By Eryn Pinksen
NAIT’s future is green with a new Sustainability Committee that brings NAIT and NAITSA together to look for eco-friendly practices to bring to the school.
The committee is starting with making a few changes to Eat at NAIT that students can expect to see in the new year. These changes could be discounts for people bringing in their own cups and mugs or a fee for single-use cups and plates.
Megan Brodeur, the Service Hub Manager at NAITSA, is a passionate environmentalist and said that she is happy to be a part of this committee.
“It sounded like there may have been attempts to do some sort of sustainability stuff before,” said Brodeur. “But now it feels like the leadership is really taking it seriously and we will see changes.”
Brodeur decided to spear-head the creation of a NAITSA Sustainability Committee to work on ways the student organization can prioritize sustainability alongside NAIT.
“We’re setting up a NAITSA sustainability committee to keep the information going between both committees,” said Brodeur. “Also to do internal NAITSA initiatives, then my goal would be to do external events with students.”
Brodeur explained that many important initiatives are as simple and as small as switching from single-use coffee pods to a coffee-maker in the office. She is working on reducing the paper towel use at NAIT as well.
“We’re trying to make small changes,” said Brodeur. “Even think about if everyone just brought a mug to campus, think about how much they could save from going to the landfill if they had a water bottle and a coffee mug in their locker or at their office.”
At NAIT, every year there are 525,000 cups thrown out. NAIT is collecting more information about waste at the institution and will roll out an information campaign in the new year.
Last week NAIT also announced a ten year partnership with Inter Pipeline Ltd. to research new ways to recycle plastic. The agreement comes with $10 million in funding.
This is NAIT’s largest applied research agreement in the school’s history and students will be involved in the research initiatives.
In a statement released by NAIT, it explains that research in “process engineering, process automation and environmental sustainability” will be pursued in this partnership.
“Our partnership with industry is fundamental to who we are as a polytechnic. This agreement showcases how NAIT plays a vital role in helping industry to find solutions to the problems they are facing. We are proud of our partnership with Inter Pipeline,” said Dr. Glenn Feltham.
Despite the restraints NAIT is facing from the Alberta budget, these new initiatives shows that the institution is making a statement about their commitment to environmental practices and research.
The provincial budget cuts include a drop in maintenance funding and an $11 million cut to NAIT’s overall operating budget for the current fiscal year.
NAIT already has a few sustainability practices in place. Such as low-energy lights, low-flow water fixtures, environmentally-friendly cleaning products and battery disposal bins.
Currently, the committee is in its organizational phase and small changes are slowly being made. Brodeur expects that in the new fiscal year when the next budget is decided, students will see more eco-friendly initiatives.
Brodeur hopes to host student-focused events in the future surrounding sustainability and provide volunteer opportunities. She hopes to see an Earth Day initiative and workshops that help coach people on eco-friendly living with tips on minimalist, low-waste lifestyles and advice on how to compost.
“There’s a fundraising opportunity through Alberta Recycle to drop off old electronics,” said Brodeur. “If you drop off an old computer, you get a few dollars as a donation and that money could go to the Food Centre.”
These plans are not set in stone, but Brodeur says the group involved in the sustainability committee is determined to take action and find out what is most feasible for the institution and for students.
NAIT and NAITSA are working in partnership to see what the next steps will be to move towards a greener campus.