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Sustainability Coordinator asks What’s Your Eco-Footprint?

February 14, 2013

This week, marked the launch of the Red River College Sustainability Speaker Series.

In this session, I asked the question “What’s Your Eco-Footprint?” and told a story of humanity’s demand on nature.

Some of the highlights from the session were:

  • It would take 5 planets if everyone on the planet lived like an average Winnipegger.
  • Learning about Earth Overshoot Day, and what it means for the planet.
  • Knowing the top 5 things you can do to reduce your Eco-Footprint.

To find out more, check out the presentation here and calculate your own footprint at www.myfootprint.org.

This was another successful green event; thanks to Mondragon for supplying the fabulous vegan cookies.

Watch for information on the next Series presentation coming March 19th, when Manitoba Hydro tells us how it PAYS to be Power Smart.

Waste. Recycling. Shredding. Oh my!

February 11, 2013

Q) What do these bins have in common?

Bins, bins and more bins.

Bins, bins and more bins.

A) They are located throughout our College campuses, are central collection points for materials and are main components of the College’s waste reduction and recycling program.

Until recently, the management and budgetary responsibility for these bins was overseen by three different departments. Why this might seem insignificant to many, it matters in the sustainability world because decentralized budgets limit the ability to achieve an integrated approach to managing the operations and costs of materials leaving our campus. Increasing recycling rates and costs were putting pressure on the Sustainability Office budget. While just down the hall the Facilities folks were loosening their budget belts as solid waste weights declined. This is a common sustainability challenge – escalating costs in one area and reduced costs in another (think about reconciling higher capital costs for LEED buildings with lower operating costs). That’s why taking a long-term and comprehensive approach to meeting sustainability goals is necessary.

So, in the Winter of 2012 we issued our very first integrated materials request for proposals where companies were invited to bid on the collection of solid waste, recycling and/ or shredding. More importantly than seeking a vendor(s) to reliably haul materials, we were looking for strategic partners to work proactively with the College to help us achieve our sustainability goals (including increasing our diversion rate and finding solutions for hard-to-recycle materials). At that same time, the Sustainability Office assumed budgetary responsibility for solid waste and shredding.

After reviewing and scoring all proposals, in April 2012 Waste Management became our solid waste hauler and Phoenix Recycling assumed responsibility for recycling and shredding collection.

After more than a year on the job, we’re pleased to report some exciting results from the College’s new and improved waste reduction and recycling program.

N.B. The good news in this post relates exclusively to the economic pillar of sustainability – the moolah. Updates on our material streams and diversion rates are coming soon.

Here are the deets:

  • Annual solid waste costs have decreased by 8%
  • Annual recycling costs have decreased by 21%
  • Annual shredding costs have decreased by 25% (despite tripling the number of locked consoles on campus)

Overall, the College’s new integrated waste and recycling program has cut costs by 12% in its first year in operation. A big part of this cost savings is the result of “right-sizing” our program. An operational audit reveal that many of our bins were being collected far more frequently than needed. So by reducing collection frequencies we were able to save.

The really exciting part is that we were able to use those cost savings to introduce a post-consumer compost program at our newest building.. and we still saved money! Now that’s sustainability in action – applying savings from one area to achieve an environmental benefit in another. This is news that makes the College’s budget bosses and the Sustainability Office happy!

Compost Collection at PGI – the maiden voyage

January 22, 2013

A few months ago, before the snow was flying and the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute was open for business, I posted about our compost conundrum – how was RRC going to handle food waste at our new building?

After lots of input (thanks in particular to Jean Mark and Howard 🙂 ), research and number crunching, we’ve decided to contract our compost collection to Samborski Environmental. This means that all food waste – from food scraps during kitchen prep, to the leftovers on your plate can be collected in food waste bins and sent to be composted.

This first collection diverted 628 pounds from the landfill. Not too shabby! Stay tuned for more updates on composting at PGI in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

Thanks for Supporting Green Chili!

November 21, 2012

Bettina Allen – brought her own bowl and won!

Last week the Sustainability Office asked people to bring their own bowl and spoon to RRC’s Chili Cup. We did this to encourage participation in a waste-free event. To add an extra incentive, participants who brought their own bowl and spoon were entered to win a $25 gift certificate to Prairie Lights.

Most people liked the idea of “bringing their own” and rose to meet that challenge.  I saw a variety of creative “bowl” ideas – everything from coffee cups, Tupperware containers, candy dishes – whatever they could find! This was the case with our draw winner, Bettina Allen from our Library.

All in all 42 of the 97 Chili Cup participants brought their own bowl – that’s nearly half of all attendees. While keeping 42 disposable bowls and spoons out of the landfill may seem insignificant, it points to the power of collective action. Small things really do add up!

