Sustainability

News

Gear up for Commuter Challenge 2022

May 25, 2022

Now that spring is finally (!) here, it’s time for the Commuter Challenge.  The Commuter Challenge is a friendly workplace competition to encourage active and sustainable ways to travel.  From June 5 to June 11, join the challenge and celebrate all the sustainable ways to get around – walk, bike, wheel, rollerblade, take transit, carpool, telecommute – whether it’s for work or for play.  It’s a great way to get outside, get active, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and you can even win some great prizes! Here’s how you can participate.

  • Register for the Commuter Challenge using the RRC Polytech link.  Log your kilometers travelled and see how much our actions can add up.  All trips can be counted, whether it’s a walk around the neighbourhood, biking to the park or telecommuting to work.  The Green Action Centre has lined up some amazing prizes for participants.
  • Play RRC Polytech Commuter Challenge Wordle!  We have a top secret five letter word, and there are five activities in the table below.  For each activity you complete, send us a photo (email sustainability@rrc.ca or Instagram @rrcgoesgreen) and we’ll send you one letter from the word. If you guess the word correctly by 4:00 pm on Friday June 10, you’ll be entered to win a $100 gift card from Le Marche St Norbert Farmers’ Market, or a local market of your choice.  There’s also a participation prize – for each activity completed, you will be entered to win a $50 gift card.  We’ll share photos and stories on Instagram and Facebook. The contest is open to RRC Polytech staff and faculty.
RRC Polytech Wordle
Get outside and identify 3 plants or treesGet active during your lunch breakWalk, bike, wheel, bus, carpool your commute, or visit our Bike to Work Day pit stopVisit your favourite parkGet outside with a friend, colleague or pet
  • This year Bike Week is the same week, so there are lots of opportunities to get your Commuter Challenge kms.  Monday June 6 is Bike to Work Day and the RRC Polytech pit stop is returning new and improved! This year, we are partnering with Assiniboine Park Conservancy on a pit stop on the north side of the Assiniboine Park footbridge on Portage Avenue at Overdale Street (across from Sargent Sundae). Come visit us on June 6 and enjoy some treats, get your bike chain cleaned, get a RRC Polytech Wordle letter, and enter the prize draw. 

The recent sustainability survey showed that sustainable transportation is important to staff and students.  Whether you are biking to work, walking to the grocery store or carpooling with friends, choosing active and sustainable transportation can be rewarding for our health and our planet.  

See you at the Commuter Challenge! 

And The Survey Says…

May 12, 2022

The results of the RRC Polytech sustainability survey are in – sustainability is important, and people are engaged.  The survey was sent to staff and students in February and a whopping 650 staff (30%) and 1,100 students (13%) responded, showing how much people care about sustainability.  This reflects the trend in Canada and globally, that people are increasingly concerned about the environment, and they want to live more sustainably.  

This was the most comprehensive survey on sustainability at the college in 10 years, with questions on sustainability culture (how people feel) and literacy (what people know).  The survey results are used to help inform our Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) report and develop programs and initiatives. 

Here are some highlights from the survey results.

Sustainability Culture

The culture of sustainability at the college is resoundingly positive.  Most staff and students said that environmental sustainability is important, they want to learn more about sustainability, and they consider social sustainability when making purchases.  This echoes the value of sustainability in the 2022-2026 Strategic Plan.

Environmental Priorities

With sustainability as a value that guides us, there are many different areas we can focus our efforts.  Staff and students identified reducing / minimizing waste and other waste diversion programs as the most important environmental sustainability issue to address.  Waste reduction and diversion are some of the most visible sustainability programs at the college.  The second priority identified is to increase awareness and education, followed by support for sustainable transportation.  All three priorities help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainability Literacy

Understanding sustainability and its main concepts can help affect change. When asked to identify the three main components of sustainability, 41% of staff and 31% of students successfully identified economic, environmental and social, while 43% of staff and 52% of students selected reduce, reuse, recycle.

This is not surprising, given the effectiveness of the 3R messaging and the decrease in visibility and communication on sustainability during the pandemic.  Historically more staff answered this question successfully.  This year had the lowest successful response rate.  

For the other literacy questions, most staff and students could successfully define a life cycle analysis (89% / 68%); define the concept of Zero Waste (91% / 77%); and identify the food with the highest carbon footprint (81% / 67%).

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability is fundamentally interconnected with environmental sustainability.  We asked staff and students to identify examples of social sustainability.  Most staff (76%) and students (68%) identified truth and reconciliation, which could be connected to increased focus and education.  A much smaller number of staff (29%) and students (18%) identified accessible technology (using closed captioning in course materials).  For this question, all the answers are examples of social sustainability at the college.

