On April 27, UBC was named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers. This marks the sixth time in a row that the university has received this award.
There are multiple reasons for this strong track record, according to John Madden, director of sustainability and engineering. A leading factor is the university's contribution to the global knowledge and application of sustainability.
“UBC continues to advance in sustainability across teaching, learning, research, as well as operations in infrastructure and engagement of the broader community,” he said.
Programs that orient students toward sustainable practices in both the academic and everyday settings, such as the Green Office Program, the Green Labs Program and Zero Waste, also play a role.
These programs focus on the principles of limited consumption and energy conservation. In particular, they both highlight the importance of resources like water and give students the knowledge and skills to be “stewards of the environment.”
Madden further stressed the importance of these program’s ability to engage the community due to the yearly arrival of new or international students, who might not be familiar with these practices.
“We are a very international university and we have transient groups that come every year,” said Madden. “[It] is important to ensure that the message is clear and that they understand the opportunity that they have to really shift the dial in terms of impacting the local environment.”
Lastly, infrastructure has been a major platform for UBC’s promotion of sustainability.
According to Madden, all new buildings on campus are required to be gold certified under Leadership in Energy and Environment’s criteria. In the residential neighbourhoods, they are required to achieve a gold rating from the Residential Environmental Assessment Programme.
Additional technologies and design could further be incorporated into a building to reduce its level of energy consumption. A notable example is the new Aquatics Center's rain water harvesting system, which uses rain water to refill the pool.
“They project to save an estimated 7.3 million litres of water per year,” he said.
Moving forward, UBC is trying to conserve energy by renovating existing buildings rather than building new ones.
“I take a sustainable building [as] a building that you don’t have to build,” he said. “The whole student union building is a good example. We’re currently retrofitting that with higher standards of energy efficiency, water efficiency, better insulation and a programme which addresses the core needs of students and their lifestyle.”
This article has been updated to better reflect the estimated benefits of the Aquatic Center's rain water harvesting system.