Going green: students and faculty are getting to work on sustainability

New initiatives offer students opportunities to take the lead towards a greener George Brown

If you’re an eco-friendly student at George Brown College (GBC), now may just be your time to shine. A range of student-lead environmental stewardship initiatives are being started at GBC, both on and off campus, and their initiators want students and faculty to get involved and stay involved.

“My role at the college is really to be a catalyst to try and inspire and promote engagement on these sustainability initiatives,” said Stephanie Foster, sustainability and Green Team coordinator at George Brown.

The Green Team, an official GBC faculty and staff committee, actively develops and follows the Green Plan, a multi-year comprehensive plan for fostering sustainability and environmental awareness at the college among faculty and students.

While most green activities at the college thus far have focused on institutional and facility-related policies, two student-oriented groups that form a facet of the Green Plan are currently getting off the ground: the Sustainability Squad, a club open to all students, as well as the Eco-Rep program for residents of The George, GBC’s newly-opened student residence.

The Sustainability Squad is a Student Association club focused on brainstorming environmentally responsible activities and policies, and then attempting to see them being implemented successfully.

The Dialog is funded by the Student Association.

The group currently holds discussions on a public Facebook group, the ‘GBC Sustainability Squad’, and held their first official meeting on Nov. 5. The Sustainability Squad is being facilitated by Foster, but once momentum is achieved it will be students leading things, Foster said.

Discussions within the group have been fruitful, Foster said, with proposals including incentivizing bringing reusable coffee cups to campus, banning disposable water bottles and starting a community garden on the roof of Casa Loma campus buildings.

The Eco-Rep program, is in the process of launching at The George. This initiative is a student-run program that is attempting to recruit ambassadors from each floor of the residence to act as green guides and references for how fellow students in residence can live sustainably, ranging from reducing energy consumption to how to sort and bag recycling.

“We want them to take responsibility and hold themselves accountable when it comes to waste and recycling,” said Ally Paul, residence life coordinator at The George. “The younger students are actually more passionate about this kind of thing, they’re not turning a blind eye.”

The initiative has yet to be fully implemented, with Eco-Rep presidents having just been elected at the Nov. 13 residence elections, but student ambassadors are expected to be chosen shortly.

The future holds more opportunities for environmentally-engaged students as well. A Peerconnect eco-coaching workshop is in the works, with Peerconnect students teaching “environmental stewardship, but from the student perspective,” said Foster. A date for the workshop is anticipated to be announced in January.

Getting students engaged as environmentally responsible citizens presents its own challenges, but Foster is taking it one step at time.

“These shifts have to be organic within an organization, they don’t happen overnight, and so we’re trying to affect change in small ways with all stakeholders at the college.”

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Going green: students and faculty are getting to work on sustainability