committment of signing onto the President's Committment. AASHE provides resources, effective solutions, networking and positive hope (see previous post). If your campus is not a member of AASHE, the ask is much less of one than it is for joining the President's Committment. Basically, you just have to ask.

But for both items, building coalitions is possible. Students can have an association make the request for joining AASHE, and having the university put down the $2000+ per year. Your student union could ask (or undergrad and grad could make the request), or supportive professors, staff/faculty associations, unions, etc.
It's a no-brainer for any university or college to be a member of AASHE if they want to be a leader in sustainability or shown as such.
The main point is to build coalitions - get lots of groups and individuals who have sway on campus to support your initiatives that ultimately need administrative support. And then find a way for these folks to show that support.

External networks are very important to keep sharing strategies and learning how to make change. The Sierra Youth Coalition is another.
Or the Energy Action Coalition.
The difference with AASHE is that it's mostly paid sustainability practitioners (like university sustainability coordinators) and faculty who participate.

So here's a study of mine on a group of students who influenced their president to sign on.. though it was difficult at first.

Cornell University – a case study
This influential university in central New York State has had its share of campus environmental controversies and more recently, achievements. It is a worthy case to review because of its past and current activism, leading to much failure and success in sustainability initiatives. In October of 2004, then Cornell president Jeffrey Lehman gave his State of the University Address, challenging the community on three main issues, one being sustainability, and leading to further commitments. Lehman said in the speech:
The list of what we are doing now is long - but we must do substantially more. We must draw these disparate efforts together into an integrated whole. We must develop structures of collaboration so that insights in one domain might stimulate correlative insights in another. And as we develop a mature understanding of the different dimensions of sustainability, we must employ our various extension resources to disseminate our findings to the public (Cornell University, 2006).
In 2004, the University made known its intention to pave a tract of historic Redbud forest to make way for parking lot extension. With students and faculty members opposing the action, campaigns ensued which included classic protest including sit-ins at the office of the president and tree-sits, physically blocking the cutting of trees, and activists who felt their safety was at risk. In addition, professors created the Faculty Working Group to stop the paving by researching parking alternatives and lobbying their administrators. Roughly 380 faculty members signed a petition, and the administration also received pressure from community members and City Council against their proposal (Sanders, 2005). The situation ended when acting president Hunter Rawlings issued a statement July 13, 2005, and followed through with clearing the forest, and signed an agreement reflecting broad sustainability and transit commitments with some students who were occupying the space (
Fast forward to 2007 - a new president and a different kind of student priority. A student group called KyotoNOW! claims its inception in the “campus climate action movement”, which formed with an initial goal to convince Cornell to meets Kyoto greenhouse gas targets. A current campaign called BEYOND KYOTO! “Seeks to move beyond the Kyoto framework and onto more ambitious emissions reduction goals” (KyotonNOW!, 2006).
This student group appears to be well integrated with the broader campus movement as a member of the Campus Climate Challenge, and promoter of the American University and College President’s Climate Commitment, supported by AASHE and signed by 145 other college presidents (as of March 17, 2007). In much different fashion, President David Skorton in an open letter to KyotoNOW! on February 9, 2007, endorsed its work and that of the President’s Climate Commitment, and setup a committee to give recommendation on the signing of the Commitment. By February 23, 2007, he had announced its signature on behalf of Cornell University (Skorton, 2007).
On March 12, 2007, Cornell students in a referendum passed by a margin of 80%, a proposal to include a five dollar fee on their student fee to pay for green energy. The proposal would cover the costs for 10% of the campus’ electricity consumption to be switched to renewable sources. After a presentation from KyotoNOW!, the student union unanimously agreed to holding a referendum, and with the result, will now work with administration to incorporate a fee, perhaps optional. A student champion of the resolution commented that just one year earlier, the student union had been unsure about holding such a referendum because of the low level of support it might draw.
The referendum questions were proposed by the student organization Kyoto Now!. According to former Kyoto Now! President, Matt Perkins ’08, the S.A. [Student Assembly], was originally skeptical about the idea, but recently has become very receptive to the issue. ‘In the past year and half, people have become more aware of the issues of climate change,” Perkins said. “If you look in the New York Times or Washington Post, global warming is not just in the news once a week, it’s there everyday” (Ramachandran, 2007).

The theory behind their latest campaign puts them past “climate neutral”, a current trend for campus groups to push for either “carbon/climate neutrality” or “beyond carbon/climate neutral”. As in the Redbud case, petition signatures were collected from faculty, though only 95 of a goal of 500 were received, before the President’s announcement (Cornell Faculty for Climate Neutrality, 2007). Skorton’s initial open letter was very supportive of the student group and indicated a change in approach in dealing with students. The commitment announcement weeks later also praised students and the other motivators: “I applaud the determination of our student body, the dedication of our staff and the path-finding work of our faculty, all of whom contributed to making this decision possible. In particular, I commend the KyotoNOW! students and other members of the Ad Hoc Committee (Skorton, 2007).

Not on the AASHE Bulletin?

What's AASHE?
The wonderfully effective organization with the non-concise - I've heard that many Canadian organizers still don't know of this organization, foudned and still based out of the Western US.

Join their bulletin - it's the best source for information you can get, filled with resources and hope. I've seen it grow tremendously over the years, following the exciting changes happening on campuses.
And it does include cancon.. but we have to catch up to the American movement if we're going to have more successes shown.

Check it out and subscribe here:

Sustainable Campuses - Sierra Youth Coalition also posts success stories periodically, and you can contribute your own from campus: