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Sustainability

News and Events

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.

Meet Amanda, RRC’s Zero Waste Coordinator

October 20, 2020

Hello RRC! My name is Amanda Wolfe, and I am the College’s Zero Waste Coordinator.  My job is to apply zero waste concepts of sustainable resource management to the campus waste streams.  My focus is on waste reduction, reuse and continuous improvement of current programs such as recycling and composting.

I started my job at RRC during the pandemic, which was an interesting experience.  At first it was strange meeting all my colleagues virtually and working from my laundry room, but now it seems completely normal.  While I work primarily from home, I visit our campuses on a weekly basis to make sure our programs are running smoothly and to check in with our Recycling Team.

My background is in engineering and project management.  Before coming to RRC, I worked for the City of Winnipeg Water and Waste Department, and strived to implement green office programs, waste reduction and sustainable procurement policies.

I really enjoy working with people and learning new things. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, baking, exercising (mostly power walking) and listening to podcasts.  I’m looking forward to meeting you and working together to achieve a zero waste campus!

Maximizing Summer and Minimizing Waste

July 23, 2020

2020 is the ten year anniversary of Plastic Free July, a global movement to encourage people to reduce single-use plastic items such as coffee cups, bottles, and plastic cutlery. Refusing single-use items is a great way to reduce your environmental impact because it’s all about waste prevention. With many people spending more time at home this summer, there’s an opportunity to make small changes that can make a big difference.

There are many alternatives to single-use items, such as reusable mugs and water bottles. But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many stores to stop accepting reusable food and drink containers. So how do we reduce single-use items during the pandemic? Here are some ideas:

Plastic-free produce bags, wax wraps, dishcloths ,and more.

  • Need coffee? Brew at home (think of the money you’ll save and fresh coffee aroma’s in your home!). Many local coffee shops such as Little Sister Coffee Maker , Thom Bargen , and Fools and Horses sell their coffee for retail.
  • Going to the park, the beach, or a hike? Bring a reusable water bottle and / or your RRC sustainability mug to keep things cool. Pack your own food and bring reusable napkins and cutlery.
  • Going out for lunch? Support restaurants that minimize plastic and Styrofoam, such as Nuburger, The Forks Market or Hildegard’s Bakery . Consider portion sizes, and bring a reusable container for leftovers.
  • Buying groceries? Local stores, markets, bakeries, etc. that use less plastic packaging. Remember your reusable grocery and produce bags. Most grocery stores still accept reusable bags if you load your own groceries.
  • Learned new skills? Practice the new skills you learned during the pandemic lockdown – baking, cooking, gardening, creative meal planning and mixology! RRC hospitality has some great recipes to try.
  • Storing food? , try reusable containers, bags or beeswax wraps. Replace paper towels with reusable cloths that are machine washable. These items can be found in stores that sell eco-friendly household products, including Generation Green , Pineridge Hollow , and Humbolt’s Legacy .

With some practice and planning, you can significantly reduce single-use items that end up in the landfill. Plastic items such as water bottles and straws can take hundreds of years to decompose. By trading these items for reusable ones, we can avoid waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and even save money in the process.

While it’s hard to completely eliminate single-use items, Plastic Free July is about building awareness and trying to change behaviour, one small step at a time. If you would like to participate in Plastic Free July see link. https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/.

Enjoy the summer and stay safe.

Commuter Challenge Results… and Musings on Telecommuting

June 24, 2020

The sustainability team rode together for the last prize delivery to our final participant winner Jackie!

This year, 296 workplaces and 2,868 people registered for the Commuter Challenge across Manitoba. At RRC, 80 staff and faculty participated to collectively reduce 1661 kgs of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. All told, this earned us a Silver medal finish in our workplace category!

While reflecting on the College’s strong participation in the Commuter Challenge throughout the years, we found this year’s results to be particularly interesting. Compared to last year, our percentage of participants decreased by 15%, yet the emissions avoided per person increased by 30%. So while the 15-step commute from your bedroom to your home office might have been a little less stressful and a lot less time consuming, it also brought a per-person reduction in CO2 emissions.

