York U celebrates Earth Day in style as one of Canada's greenest employers

greenest employer logoGreen is the new red at York University.

On April 22, York University celebrated Earth Day with a host of green announcements at a special ceremony held in the Life Sciences Building on the Keele campus.

In front of an audience of more than 100 faculty members, staff, guests and students, York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri announced that for the second year in a row, York University had been named one of Canada’s greenest employers for 2014 by Mediacorp Canada.

“You will recall that York University was named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2013 – a very significant achievement for our institution,” said Shoukri. “I am delighted to announce that we have just been named one of Canada’s Greenest employers again, for 2014, for York’s commitment to sustainability research, education and action.

Mamdouh Shoukri announces York University's designation as one of Canada's Greenest Employers during Earth Day celebrations on April 22

“This consistent recognition of York’s global leadership in sustainability reflects the strong commitment of our students, staff and faculty to be green innovators,” he said.

The external validation, added Shoukri, serves to reinforce the University’s determination to continue to reduce its ecological footprint. “By succeeding in our efforts to be a university leader in sustainability, not only are we protecting the natural environment for future generations, but we are also saving the University money through more efficient use of resources, and that is money that can be put back into academic programming,” he said.

York University’s notable achievements in sustainability include:

  • A more than 25 per cent reduction in energy use since 2007.
  • A 66 per cent waste diversion rate.
  • Some 80 per cent of University community members commute to campus by alternative transportation, including public transit, carpooling, on foot or by bicycle.
  • A commitment to phase out of the sale of bottled water on the University’s campuses by September 2015.

Shoukri also declared that Corporate Knights magazine had recently ranked York University second on its 2014 40 Future Responsible Corporate Leaders list. The good news continued with the announcement that the Life Sciences Building had received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Designation. LEED is a rigorous set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings.

As part of the Earth Day event, recipients of the inaugural President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards were presented with their prizes. The 2014 recipients are: Brad Cochrane, director, Energy Management, Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO); Tim Haagsma, manager, Grounds, CSBO; Helen Psathas, senior manager, Environmental Design & Sustainability; the Osgoode Sustainability Committee; and the Planning & Renovations Unit, CSBO.

Above: The recipients of the inaugural President's Sustainability Awards with York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

“These awards honour members of the York community who have demonstrated outstanding and ongoing commitment to making our University one of the greenest universities in Canada, and indeed the world,” said Shoukri. “We are incredibly proud of their achievements.”

Shourki thanked the award recipients, students, staff, faculty members and researchers for their ongoing commitment to make York University a global leader in sustainability practice and research. He issued special appreciation to York Vice-President Finance and Administration Gary Brewer and to Richard Francki, assistant vice-president, CSBO and the CSBO team, for their work in sustainability. He thanked members of the President’s Sustainability Council for their volunteer work and the council’s outgoing chair, Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Ilan Kapoor, for his leadership. He also thanked the University’s deans for their commitment to sustainability leadership in academic programming, teaching and research.

As master of ceremonies, Brewer delivered greetings on behalf of MPP Jim Bradley, minister of the environment. In his letter, Bradley noted that he was inspired by York University’s leadership in sustainability.

The celebration continued with a reading of a special poem composed for the event by York English Professor and poet Priscila Uppal, titled “Arbitration Recommendation”.

The event closed with a plaque unveiling by Faculty of Science interim Dean Don Hastie and Francki of the LEED Silver Designation for the Life Sciences Building. Hastie thanked the building’s faculty for their ongoing commitment to sustainability and the building’s planning committee and construction teams. All of whom, said Hastie, worked within a strict and precise series of LEED guidelines in order to achieve the prestigious silver designation.

Richard Francki (left) with Don Hastie during the reveal of the Life Sciences Building LEED Silver Certification plaque

Hastie’s comments were augmented by Francki, who outlined the technical innovations in the building, some of which include a white roof to reduce the heat island effect, low emission finishes, bicycle parking racks, showers and change rooms for cyclists, and a bubble deck floor that reduced the need for huge amounts of concrete.

For more information on York University’s commitment to sustainability and the environment, visit the Sustainability @ York website.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor