MSVU develops green campaign

University says it has reduced electricity costs by $400,000 this year

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New water fountains with water bottle receptacles. Photo: Omar Rawji

Students at Mount Saint Vincent University are adopting an environmental awareness campaign that goes far beyond recycling. 

While green initiatives are becoming more common every day, no matter how strong, a policy only works if it is implemented.

According Brian Jessop, the university's vice-president of administration, the students are the ones pushing for change.

"They wanted to figure out a way that they could encourage and produce desired behaviours," he says. "What we wanted to do was provide them with some direction."

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They're not closed yet, but it's still autumn. Photo: Omar Rawji

Here is a list of initiatives that are being encouraged for students:

  • Usage of water bottles combined with retrofitted receptacles on water fountains.
  • Lowering thermostats in their rooms and not opening windows in cold weather
  • Shutting down computers (rather than sleeping/hibernating) after hours
  • Using phosphate-free laundry detergents
  • Using bikes/alternative transport/carpooling
  • MSVU's community garden
  • Earth Day awareness and other related on-campus activities
  • A sweater day in February, where students don funky sweaters and turn down the heat

Daniel McKenna, president of the university's student union, says the awareness campaign that began more than five years ago took a while to catch on.

"I don't think they had an effect until the students really started to see the changes," he explains.

To him, students became more aware when light fixtures were upgraded in the fall semester of 2010.  The new fixtures have sensors that adjust to natural light levels throughout the day.

Automatic light sensors are only a small part of the university's Facilities Improvement Plan - a two-year, $3.5-million project that is coming to an end this year. 

It includes a list of 40 upgrades and changes to the university's buildings, including:

  • Conversion from oil to natural gas
  • Lighting retrofits - fixtures and bulbs for 55,742 sq. m of offices
  • Replaced windows with higher insulation ratings
  • Low-flow toilets and urinals resulting in 40 per cent less water usage

So far, the program has saved the university about $400,000 in electricity costs this year, according to administrators.  MSVU is also receiving incentives of about $600,000 from the provincial Environment Department, Nova Scotia Power Corporation, and the province's Gas Market Development Fund.

While McKenna sees a higher awareness than ever before at the Mount, he says there are always going to be those who don't buy-in.

"It's not mandatory," he says. "You can encourage people all you want to be environmentally conscious.  Some people just don't seem to care."

For students who don't pay a monthly electricity bill, he says, sometimes it's hard to be as disciplined as they were at home under their parents' watch.

Nevertheless, he's impressed with how much progress has been made.

"They're the ones actually telling us that this is important to them. What we have to do is try to provide them with access points."

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