University of Regina aims to make sustainability a priority

By Jon Tewksbury Posted: December 21, 2018 11:30 a.m.

UR Sustainability Logo
UR Sustainability Logo Photos: UR Sustainability

Making the University of Regina a greener campus is something that’s top of mind for UR Sustainability, a small but committed group dedicated to promoting sustainable practices on campus. 

Shara Khan

Shara Khan, first place
Campus EcoChallenge winner

Callissa Seminuk

Callissa Seminuk, second
place, Campus EcoChallenge

“As sustainability is a key thread of the U of R’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan, peyak aski kikawinaw: Together We Are Stronger, our campus is constantly seeking more sustainable ways of living and working,” said Dr. Thomas Chase, Provost and Vice-President (Academic) and Chair of the President's Advisory Committee on Sustainability. “Faculty members are bringing sustainability initiatives into their classrooms, while staff are practising sustainability by implementing new approaches to campus work.”

One of those new ways is the University’s recently launched Reusable Mug Campaign. Worldwide, the vast majority of takeaway coffee cups are not recycled, which means billions of cups end up in landfills every year. Campus Sustainability saw a need to do something about the growing issue, so they introduced the Reusable Mug Campaign to help cut down on unnecessary waste. The campus-wide initiative offers discounts to coffee-lovers who forgo a paper cup in favour of using their own. The discounted coffee is available at Brewed Awakening, Henderson Café, and all University-run food vendors. Just bring your own reusable mug when you fill up on campus… and save 10 cents off every cup!

Another action of sustainability that the University oversees is the Sustainability Community Engagement Fund (SCEF), which is targeted toward innovative student, faculty, and staff-led projects that improve the campus sustainability while ensuring positive impacts in the surrounding community. The SCEF was introduced in 2014 by eight partners on the University of Regina campus and since then additional faculties and units have invested into the fund. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, and anyone interested in UR Sustainability efforts can make a donation to the fund.

“The SCEF partners have agreed to recognize the leadership of higher education institutions and the importance of working collaboratively toward social and environmental sustainability,” said Chase. “The Fund will support students in becoming more active citizens, by funding projects that will shift business as usual and foster a stronger engagement for sustainable and socially responsible practices and actions on campus.”

Most recently, the U of R participated in the international Campus EcoChallenge, which is a sustainability engagement program for classes and campuses around the world. Each participating team sets their own challenge period to meet the goals of their campus initiatives while tracking and sharing their progress online. In October, the U of R ran an online EcoChallenge where faculty, staff, and students participated in, and received points for, daily sustainable choices. The challenge was a huge success, with 132 student participants scoring a combined 7,935 points.

Shara Khan, a 4th-year environmental systems engineering student, won first place with a total of 674 points, while Callissa Seminuk, who recently finished her biology degree and is now pursuing a degree in psychology, came in a close second having received 671 points for achieving her sustainability goals.

“I enjoyed the challenge because it made me feel accomplished, like crossing off a to-do list,” said Khan. “It made me realize that sustainability is possible for most first-world countries and that we have a chance to save ourselves from self-destruction regarding waste generation and resource and power abuse. It just takes a group effort, as our campus did as a team, and it allowed me to rethink every little item I consumed or could have an opportunity to reuse.”

Callissa Seminuk also found the EcoChallenge to be a worthwhile initiative. 

"EcoChallenge is a very interactive tool to inform students about various ways to increase their sustainability,” said Seminuk. “There were extensive lists of activities to choose from, making it easy to pick sustainable actions that you could stick with. Living outside of Regina made me think that it would be hard to decrease my carbon footprint as I don’t have the opportunity to take public transportation or bike; however, I learned that I could still take other actions such as turning off my computer every night and switching to LED light bulbs.”

The faculty and unit version of the EcoChallenge saw 24 different U of R groups welcome some friendly competition between departments. Ultimately, the winner was the Office of Resource Planning (ORP), which had a total of six participants who scored a combined 1,689 points.

“Prior to the challenge, most of us thought of sustainability initiatives in terms of reducing waste and conserving resources,” said Miranda Pearson of the ORP, “but we were happy to see challenges focused on personal health, simplicity, community, and appreciation of nature. Our team members each completed an assortment of actions connected to various sustainability themes. By doing so, we learned about sustainability resources in Regina, tried new things, gained awareness of the impact our simple changes have on the environment, and improved our appreciation of the world in which we live. We look forward to participating again next year and perhaps we can push ourselves further outside of our comfort zone with some new challenges!”

For more information on how you can help support a more sustainable campus, please visit Campus Sustainability and the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (PACS).

Office of Resource Planning, faculty and unit winners, Campus EcoChallenge Office of Resource Planning, faculty
and unit winners,
Campus EcoChallenge