Photo of exterior of Maanjiwe Nendamowinen building

Sustainable UTM: New name, updated mandate for campus environmental affairs team

Blake Eligh

The environmental affairs team at U of T Mississauga began the new academic year with a new name and an updated mandate. Formerly known as the Environmental Affairs Office, the group rebranded as the Sustainability Office in September. The change comes as the university refines its streamlined tri-campus approach to sustainability.

“The new name aligns with the other sustainability offices at Scarborough and St. George, and it’s also a more recognizable name for the UTM community,” says Ahmed Azhari, director of utilities and sustainability with UTM’s Facilities Management & Planning team. “We are working towards a common goal—to make the University of Toronto a leading institution in sustainability, to minimize our environmental impact and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2018, the university joined UC3, a coalition of North American universities driving climate action by reducing greenhouse gas emissions on their own campuses and in their communities. “This includes a tri-campus target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030,” Azhari says. “The initiative was the catalyst for the development of a five-year, low-carbon. tri-campus action plan that lays the roadmap, to meet that target.”

“As a leading university, we should lead by example and demonstrate innovation, environmental responsibility and our commitment towards fighting climate change, and reducing the impact of our operations on the environment,” he says. “We teach sustainability, but we also practice and implement sustainability. It’s our mission to integrate sustainability into the fabric of the university.”

While the revamped office will work closely with the St. George and Scarborough campuses, it will also maintain a clear focus on goals closer to home. Azhari is currently developing a climate change action plan for the campus. “We are looking at what UTM will need to do to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects,” he says. “Even if this campus achieves net zero, we will still feel the effects of global climate change at UTM.” This includes working together with City of Mississauga staff on the municipal draft Climate Change Action Plan. UTM will be hosting a public consultation and workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Over the summer, Azhari partnered with students from UTM’s Master of Science in Sustainability Management program to develop a new downloadable five-year Energy Conservation & Demand Management Plan. “The plan outlines where we are with respect to energy consumption, what our targets should look like and what initiatives we should undertake,” he says. Two other reports, also by MScSM students, assess sustainable transportation opportunities, and waste and recycling.

“Facilities plays a significant role in fighting climate change,” Azhari says. “We have done a lot to minimize our environmental footprint with our buildings.” He points to major energy retrofits in the Davis Building that upgraded mechanical, ventilation and electrical systems. “We have also invested in renewable energy, like the solar thermal hot water system on the roof of the Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre to heat the pool and building.”

Rainwater harvesting for sanitation is another major initiative currently in use in five UTM buildings, including Maanjiwe nendamowinan. “It has become the design standard for all new buildings on campus,” he says, adding that plans for the new Science Building will target LEED Gold standards for sustainability and energy efficiency. “It will be one of a very few research buildings to achieve this level of efficiency in North America,” he says. “We will have a geothermal system for heating and cooling, green roofs, rainwater harvesting system, demand control ventilation, solar photovoltaic that produces electricity to help offset the electrical load of a building, LED lighting throughout, and other sustainability measures.”

A new Principal’s Sustainability Advisory committee, which includes members from across the campus, including academic and research, dining and hospitality, facilities and administrative departments, will help to develop short- and long-term sustainability priorities for the campus. “We all need to work collaboratively to minimize our greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the environmental impact of our operations,” Azhari says. “This committee is a really great opportunity to enhance sustainability efforts at UTM.”

Azhari will present initiatives at the upcoming Sustainability: Transdiciplinary Theory, Practice, and Action conference happening at UTM from Oct. 16 to 18, 2019.

UTM’s Sustainability Office has also rebranded on social media. Follow the latest news on Instagram at @SustainableUTM; on Facebook at  UTM Sustainability Office; on Twitter at @SustainableUTM; and on YouTube at  UTM Sustainability Office.