UWindsor professor to focus on creating a more sustainable campus
The University of Windsor hopes to become a leader in environmentally friendly and sustainable practices.
Paul Henshaw, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, was recently named to the newly-created position of environmental advocate. His two-year term starts Jan. 1, 2013.
Provost Leo Groarke said that the position was created to fulfill the university’s desire to be at the leading edge of green initiatives. “We don’t have a lot of money to do that, but this is a modest investment,” Groarke said. “When you talk to students, faculty and administration, they are enthusiastic about making us environmentally friendly and sustainable. This is a way to harness the energy that’s already there.”
Groarke added that he and other administrators are often caught up with running the university on a day-to-day basis, and that they needed someone to act as a focal point on these issues. He pointed to Henshaw’s experience working with students and his experience in the Windsor-Essex community as assets that made him the person for the job.
Henshaw identified campus energy and waste, campus aesthetics and off-campus effects like community travel as three areas he intends to focus on.
“I’m going to rely heavily on student projects,” Henshaw said. He explained that students from the Visual Arts and Built Environment program could improve the appearance of solar walls created by engineering students, and psychology students could look at ways to engage with people’s behaviour towards environmentally friendly practices. “Students do projects anyways, why not direct some of them towards sustainability?”
“I’ve already received messages from people who want to help,” Henshaw added.
Angela Demarse, the environmental co-ordinator for UWindsor’s Ontario Public Interest Research Group, looks forward tp Henshaw’s efforts. “That position sounds amazing. I’m glad the university is getting someone to monitor what’s going on,” said the third-year biology student.
OPIRG is a non-profit organization that organizes campaigns around social justice issues such as the environment.
Demarse identified the inefficiencies of recycling and a lack of composting as issues to be addressed. “A long-term goal of mine is to get environmentally sustainable transport on campus– things like bike rentals,” she said. Demarse expressed an interest in working with Henshaw and is looking for students who would like to join a club to create a more environmentally friendly campus.
When it comes to the environment, there is room to improve. A June 13 article in The Lance, “UWindsor’s little green lie,” exposed issues related to the handling of recyclables on campus. Waste put in outdoor recycling containers was being sent to a landfill instead of being recycled properly.
Jef Martin, university grounds worker, housekeeper and union steward for CUPE 1001, stated that the issue has been rectified since. The university brought in recycling bins and grounds supervisors have been instructed to direct their staff in their use.
Waste put into recycling containers inside of buildings is disposed of properly, but staff and management indicate that contamination is still a big issue. If recyclables and waste are mixed together, it often ends up in the landfill.
Groarke couldn’t comment on issues with recycling specifically, but did say that, “If there is a concern that we aren’t handling the grounds in the best way, or the garbage, or the recycling in the best way … even if it’s not just criticism, but we could just handle it in a better way, then [Henshaw] is the person to go to.”
According to a 2009 study examining waste generated on campus, of the 153 tonnes of paper purchased by the university each year, 84 tonnes would be recycled and 58 landfilled, with the rest “exported” (students taking documents home, for instance).
Henshaw pointed out that while improving the rate of recycling would help, it would be far better to look at ways to reduce the amount of paper used. Simple things like setting photocopy machines to print double-sided on a page could go a long way.
In its quest for a greener campus, UWindsor can learn a lot from other institutions. The University of Toronto is among 55 others (including five universities) recognized by Mediacorp Canada as one of the top 2012 green employers in the country. U of T supports a variety of initiatives to reduce resource consumption on campus. “We’ve been tasked with creating a culture of sustainability on campus … It’s our goal to work with all areas of campus – students, staff and faculty,” said Tyler Hunt, project co-ordinator at the University of Toronto’s Sustainability Office.
One program, Rewire, targets students in residence. “It offers them simple changes they can make every day that will create broader organizational change there,” Hunt explained. Green Ambassadors is a similar program geared toward staff members, while Facility Services, in conjunction with the Sustainability Office, helps administer an Energy and Resource Management Fund to implement sustainable technology on campus.