Humber’s sustainability plans impacted by COVID-19, annual report suggests

Published On July 20, 2021 | By Sabrina Daniele | News

Humber College’s sustainability plans were hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Sustainability stated in its annual report.

The report, highlighting progress its second year of a five-year plan to achieving sustainability at the college, indicated some actions in the plan were stalled due to the pandemic, although others managed to move forward.

As part of Humber’s five-year timeframe, the “2019-2024 Sustainability Plan” was developed as the main report which acts in consultation with students, faculty and staff. More than 150 different action items exist that help the college work towards sustainability to develop healthy, inclusive and sustainable communities.

The framework for sustainability at Humber College stems from the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Some of these goals include quality education, zero hunger, reduced inequalities, good health and wellbeing, among others.

The annual report indicated Humber was named as one of the country’s greenest employers for the sixth year in a row, and the North campus’ NX Building received the country’s first Passive House Certification for a non-residential building.

But the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered further progress.

“It [progress] has obviously been a challenging couple of years with the pandemic,” said Devon Fernandes, the Sustainability Manager at the Office of Sustainability.

“So we have some flexibility kind of built in to make sure that we are adaptive to external circumstances,” he said. “But at the same time being accountable to, here’s what we’re doing and here’s how we can do better going forward.”

Fernandes said policies adopted since the COVID-19 pandemic forced a lockdown in March 2020 included a remote working policy and reducing paper use and waste. Programs cancelled include a carpool matching program because staff, faculty and students were forced to stay home.

“So while there have been a number of initiatives that have been paused, there have been some that have kind of jumped the queue almost,” he said.

One of the actions in the report called for IGNITE — Humber College’s student government — to have its staff and members ability to think with a sustainability mindset. In the current school year, this progress has been made.

IGNITE’s first Sustainability Action Plan was drafted and it hosted the Let’s Talk Menstrual Cups Event, focusing on sustainability. IGNITE News focused on sustainability topics including vegan recipes, thrifting, community development, sustainability at home, and eco-friendly swaps.

IGNITE Student Life is a partner of the Office of Sustainability. Fernandes said they work in close collaboration with each other, running different training events specific to the needs of IGNITE every year.

“I think trying to find ways that we can collaborate in these challenging times with other departments is kind of key to finding out where those sweet spots for acting on sustainability strategically,” Fernandes said.

The following is a piktochart outlining progress made in the three main categories of the report: culture and community, teaching, learning and applied research, and sustainable operations.

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