What do YOU think about sustainability?

This week, Guelph’s Sustainability Week (S-Week) theme is Small Steps to Big Change. To make a small step towards increasing eco-awareness and thinking on sustainability, we created a short ~10 minute video documenting different U of G student’s perspectives on sustainability.

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Each from a different academic background, you can see the diversity of answers and thoughts on the subject- which is awesome! That said, we are sharing the link here for people to see and share. Take this week to reflect and think about what sustainability means to YOU and what small steps you are taking to make your community and environment better. For future generations to come, we each CAN make a difference!

It’s a team effort, so lets work together guys!

– by Joanne Pearce


Eco-Reps organize student-led arboretum walks

Students looking for a break can walk through the Arboretum

The University of Guelph Eco-Reps Program has started an initiative which leads students on Arboretum walks.

Into the woods we go!

A student-run program on campus, the Eco-Reps program is an initiative led by team leaders and Eco Rep Co-oordinators Eve Cooper and Noah Swain. Encouraging first-year students in residence to take an active role in promoting eco-awareness, the Eco-Reps are students who want to get involved in sustainability efforts and have a voice on campus regarding environmental concerns. Organizing campaigns and initiatives to engage their peers, the Eco-Reps’ most recent project has been to start guided tours with students in the University of Guelph’s Arboretum.

“For the students, I would love for the walks to be a method of relaxation,” says Sydney Collins, a first year Environmental Biology student and Eco-Rep as she helps guide one of their practice tours. “I think nature is one of the best ways to do that, to be out here and just reconnect.”

Sydney Collins (facing camera) and students walking along Arboretum trail

With diverse interests and specializations, the Eco-Reps are hoping to get a wide variety of their volunteers to lead the walks and provide their own unique voice to the tour. With the help of Dr. Shelly Hunt, Director of the Arboretum, the Eco-Reps have been learning more about the Arboretum to help guide the tours for students.

“The Eco-Reps have been taught to read tracks, identify trees, and other cool facts about the things to see in the Arboretum,” says Cooper. “They want to led the tours themselves and show others what a cool resource the Arboretum is.”

Some rabbit tracks seen on Arboretum tour!
A gall (circular ball) on Fireweed plant pointed out during tour!

The walks will be held throughout the school year, and the Eco-Reps even hope to organize snow shoeing when there is enough snow on the ground. With nearly 10 km of trail, which provide recreational and functional use for its visitors, the tours will change each time, giving students an opportunity to explore the different areas of the Arboretum.

Valesca de Groot (Eco-Rep) leads tour over board walk in Arboretum!
Cross-country skier passing by while on the tour!

Since the establishment of the Ontario Agricultural College in 1873, there has been a need for a collection of woody plants for specialized teaching and other instructional purposes which the Arboretum has provided. Over the years, the Arboretum has grown in what it offers to both the University of Guelph and its community. With five feature gardens, and pathways through natural forests, fields, and 1, 700 species of trees and shrubs to see, the Arboretum offers lots of things to do and see.

Passionate about their project, the Eco-Reps are excited about the knowledge they have learned, hoping to share this wonderful resource with the rest of University of Guelph students.

“It’s pretty unique to have such a large wooded area in an urban place,” says Collins. “I would love to show students the amazing resource that we have here on campus. There are a lot of neat events that go on here all the time and they do some amazing research.”

Practice tour group poses by Arboretum entrance’s sign

The first guided walk will be happening tomorrow, Wednesday March 9th at 11:30 (am). If you are interested in going, the Eco-Reps will be meeting outside the athletic centre at 11:15. If you have any other questions or concerns, visit their Facebook page called University of Guelph Arboretum Tours. It’s going to be 14 DEGREES so bring appropriate footwear.

With that said, come along to see the Arboretum’s beautiful boardwalk!

