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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?


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.

Carpooling – Team up and save!

August 21, 2012

Did you know that Red River College offers “top of the lot” parking spots for students who carpool? Carpooling is a great way to save money on parking and gas and reduce your environmental impacts. But did you know that carpooling can also help to relieve stress?

“Top of the lot” spots for student carpoolers at the Notre Dame Campus.

At the Notre Dame Campus, students who team up to carpool can receive preferred ‘top of the lot” parking spots. It’s a nice perk that becomes even perkier when the temperature dips to -30 outside. To register or for more information, visit the Parking Services Office. And not to fear, carpool spots will not run out. Parking Manager Socrates Papadopoulos will continue to add carpooling spots to meet the demand… so team up!

Looking for a carpool buddy? Red River College is one of 9 Winnipeg employers that subscribes to This ride matching service helps you find fellow Red River College carpoolers in your area. Happy commuting.

New School Year, New Recycling Program

August 13, 2012

What do yogurt containers, fresh fruit “clamshells” and frozen food trays have in common? They are now accepted in RRC’s recycling program!

Thanks to our new recycling hauler, Phoenix Recycling Inc., RRC has expanded the types of allowable materials into our recycling program.

RRC’s recycling program accepts these materials, and more!

In addition to plastics #1 and #2, we can now accept plastics #3, #4, #5 and #7 in green lid Slim Jim containers located throughout our campuses. This means that yogurt and pudding containers, margaine tubs, salad dressing bottles and old tupperware containers can now be recycled into new products instead of taking the dead-end trip to the landfill. (All plastic bottles, containers and jars have a number that identifies the type of plastic. Check the bottom to find it.) In addition to plastics, food tins (tuna and soup tins), milk cartons and jugs and juice boxes should go in green-lid bins.

And don’t forget about the Cheerios!

Boxboard is commonly found in the garbage even though cereal, Kleenex and frozen food boxes can be recycled. These boxes should be flattened and put in blue lid Slim Jim recycling bins or deskside recycling bins (for staff).

Thanks for doing your part!  🙂



Join RRC in the Commuter Challenge!

May 24, 2012

Have you been thinking about leaving your car at home? Not sure what to do without it? Let the 2012 Commuter Challenge be the time to give it a try!

RRC is taking the Challenge and we encourage you to join in! During Environment Week, June 3rd to 9th, join the more than 7,000 Manitobans who will cycle, walk, run, skate, bus, carpool or telecommute their way to work!

The Commuter Challenge is a friendly, national competition that encourages daily commuters to choose greener modes of transportation. Whether you ride Transit on a regular basis, or cycle to work for the first time ever, you qualify as a Commuter Challenge participant. So register for the Challenge and be counted – the more of us that participate, the better our chances of winning!

By registering on the website you will have a chance to win some exciting prizes, two of the largest being a $500 travel voucher from VIA Rail and a night at the Fairmont Winnipeg. You will also be eligible for the the RRC employee prizes which include a $700 gift certificate for either a new bike or an Extreme Bike Makeover at Natural Cycle. You will also help our workplace win as we strive for the highest participation rates in our population category!

On Tuesday June 5th President Stephanie Forsyth will participate in the Commute Challenge by cycling in to the NDC with Sustainability Manager Sara MacArthur. RRC has a history of high participation rates in the Commuter Challenge. In 2010 College participation won a silver placement for our staff population category. In 2009 College participation won a gold placement. Let’s bring our participation back up to gold in 2012!

Here are a few resources to help you get started…

Cycling – Manitoba Cycling Association; Bike to the Future; “The Commuter Cyclist: Tips and resources to make cycling to work as easy as riding a bike”; Winnipeg Cycling Maps are available from a number of locations, including in C409, and in the Environmental Issues display across from the bookstore at the NDC; City of Winnipeg Active Transportation; City Cycling courses being offered, see p. 82 of the Leisure Guide for details.

Walking – Prairie Pathfinders’, Winnipeg Trails Association 

Transit – Navigo, BUStxt

Carpool –

Measuring Sustainability Literacy

April 26, 2012

Sustainability – There’s a lot of talk about it, but how much do students and staff really know?

Sustainability: the three-legged stool

To gauge ‘sustainability literacy’ of Red River College students and staff we set out to:

– measure knowledge of general sustainability concepts

– determine which College sustainability programs were having an impact

– and, to seek feedback on sustainability priorities for the future.

Student and staff surveys were conducted online in the Fall and Winter terms using random, representative samples.

Not only is measuring sustainability literacy one of the credits in STARS, but it’s also an important action in the RRC Strategic Plan.

Full results from the student and staff literacy surves are here.

For those looking for the highlights, check it out….

Top 3 Student Sustainability issues at RRC (in order of ranking):

  • Greater awareness of College sustainability programs
  • Paperless instruction
  • Installing more bottle fill stations

Top 3 Staff Sustainability issues at RRC (in order of ranking):

  • Implementing paper reduction programs
  • Reducing single use food containers at food service outlets
  • Extending the EcoPass to NDC

Other highlights include:

  • 69% of students commute to school using greener forms of transportation (bus, carpool, bike, walk, other)
  • 75% of staff beleive RRC should make sustainability a priority in our operations (buildings, purchasing, transportation, energy and water consumption etc.)
  • 98% of staff believe that human activities contribute towards climate change. Coincidentally, 97-98% is also the number of climate scientists who agree that climate change is happening, that human activities contribute to it, and that we need to act now!

Red River College Goes Green for Earth Day

April 24, 2012

RRC’s Sustainability Manager Sara MacArthur (centre) and RRC President Stephanie Forsyth, at the College’s second annual State of Sustainability event.

Students and staff at Red River College pledged to continue serving as sustainability leaders this week, during activities timed to coincide with Earth Day celebrations around the world.

