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Sustainability

News and Events

RRC Polytech Students Tackling Waste at Assiniboine Park Zoo

November 26, 2021

Several students standing around a waste and recycling bin while Renata explains the program.
Touring the waste and recycling program at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

When our former RRC Polytech Sustainability team member, Renata Machado – now the Sustainability Specialist at the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC) – approached us about a possible student project to increase waste diversion at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, we were thrilled! Our office has worked with many students on applied learning projects which have helped advance sustainability at the College while giving students practical experience in their field. So naturally we jumped at the opportunity to support a key community partner in achieving a sustainability goal.

This collaboration with APC is a natural extension of our “campus as a living lab” program, which aligns perfectly with the following strategic priority in RRC Polytech’s new Strategic Plan 2022-2026, In Front of What’s Ahead:

Increased applied research partnerships and integration of applied research within academic programming.

Through this project, and future collaborations, we will be helping to drive Manitoba forward economically, environmentally, socially and culturally.

We approached the Arman Vahedi, an instructor in the Environmental Engineering Technology program to partner with us on the project. In the past, our office has had great success partnering with this program who third-year students are required to complete an Applied Research Project (ARP) to gain practical experience in their field.

“Our Environmental Engineering Technology program at Red River College Polytechnic has partnered with many community and industry partners over the years to help advance their goals through applied learning opportunities for our students.  I am very excited about this new partnership with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and the mutual benefits it offers. Through this project our students are getting invaluable hands-on experience in their field while also helping an important community partner reach their sustainability goals.”

Shari Bielert, Chair, Civil Engineering Technology
Several students sorting garbage and recycling into categories.
Sorting through waste and recycling from Halloween at the Zoo.

On a cold, rainy day at the end of October, the Environmental Engineering Technology students toured the waste program at the Assiniboine Park Zoo and learned about the project which would launch with a waste audit from the final night of Boo at the Zoo. Two student teams dove right in on November 1 sorting through the previous day’s empty hot chocolate cups and greasy fry boxes to understand the composition of the Zoo’s waste and how well visitors sort it into the appropriate bins. The students will spend the next several months analyzing the waste audit data and waste collection processes and researching possible solutions.

This project will address a small but important piece in the efforts to increase  waste diversion and advance sustainability at APC

“As a conservation organization, we are committed to reducing our ecological footprint by identifying sustainability targets and measuring progress towards them. This project is a great example of that.  The information gained will be very valuable in helping us understand how our organization can reduce contamination in recycling bins and improve our diversion rate. We are so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with RRC Polytech and your Sustainability Office on this project. We have learned a lot in the process and are very pleased to provide a hands-on learning experience for students. We hope this partnership will continue for many years to come.”

Renata Machado, Sustainability Specialist, Assiniboine Park Conservancy

In the spring, the students will hand in their final reports and APC will begin work on implementing recommendations. We can’t wait to share the results of their hard work!

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.

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!