Sustainability: Making policy, taking action

- Melanie Groves

Have you had your say? Since the spring of 2008, the Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability has been carrying out an extensive series of consultations, focus groups, workshops and surveys to develop a new sustainability policy and action plan.

The 2007 University of Victoria strategic plan, A Vision for the Future: Building on Strength, identified sustainability as a priority for the institution. The plan provided for the establishment of a formal framework to manage the university’s physical and financial resources in a sustainable manner, and the implementation of stewardship practices to make UVic a leader in sustainability.

The sustainability policy will be an overarching statement that refines UVic’s institutional commitment to sustainability and empowers individuals and groups across campus to take action. The action plan will outline the vision, key priorities, goals and actions required to implement the policy over a five-year period.

The process has included a review of current campus initiatives and best practices at other institutions, and an eight-month consultation period with students, staff, faculty and community members to identify ways in which UVic can take a leadership position in social, environmental and economic sustainability.

“There has been an overwhelming response from the campus community to the development of a sustainability policy,” says Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Webb. “We will need to continue to collaborate—as individuals, departments and with external agencies—to achieve the vision and goals set out in the plan.”

One submission to the process is a document called “Building on Progress: A Guide to Moving UVic Beyond Climate-Neutral.” The document was created by Common Energy, a network of University of Victoria students, staff, faculty and regional partners. “We think UVic can do more to solve the problems of climate change than it does to cause them,” said Jamie Biggar, Common Energy co-founder. “Our goal is to get the ideas in the guide out there to inspire more people to participate in UVic’s formal process.”

Biggar encourages people to take the new goBEYOND Challenge, to find out how to move beyond climate neutral in their own lives. Visit goBEYOND website for information.

The sustainability policy and action plan will be presented to the board of governors for approval in early 2009. “We want the initiative to build on UVic’s sustainability successes and ultimately leave a legacy for the future,” says Neil Connelly, director of the Office of Campus Planning and Sustainability.

Sustainability in action

The SPOKES program is an innovative bicycle bursary program at the University of Victoria that combines recycling with cycling. Over its five-year history, SPOKES has distributed more than 1,000 bikes to UVic students, faculty and staff, recycling old bikes and promoting environmentally friendly transportation. Bicycles are distributed 12 times a year through a monthly bursary application process. Each bursary includes a refurbished bike, bike lock and an opportunity to take free commuter cycling courses. After one year, the bikes are returned and recycled to other UVic riders.

The program is sponsored by a number of UVic organizations and run by volunteers who teach and learn from each other. Join one of the regular work parties at the bike storage cage in the University Centre parkade. All experience levels are welcome and no tools or supplies are required. Hours of operation vary each semester. Info and work party schedule:

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Keywords: sustainability, policy

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