Student Environmental Sustainability Committee (SESC) Information Sheet
Who we are: The Student Environmental Sustainability Committee (SESC) is an independent, student-run committee at Niagara College focused on sustainability. We formed at the Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) campus in January of 2011 through the joint efforts of Niagara College Environmental and Business students. The committee is comprised of about a dozen student members from a multitude of different Niagara College programs, including: Environmental Management and Assessment (EMA), Business Operations Management, Environmental Technicians, and Marketing. Collectively, we represent the concerns and interests of the entire student body at the college with regards to environmental sustainability.
SESC Mission Statement: The mission statement of the Student Environmental Sustainability Committee (SESC) is as follows: “To make Niagara College a leader in environmental stewardship by promoting environmentally sustainable policies and practices on campus. The SESC is dedicated to working proactively with College Upper Management and the College community to both develop and meet sound environmental objectives and targets. The Committee’s work shall focus on identifying policies that promote the most efficient use of College resources, to coordinate and consolidate sustainability efforts on all campuses, and to increase the overall awareness of the importance of environmental sustainability at Niagara College.”
Why the SESC Formed: The SESC was formed in response to some serious concerns and student dissatisfaction regarding Niagara College’s current environmental sustainability status. The following list outlines some of these concerns: •
“Sustainability” is listed under the College’s official “Vision and Mission Statement”, which can be found on the school’s website. However, Niagara College does not currently have an Environmental Management System (EMS) or Environmental Policy Statement: There is no documentation or webpage outlining the school’s environmental sustainability efforts, policies, goals and objectives, accountability, monitoring, reporting, or plans for continual improvement.
Niagara College offers several different environmental programs (including Environmental Management and Assessment, which is Eco-Canada Accredited and one of the premier environmental management programs in Canada), but upper management does not practice some of the lessons that the school itself teaches, such as implementing an efficient waste management program or creating a transparent environmental management plan to work off of. We feel that
Niagara College should be a leader with regards to these issues. •
Competitor Mohawk College just created a comprehensive environmental sustainability program in 2010 and is leaving Niagara College way behind. Mohawk has created a page on their website dedicated to outlining their environmental sustainability plans, policies and practices, as well as goals and objectives. Their web page is transparent, providing information on: an environmental management plan, waste audits, carbon emissions, ride sharing programs, educational awareness, community projects, and much more. Mohawk’s new environmental sustainability page can be viewed at: http://www.mohawkcollege.ca/environmental-sustainability.html
2011 waste audits carried out at the Niagara College NOTL campus by Environmental Management and Assessment graduate students revealed that the waste diversion rate (amount of waste diverted from landfill by recycling programs) for the main building was approximately 36%, and just 15% for the Niagara Culinary Institute (NCI) Building. This is rather dismal when compared to the diversion rate of Competitor Mohawk College, about 61.5% (Waste audit readily available on their website, carried out by Alan Brewis Waste Consulting, 2010).
There is currently no organic waste collection program at Niagara College, especially in the Niagara Culinary Institute building, where enormous amounts of organic waste is sent directly to landfill.
There are currently no recycling bins in many of the college classrooms, and classrooms generate the largest volume of waste in the entire school (as determined by annual waste audits at the NOTL campus, carried out by graduate students in the Environmental Management and Assessment program). This has created large amounts of waste being sent to landfill, from otherwise recyclable materials.
Niagara College has signed the Pan-Canadian Protocol for Sustainability developed by the association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC). The goal of the protocol is to: “Provide member institution leaders with an opportunity to share best practices on incorporating sustainability principles in vision statements, missions, core values, strategic plans, priorities, policies, operations, procurement strategies and ethical investments, as well as to learn how staff and students have become eco-conscious citizens and agents for change in their communities.” Signatories to the Protocol agree to: “provide leadership to their internal and external communities and to maximize their contribution to a sustainable future.” By voluntarily signing this protocol, Niagara College has an obligation to improve its current sustainability efforts and strive to be a leader going forward.