The survey results showed that staff and students value sustainability and have a good understanding of the concepts.  The results provided us with feedback on what’s going well and where we can improve.  Thank you to everyone who completed the survey, your answers provide valuable input and help inform sustainability work at the college. 

Celebrate Earth Day with Sustainable Actions

April 13, 2022

Earth Day is celebrated worldwide on April 22 as a day to support the environment, raise awareness and work towards a more sustainable future.  From community clean ups and local events to international virtual events, there are many ways to celebrate Earth Day and help protect our planet.  At RRC Polytech, we want to celebrate all the positive impacts our community has on the environment.  Here’s how you can participate. 

Show us your Sustainability! – For Earth Day, we’ve paired up with the RRC Polytech Students’ Association to shine a light on our staff and students.  What sustainable actions do you take at home, at work or at play?  From Tuesday April 19 to Friday April 22, send us a photo of you doing something good for the earth, such as saving energy, reducing waste or greening your commute, according to the themes below.  For each day you send a photo, you’ll be entered to win a prize at the end of the week – a $50 VISA gift card and a new sustainability mug! *

  • Tuesday April 19 – Sustainability at Home – Send us a photo of you saving energy, reducing plastics, gardening or shoveling snow off your garden (!), or any at home sustainable action.
  • Wednesday April 20 – Reducing Waste – What do you do to minimize waste and reduce, reuse, recycle or compost? 
  • Thursday April 21 – Green Travel – Send us a photo of your sustainable ways to travel – walk, bike, roller blade, transit, carpool, etc.
  • Friday April 22 – All in for Earth Day – Send us a photo of any sustainable action on Earth Day!

Email your photos to sustainability@rrc.ca or direct message us on Instagram @rrcgoesgreen.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more details. 

* The contest is open to current RRC Polytech staff and students. Photos received may be shared on our social media accounts or in other communications. Please contact us with any questions.

State of SustainabilityJoin our virtual presentation on Friday April 22 at noon to hear about the sustainability highlights from the past year, including innovative green building features of Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, waste reduction initiatives and how we are measuring our sustainability performance.  We’ll also share the results of the recent sustainability survey, including the most important environmental sustainability issue for staff and students (hint: it’s one of the photo contest theme topics). 

Earth Day is a great opportunity to support the environment and support each other in taking steps towards sustainability.  Thanks to all the staff, students and faculty who contribute to sustainability in the college community.  Happy Earth Day!

Disposable Mask Recycling Expands to the Exchange District Campus

January 25, 2022

It’s 2022 and masks continue to be an everyday staple in our lives. Throughout the pandemic, mask guidelines have evolved as new information becomes available.  At the college, health and safety remains the top priority and a new requirement to wear medical grade masks or KN95/N95 masks was introduced in January 2022. 

Many people are concerned about the environmental impact of disposable masks. In response to these concerns, Red River College Polytechnic was proud to be the first public institution in Manitoba to set up a disposable mask recycling program at our Notre Dame Campus in February, 2021.  Since then, we have sent an estimated 44,000 masks to be recycled!

Building on this program’s success, we’re excited to announce the expansion of the disposable mask recycling program to the Exchange District Campus.  All faculty, staff and students can bring their used disposable masks – including 3-ply surgical, dust masks, and KN95/N95 masks – to any of the mask recycling boxes listed below:

Exchange District Campus Mask Recycling Locations

  • Roblin Centre, north entrance
  • Paterson GlobalFoods Institute, third floor by the lockers

Notre Dame Campus Mask Recycling Locations

  • South Parking Lot, by Commissionaires Booth
  • STTC Building, main entrance
  • Building J, north entrance

Masks can only be recycled in the boxes at these locations, and not in the regular recycling bins. The masks are recycled using TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box program, where they are separated into component parts and recycled into plastic lumber and composite material used in outdoor furniture, decking and shipping pallets.  Find out more about mask recycling here.  Thanks to our wonderful faculty, staff and students for supporting this program and helping to keep disposable masks out of the landfill.

Reusing Items is a Win – Win

October 18, 2021

It’s Waste Reduction Week in Canada and a great opportunity to reflect on what we can do to reduce our waste, as individuals and as a college community.  On campus, there are programs for recycling paper, containers, batteries, markers, etc.  But what about furniture and equipment that RRC Polytech no longer needs?  What happens to chairs that are replaced, drill presses that are upgraded or desks from vacated office spaces? 

