Sustainability

News and Events

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!

Reaching for the STARS

February 15, 2022

With the recent launch of RRC Polytech’s Strategic Plan 2022-2026, In Front of What’s Ahead, it is time for many departments to set their own priorities and create strategies to complement and support the college’s bold vision. The Strategic Plan lists sustainability as one of the values that helps shape how we do our work and affirms our organizational commitment to “approach[ing] all our work with humility and a desire to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being all Manitobans.” We are excited to work towards the outcomes outlined in the Plan, but to do that effectively we need to have a better understanding of where we’re starting from. That is where STARS comes in.

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for post-secondaries to measure their sustainability performance. Developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), in consultation with the higher education community, STARS is a comprehensive tool that looks at the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability across an entire institution. Ratings (platinum, gold, silver and bronze) are achieved based on the percentage of applicable points earned. By undertaking this assessment, we will be better able to understand and communicate where we are as an organization and how we compare to our peers.

STARS by the Numbers

  • 679: post-secondary institutions worldwide have earned a STARS rating
  • 63: Credits across four categories: Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Planning & Administration
  • 4: bonus points available as Innovation & Leadership credits
  • 11: institutions have earned a Platinum rating

RRC Polytech last undertook STARS in 2012 and earned a silver rating. As a result, we were able to identify key areas for improvement and advance sustainability significantly at the college. It is time to do this again. Using STARS as a benchmark, we will gain a better understanding of what we’re doing well and where the gaps exist. This will provide a strong foundation as we build towards realizing the vision set out in the Strategic Plan.  

Below is the project timeline:

January – March:Collect, analyze and input data into the STARS Reporting Tool
March 15: Submit initial STARS report to AASHE for review
March – April: AASHE will review the submission and provide feedback
April – May:Make revisions based on AASHE feedback and submit final report
May 2022:Present our STARS result to the college

While this project is led by Environmental Stewardship & Campus Renewal, it is a college-wide initiative and we want to thank all of you who have been and will be involved throughout this process. If you have any questions about STARS, or want to know how you can be involved, please contact us, we’d love to hear from you! 

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.

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).

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