Because of COVID-19, staff, faculty and students have transitioned to online working and learning and remarkable speed. We’ve all experienced many adjustments to our routine, including replacing our regular commute with telecommuting. Since March 16th, we’ve tracked and calculated the impact of emissions from kilometers not traveled for student and staff parking pass holders at NDC, Stevenson, Bannister and LTC. Collectively, we haven’t travelled 3,939,637km. This amounts to greenhouse gas emissions avoidance of 797,382kg of CO2. That’s like (not) driving around the world 94 times!

In a 2017 College survey, 15% of staff and faculty cited telecommuting as their preferred commute mode. Now that we’ve settled into our work-from-home routines for the last 3+ months, we can’t help but wonder if attitudes and beliefs around telecommuting have shifted and wonder what (and where) the future of College work will look like.

Thanks to everyone who took on the challenge! We hope to greet you with warm cinnamon buns and Fairtrade coffee at the kickoff of Commuter Challenge 2021!

A Decade of Sustainability – RRC Named One of Canada’s Greenest Employers

June 15, 2020

We’re beyond thrilled that Red River College has been recognized as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for the 10th straight year. This national designation recognizes employers for their environmentally friendly policies and programs that engage staff in their sustainability efforts.

To mark the occasion, we’re pulling out the highlight reel and looking back on the last decade of sustainability at the college with our Top 10 List:

  1. 7,882 kgs of campus-grown produce donated to Winnipeg Harvest Grow-A-Row since 2013
  2. 2 geothermal buildings 
  3. 36 students, staff and alumni who’ve showcased their talents at Made-by-RRC Markets
  4. $804,599 in avoided costs since bringing a coordinated effort to print reduction in 2015
  5. 18 years of operating an on-site compost program at the Notre Dame Campus
  6. 5 consecutive gold-medal finishes in the Commuter Challenge
  7. 93 indoor bike parking spots as part of our Sustainable Transportation Program (with more planned for the Innovation Centre)
  8. 86% of staff and faculty who believe sustainability should be a priority in college operations
  9. 6 EV charging stations
  10. 1 College community dedicated to advancing sustainability in operations, academics, research and community connections

We want to sincerely thank all the staff and faculty who have been a part of this journey. Sustainability is about embracing innovation, taking risks and challenging the status quo. We’re so thankful to work with a college community that embodies sustainability values and is committed to making a difference. So here’s to the last 10 years (we say as we raise a mug of Fairtrade coffee)… we’re looking forward to working with all of you over the next decade. Cheers!

Commuter Challenge 2020

June 2, 2020

Commuter Challenge is a national event bringing attention to the significance of transportation, emissions on our environment, and highlights the physical and mental benefits of active transportation.

While most are adjusting to a new commute (a telecommute) – we can all participate in this annual event in a new way! From May 31- June 6, while you’re logging your telecommuting we challenge you to re-connect with your commute. This includes a walking Teams meeting, a coffee break bike ride, or even ‘re-creating your commute’ by cycling around your neighborhood before your workday begins. All in all, there are many benefits to sustainable commuting, and being active is important for both our mental and physical health.

A great time for fresh air

All you need to do is register here, log your telecommute and any other activity during the week. Not only are there workplace prizes at the end of this Challenge, we are also providing daily individual participant prizes. Every day during commuter challenge there will be a draw for a participating individual! We will be cycling to deliver a daily prize including our very own Creekside honey to sweeten your recipes, a Sustainability Contigo thermos to keep your coffee warm and spill-free in your home office, and a gift card to a St.Leon’s Garden for all your local treat and planting desires!

For more information and wellness tips on setting goals to continue active and sustainable transportation our Mental Health Coordinator, Breanna has provided the following tips:

Before setting a goal, take some time to think about how you are doing right now. Are you managing well and looking for an extra challenge? Or are you just barely fulfilling your current responsibilities while feeling overwhelmed? Understanding how you are currently managing will help you determine what you truly need right now.

Think about what your whole self needs. Consider your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual self when setting a goal. What action(s) would support your whole self?

A challenge doesn’t need to be something new and big. It can be something you’ve done in the past and lost touch with. And it can be a daily action that feels small.

