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Jan. 11, 2019

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Alarming trends are showing the danger of climate change. The Earth is approaching a tipping point, climate scientists say, and we are beginning to see the consequences of unsustainable environmental practices.

Higher education institutions have a responsibility to drive solutions, including reducing the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, considered a major cause of climate change.

Continuing its leadership in sustainability, Wilfrid Laurier University is implementing a five-year plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and embed sustainability into every aspect of campus life.

Laurier’s new Sustainability Action Plan offers a comprehensive outline of goals both big and small, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2022 to including electric vehicles in campus fleets and increasing access to local food on campus.

“Laurier is building on past progress with new goals in sustainable development,” says Deborah MacLatchy, Laurier’s president and vice-chancellor. “We are committed to making a positive impact on our campuses, in the regions where we operate and in our global community.”

Laurier’s Sustainability Action Plan outlines steps to continue building a culture of sustainability through academics, research, operations, outreach and community partnerships.

“The heart of sustainability at Laurier is our community,” says Stephanie MacPhee, manager of the Sustainability Office. “The action plan was created in consultation with many campus partners, staff, faculty and students.”

Laurier’s Strategic Academic Plan and Campus Master Plan provided context for the Sustainability Action Plan and will guide in its implementation. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were also used as a framework.

Some key initiatives outlined in the plan:

  • Expand sustainable transportation through initiatives including an improved carpool program, bike share program and electric vehicle charging stations;
  • Increase local food purchasing, focus on plant-based meals and reduce food waste and packaging;
  • Prioritize planting and maintenance of pollinator-friendly plants and habitat to support wild bee populations;
  • Provide Indigenous students with sustainability learning opportunities;
  • Explore opportunities to use campuses as “living labs”;
  • Develop a fossil fuel free impact investing endowment fund available to university donors.

Laurier will develop an ambitious Carbon Reduction Roadmap throughout 2019. Combined, the Sustainability Action Plan and Carbon Reduction Roadmap will outline Laurier’s short-, medium- and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and strategies to meet Laurier’s overarching sustainability goal: reduce emissions by 40% by 2030 and achieve a carbon neutral campus and sustainable energy resiliency by 2050. Sustainable energy resiliency means maintaining a secure supply of sustainable energy for university operations.

With sustainability champions already engaged across Laurier’s campuses, transforming learning environments and behaviours is the next step, according to the Sustainability Action Plan.

“There are many sustainability champions in the Laurier community and we look forward to strengthening our partnerships as we make this plan come to life,” says MacPhee. “A collaborative approach will continue to push Laurier forward as a leader in sustainability.”

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