We are proud to say that most of these items are reused.  They are reused within the College, sent for auction or donated to local organizations.  So far in 2021, we have reused, auctioned or donated over 1,900 furniture items and over 3.5 tonnes of books and household items.  Reusing items is an important part of the College’s zero waste program and it reduces our carbon footprint.  Reusing items provides a way to extend their useful life and often saves money, energy and natural resources – a win for the College and the environment! For Waste Reduction Week, we compiled a list of the top 3 stories of reuse at the College for 2021:

#1 The Great Office Cleanout

The Language Training Centre (LTC) in the Via Rail station had 30 years of furniture, equipment, books (and many 1990’s board games) to sort through to prepare to move to the Innovation Centre. Thanks to the effort of Materials Management, Space Planning and the LTC staff, over 1,250 furniture items including desks, tables, chairs and cabinets were given a new life, including 440 furniture items donated to schools in Winnipeg and northern Manitoba. Susan Darazsi, Principal of Strathcona school, talks about the benefit of the furniture donation:

“On behalf of Strathcona School, I would like to thank Red River College for the extremely generous furniture donation. We have been able to use the chairs and individual student desks in the grade 4-6 classrooms. The comfy couch and chairs, along with the shelving units and tables have been used to create a family room. Additionally, the cupboard and filing cabinets are being used in our Literacy Lab to organize reading materials and resources.”

Another school used the furniture to rebuild their learning spaces as they recovered from a fire. 

In addition, over 3.5 tonnes of household items including clothing, dishes, binders and over one thousand books were donated to Centre Flavie-Laurent, a local non-profit organization that provides items to people for free and serves up to 500 families per week. 

#2 Reusing in Residence

At Paterson GlobalFoods Institute (PGI), the Campus Living office runs several reuse programs to minimize items sent to landfill. Gently used mattresses are donated to local organizations. Household items such as brooms, dishes, kettles, etc. that students leave behind are organized, cleaned and made available for new students to use. A great way to encourage a culture of reuse for the residents! Dale Kujanpaa, Manager of Campus Living, talks about the reuse program at PGI residence:

“The reuse program started over 5 years ago at PGI and has been very beneficial to the students living in residence.  Located in the 7th floor lounge, students can find items that are relevant to their suites, such as cutlery, clothing, hangers, school supplies and more.  Many of these items would be headed towards the landfill, but now they can be reused by the next group of students!”

#3 Binders, Binders and More Binders

With various RRC processes going paperless, many staff are tidying up their spaces and clearing out old paperwork (do the contents of your filing cabinet spark joy?). This leads to many, many boxes of binders and other office supplies that are longer needed.  These items are donated to the Students’ Association or local organizations for reuse.  We continue to look for creative ways to make these items available to students on an ongoing basis. 

From podiums to toolboxes, bookshelves to stretchers, binders to mattresses, reusing items is an important part of our journey to become a Zero Waste campus.  When items are reused and kept out of the landfill, everybody wins. 

Welcome (Back): RRC Green Guide 2021

September 1, 2021

As the new school year starts many are coming to RRC for the first time, and many are returning after a long time away. So, to help your transition, here’s a roundup of what you need to know about being sustainable on campus.

Getting to Campus Sustainably

If you are coming to campus, there are many options for traveling sustainably and the College is working actively to support you in choosing those options.  Below are some tips to help you plan your transit or bike trip to campus.

Working Towards a Zero Waste Campus

We’ve got a variety of programs to divert materials from the landfill and give them another useful life. But, we can’t do it without you! Here are some ways you can help us in our work towards becoming a Zero Waste Campus:

Find out more about our integrated waste and recycling program.

Water

A woman wearing a mask filling a reusable mug at a water bottle fill station

Fill up your reusable water bottle at one of our many bottle fill stations

There are more than 50 water bottle filling stations located in convenient locations around most of our campuses. Save money and the environment this year by filling your reusable water bottle with cold, filtered water at one of these stations.

Connect With Us

Our Sustainability Team holds many events throughout the year (virtually for now, but hopefully in person again soon!). To keep up to date with our latest news, get involved with us, or learn more about how to make your campus life more sustainable: find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and subscribe to our blog.

 

Another Commuter Challenge in the Books

June 20, 2021

Two people, one with a bike, laughing at a table outside with pastries and juice and water.

Looking forward to being able to greet you at one of our Commuter Welcome Stations again one day!

The Commuter Challenge is over for another year and while we didn’t get to greet you all with cinnamon buns and coffee as you arrived at campus like we’d hoped, we still enjoyed connecting with you all virtually! This year the challenge ran from May 30 to June 5 and celebrated not just sustainable work commutes, but all of the active and sustainable ways we get around.

RRC has a history of high participation in this event and we’re excited to announce that the tradition continues with us being awarded GOLD in Workplace Category this year! Thank you to everyone who participated and helped make that happen!

Join the Commuter Challenge! May 30 to June 5, 2021

May 19, 2021

Photo of a bike up on a stand and someone tightening a screw with a wrench.

Tune up that bike and get ready for the 2021 Commuter Challenge!

