International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) (7th : 2015)

Sustainable practices across leading Canadian universities Tahseen, Samiha; Karney, Bryan; Sinclair, Ian

Abstract

Educational institutions are the learning grounds both for current students and for generations to come. These establishments often play a significant role in shaping human behavior as values and practices adopted by students influence their actions and their future communities. Universities - being the premier knowledge producers in society - should therefore be the leaders in bringing and promoting sustainable practices and behaviour. Sustainable development, sometimes referred as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987), has become an increasingly important consideration as evidence mounts that ecosystem degradation, natural resource depletion and global climate change threaten our ability to support society into the future. In this situation, the ability to foster sustainable behavior among all academic disciplines could be the single greatest contribution that universities can make towards a sustainable future. This is in addition to any facilities management-related activities that any large organisation can claim expertise over. Recognizing this, universities have increasingly focused on campus sustainability and mandated the creation of associated action plans. “It’s Greener Here” by University of Toronto, University of Waterloo Sustainability Project (UWSP), Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) by University of British Columbia are a few Canadian examples. However, due to the variety of approaches and scope of interventions, there is a great need to assess current sustainability practices. Hence, this paper reviews and analyzes Campus Sustainability Assessment Frameworks (CSAF) by leading Canadian universities with the objective of identifying current best practices. Based on this analysis, a campus sustainability assessment tool has been developed using multi-criteria decision making (MCDM) technique. The tool is then implemented for the purpose of drawing comparisons across the large volume of divergent campus sustainability indicators. These indicators are broadly classified into five thematic groups: research, education, infrastructure, campus operation, administration & community engagement. The implicit nature of MCDM makes it particularly suitable for this analysis as it permits the integration of the three well-known pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social and thus, provides a unified overall outcome. According to the analysis, all the universities under consideration have shown superior performance in infrastructure operation and community engagement while overall campus operation and designing sustainability focused curricula have got the least attention. By emphasizing the critical role of universities, this paper encourages the advancement of the sustainability agenda by moving closer to a “culture of continuous improvement”.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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