Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.3

October 9, 2003


Students resolve to clean up their campuses

by Shannon Devine

University of Victoria ecologist Michael M’Gonigle, 25, addressed a group of nearly 200 students Saturday evening as a part of the fifth annual Sierra Youth Coalition conference hosted by Concordia and McGill University over the weekend.

M’Gonigle can see glimmers of hope for the planet in the corridors of our universities. However, University of British Columbia biologist Bill Rees told the students that the conception of humankind as separate from nature is causing environmental disaster.

Both men put forward a challenge to students: make your school a leader in environmental and social sustainability.

The three-day conference launched the campus sustainability framework, implemented for the first time last year at Concordia and funded by the Sierra Youth Coalition, an offshoot of the American environmental grassroots organization, the Sierra Club.

Developed by Royal Roads College student Lindsay Cole, the audit concept was taken up by a group of Concordia students last year, and is spreading. It will be employed in 10 schools this year, five in Ontario and five in B.C.

“We finally have a tool to compare schools,” said conference organizer Sarah Schiff, an environment and development student at McGill. Co-ordinators of the Sustainable Concordia Project are still putting the final touches on their audit of the university, and expect to release it next month.

Delegates to the student conference from across Canada and the United States viewed sustainability projects at Concordia, including the SCP headquarters on Mackay St., the Right to Move bicycle co-op and Frigo Vert.

Purchasing post-consumer (i.e. recycled) paper and printing on both sides of the sheet is the focus of the Recto-Verso campaign, co-ordinated by international business student Chantal Beaudoin.

A joint venture between Concordia, McGill, Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal, the program seeks to have all four universities purchase post-consumer paper and is currently working with the 14 other universities in Quebec to develop a purchasing plan.

The campaign also encourages students to use such paper for assignments, and would like professors to promote the project in their classes. Students can pick up a PCP petition form in the SCP office.

Also new this year is a geography course, Sustainable University Campus (GEO 398S), which will monitor the state of sustainability at Concordia and conduct annual feasibility studies on potential projects.

A community festival is being planned to bring together all the environmental organizations at the university. A group of students is looking into rooftop gardens for the J.W. McConnell library building. With 25 students already involved, co-ordinators are still seeking volunteers and new ideas for projects.

“It would be great if eventually students chose their university based on how sustainable it was,” Mulholland said. “Some day, when I graduate, I would like to look back and say, Wow, Concordia is one of the leaders in sustainable campuses.”

For more information, visit the SCP office at 2100 Mackay St., Suite 101, call 848-2424 ext. 5829 or write to

Taking the pledge

Some students swear a pledge to be good to the environment at their graduation ceremonies. The Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility was taken by all management students this year at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and management students at Dalhousie started doing it in 2002.

The pledge started in 1987 at Humboldt State University in California and is spreading steadily. It has been adopted at some 70 universities, including Harvard, and takes various forms. For example, at the University of Alberta, MBA students sign an ethics pledge when they start their studies.

The Social and Environmental Responsibility pledge reads as follows: “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.”

Engineering students have a similar pledge that is part of their iron ring ceremony to become part of their profession.