Over the next year the Sustainability Office will roll out other programs to reduce waste from College events and day-to-day operations, including developing a green catering program and piloting a reusable take-out container program. These actions are part of our one year workplan – Sustainability 365. In the meantime, I encourage you to continue to “bring your own” to campus events.  Keep up the good work…

Greening events at RRC

November 9, 2012

If you are planning an event – MAKE IT GREEN

Greening an event means taking steps to minimize your environmental impact. Start by looking at your event as a whole, break down each activity and use the 4 R’s – Rethink Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Planning and executing a green event is an easy way to adopt the practice of sustainability; not only will you reduce your impact on the environment, but you typically will reduce costs and set a leading example for others to follow.

An event can be large or small, a small event might be a coffee meeting where you ask everyone to bring a reusable mug, or you ask your caterer for glassware instead of plastic plates and cups for a lunch meeting or workshop. When planning a large event consider things like, electronic invitations, using local growers and organic food, encouraging guests to carpool or take transit. These are just a few ideas – the options are endless.

One large event we are helping to green on campus is the annual Chili Cup. Working with the Wellness Committee, the Office of Sustainability put forward these recommendations to reduce waste:

  • To cut waste, we will promote that guests bring their own “bowl and spoon”.
  • For those who bring their own bowl and spoon, we will provide an incentive – and enter them into a draw for a $25 dollar gift certificate.
  • We will use compostable cups and spoons.
  • Each taster will receive only one tasting cup, rather than several small cups.
  • We will promote “How We Greened this Event” – and let people know how we have reduced our impact.
  • We will contact the Recycling Team to make sure we have extra compost collection bins for the compostable cups and spoons and provide signage directing guests where to put their waste.

If you are planning a meeting, workshop or other event, and would like help making it green, contact Sue in the Office of Sustainability (204) 632-2144 or email shayduk@rrc.ca.

For more information on sustainability and what Red River College is doing to reduce waste visit the Red Goes Green blog.

Paterson GlobalFoods Institute – take a sneak peek

October 31, 2012

In a few short months, the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute (PGI) will open its doors to the public. One-hundred and nine years ago, back in the days of horse and buggy, the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute (formerly the Union Bank building) was western Canada’s first skyscraper. Today, it will be a state-of-the-art training facility and the College’s first student residence.

To meet the College’s commitment to sustainability, PGI is being built to achieve LEED certification.  Check out this video to see how PGI is reducing energy and conserving resources.

Whenever possible, the building’s original materials were retained and restored. The exterior facade, window frames, marble and hard wood floors and plaster walls are all more than 100 years old. Reusing these materials preserves a piece of history and reduces the environmental impacts from extracting, manufacturing and installing new materials.

 

Cyclists will be will be happy to see that PGI has 35 secure, indoor bike racks.

A sustainable building is a lot more than how it’s constructed. We’re working hard to put programs and good practices in place to ensure PGI operates as sustainably as possible.

Some items in our PGI + Sustainability To Do list include:

– Implementing a post-consumer compost program

– Creating a “Green Residence Guide” to give our residents tools to reduce their impacts

– Developing a green building tour to showcase the building’s sustainable features.

See you at PGI!

Meet RRC’s new Sustainability Coordinator – Sue Hayduk

October 19, 2012

Sue Hayduk- Sustainability Coordinator

Hi I am Sue Hayduk, and I’m excited to be working in RRC’s Sustainability Office.

Somehow – I think – sustainability has always been inherent to me. My mom was frugal and “reuse and recycle” were part of our everyday household; my dad was an avid outdoorsman and I grew up knowing the value of healthy land, clean air and clean water; and I grew up in Winnipeg’s North End, a mix of people, cultures, languages, foods and traditions, a vibrant reminder of my roots and where I chose to live today. So this is where it all started for me this path of being where I am now as Sustainability Coordinator.

I am also an avid baker, someone who loves science, likes being creative and experimenting with things; which is why when asked what sustainability means to me, I often think of the perfect recipe, one that has the right balance of ingredients and is mixed in just the right way to get something that tastes great! My sustainability recipe looks something like this: 1 tsp. of environmental education and environmental science, 2 cups of relationship building and partnerships and a few sprinkles of creativity and “stickiness”. These key ingredients, when mixed together, can create positive environmental and social change.

Read More →

The Compost Conundrum

October 3, 2012

What keeps a Sustainability Officer up at night? The thought of eggshells, food scraps and coffee grounds ending up in the landfill.

As many of you know, RRC is slated to open the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute (PGI) in January, 2013. Located in the historic Exchange District, this architectural marvel will deliver the College’s Culinary Arts, Hospitality and Tourism Management Programs. This means that students and staff working and schooling downtown will soon be able to dine on culinary delights and purchase warm breads and mouth-watering baking — my personal faves are the peanut butter brownies. On top of these programs (literally), floors 4 – 10 will house the College’s first student residence.

