Thompson Rivers University

Harnessing the sun

  Posted on: December 5, 2014

Sweater Fest 1

The backing of International Sweater Day is one of the outreach efforts by TRU’s Office of Environment and Sustainability. On campus that day, the temperature is turned down in most of the buildings by at least one degree to demonstrate that turning down the temperature doesn’t always create discomfort. As a follow up, the department announces how much energy was saved through the action.

From simple measures to large-scale initiatives, TRU has taken tangible strides to reduce its carbon footprint and increase environmental sustainability.

Recently the Office of Environment & Sustainability partnered with the TRU Students’ Union to install 40 new solar panels on the roof of the Campus Activity Centre to create electrical power for TRUSU’s Independent Centre.

Beast of a composter

Composting with this industrial machine means a lot of biodegradable waste is not going to the landfill.

The new panels were installed in late November and complement ones already in place on the CAC, Old Main, and the Culinary Arts Training Centre, which provide hot water heating.

“In a world full of uncertainty, we must work together to find meaningful solutions to our problems before they spin out of control and become a crisis,” says Jim Gudjonson, TRU’s director of Environment and Sustainability. “Each of us has the ability to cause extraordinary change, and there is no better place to start than TRU.”

The new solar panels will help TRU meet its target for 2016 to reduce campus energy consumption by 25 percent of 2010 figures. Gudjonson says TRU is more than halfway towards meeting that goal.

The one-year trial powering the Independent Centre is the first step in creating solar farms on other campus buildings. Scaling up solar use across campus could make TRU an energy producer, eventually selling power back to the grid rather than drawing from it.

In addition to harnessing energy from the sun, Gudjonson says research will begin soon to study whether an on-campus wind turbine would be viable.

Other ways TRU is raising its environmental and sustainable consciousness:

—On-campus composting using an industrial machine able to accommodate large volumes and compost quicker than conventional means. Diverting compostable material from the trash reduces landfill waste and means fewer bills for garbage removal.

—Notices by light switches reminding people to turn off the lights when last to leave. This saves power and increases the life expectancy of lights.

—Colour-coded recycling stations around campus designed to reduce the amount of unnecessary material going to the landfill. At each Zero Waste Station, people can separate recyclables, compost, and non-recyclable material.

—Six water refill stations located around campus are a way of discouraging the use and purchase of bottled water.

—New courses and credentials such as the Leadership in Environmental Sustainability Certificate, encouraging better practices and leading others to do the same.

—An online campus energy dashboard which shows whether electricity use and gas use in the various buildings was up or down from the previous week.

—The TRU Green Guide, which provides students with a quick overview of TRU’s environmental and sustainable initiatives, facts and figures and everyday tips that are easy to remember and to implement.

—Agreements with on-campus coffee shops to provide price discounts to those using reusable mugs instead of one-time-use paper cups.

—Endorsing events aimed at environment and sustainability such as International Sweater Day, when thermostats across campus are turned down to demonstrate how lowering the temperature by even one degree can save energy without creating discomfort.

“We all impact our surrounding environment in one way, shape, or form,” says Gudjonson. “The concept of environmental sustainability has become more prominent as our world continues to change. We adapt so future generations can share the same experiences as us.”

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