The Commuter Challenge is an annual event that encourages Canadians to green their commute by choosing (or continuing to choose) sustainable transportation. This year the challenge runs from May 30 to June 5 and we’re celebrating not just sustainable commuting but all of the sustainable and active ways we get around. So, on top of logging your sustainable commute to work (yes, telecommuting counts!), you can count your walk at lunch, your family bike ride around the neighbourhood, walking your dog (or cat), taking transit to get groceries – any and all ways you travel sustainably during the week.

The Commuter Challenge at RRC last year encouraged you to reconnect with your commute, this year we’re encouraging you to reconnect with each other. It’s been a long 14+ months for many of us away from the office, away from colleagues, away from students, and away from our friends and family. While we still can’t get together in person let’s challenge ourselves to find new ways to connect, to stay active and to have fun. See below for some ideas on how to reconnect during this year’s Commuter Challenge.

To participate REGISTER HERE, log your sustainable trips over the week, and be entered to win great prizes (more on that later).

Read More →

RRC Launches Disposable Mask Recycling Program

February 15, 2021

Toss your disposable mask in one of these bins as you leave campus.

Masks. They’re a staple of life these days.

While many of us choose reusable masks, disposable masks are being used by the million, either through preference or necessity.  And all of these masks amount to a staggering amount of waste. Stories like this and this bring the issue to light. At Red River College, we distribute more than 6,000 disposable masks every month. That’s why we’re excited to partner with Terracycle and bring a Disposable Mask Recycling program to Red River College.

So how does it work?

We’ve set up three disposable mask recycling boxes at the Notre Dame Campus. These boxes* are located in outdoor, high traffic areas. As students, staff and faculty leave our buildings they can doff (a fancy word for ‘take off’) and discard their masks to be recycled. The boxes accept all non-woven, disposable, plastic-based masks including 3-ply surgical, dust masks, KN95, and N95 masks. Paper or cloth masks or anything else isn’t allowed in the bin.

Mask Recycling locations:

South Parking Lot, by Commissionaires Booth

STTC Building, main entrance

Building J, north entrance

How Are Masks Recycled?

Once the box is full, it’s securely sealed and stored for 72 hours.  After that it’s trucked to a facility in New Jersey where masks are mechanically disassembled, sorted and baled based on the material composition. The metal from the nose piece is processed in New Jersey and smelted into new bar stock and metal sheeting. The polypropylene part of the mask is sent to Illinois where it’s crushed into a crumb-like consistency and used to make composite decking, shipping pallets and other products. And the elastane/ rubber portion of the band is also sent to Illinois where it’s ground into a fine mesh regrind and mixed with recycled plastics to give that ‘flexy’ property to finished products.

Once a year we’ll receive a Certificate of Destruction outlining the total number of shipments, and the total weight of recycled materials. Stay tuned to track our progress….

Working towards a Zero Waste Campus

We’re proud of our integrated waste and recycling program. From basic recycling, composting, e-waste, plastic bags, batteries, writing utensils, mattresses and more, we’ve got a variety of programs to divert materials from the landfill and give them another useful life. We’re happy to add disposable masks onto our list of recycled items.

*Shout out to our amazing carpenter Kevin for snow, rain and wind-proofing the recycling boxes with his custom creation.

Compost Winnipeg – RRC’s New Partner in Composting

January 14, 2021

Happy 2021.  A new year brings new beginnings and we’re excited to announce a new partnership with Compost Winnipeg for compost collection at our Paterson GlobalFoods Institute (PGI) building.  Compost Winnipeg is a social enterprise of the Green Action Centre, a local non-profit organization.  As a social enterprise, they operate their business in a manner that strikes a social, cultural, environmental and economic balance – an approach that aligns with RRC’s sustainability values.

Did you know that the compost program at PGI has been operating since 2013?  Over the past 8 years, we’ve kept 475 tonnes of material from making a dead-end trip to the landfill.  When organic material like food waste is sent to landfill, it is buried in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment, and produces methane gas when it decomposes.  Methane is a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  When organic material is composted, it decomposes under ideal conditions to create a nutrient rich soil which can be used as fertilizer in gardens, landscaping and more.  By composting 475 tonnes of material from PGI, we have prevented the equivalent of 420 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere or saved 182,000 litres of gas. A job well done!

So, what material can be composted at PGI? The PGI compost program accepts all food waste (including meat, bones and dairy), and fibre based material such as tea bags, coffee filters, paper napkins and compostable food packaging.  Compost Winnipeg picks up the material from PGI and brings it to the Prairie Green facility in Stony Mountain for composting.  The finished compost is used as top cover for the landfill.

Special thanks to all the Instructors, students and staff who work hard every day to keep this important program afloat, even through a pandemic.  We’re looking forward to working with Compost Winnipeg to grow our compost program over the coming years. Stay tuned!

For those of you looking to make a sustainable change at home, Compost Winnipeg offers compost collection services for homes, apartments, condos and one-time events.  Find out more here.