Ontario Tech in Oshawa honoured for sustainability efforts

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Published February 9, 2024 at 11:13 am

Tree-planting community event for alumni, staff and students at Ontario Tech University's Windfields Farm property (May 2023).

Schools never get tired of handing out gold stars and it’s even better when it’s the school itself on the receiving end.

Ontario Tech in Oshawa, which has been practicing sustainability since it welcomed its first students more than 20 years ago, has earned a Gold rating by the Philadelphia-based Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for 2023.

Winning high praise for its sustainability-focused campus practices is nothing new for Ontario Tech, which also received a Gold rating in 2019 and 2021.

The AASHE rating system (STARS) is a voluntary framework used by universities and colleges to measure, report and strengthen their contributions to sustainability and includes innovative and high-impact institutional highlights and recognizes institutions with “exceptional report accuracy and quality.”

The index recognizes top-performing North American universities and colleges in five key categories: academics; engagement; planning and administration; operations; and innovation and leadership.

Ontario Tech’s Office of Campus Infrastructure and Sustainability manages the university’s efforts in campuswide environmental responsibility including energy consumption, water usage, waste management, recycling, transportation and more.

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Innovations cited by AASHE include a thermal borehole system hidden beneath Polonsky Commons that ensures heating/cooling energy efficiency in campus buildings and water consumption that is managed through stormwater and greywater collection, helping the university conserve 32 million litres of water annually.

The university has also expanded the number of academic courses that involve sustainability topics in recent years. In 2022, the university completed installation of a solar wall that has the campus on track to halve its greenhouse gas emissions earlier than its 2030 goal. It’s also expanded electric vehicle charging capacity, including a new fleet charger at Charles Hall at the university’s downtown Oshawa location. And the Faculty of Health Sciences’ PACE Mobility Group will host a June workshop on data-driven decisions that encourage healthy, active transportation strategies in urban spaces.

Next month is Sustainability Month and Ontario Tech has several events scheduled, including:

  • Panel on biodiversity and the threat of alien species.
  • Climate Symposium for students to connect with local environmental organizations and find sustainability career pathways.
  • Sustainability Fest in collaboration with student organizations featuring a Repair Café and e-waste recycling booth.
  • Lunch and Learn on how every job can be a climate job.

“The university’s latest submission to STARS truly allows Ontario Tech to visualize all of the progress it has made toward being a climate-resilient campus. Sustainability doesn’t just come from one section of the university. It is a collective and conscientious commitment by individuals, departments and faculties across campus,” said Isabel Savransky, the school’s Asset and Sustainability Planner with the Office of Campus Infrastructure and Sustainability.

“We can all be very proud of our STARS Gold rating, which recognizes Ontario Tech University as being among North America’s post-secondary leaders in environmental responsibility.”

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