Engaging in a daily challenge can be good for your mental health. This is especially true if the daily task is just challenging enough without being unreasonable and it fits with your personal values. Fulfilling a daily goal, tracking it, and sharing success with others can help one feel a sense of control, satisfaction, and self-esteem.

Try to set an “approach goal” versus an “avoidance goal”. An avoidance goal is where you commit to taking something away (like driving a car) whereas an approach goal is where you commit to doing something satisfying (like walking around the block at lunchtime). Approach goals lead to a greater sense of purpose, satisfaction, and wellbeing.

We look forward to seeing you in action, logging your commutes this week, and carrying these tips forward into your future goal setting for safe, active, and sustainable commuting. Happy Commuter Challenge everyone!

A Row Here, A Row There, Grow-A-Row With Us From Anywhere!

May 29, 2020

The sunshine is here to stay, and our Grounds team is getting busy in the College’s 30 x 60 ft garden to participate in Winnipeg Harvest’s Grow- A-Row for the 7th year. While last harvest we broke our RRC donation record with 4,270 lbs of carrots, beets, onions, pumpkins and potatoes to support Winnipeggers in need, this year we invite YOU to join us from home to beat our record.

The benefits of growing your own food goes far beyond “I grew that!” pride. Growing, cultivating, and preserving your own food is a healthy hobby with many advantages for you, your family and the community. You can introduce little ones to a garden classroom, your grocery list decreases, and you have access to food right in your own backyard. This is what the Grow-A-Row initiative is all about. Dating back to 1986, when Ron and Eunice O’Donovan produced more potatoes in their backyard garden than they could consume, they donated to Winnipeg Harvest and encouraged friends and neighbours to do the same. Since then, Grow-A-Row has yielded millions of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables supporting the food security initiatives within our greater community.

Our Zero Waste Coordinator, Amanda, ready to begin her planting.

This year our Grounds team will be planting beets, onions, potatoes, pumpkins, and various herbs and we invite all of you to grow- a-row and add your bounty to the College’s donation. Sign-up to tell us what you’re planting and we’ll connect at harvest time!

To make the most out of this planting season Groundskeeper, Brady Barron has some quick tips to make your home garden a success!

When Planting in Apartments

Most herbs are easy to grow inside. Position your plants on a south-facing windowsill and watch them take off! Easy to grow herbs include basil, chervil, chives, rosemary, oregano, parsley, sage, and thyme. These herbs will surprise you in how quickly they flourish and how flavorful they are in countless recipes.

When Planting a Garden

Location is key. Overhead structures like buildings or large trees can drastically reduce needed light for your plants. Avoid areas near tree roots as they will be a large consumer of the water you apply. Choose an area with good drainage so plants don’t sit in water and develop diseases.

Spacing is essential. Look for plant spacing information on seed packages and plant labels… and follow it! Crowded plants compete for light, water and nutrients. Ample spacing between rows or groupings makes gardening easier by giving you room to weed and harvest.

Remember that you can have fun and be unique with creating your garden! Make your garden any shape to take advantage of light and space you have.

When Sourcing Seeds

A lot of people purchase greenhouse started plants and pay a premium for them. Purchasing seed can be very cost-effective and produce quite well. You can get seeds pretty much everywhere – your local greenhouse is a great place to start. RRC Grounds purchases seeds at T&T seeds. “We find that they have pretty much everything you could ask for!”, says Brady.

Now that you have our notes it’s time to turnip the beet, get your garden gloves on and sign-up to be a part of this year’s Grow-A-Row!

We can’t wait to see your garden grow. For questions and to share your gardening accomplishments, contact sustainability@rrc.ca

Staying Connected this Earth Day

April 21, 2020

Our physical office may be closed, but we’re still here, safe and sound, with our bikes, plants, and pets keeping us company in our home offices. While Earth Day looks different this year, we’re reflecting on some amazing milestones, events, and initiatives we’ve celebrated at the College over the past year.

From Grow-A-Row, a community partnership with Winnipeg Harvest, we planted, grew, and donated a record-breaking 4,270 lbs. of produce from our Notre Dame Campus garden.

