Every second Wednesday in the summer, the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability leads a free walking tour around the north campus. Here are just a few highlights of an enlightening look at how the U of A instils sustainability in all aspects of campus life—a commitment that goes beyond our environment to include social and economic systems that affect everyone who studies, works and lives here. (15 photos total)
The colours of green: Edmonton Clinic Health Academy
The tour starts at the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, one of the U of A’s newest signature buildings and the first interdisciplinary research and education facility of its kind in Canada. ECHA is aiming for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification, an international benchmark for high-performance green buildings.
Stairway to sustainability
The tour group meets in the “main street” running the length of ECHA. The building’s wide, well-lit stairways are deliberately more visible than the elevators to encourage people to take the stairs. ECHA also has rooftop garden areas connected to offices, making it easier for occupants to get outside during the day.
Different streams for different stuff
Emma Shipalesky, outreach assistant with the Office of Sustainability, explains the U of A’s multi-stream recycling program, which has been active since 1975. Some offices in ECHA are also piloting a composting program to help keep waste out of landfills. Fifty-six per cent of the university’s waste can be composted.
Outreach assistant Emma Shipalesky
Emma Shipalesky has worked as an outreach assistant with the Office of Sustainability since May 2012. With a U of A degree majoring in nutrition and food science and minoring in human ecology, she says, “I love helping to inspire and empower the campus community to adopt practical and meaningful sustainable actions.”
Emma Shipalesky and fellow outreach assistant Lauren Hall (right) stop near the north campus cooling plant, part of the U of A’s district energy system that supplies 30% of the electricity used on campus. The system, the third largest on any campus in North America, covers an area equal to 300 Canadian football fields and includes 10 km of underground service corridors.
Tip of the iceberg
These waste and recycle bins extend 10 feet underground, allowing gravity to act as a trash compactor. That means less emissions from waste-collection vehicles, because fewer pick-ups are needed. The extra-long garbage bags are also extra-strong so they can be winched up to a maintenance cart without breaking.
Following a sustainable path
The tour heads north on a tree-lined sidewalk toward the Butterdome. The U of A minimizes water and chemical use by using native plants in landscaping, helping to create a sustainable ecosystem. Grass and flower clippings are reused as compost for the abundant greenery across campus; tree clippings are used as mulch to keep moisture in the soil.
Services at SUB
The Students’ Union Building is home to the Campus Food Bank and Sustain SU, whose student services include bike rentals, an indoor farmers’ market and a recycling box for batteries, cellphones and ink cartridges. Cafeteria businesses compost their waste and offer discounts for using your own cups and dishes. There’s also a public wash station for reusable dishware and a waste station for composting and recycling.
Where science meets sustainability
Sustainability is built right into the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, which earned LEED Silver certification this year. Artist Scott Parsons used recycled glass and gravel from mining projects to give the terrazzo floor its distinctive texture. Labs use low-flow fume hoods and compressed-air vacuum pumps to save energy. CCIS is also piloting a project to produce ionized water, an effective chemical-free cleaning agent, out of tap water.
A living wall
Adorning the north wall of the atrium between the Alberta School of Business and the Henry Marshall Tory Building is the U of A’s first living wall. Made up of 1,800 plants arranged in three H-shaped sections, the low-maintenance wall needs little watering, and the plants help keep the air clean.
The gold standard: Triffo Hall
Built nearly a century ago, Triffo Hall is the U of A’s first LEED Gold certified building. From its restored original concrete floor, to its solar heating system and architecture that lets daylight into 87 per cent of its interior spaces, to its rooftop cistern that collects rainwater for toilet flushing, it stands as a symbol of the U of A’s heritage and its leadership in building a sustainable future.
Outreach assistant Lauren Hall
“I love the diversity of people that I encounter, and learning their views on sustainability,” says Lauren Hall, a graduate of the U of A’s environmental and conservation sciences program who has been with the Office of Sustainability since May 2012.
The University Transit Centre is one of Edmonton’s busiest transit hubs and a connection to the low-emission LRT system. Since 2007, the U-Pass has given U of A students affordable, unlimited access to public transit. The introduction of the U-Pass increased ridership in Edmonton by 12 per cent. U of A staff with a ONEcard can ride the LRT free between stations linking the south, north and downtown campuses.
Summertime and the living is sustainable
The U of A’s newest residence, the East Campus Village Graduate Residence is LEED Silver certified for its sustainable design from conception to completion. The residence uses a recycling system that includes organic composting. Secure bicycle lock-up areas encourage riding to class, and utility meters for each suite let residents keep track of their own energy use.
How our garden grows
The Campus Community Garden sprang to life in 2003 as a student-led collaboration. Volunteers maintain the award-winning organic garden using rain barrels to collect water, a drip irrigation system that loses far less water than a sprinkler system, composting bins for scraps and even a shed made of reused materials. In return, the garden provides them with healthy food, and a portion of its produce goes to the Campus Food Bank.