by Shira Katz
Students are getting involved in an audit of Concordias sustainability
for academic credit, thanks to the enthusiasm of some faculty members.
Two students, Geneva Guérin and Melissa Garcia Lamarca, have been
leading an inventory of the universitys environmental, economic
and social practices. They set up an advisory committee of faculty, staff
and students to get support.
Political science professor Peter Stoett, said, They not only put
together this extraordinary project, they also found funding for it, and
showed great initiative there. The project, called Sustainable Concordia,
has received funding from three faculties, and from the Youth Environmental
Funding issues are discussed at monthly meetings, where students share
their audit research with the organizers. These include approximately
100 students involved in the project for course credit, as well as volunteers
who joined the working group through QPIRG (the Quebec Public Interest
For example, Brian Slacks geography students are conducting a transportation
survey this semester for credit. Andreas Athienitiss engineering
students looked at the lighting planned for the new complex. Students
enrolled in Stoetts Globalization and Sustainable Development course
last term were given an opportunity to participate in the audit in lieu
of a term paper.
I like to see students get practical experience at the undergraduate
level, Stoett said. They learned how difficult it can be to
conduct investigative research. The response was positive, and some students
fell in love with the project.
Chantal Beaudoin, an international business student in Stoetts class,
conducted research on alternative green recycled or energy-efficient
I looked at the list of materials that will be used for the new
Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex, and
then tried to find green substitutes and Quebec and Canadian companies
to supply them at a competitive price, she said.
She was successful in her recommendation to FSA, the architectural firm,
of a carpet company called Interface. Beaudoin also discovered alternative
green materials in steel, wood, concrete, and paint, but said it was too
late for Concordia to use these alternatives.
My conclusion is that its better to establish green criteria
before a firm is selected. This audit could make an impact on other universities
who should think about green guidelines before instead of afterwards,
Geneviève Rivard, an international business student with a minor
in geography, human environment, says she loved Stoetts class. We
talked about real problems in the world and finding solutions to these
Rivard conducted research on solid waste management, and visited two companies.
One was BFI, where Concordia sends their solid waste. The other was Complexe
St-Michel, where Concordia sends wood, like broken chairs.
I learned about societys problem of over-consumption,
she said. We have techniques to manage the garbage, but there is
still too much produced. Education is the only way, and it is important
to teach people when they are young.
Tanya Aberman, a political science student in Stoetts class, investigated
the history of accessibility at the university. She looked at where students
are from, and their financial situation.
I found out that 40 per cent of students attend part-time, and I
learned that Sir George Williams [the downtown university that was a parent
of Concordia] has a history of giving opportunities to students who might
not have had a chance to attend, she said. I learned a lot
about Concordia and I spoke with people I might not have come into contact
Valerie Sabbagh, a student in environmental geography, took an interest
in volunteering when her classmate saw a flyer about the project.
My biggest interest is water quality and usage, and I think its
important to know where Concordia fits within the Montreal Island watershed,
she said. Sabbagh met with Sonia Ruiz, a technical officer in the Biology
Department, who gave her a tour.
I learned that contaminated substances are taken from the Biology
Department to the Environmental Health and Safety Department at Concordia,
she said. I also learned about many positive changes to Concordias
heating and cooling system that were made by reducing the volume of chemicals
used and the cost.
Stephanie Watt, a fourth-year geography student, took an interest at the
shuttle bus and the potential of using alternative fuels.
When she looked at the characteristics of fuels, emissions and energy
consumption, Watt learned that the five shuttle buses at Concordia could
follow the lead of some of the STCUM, which has switched some city buses
from diesel, a petroleum-based product, to biodiesel. Biodiesel is more
renewable, because it uses recycled greases such as vegetable oil. They
could start by blending, say, 5 per cent biodiesel with diesel.
I would like to see at least one shuttle bus run on biodiesel. This
would get people in different departments like geography and chemistry
to discuss the idea of reusing cooking oils, she said.
Audit organizers Guérin and Lamarca will include a compilation
of students research and recommendations, best practices, and an
executive summary, all of which will be available on the Internet by March.
Students in Études françaises plan to translate the documents.
Students in Communication Studies are working on a Web site (http://ballista.netfirms.com),
and students in Fine Arts are submitting art work.
Guérin and Lamarca have had meetings with more than 200 faculty,
staff and administrators to discuss Concordias future. Their goal
is to sustain the project by having Sustainable Concordia become a permanent
organization on campus, and Stoett thinks theres a need for a continued
audit. The broader community should see Concordia as an innovator
in this area, not just responding to market developments.
Guérin said that although Concordia is the first university in
Quebec to conduct this type of audit, a network of campus sustainability
assessments includes UBC, Waterloo, UVic and Mount Allison.
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