Post written by Joanne Pearce

Sustainability Office hosts Zero-Waste Workshop

Taking “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” to the next level

In the past three months, the University of Guelph Sustainability Office’s composting coordinator, Alyssa Winkler, has produced enough rubbish to fit into a small Kilner jar. At the Sustainability Office’s Zero-Waste Workshop, held on Feb. 9, 2016, Winkler spoke at length about the zero-waste challenge she put to herself.

Alyssa Winkler and her small Kilner jar of trash

The workshop offered students the chance to learn about the idea of leading a zero-waste lifestyle. In addition to Winkler, speakers, including Paul Caruso, the Sustainability Office’s recycling coordinator, and Dr. Kate Parizeau, from the Department of Geography, talked to students about what “zero-waste” means.

According to the Sustainability Office, zero-waste is a philosophy that aims at redefining the old “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” cycle to ensure that all products are reused. No garbage or food waste is produced and no resources or items are sent to the landfill.

“My definition of waste is things that are unwanted and you can’t use,” said Caruso, at the Feb. 9, 2016 workshop.

Paul Caruso speaking at Sustainability workshop on what waste means

Caruso explains that waste isn’t just garbage or trash that we throw away, but also unused resources and items that we think are waste. He used peanut butter to explain what he meant.

Imagine you want to buy peanut butter. You can go into a grocery store and pretty easily find it stacked in nice little rows. But what you might not have really considered is that you didn’t just buy that peanut butter—you bought the plastic container which holds it. When you need more peanut butter, you want more of the food, but you don’t really need the plastic container that holds it.

“This is just one example,” said Caruso. “If I got rid of all my trash, what would the world look like? It’s a tangible and really cool thing to think about!”

Tangible, and necessary. Canada’s waste diversion rate—the figure that represents the quantity of the waste deposited in blue and green bins—currently stands at approximately 33 per cent. The number isn’t incredibly high, but a lot of the items that are thrown into blue bins are not recycled. Examining food waste, it’s often found that a lot of items thrown out are actually fresh and consumable.

Talking about waste and why it matters, Parizeau used her own research findings with hospitality, food, and tourism management professor Dr. Mike von Massow and agriculture professor Dr. Ralph Martin to illustrate the problem.

Prof. Parizeau speaking about her research

Using curbside weights, surveys, and audits, Parizeau and her colleagues found that the households that they evaluated in Guelph had about 4.5 kilograms of food waste per week, 11.6 kilograms of recycling and 7.1 kilograms of other waste.

“About two-thirds of that food was edible or possibly avoidable waste,” said Parizeau, at the workshop. “Almost half of the food waste was fresh fruits and vegetables; which means we are throwing out a significant volume of some of the healthiest stuff in our households.”

When one considers the nutrition of public health, this fact can be somewhat alarming.

According to Parizeau, convenience is a huge reason why so much food is wasted. Other issues include food literacy barriers and family or lifestyle constraints.

Winkler, and some of the attendees of the workshop, voiced these constraints when they talked about their own challenges while maintaining a zero-waste lifestyle.

“Going home is really hard,” said Winkler, at the workshop. “I learned that pretty fast. Living on your own, making your own choices and buying your own stuff makes life a lot easier. To have your parents trying to give you gifts or things, especially around Christmas time, makes you produce a lot more garbage quickly.”

In spite of these challenges, Winkler continues to challenge herself towards a zero-waste lifestyle and the Sustainability Office has extended the challenge to all students and members of the community.

Discussions with students after workshop

The challenge they propose is over two-weeks and can be broken into two components: observation and action. The first week encourages individuals to collect and document the materials thrown into trash. The second week’s goal is to reduce produced waste, while reflecting on the previous week’s trash.

This week, from March 7th to March 13th, marks the second half of the challenge for those who signed up for the event. The challenge, however, remains open for those who want to try it on their own to see what it means to lead a zero-waste lifestyle.

The Sustainability Office encourages individuals to photograph their progress and deliver pictures to the Sustainability Office.

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Link to Sustainability Office Zero-Trash information page: https://www.uoguelph.ca/sustainability/waste/zero-trash

Post written by Joanne Pearce