On Monday, April 23 (one day after the actual Earth Day), RRC held its second annual “State of Sustainability” celebration to inform the College community of the results of a recent environmental assessment.

Over the past year, RRC became the first Manitoba institution to take part in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating system (STARS), a comprehensive process to measure post-secondary sustainability performance — including operations, academics, social outreach and long term planning — and to benchmark those results against other post-secondary institutions.

College officials also launched Sustainability 365, a one-year work plan that outlines 42 specific and measurable targets to advance sustainability, including developing a Green Catering program, enhancing sustainability awareness through faculty development, and forming a Paper Reduction Task Force. Staff and students were invited to make their own sustainability pledges by setting eco-friendly targets they plan to achieve within the coming year.

“Sustainability is a journey, not a destination,” says Sara MacArthur, RRC’s Manager of Sustainability. “At Red River College, we’re committed to continually re-evaluating our practices and challenging ourselves to do better. Sustainability 365 will help to enhance our culture of sustainability and reduce our impacts.”

Monday’s event gave students and staff a chance to explore some of RRC’s newest eco-friendly initiatives, including worm-powered composting systems and household conservation strategies. They also gauged their “Sustainability IQ” and sampled a smorgasbord of locally-grown food.

RRC Again Named One of Canada’s Greenest Employers

April 20, 2012

The annual Greenspace Management Plant Sale at Red River College.

Red River College has again been recognized as one of Canada’s sustainability leaders, having been named one of Canada’s 50 Greenest Employers for the second year in a row.

“Corporate social responsibility is an important concept at Red River College,” said Stephanie Forsyth, President of RRC. “As an institution, we’ve committed ourselves to minimizing the environmental impact of our operations, incorporating sustainability into our research and academic programming, and engaging staff and students in more eco-conscious behaviour.”

Forsyth also pointed out that sustainability is identified as one of the College’s four key themes in its new strategic plan.

RRC is one of only two Manitoba organizations to be named to this year’s Greenest Employer list, and one of only six post-secondary institutions across Canada. Some of the College’s recent environmental initiatives include:

  • 100% of cleaning products are EcoLogo-certified
  • More than 300 pounds of organics are composted daily at the on-site compost facility at the Notre Dame Campus.
  • The Heavy Equipment Transportation Centre was among the first education facilities in Canada to be LEED certified. The new Paterson GlobalFoods Institute is also being built to LEED standards of efficiency.
  • Grounds equipment runs on biodiesel made on-site from used cooking oil.
  • Water fountains are being retrofitted as bottle fill stations to encourage the use of more refillable water containers and reduce consumption of plastic bottles.

During the past year, the College has also engaged in a comprehensive process to measure sustainability in all aspects of its operations, and benchmark those results against other post-secondary institutions through the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). RRC is the only Manitoba institution to use this program, among 282 schools from around the world.

Launched in 2007, the Canada’s Greenest Employers competition is organized by the editors of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. This special designation recognizes the employers that lead the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness in their organizations.

RRC Alumni Launch “One-Stop-Shop” for Specialty Food Products

April 4, 2012

From left: Wayne Doerksen, Brennan Taniguchi, and Chris Boreski, of World Wise Distribution

A trio of Red River College grads have teamed up to launch a new company that could soon become the leading distributor of specialty foods in Central Canada.

Chris Boreski (Business Administration, 2004), Wayne Doerksen (Red Seal Chef, 2001), and Brennan Taniguchi (Business Administration, 2010) are the driving forces behind World Wise Distribution, a new Winnipeg-based company that was launched to meet the growing demand among retailers and restaurants for natural, organic, gluten-free, kosher, vegan, locally-grown and other specialty food products.

“It’s a great feeling to see the amazing reaction from our wholesale customers when they see our wide assortment of products,” says Boreski, operations manager at World Wide Distribution. “They know they can purchase them here — from a local company.”

Since most distributors are based in Toronto or Vancouver, local retailers are usually forced to purchase specialty items from out-of-province.

“Shipping dollars outside (of Manitoba) is no longer necessary,” says Doerksen, a former chef and self-described product guru who saw the market need for a local distributor specializing in locally-grown products.

“Our business model is based on fast delivery and local expertise — something that was really lacking in the marketplace, when the closest specialty natural foods distributor was based in Toronto.”

The launch of World Wise Distribution has opened the door for more Manitoba-based specialty food processors to gain immediate access to a local distributor, which in turn helps to get more Manitoba products into the marketplace, says Taniguchi, logistics manager for the new company.

“They key to our success is our unique product offering and our strategic positioning here in Winnipeg,” says Taniguchi. “With the development of CentrePort and the North American Trade Corridor, Winnipeg is quickly becoming the location of choice for logistics-related companies.”

For more information on World Wise Distribution, or for a full listing of products, see

RRC Powers Down for Earth Hour 2012

April 2, 2012

March 31st marked the day the lights went out at Red River College — as staff and students joined in Earth Hour activities taking place throughout the world.

At 8:30 p.m., RRC turned off all non-essential lighting, joining the millions of individuals and organizations who unplugged to show their commitment to environmental sustainability.

“Sustainability is an important concept at RRC, and it continues to be a significant focus in our new strategic plan,” says RRC President Stephanie Forsyth. “It’s about taking measures that enhance the viability of our institution, our environment, and our community.”

To reduce electrical consumption throughout the calendar year, RRC has installed occupancy sensors at construction and renovation sites, and developed a lighting replacement program using T5 and LED lighting.

“Collectively, we can do even more to reduce our impact,” says Forsyth. “Even small actions — like turning off the lights when daylight is sufficient, powering down your computer when it’s not in use, and re-considering the use of ancillary equipment like space heaters — can make a world of difference.”