Humber making sustainability a way of life

Dec 10, 2021 | Life

Post-graduate students in public relations host the “Repurpose for Purpose” online event, exploring sustainability at Humber College. PHOTO CREDIT/NOAH BUSCHER VIA UNSPLASH IMAGES

For Safa Al-Haji, sustainability is a full-time job and a way of life.

Al-Haji is the environmental coordinator at BEST Service Pro, the company that provides the custodial staff who patrol the halls of Humber College. Al-Haji works at the North and Lakeshore campuses to reduce waste being sent to landfills.

“I work on this through periodic waste audits, waste-sorting training for cleaning staff, and adding in waste streams, such as the new PPE collection boxes,” Al-Haji told the annual Repurpose for Purpose online event on Nov. 29.

The event was hosted by Public Relations post-graduate students to explore Humber’s efforts to become more sustainable.

“In 2008, Best Service Pros became a 100-per-cent carbon neutral company that has offset 12,000 tons of CO2 emissions, which is equivalent of taking 4,556 cars off the road,” Al-Haji said.

Don Henriques, manager of operations at Campus Services, said third-party contractors work at such places as Humber’s bookstore, Xerox print centre and food services. The workers administer the reusable container programs, zero-waste facilities, fair-trade initiatives and the ONEcard contactless payment program.

During the fall, Campus Services partnered with Chartwells and IGNITE to launch a campus-wide reusable-container program. One goal is to have all non-branded meals on campus be served in a reusable container.

“We’ve generated a lot of waste in our food outlets. So our goal is to eliminate that and reduce overall waste,” Henriques said.

The Barrett Centre at North campus fosters “the spot” which focuses on supporting local fair trade and affordable pricing for its staff and students.

A contactless payment program, ONECard, was also introduced, through which staff, students and residents can sign in with their Humber credentials to make payments to food outlets across campus.

Lynn Short, Indigenous Education Specialist for land and culture and Environmental Stewardship Coordinator, said Indigenous concepts can help guide consumers to more sustainable practices.

Short mentioned the Dish with One Spoon Treaty, the Seven Generation Thinking Systems and the Honourable Harvest Covenant as ways consumers can be a more responsible user of the Earth’s resources and contribute to sustainability.

Dish with One Spoon means there is a shared responsibility to ensure the territory is never empty, as it is shared by all “with one spoon.” Seven Generations Thinking Systems encourages making sustainable choices today to foster a sustainable world seven generations into the future.

The Honourable Harvest Covenant involves a set of rules that must be followed when taking “gifts” from the land, encouraging sustainability in harvesting practices.

“We should always consider ourselves as caretakers of the land,” Short said.

Similarly, the Humber Arboretum serves the Humber community as a public garden, a conservation area and an educational area.

Michael Naumoff and Max Haber from the Humber Arboretum shared tips for living sustainably through starting a home garden with food scraps.

“You don’t even need a garden, you can do it right in your own kitchen, or anywhere you have a window sill, ” Naumoff said.

Haber said reusing food scraps reduces waste and the travel time of trucks needed to haul the waste to landfills.

Devon Fernandes, Humber’s sustainability manager, said his office works closely with vendors to embed a sustainability component in all programs as part of the college’s five-year sustainability plan.

“If we really want to be sustainable, we need a culture that allows us to be that way,” Fernandes said.