Improving Campus Sustainability

As we kick off Bike to Work Week here at UBC, now seems a good time to reflect on the issue of sustainability, and more specifically, on what we can do as a community to create a more sustainable campus culture. While it’s easy to feel as though your own actions don’t matter in the face of big issues like global climate change, in truth, there are many ways that we as students can work with UBC to make our home a greener place. Biking to work – or class – is a good start. Yet, there are many other sustainability initiatives on campus that you may not even be aware of. Thus, in this post, I’ll highlight how some of these initiatives look in the context of the Chapman Learning Commons (CLC), and suggest ways that they can be further supplemented by your support.

Hand holding up a plant

Image courtesy of Alena Koval

Sustainability at the Chapman Learning Commons

Here at the CLC, we’ve made a strong commitment to sustainability which often manifests itself in subtle ways that simply complement everyday student life. As simple as these initiatives may seem, they’ve actually made a big difference with regards to reducing campus waste, and I’d like to take the time to detail just three of them:

  1. Water Fountains – each week, about 2.6 million plastic cups are thrown into Vancouver landfills despite the fact that most Vancouverites own reusable mugs. At the CLC, we have water fountains which are specifically designed to fill up reusable containers, and while that may not seem like a big deal, we’ve actually managed to save over 12,285 kg worth of plastic bottles thus far!
  2. Phone Charging Bicycles – since 1998, UBC has cut down on its energy consumption by about 36,000,000 kWh per year by managing its resources more efficiently. Yet, there’s always more that we can do to shrink our energy footprint, which is why the CLC has brought in charging bikes which allow students to get fit while keeping their phones alive.
  3. Recycled Paper – the CLC is the destination to print documents on campus, as about 2 million sheets of paper are printed here each year. However, what you may not know is that all of the paper that we use to fill our printer is 30% recycled. Obviously we’d still like to cut down further on our paper usage, but that 30% adds up over the years.


What YOU Can Do

Now, all of the initiatives mentioned above are great, but they’re only effective when as many people as possible make use of them. This is where you come in. There are many ways that you can help promote campus sustainability, and here are just a few:

  1. Use a Reusable Mug – studies suggest that about 78% of students drink at least one cup of coffee per day. If that stat were to hold true here at UBC, and students were to use only plastic café mugs, we would be sending over 17,000,000 cups to the landfill each year. Yikes. However, we can massively cut down on that number by remembering to bring reusable mugs to campus each day, something which requires little effort, but makes a huge difference!
  2. Ride a Bike (Both to School and to Charge) – some of us don’t even have a choice as to whether or not we bike to school, as many students simply can’t afford to drive to class each day. Regardless, biking is a great way to both reduce campus carbon emissions, and to charge your phone, all while getting some exercise.
  3. Consider Printing Double-Sided Pages – as previously mentioned, we print millions of sheets of paper each year here at the CLC. One of the ways that we have tried to cut down on our paper usage is by allowing patrons to print on double-sided paper. Now, there are obviously some situations in which you may not be allowed to have a double-sided document. Nevertheless, printing on each side of the page whenever possible would be a big help to our team here at the CLC!


Often people look at the kinds of initiatives named here and think that they’re too small to make any sort of meaningful impact. However, the fact that these actions are so small is precisely why they’re so great, as they only require that you make minor changes to your daily schedule. Moreover, as more and more people take them into consideration, their impact can be scaled up massively. As such, we at the CLC hope that you take them into consideration moving forward.

If you have any other suggestions as to how we can improve campus sustainability, we’d love to hear from you, so please keep the conversation going by tweeting us @UBCLearn or by commenting below.

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