Environmental Sustainability

8 August 2016

Lakehead University, is the first university to become environmentally sustainable, and the first university in North America to be “green” from top to bottom. While many buildings in Ontario have aimed to be environmentally qualified, Lakehead has made it their goal for the entire campus to be sustainable and built to environmental standards that will make the campus the greenest in the country. The university has strived to make every aspect of the building environmentally safe, from the roof the parking lot, as well as the interior of the building.

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As a student I have experienced how Lakehead Orillia has been environmentally conscious, and whether or not they have been true to their word of being safe for the environment. Lakehead has made a dramatic name in society being the first all “green” building and has attracted many people because of the environmental standards they have set. However, being a university this is a difficult promise to keep, especially with the expansion they are expecting. Through my time I have spent at the new campus, I have observed the sustainability of the school, and how conscious they really are at maintaining the school “green”.

Lakehead currently stands as a poster child for environmentally sustainable building, and represents the first in Canada, as well as the first in Canada to meet LEED platinum status. This is a huge accomplishment for Lakehead achieving this goal to be an all green building. However this did not come cheap, a shocking $43 million dollars can be contributed to the environmentally sustainable status of the school. So how conscious is the university? While being built the university ensured that the area was a sustainable site as well as keeping the water efficient, energy efficient, carful material selection and indoor environmental quality.

All of these were set standards made prior to the construction of the building, and were followed throughout the assembly. The first aspect of the school that makes it green is the roof top. The roof contains approximately three inches of earth and vegetation to keep the building cool, and help manage run off. Another aspect to the schools environmental sustainability is the geothermal heating and cooling temperature. This feature is key for sustainability because there is no need for a furnace or air conditioning in the building, which saves thousands of dollars that could have been spent on heating and cooling the school.

This heating and cooling system basically takes the heat that’s stored in the ground and brings it into the building, and the same with cooling. At the front of the university four sets of ponds are displayed under bridges. These unique ponds are not just for a decorative entrance, they are built as a rain water retention pond. Water is collected into these ponds and stored, the water is then sifted into a concrete tank and is re-used later to flush the toilets in the washrooms. These are some of the main features of Lakehead University and the environmentally sustainable steps they have taken to achieving an all green building.

However this is not the end of the “green” campus. Building directors and architects have planned on making the entire campus environmentally sustainable. The newly built cafeteria and residence both succeed the green standards and LEED platinum status, deen Kim Fedderson states, “This is a demonstration project in sustainability to the entire nation”. This is a huge honour that Lakehead is receiving and should set an example for every other future building to be built. With all this said, the real question remains will Lakehead be able to maintain this green status.

The school is planning to expand dramatically over the next ten years. They are hoping to be building a new residence within the next few years, which could mean double the amount of students for residence. With this said, numbers are going to be increasing drastically within the university, and this means they will need to strictly enforce their sustainability to make sure their goals are still met with remaining green. LEED, which is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gives building owners and operators a frame work for implementing green building design, construction as well as maintenance solutions.

It is evident that Lakehead took the appropriate measures in achieving an all green building during the construction. Although the campus claims to be LEED certified, they are still waiting on confirmation that it has completely gone through. Lakehead is not officially certified, and should be conscious of this when advertising the green status of the building. However with respect to the professors and the interior of the school remain a different story for sustaining an all green environment. The interior of the school is designed with an open layout. The front foyer

and common area are surrounded by big open windows that provide a great deal of sunlight, which helps with reducing the amount of lighting needed to be used. This is one of the obvious key green features that I have noticed while coming into the school daily. However with all this said with the schools achievements, I have noticed otherwise. The school has not taken any other precautions in making it sustainable. The school has a cafeteria as well as a small coffee shop inside the building which provides different types of food, as well as coffee and tea.

I have noticed that each food item is packaged in a paper box; every time an item is sold it is placed in this. Coffee and tea is provided in paper cups that are not reusable and are probably wasting several hundreds of trees with the amount of paper and cardboard packaging they are using. Even though these items are recyclable many of these products are thrown out which defeats the purpose of them being recycled. This is something that would be hard to avoid being a university and providing food without having some sort of packaging.

However, because Lakehead strives to be environmentally sustainable, students should simply eat in the cafeteria where the food is provided this way all food packaging is avoided. In the future if the school would like to remain green, this is something they should look into for their food supply. The school also lacks green bin and compost from food disposal. This would be very beneficial for the school to have because of all the wasted food and is being thrown in the garbage. If the school is really environmentally sustainable, these are easy steps they can take to achieve a green school.

The schools also provides vending machines, which are contrary to an all “green school”. Vending machines require a great deal of energy and electricity, while also being filled up with snacks that contain absolutely no nutritional value, and all the products contain wrappers that require garbage. From my observations garbage disposals are not placed as frequently around the school as they could be, so wrappers are easily thrown on the ground and littered around the property. Professors at the school have attempted to become environmentally sustainable, however being a university this is a difficult task to succeed at.