During the holidays, we powered down our offices and supported College gardens by composting our pumpkins and Christmas trees.

By implementing sustainable printing tools and initiatives we cut our College-wide printing by more than 815,000 pages – that’s equivalent to saving 68 trees!

We installed 4 real-time transit information screens across our campuses to provide a better transit experience for so many of our students and staff.

Our rooftop bees pollinated College gardens and surrounding neighbourhoods and yielded 238 jars of sweet honey.

Our ‘Made by RRC’ Winter Market welcomed more than 30 staff, student, and alumni makers who showcased their amazing talents.

This past trip around the sun has brought us together in so many ways. We miss you and can’t wait to see you again soon. To explore Earth Day digitally check out the RRC library’s environmental online collection and tune-in to Earth Day Live.

2020 BRAVO Sustainability Leadership Award goes to Civil Engineering Technology Instructor

March 9, 2020

Congratulations to Daniel Enns for receiving this year’s BRAVO Award for Sustainability Leadership. This award is a recognition of his dedication, innovation and commitment to sustainability here at RRC.

Since coming to Red River College, Daniel has made a significant positive impact on the culture of sustainability at the College and is an ambassador for showcasing the College to the wider community. In 2017, not long after attending a New Employee Orientation session where Daniel learned about the Sustainability Department, he visited our office and asked whether we would be interested in participating in the city-wide Bike Week event. Bike Week is a week-long celebration that encourages cycling as a way to get to work, school and more. One way community organizations can participate in Bike Week is to host a Pit Stop. Located along main cycling commuter routes, Pit Stops greet cyclists passing by with encouragement, food, prizes, bike tune-ups and more.

Because of Daniel’s gentle encouragement, the College held our first-ever Bike to Work Day Pit Stop in 2017 at the north end of the Omand’s Creek footbridge. This turned out to be a prime location as our team of College volunteers greeted approximately 115 cyclists, including Mayor Brian Bowman. Over the next two years, our Pit Stop greeted hundreds of more cyclists.

Since meeting Daniel in 2017, he’s hosted six events with our office to remove barriers and instill confidence in students, staff and faculty in promoting cycling as a viable commute mode. In 2017, he hosted a “Bike Repair Workshop” demonstrating how to use the College’s newly installed air and repair stations. In 2018, he co-hosted a “Cyclist Meet-up” where experienced cyclists shared tips and answered questions with novice cyclists. That year, he also hosted an “Ask the Expert” drop-in session to answer any cycling-related questions. This year, he hosted a “Bike Repair 101” workshop, a workshop on the “A-B-C’s of Cycling” and most recently a “Winter Cycling 101” event where he made a video demonstrating some aspects of winter cycling and answered questions about winter cycling. In addition to all of this, Daniel has become our “resident cycling expert” and is always ready and willing to support cycling at RRC any way he can.

Daniel’s work at the College in Civil Engineering Technology and the Building Envelope Technology Access Centre (BETAC) is directly related to advancing sustainability in the building sector. While his professional work is hugely important to sustainability, he’s awarded this year’s Sustainability Leadership Award because of what he does outside of his day job. It’s a gift to find a volunteer like Daniel who not only comes up with innovative and engaging ideas, but rolls up his sleeves to help see the ideas to fruition.

As an avid cyclist himself, Daniel leads by example by participating in the Commuter Challenge every year, signing up as a cycling mentor on GoManitoba in order to be matched up with those interested in cycling to campus and riding with them, and is one of the few “winter warriors” at NDC who cycles to work year-round. But his approachability and dedication to making cycling accessible is what makes him a leader. When he is hosting events his quiet leadership makes him approachable and his honesty and genuine care for people make him trustworthy. Anyone who has a conversation with Daniel leaves with a little more knowledge and a little more confidence about cycling.

While cycling is Daniel’s key area of interest, he also shows leadership by supporting sustainability in general at the College. Daniel attends and participates in many sustainability events at RRC including Earth Hour, the annual State of Sustainability, the climate strike and more. Daniel is always willing to pitch in and support any sustainability initiative and thanks to his leadership, he has made cycling to RRC accessible for many people.

Congrats Daniel on this well-deserved award!