Nov. 15, 2023

UCalgary showcases its progress in campus sustainability and community impact

From Pluralism to Energy Solutions, UCalgary’s 2023 Institutional Sustainability Report highlights sustainable initiatives on campus and beyond.
UCalgary campus
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

UCalgary continuously cultivates a culture of learning, collaboration, and a shared commitment to achieving a sustainable future. Released on Oct. 24, the 2023 Institutional Sustainability Report captures our advances in sustainability over the past year.

Spotlighting campus and community impact in sustainability

Empowering social diversity

Issues related to inequality and exclusion are at the root of many global challenges. Launched in 2019, the UCalgary Pluralism Initiative has a clear mission: To create mechanisms that enable people to understand one another and thrive in a world increasingly shaped by differences.  At its core, pluralism is committed to depolarization, fostering social healing, facilitating collaborative problem-solving, driving social innovation, and promoting interfaith engagement.

These are qualities UCalgary endeavours to build in its students, faculty, and staff on their path to discovery, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking, and the embedded certificate in pluralism and global citizenship is a key step in achieving this. Through the certificate, students can develop the skills and attitudes to live and lead with creative problem-solving that blends empathy, creativity, and productivity.

The Pluralism Initiative opens a world of untapped creativity and innovation, just one of several emerging projects on campus dedicated to empowering social diversity and helping to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Zero Styrofoam Waste initiative

Styrofoam has a harmful effect on our environment. Because of its composition, it can leak chemicals into our water sources, posing a unique threat to the health of humans and wildlife alike. Styrofoam is one material The City of Calgary does not accept for recycling, making it too easy to accumulate in the landfill.

UCalgary PhD candidates Micky (Sangwook) Ahn and Daniel Castaneda Mogollon, with support from the Campus as a Learning Lab initiative offered by the Office of Sustainability, launched a polystyrene recycling pilot for labs at the Foothills Medical Campus. MBA students Cameron Armstrong, Devin Limpert, and Michael Nodder subsequently expanded the pilot to main campus. The pilot programs recycled more than 2,000 pounds of Styrofoam and was subsequently adopted as the Styrofoam Recycling Program by Facilities Management.

Efforts such as this support UCalgary’s foundational commitment to sustainability and UCalgary’s goal to become a zero-waste campus. In the year 2022-23, UCalgary diverted 62 per cent of daily waste from the landfill.

Becoming a carbon-neutral campus by 2050

UCalgary’s Climate Action Plan sets a road map to become a carbon-neutral campus by 2050. At the end of the last fiscal year, UCalgary reached a 39 per cent reduction in institutional emissions, surpassing its interim goal of a 35 per cent reduction by 2025 from a 2008 baseline year. At over 90,000 tonnes of annual emissions reduction, this is the equivalent of taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for a year.

With over 95 per cent of UCalgary’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) coming from building operations, improving existing building energy efficiency is a high priority. Over the past seven years, the Utility Reduction Program has invested $35 million in existing buildings to reduce GHG emissions and improve indoor environment quality. Completing in early 2024, the program has generated over 30,000 tonnes of GHG emission reductions, over $5 million in annual utility cost avoidance, and helped UCalgary to secure over $14 million in external funding for its implementation.

This past year also saw an increase in renewable energy on campus. UCalgary completed the installation of 1,100 square metres of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the south side of the Social Sciences building and will produce 225 kilowatts of electricity, covering 90 per cent of the electrical load power for the building.

Read the 2023 Institutional Sustainability Report

To learn more about how UCalgary is sparking local and global change, visit the 2023 Institutional Sustainability Report web page.

Want to play a part in shaping sustainability at UCalgary? Participate in this short survey to help inform the next steps for sustainability and climate change initiatives at UCalgary. Participants who respond by Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. MT will be able to win one of 10 prize packs, including five $50 gift cards to the UCalgary Bookstore, and UCalgary-branded merchandise. 

The University of Calgary’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy provides a road map for continuous improvement in our pursuit of excellence and leadership in sustainability. We aim to be a Canadian post-secondary education leader in sustainability in our academic and engagement programs, administrative and operational practices, and through supporting community and industry in their aims for leadership in sustainability.

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