While this project is exciting for many reasons, putting a culinary school, three restaurants and a 100-bed student residence is a downtown setting can pose some operational challenges. This brings me to my initial question of why I’m tossing and turning over organics instead of counting sheep.

How are we going to compost our food waste from this downtown location?

When considering this question, lots of thoughts and uncertainties come to mind. The Who, How, When, Where and How Much of a compost program need to be answered. Fortunately, one thing is clear to everyone working on this project – we must have a compost program at PGI. Because we’ve operated a compost program at the Notre Dame Campus (NDC) for more than a decade and because the College’s commitment to sustainability has only grown over the years, as Culinary Arts Instructor Jeff Gill puts it,  “we need to have a compost program at PGI. We can’t go backwards.”

Here are a few things we’re thinking about as we wade through this challenge.

  • While your apple core may seem pretty harmless, food waste is actually a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste in a landfill gets buried under other trash and doesn’t have access to oxygen and quickly rots, turning into a significant source of methane gas. In fact, the Brady Road Landfill is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Winnipeg. Because of the high food production in PGI, the College must find an environmentally-sensitive solution to keep our food waste out of landfill.
  • Arriving at a sustainable solution for our food waste must also consider the economic impacts of food disposal. While researching solutions to this conundrum I learned that the College saves more than $10,000 annually in landfill hauling costs by composting our pre-consumer food waste on-site. I was both surprised and happy to learn that the landfill costs were so high. “Why?”, you might ask. Because any organics program will have significant operational and/ or capital costs. It helps to know that the cost of “doing nothing” is also pretty significant. Understanding the landfill costs can help to establish a business case for more sustainable alternatives.
  • Unfortunately there aren’t many options for organics collection in Winnipeg. Samborski Environmental Ltd. is the only gig in town. And while they do provide a diversion option, there are environmental and economic considerations of collecting and transporting organics to an off-site compost pile.
  • We also need to consider the operational requirements of a compost program. PGI is located in a dense, urban setting. Because of this, we don’t have the benefit of a large loading zone and a designated area where we can stockpile our food waste for collection.

So that’s the compost conundrum. As Jeff Gill said, “we need to have a compost program at PGI”… and we will. We’re just struggling at the moment to come up with a solution that makes the most environmental, economic and operational sense.

What are your thoughts on the conundrum? Your feedback is appreciated. 🙂

RRC instructors investigate sustainable drug testing

September 14, 2012

Over the past year, RRC Instructors Michael Judge (Chemical & Biosciences Technology) and Curtis Aab (Pharmaceutical Manufacturing) spent their spare time investigating how to reduce the negative environmental impacts of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Curtis Aab & Michael Judge

[**Author’s disclaimer – The last time I thought about chemical compounds was in Mr. Valentin’s grade 11 chemistry class, so for you White Coats out there, please excuse the elementariness of these scientific descriptions.]

The process of HPLC is used for a bunch of different purposes. HPLC ensures that over-the-counter drugs contain what their labels state; it’s used in drug testing of high performance athletes; and it’s used in food testing. Despite the widespread importance of this process, HPLC produces two very toxic and potentially harmful by-products- methanol and acetonitrile…. And that’s where Curtis and Michael come in.

Their research hypothesized and tested if Ethyl Lactate (EL) could be a suitable substitute for methanol and acetonitrile in the HPLC process. They undertook this investigation because EL is derived from natural sources, is biodegradable and doesn’t require hazardous waste disposal (like methanol and acetonitrile). Much to their delight, Michael and Curtis discovered that EL does indeed work in HPLC, and in addition to finding a “greener” solution to a widely used process, they discovered that using EL can also be less costly.

Keep up the good work, Michael and Curtis!

Bottle Fill Stations – You asked, we delivered!

September 7, 2012

Last year we asked RRC students about their “top of mind” sustainability issues for the College.  Full results from that study can be found here, but those interested in the Coles Notes version need to know that installing more bottle fill stations ranked in the sustainability top-three.

One of 16 fancy new fountains on campus.

The Notre Dame Campus now has 16 chilled, filtered bottle fill stations located in every building and on every floor on campus. Bottle fill stations can also be found at the Portage Campus and are planned for the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute (under construction). Sorry Roblin Centre, because the taste and temperature of your fountain water is p.d.g. (pretty darned good), we did a quick retrofit of your fountains with a goose necks.

What’s the single biggest reason folks purchase bottled water on campus?

Convenience.

By promoting tap water as convenient, cold and free option to quench your thist, we’ll be watching campus bottled water consumption over the next while for an expected decrease. So reach to the back of your cupboard, or head down to the RRC Book Store to purchase a reusable bottle and fill ‘er up at a water station near you!

p.s. If you have 8 minutes and 4 seconds to spare, this short film gives a good overview of the issues surrounding bottled water: Story of Bottled Water.