News | Audit sizes up SSMU’s carbon footprint

A quote on SSMU’s environmental web site sums it up: “After an entire summer of research, and two fall months of writing, [the audit] is finished. Please read our baby!”

The environmental assessment, headed by former SSMU environment commissioners Trevor Chow-Fraser and Derina Man, evaluated the sustainability of SSMU’s operations and identified areas that need improvement. SSMU commissioned the audit, funded by part of the $1.25 environmental fee collected from undergraduates, to reflect its environmental and sustainability policies, as well as the society’s commitment to students.

The report is divided into eight sections; executive profiles, food, events, energy, lighting, computing & IT, paper & purchasing, waste & management. The executive profile section analyzed the carbon footprint generated by the portfolio of each 2007-2008 SSMU executive, and critiqued their commitment to sustainability.

“[SSMU President Kay Turner’s] Frosh was not the greenest, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The lessons she learned were in valuable, and the solutions successfully implemented at SnowAP and Frosh 2008,” reads the report.

Other universities have undergone similar assessments, but Chow-Fraser said that he and Man wanted to go beyond quantitative aspects, and find a way to guide people in future environmental initiatives. In the paper & purchasing section, the audit urges SSMU to digitize its documents, and the waste & management section suggests the society reuse obsolete furniture.

Earlier this month, Chow-Fraser posted an “uncorrected proof” of his findings on the SSMU Environment Commission’s web site.

“It was important to us to kind of wrap it up a in way…in a product that people can keep using,” he said.

Chow-Fraser suggested that SSMU institutionalize greening efforts and add new services, such as an e-waste service that would collect electronic waste, like worn-out batteries and used Cell phones, and a service designed specifically for green events.

“It would kind of bring together all the resources necessary to have a completely sustainable event,” Chow-Fraser said.

He emphasized that many of the green groups under SSMU, like Organic Campus and Greening McGill, are ignored and require coordination to be effective.

“SSMU knows that students really feel strongly about environmental change, and they know that students want it to happen soon, but there aren’t a whole lot of people involved,” he said.

While the report will benefit students, and ideally make SSMU’s operations more sustainable, it is ultimately a project made for the SSMU executive, Chow-Fraser said.

“They are ultimately responsible for whatever happens, but [they] aren’t going to be the ones who will actually do the work – they’ll just oversee [it]. They should understand what needs to happen,” he said, adding that the report will hopefully be informative for the people SSMU hires and for the society’s environmental committee.

Chow-Fraser explained that he had proposed the idea for an audit, but it is not his project.

“[Derina and I] put a lot into different initiatives at the SSMU…. There’s no way this [the assessment] could be done by one person,” he said.


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