U of T named ‘College Sustainability Leader’

University earns excellent grade in annual sustainability report card

By Elaine Smith,
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Written by The Bulletin

When it comes to sustainability, the University of Toronto is an excellent student.

U of T earned an A- grade in the 2011 College Sustainability Report Card, a marked improvement from a grade of B last year and one that earns U of T the designation of college sustainability leader. The report card is an independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada prepared by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Sustainable Endowments Institute. The fifth annual survey includes the 300 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada with the largest endowments, plus 22 others that requested inclusion.

“It’s wonderful to see that the ongoing efforts by many of our departments are recognized with such a good grade, along with the college sustainability leader designation,” said Cathy Riggall, vice-president (business affairs). “Our goal is to continue to improve sustainability across all three campuses for the benefit of the environment.”

Survey participants are graded in nine equally weighted categories, comprising 52 individual indicators: administration; climate change and energy; food and recycling; green buildings; student involvement; transportation; endowment transparency; investment priorities; and shareholder engagement. Data come from four separate surveys sent to university administrators, as well as publicly available information.

U of T received As in five of the areas: administration, food and recycling; student involvement; endowment transparency; and shareholder engagement, earning Bs in the remaining areas. The university was cited for strengths such as a commitment to sustainability through a formal plan and parts of its master plan; spending more than half its food budget on local food and offering a wide variety of organic foods; Victoria University’s environmental residence; the public nature of its holdings; and existence of a responsible investing committee

The report card also cites recent innovations such as student-run gardens and reusable takeout containers, as well as food-scrap composting and the availability of fair-trade coffee.

Anne Macdonald, director of ancillary services, said she was delighted U of T earned an A in the area of food and recycling, citing the efforts of foodservices director Jaco Lokker and marketing and communications co-ordinator Sarah Khan as essential to the success of the department’s innovation, given “their creativity and enthusiasm and their commitment to continually improving what we do each year.”

Macdonald sees local, sustainable food procurement as the core of the enterprise, sourcing food that meets certain ethical and environmental criteria and helping to raise awareness about local food production. She also credits the Waste Management Department for lending support to foodservices’ waste reduction initiatives and always pushing her team to do more.

Ron Swail, assistant vice-president (facilities and services), said U of T’s commitment to sustainability is longstanding, with new efforts being introduced all the time. Results are presented in a new interactive display at the exam centre so students and other visitors can find out easily what energy consumption is, and what we have been doing to make U of T a sustainable university.

“We’ve been involved in sustainability and conservation for almost 40 years,” he said. “We plan to continue with our energy-efficient changes. It’s not only environmentally responsible, it’s cost effective, too.”

For detailed survey results, visit www.greenreportcard.org/report-card-2011