What the SESC is Doing: The SESC is currently spreading awareness at Niagara College and in the community with regards to the importance of environmental sustainability at the college. One of our main objectives is to rally the entire student body and faculty to the environmental sustainability cause. SESC engages the students and faculty in many different ways: by talking to classes directly, by setting up our awareness board in the school hallways, by using our SESC Facebook page, and by handing out SESC information leaflets. The SESC also works in close coordination with Niagara College’s student council (SAC)
SESC members have weekly meetings to discuss new strategies, events, opportunities, and concerns. Recently, several SESC members have had a constructive meeting with Niagara College President, Dan Patterson, where we brought our concerns and goals to his attention. The SESC informed Dr. Patterson that we are committed to working proactively with the College to develop sustainable policies and practices. A new sustainability committee has recently been announced by Dr Patterson. The SESC will be carried on permanently by students at Niagara College as the students’ voice with regards to College sustainability matters.
SESC’s Goals: 1. We insist that Niagara College creates and implements an environmental management program/plan before the new school year (September 2011), which shall include: policies, practices, baseline studies, objectives and targets to be met, accountability, monitoring procedures, and transparent reporting and communication (i.e. an up-to-date webpage). 2. We insist that Niagara College creates and fills a job position for an “Environmental Sustainability Coordinator” before the next school year (September, 2011). This person would be charged with developing and upholding an environmental management plan for the entire College. They would coordinate all sustainability efforts and report directly to upper management. This person must also have a significant environmental background/experience, so that they are capable of carrying out all relevant tasks. We feel that these goals are not unrealistic for the College at the present time, and are the absolute key elements to starting a successful environmental management program. Once these elements are in place, the SESC will be better positioned to aid the College with its sustainability initiatives by providing student insight and useful resources.
SESC’s Key Messages: •
Niagara College needs to create and implement an environmental management plan ASAP; as we cannot risk falling even further behind (We need to be a leader!). The college needs to hire a qualified individual with an environmental background to coordinate all sustainability efforts and report to upper management- currently, the College has no such position in its hierarchy.
Niagara College prides itself on student satisfaction (they are rated #1 in student satisfaction over the last 6 years). However, there are many students, faculty, and employees that have expressed there dissatisfaction with Niagara College’s current environmental sustainability efforts. Operating in a sustainable way not only benefits the environment, but it also reduces the use of resources and saves money.
Members of the SESC truly love Niagara College. Our school’s programs and faculty are some of the best in the industry, if not the best, and we don’t want anything to detract from that fact. We want our college to be a leader in environmental sustainability going into the future, and are committed to working proactively with upper management to develop and implement a strategy going forward, as well as provide the necessary resources.
The SESC is currently in constructive talks with Upper Management at Niagara College. We are committed to helping however we can, but in the end, it is up to Upper Management to make the significant changes required to work towards sustainability. Dan Patterson, President of Niagara College, has confirmed that an official Sustainability Committee will be formed at the College, which is an excellent start. This committee shall have representatives from head management, faculty, Facilities Management, SAC, as well as the SESC
We encourage Niagara College to further utilize the skills of its students and highly knowledgeable and qualified faculty for purposes of improving environmental sustainability on campus. Students and faculty at the college can provide much support and many different resources for creating and implementing an environmental management plan. We’re here, and we’re all willing to do our part to help Niagara College move forward! Environmental Management and Assessment graduate students currently carry out annual waste audits for the College facilities. They are also capable of carrying out energy audits, compliance audits, carbon audits, and the development of an Environmental Management System (EMS). Similarly, Business students are readily available to aid with organizational components and cost-benefit analyses.
Creating a transparent environmental management plan has become increasingly important for businesses and organizations to convey to their stakeholders. Students, faculty, and employees will receive a boost in morale, and the school will be more attractive to prospective talent going forward. Mohawk College’s environmental management plan is an excellent example of this, and should be one to emulate.
The College needs to start by addressing some of the key, simple issues with regards to environmental sustainability (the “low hanging fruit”), such as developing a basic plan, putting blue boxes in classrooms, implementing an organic waste collection program in the culinary building, and creating a transparent webpage for stakeholders. Further objectives and targets should follow as part of continual improvement.
SESC’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/keepourcollegeclean The SESC has its own Facebook page where members post current information on sustainability issues at the college: facts and figures, work being done, and upcoming events. The page is complete with the SESC’s mission statement and concerns. It is through this forum that the student body, faculty, employees, and general public are encouraged to ask questions and post their comments/concerns with regards to sustainability at Niagara College. SESC members continually monitor and update the page; addressing concerns and answering questions where appropriate. The SESC Facebook page currently has over 500 supporters and is growing rapidly.