MSVU promotes sustainability initiative

University uses crow mascot to support greener campus

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Sully, the Mount’s “spokescrow,” is featured on posters around campus reminding students to think green. (Photo: Marlena Lougheed)

On a bulletin board filled with notices about textbooks for sale and upcoming events is a poster displaying a black crow and the question, "What would Sully do?"

Mount Saint Vincent University is using Sully to raise awareness of sustainability initiatives on campus. The forested campus is known for having flocks of crows on its grounds.

"Instead of looking at it as a negative, we've decided to embrace the crow," says communications advisor Lauren Leal.

Leal dreamed up the idea for Sully, although she says initially she wasn't sure how her co-workers would receive it.

The idea took off and Sully is now all over campus, encouraging students and staff to think green.

His picture gives reminders to turn off lights before leaving a room and directs people to a website where they can learn more about the Mount's sustainability initiative, which includes extensive upgrades to facilities.

Small steps towards change

This summer, the university made major headway on the project, completing almost 40 tasks that will reduce its carbon footprint. This included installing low-flow washroom fixtures and beginning the conversion of lighting fixtures to models that will reduce energy consumption by 25 per cent.

The Mount's director of facilities management, Bruce MacNeil, says the school has always been environmentally conscious. But it is only recently that it started focusing on getting the word out through education, advertising and emails to students and staff.

MacNeil says the Mount needs to build a culture of sustainability on campus.

"It's not something that happens overnight. It happens over a period of years.

"Our goal here is to develop that culture and we can do that because we're a small community and we're a close-knit community."

Leal agrees. "It all comes back to ‘small steps, big impacts,'" she says, quoting the catch phrase of the initiative. "They're not big sexy changes, but they make a big difference."

Students understand that environmental degradation is an important issue, says the Mount's student union president, Lindy Herrington, and they seem happy to see these updates happening on campus.

Helping out the greater community

The initiative's impact goes beyond benefiting the university community. The university recently switched heating systems from oil to natural gas. The gas lines installed also allow residents of Clayton Park and Fairview to heat their homes with a cleaner, cheaper fuel.

The switch is expected to cut the Mount's operating costs by 10 per cent.

The province contributed $367,000 to the $490,000 project from a fund that helps build gas markets in the province. Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks spoke at the launch of the new heating facility in September.

"Increasing our use of natural gas reduces our reliance on imported energy supplies," he said. "It also employs Nova Scotians, improves our environment and strengthens our economy."

MacNeil feels universities, as major users of energy, have a responsibility to take a leadership role in sustainability. Incorporating green elements into daily campus life exposes students to responsible environmental practices and promotes sustainable living.

 

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