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Priorities in action People, place & the planet Sʔeəɫenxʷ | S,ÁEȽA’NW̱ | When things are in harmony

Feeding Community Wellbeing

Tony heesterman in front of salad bar

In 2017, UVic Executive Chef Tony Heesterman found himself eating chips with an assortment of other college and university chefs on a quiet afternoon at UBC. Gathered together to learn about Forward Food, a program aimed at increasing plant-based offerings at post-secondary institutions across North America, the chefs found themselves mowing bowls of tortilla chips, utterly captivated by the vegan cheese sauce. “We couldn’t get enough of it,” Heesterman recalls.

Six years later, UVic has fully embraced the plant-based path, with University Food Services (UNFS) playing a central role in our efforts to address sustainability. They’ve helped lower the university’s greenhouse gases by prioritizing plant-based foods and reducing GHG-heavy menu items like lamb, beef, pork, poultry and dairy. “We've reduced those items by about 50% in terms of our carbon footprint, and increased green-tier items into all of our menus,” says Director of Food Services John Thompson.

UNFS has reduced food packaging and waste, instead offering reusable dishes and flatware across our dining areas and incentivizing reusable mug use. At every opportunity, they look to divert materials from the landfill, right down to having The Cove and Mystic Market teams sort all end-of-meal food trays to ensure accurate waste diversion. They’ve replaced plastic straws with cornstarch, nixed single-use plastic water bottles from The Cove and all food kiosks at Mystic Market, and just last year, instituted the eco-box, an opt-in reusable container program that lets students carry food anywhere they need to, simply trading their dirty container in for a fresh one.

UVic Executive Chef Tony Heesterman

We’re nearing 50% local products right now. This is an incredibly high benchmark. We source our food first on the island, then the lower mainland, then the Okanagan Valley, and then across Canada and into Washington.

They’ve prioritized local suppliers and ingredients, and increased sustainable Ocean Wise seafood options. They participate in Feed BC, a provincial government initiative to increase BC food in institutional settings and to further develop a robust local economy.

The new housing and dining building, Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ (Cheko’nien House), is designed to meet LEED V4 Gold and Passive House standards too, setting the stage for sustainability-first thinking. 

Tony Heesterman

All these measures to reduce waste, uphold local food producers and processors, and amplify sustainability show a determination to respond to the global call to steward our land and communities with greater care. UNFS is a powerful decision maker and tone-setter for the university community, and they’re proud to be practicing responsible stewardship. “We’re committed to UVic’s 2030 goals,” Thompson says, “and we want to be part of the solution.”

Indigenous building names

Vice-President Indigenous Qwul'sih'yah'maht, Robina Thomas in front of Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ.
Vice-President Indigenous Qwul'sih'yah'maht, Robina Thomas in front of Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ.

As work began on UVic’s two new residence and dining buildings, the university sought the guidance of Lək̓ʷəŋən Chiefs and Councils, Elders and community members, whose ancestral roots lie deep within these lands. The vision for working together was driven by a strong commitment to ensure Indigenous ways of knowing and being were woven throughout the work. We are so honoured that Songhees and Esquimalt Nations have given us permission to use the names Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ (Cheko’nien House) and Sŋéqə ʔéʔləŋ (Sngequ House) for these buildings—names provided by Songhees Elder Seniemten, Dr. Elmer George. This collaboration underscores our commitment to supporting the resurgence of Indigenous languages, arts and cultures, and lays a new foundation for working in partnership with Indigenous communities to steward this land in a good way. 

Reclaiming Indigenous place names

Graduate program in climate solutions leaders

Coastal Climate Solutions Leaders—a new transdisciplinary graduate program—will prepare the next generation of climate leaders with the knowledge, experience and skills to rise to the challenge of climate change.

Experiential, cohort-based and rich in internships, this immersive training program provides interdisciplinary research opportunities that unite government, industry, local communities and not-for-profit climate solution seekers. It’s a powerful opportunity for UVic students to connect with communities and solution seekers across sectors, and to accelerate the transformative climate change solutions that are now so urgently needed.

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