Professors have hundreds of students, and with many classes professors require two to three relatively long essays per semester as part of their course requirements. This means that many students are printing thousands of sheets of paper on assignments and essays, which does not qualify as staying “green”. Many professors have converted to putting their assignments on webct to conserve paper and create online discussions as appose to printing sheets. Despite these efforts, there are still countless professors act of what Lakehead is trying to promote.

This is the second year of the new Lakehead Orillia campus to open. The campus is expected to grow drastically over the next ten years, with a new residence built and many other new buildings to be built in the near future. With this said, there will be a noticeable growth in the amount of students attending the school. It is extremely hard to sustain an environmentally friendly vicinity with the number of expected students arriving to the university. The school is also built in a town that has low income and little to no environmentally sustainable buildings.

This is hard to adjust to considering many students are not coming from previous school that provided an environmentally friendly area. Now, many attending a university that is all “green”, and in a town that does not exactly support this outlook can be a difficult adjustment. If the school was highly concerned about keeping everything environmentally friendly, they should have considered using an old building downtown, and converting it to become sustainable. This would have saved millions of dollars, as well it would have saved materials that were used during the construction of the new campus.

The campus is also located in an area surrounded by fields, and not much else which is because they are expecting growth. However, the school should have considered building it closer to the down town core. This would make it more environmentally conscious for students because they are constantly driving downtown for lunch, or the bookstore for example which creates unnecessary gas pollution that could have been avoided with better planning. Lakehead needs to take a stronger approach to being environmentally conscious if they want to remain an all “green” school.

However with the expected student population this can be next to impossible unless they step up their standards. When I first applied to this university, they strongly advertised how environmentally friendly the school was, and the unique features about the school that separate it from other universities. Upon deciding what school to choose, they sent me a recyclable journal that was 100% re-usable to advertise their commitment to staying all green. However, deciding on Lakehead University I had high expectations that the school was strict on environmentally friendly items. I have failed to see this, and at times I forget the school is even conscious about being green because of their lack of commitment to obtain the status of keeping green. Lakehead advertises the fact that they are environmentally sustainable every chance they get, this is especially evident when there are tours throughout the school for new coming students and I’m constantly hearing their push for a green, clean area. Although the school may be kept very clean, this does not necessarily mean all green.

Lakehead Universtiy should take a stronger approach to their goal of a green school, and consider planting gardens around the property. This provides endless environmental benefits, and the school lacks a single garden around the perimete. Climate could be a factor with planting gardens, also the location of the school being set in Orillia and winter taking up most of the school season, however this can still be achieved for the warmer seasons. There is also a lack of vegetation in the interior of the building, the school fails to display any sort of plant inside and this could really help with keeping the air clean.

All of these suggestions could assist with making Lakehead more environmentally conscious, and providing an all green school. Not every individual will be satisfied with helping encourage the goal of keeping the school green, however because the school strongly advertises this upon students applying, it should be part of our job to help contribute to this goal. With the help of all faculty members, and students the goal of being an all green school, and help improving some of the imperfections Lakehead holds with keeping an environmentally sustainable school we could see some significant changes.

This all sounds wonderful written on paper and could potentially happen if every person came together to take the initiative to help maintain a green school. The goal of making a school all green especially with hundreds of young adults can be extremely difficult. Individuals are here at the school to get there degree and leave, students are not hear to necessarily go out of their way to help protect their campus from being littered or maintaining the green status that Lakehead is trying to do.

Although there are simple things that students and faculty members can stress for others to do to demonstrate the green status of the school. Faculty members need to look at certain things that the school is providing, and work around changing some of these things to make a greener environment. Simple steps can be taken to achieve this such as, building more water fountains around the school so students are not buying plastic waterbottles, and are using re-usable ones. Students can bring their own mugs and glasses when purchasing beverages to avoid using paper cups that are not always recycled.

The cafeteria should encourage healthy plant based snacks, and snacks that avoid excessive packaging such as chips and candy, instead providing more fruits and vegetables. Professors can also provide recycled paper to students for taking notes, instead of students wasting sheet upon sheets of notes. Or professors can understand the importance of using webct and moodle to most their lecture slides and assignments. Overall, Lakehead has received an honour being the first university in North America to obtain an all green campus.

However Lakehead is not as conscious as keeping a green atmosphere as they propose they do. The school needs to re-evaluate the campus area and figure out new ways to eliminate some of the non- environmental acts that have been permitted. The school needs to take a stronger approach to being as green as they say they are. With Lakehead promoting their green atmosphere it is giving students false belief that they are doing everything they can to maintain an environmentally sustainable area, when really there can be many simple changes done to obtain this goal.

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