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Algonquin College Working Toward a Holistic Version of Sustainability

Thirteen years after becoming the first college in Canada to sign on to the Talloires Declaration, an international agreement that includes a ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy into teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and universities, Algonquin College took stock of where it stands in its sustainability goals at the recent TEDx Ottawa Climate series.

Algonquin was the title sponsor of the series, and Algonquin President and CEO Claude Brulé, made opening remarks at its Run the Word event, outlining the actions the college has taken to achieve social, economic and environmental sustainability in the past decade.

Most recently, during the pandemic, the college’s Social Innovation Lab partnered with small business to help them adapt their digital tools to better operate during COVID-19. Algonquin recognizes that sustainability also means healthy and connected local communities, and wanted to keep local organizations thriving. The Lab students set up online stores and increased the digital presence of a number of Ottawa-based charities, small businesses, and social enterprises.

Some Applied Research students have also been working on research projects centred around sustainability, including a group designing a sustainable private residence on the outskirts of Ottawa, another working on an app that increases awareness of endangered species, and one working on a dynamic website designed to educate the community about environmental pollution from cigarette butts.

The College’s wider sustainability efforts include a commitment to embed Indigenous knowledge throughout the College organization, including areas our strategic vision, programs and physical spaces like the Ishkodewan courtyard, which features plants with cultural, ceremonial or medicinal significance for some Indigenous peoples. Algonquin took the lead on two national initiatives that aim to create new opportunities for Indigenous youth to be employed in the skilled trades in their communities.

Algonquin is also well into our 20-year Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract with Siemens Canada that has resulted in numerous efficiency and sustainability retrofits to our Ottawa campus, including lighting sensors, thermal pipelines, and a cogeneration power plant. The contract with Siemens aims to cut our energy use and green house gas emissions significantly, while also providing research opportunities for students.

When it comes to the learning opportunities, Algonquin has continued to grow our Bachelor of Building Science program — the first of its kind in Canada — which bridges building design and construction with human comfort and sustainability. The College also continues to develop our curriculum so that sustainability is embedded throughout.

Other ecologically-focused initiatives include achieving LEED Gold certification for new buildings, and a partnership with World Wildlife Fund Canada on a program that aims to enhance a culture of sustainability and promote the protection of nature by engaging post-secondary students in meaningful actions, and offering them opportunities to engage in hands-on conservation activities.

Moving forward, the College is striving to continue to be leaders in sustainability, which means social, financial and economic, and hopes to inspire other colleges and universities to do the same.

Regina Foisey

Regina Foisey

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