Focus on sustainability: Carleton’s going greener

Polluters, water wasters and plastic pitchers beware.

Carleton University’s day-to-day operations are about to go under the microscope with the launch of a new high-level committee focused on improving the university’s environmental, economic and social sustainability.

“Its mission will be to basically look at sustainability and look to integrate sustainability into Carleton,” says Murdo Murchison, Carleton’s sustainability officer, who is currently benchmarking everything from water usage to waste disposal on campus. “The group will hit the ground running (this fall) … I’d anticipate seeing changes in the next year.”

The sustainability committee is made up of staff, faculty and students and report directly to Duncan Watt, the vice-president of finance and administration. It will also rely on participation from the public.

“The culture of conservation is growing in society,” says Murchison. “(Sustainability) needs to be seen as part of everybody’s mission. It needs to be part of their day-to-day routine.”

Solutions can be as simple as encouraging staff and students to turn off lights at the end of the day or choosing the blue box instead of the garbage for their soft drink cans; both changes could easily save the university hundreds if not thousands of dollars while reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions and improving Carleton’s reputation in the community.

“Often sustainability is just a different way of looking at something,” says Murchison. “It doesn’t necessarily mean more work.”

Carleton has made many piece-meal environmental upgrades over the years — like switching to fluorescent lights and recycling batteries from fleet vehicles — but there has never been an integrated approach to sustainability. Murchison hopes to change that.

The sustainability committee will be linked to other Carleton environmental groups like the environmental health and safety committee and the healthy workplace committee.

“In the broader definition of sustainability, there’s a big overlap,” he says.

Though the results from early sustainability tests are still pending, Murchison anticipates energy conservation and waste management will dominate the new committee’s agenda.

For more information on Carleton’s office of sustainability, visit

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Daniel Reid

By Daniel Reid

Whether it’s scientific breakthroughs, political manoeuvres or loaded technical jargon, Daniel Reid loves to untangle complex ideas to make them accessible to everyone. He is currently an editor at @newsrooms and is a former web editor at @CTVNews and homepage editor at @TheLoopCA. You can argue with him on Twitter at @ahatrack.

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