Selkirk College, along with other educational institutions in North America and the world, is actively pursuing environmental sustainability in all facets of its locations, hoping to reduce its overall impact on the environment.
Last year, the Environmental Sustainability (ES) Committee at Selkirk College hired Renewable Resource Instructor Derek Marcoux, along with two students, Suzanne Fordyce and Jeremy Prahl, to provide a “State of the Environment” report which would provide a benchmark set of data, marking the current status of environmental conditions at the campuses located in Castlegar, Trail and Nelson, BC. Areas of energy, emissions, waste, transportation, water, biodiversity, products and services and environmental compliance were researched and included in the study.
“As a leader in post secondary education, Selkirk College is ideally poised to influence a generation of thinking and social behavior related to reducing impact of its operations on the environment,” explains Marcoux. “This report has given the college a solid starting point and the basis to create an action plan to reduce its environmental impact.”
The Province of BC has taken bold new steps to meeting carbon neutrality through the establishment of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act (Province of BC, 2007) that requires post secondary institutions to be carbon neutral by 2010 (Province of BC, 2009). It has set reductions of greenhouse gases to be 33% below 2007 by the year 2020 and 80% below 2007 levels by the year 2050 (Province of BC, 2007).
Based on data derived mostly from 2008, Marcoux found that a total of 56,270 Gigajoules (GJ) of energy were used for stationary heating and air conditioning at the campuses; almost half (44%) of the energy consumed by Selkirk College is derived from hydroelectric energy which is a non-CO2 emitting source of energy; 231.5 metric tonnes of solid waste went to regional landfills; approximately 45% of the paper purchased in 2008 was recycled; greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from stationary and mobile combustion were approximately 2,150 metric tonnes in 2008 from all sources, and the college consumes over an estimated 170,000 cubic meters of water annually throughout its facilities.
The report contained recommendations to help Selkirk College get started with its sustainability action plan. Recommendations included creating a part-time sustainability coordinator position; ensuring that maximum energy conservation methods are utilized at all college facilities when completing upgrades; implementing a composting program; investigating options for gray water recycling from effluent treatment plant at the Castlegar Campus in order to reduce the discharge into the Kootenay river system, and investigating options to reduce or eliminate pesticide use on all lawns and gardens where practicable.
While smaller regional colleges such as Selkirk have a more difficult time achieving environmental sustainability due to less available resources, Selkirk College is leveraging off available resources as best they can to follow the leadership of the larger institutions.
For more information or to download a copy of the State of the Environment report, visit selkirk.ca/research/sustainability.
First published on February 05, 2010