Posted on April 18, 2023

Embracing a greener future on campus

View of Earth from space

Earth Day on April 22 is an opportunity for Vancouver Community College (VCC) to demonstrate our support and commitment to conserving the planet’s natural resources. While the world’s largest environmental movement raises awareness, working towards a more sustainable future should always extend beyond a single day. 

This future remains top-of-mind for VCC when it comes to high-level decision-making, program design, and planning the college’s future. 

Aside from following the City of Vancouver’s recycling guidelines and decreasing water temperatures on campus, here are a few other things VCC is doing to reduce our carbon footprint:

Building a campus of the future

In 2022, VCC introduced the Strategic Innovation Plan, which outlines five priorities that shape the college’s decision-making. Embedded in these priorities is our college’s commitment to environmental sustainability. 

To support the college’s commitment to the environment, VCC established a sustainability committee with senior leadership representation to help champion many of the college’s green initiatives.

Engaging students and employees

Taking the time to encourage students and employees to change their behaviours is a key part of the college’s sustainability efforts, shares Diana Cabrero Purata, Facilities Coordinator at VCC. 

After completing a micro-credential in climate change at Royal Roads University, she realized that her passion for protecting the environment could make an impact on a larger scale.  

In addition to increasing efficiencies on campus, Cabrero Purata and her fellow team members host several campaigns and contests throughout the year. 

And since starting at VCC in 2018, she has noticed a steady increase from the college community in supporting sustainability efforts on campus. 

“For example, we ran the Bundle Up campaign this year,” she says. “The goal of this campaign is to remind students and employees to keep warm in other ways, like tossing on some extra layers before requesting an increase in room temperature. As a twist, we also added energy-efficient space heaters for staff who needed warmer temperatures.” 

Prizes incentivized students and employees to participate in the Bundle Up campaign for a chance to win; individuals could submit a photo of them completing the behaviour encouraged by the Facilities Management team. 

VCC staff participates in LIghts Off CampaignA VCC employee participates in the college's sustainability campaigns.

Implementing more sustainable technologies

Facilities Management has completed more than 30 energy-saving projects within the last six years. These include lighting upgrades, adding floor heat pumps and occupancy sensors in classrooms and boardrooms, installing premium efficient motors for fluid coolers, and more. 

In addition, both the Broadway and Downtown campuses have charging stations for students and staff who drive electric vehicles, offering two hours of free charge. 

“All of these projects we’ve completed have resulted in significant energy savings of 2,134,650 kWh per year,” reveals Cabrero Purata. “We’ve done so much, and I don’t see our efforts slowing any time soon.”

To put this into perspective, the average household in Canada uses approximately 11,135 kWh of electricity per year. VCC’s energy savings is enough to power almost 200 households for a year! 

VCC staff personVCC Facilities Coordinator, Diana Cabrero Purata beside VCC's mason bee homes in in the Broadway campus courtyard

Teaching students about clean technology

With industries shifting to adopt more sustainable, eco-friendly practices, education must undergo a similar transformation. 

For decades, VCC’s Transportation Trades program has taught students how to service and repair vehicles and heavy duty equipment. But if one thing is certain, it’s that electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are the future of transportation as they reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. 

“We want to ensure VCC students are training on the latest technology so that when they graduate, they have the skills and training employers are looking for,” says Lucy Griffith, Acting Dean, School of Trades, Technology & Design.  

In the past year, the college acquired the Toyota Mirai – one of the first FCEVs made for the Canadian market and the Volvo ECR25 compact electric digger for student training.  

“Students receive hands-on instruction in the operation, repair, and maintenance of FCEVs and EVs in addition to fossil fuel powered vehicles,” adds Griffith. “It’s valuable, real-world training for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

Giving used devices and items a second life

Instead of taking used electronics and classroom equipment to the landfill, VCC hands them over to BC Auction. Team members work to restore the items and later put them up for auction. This supports the circular economy and extends the lives of furniture, electronics, and other campus equipment that’s still considered usable after a bit of love.

A portion of the items given to BC Auction come from VCC’s annual Spring Cleaning event for employees. 

“For this campaign, we gather the items departments are no longer using, properly recycle them, or give them to BC Auction,” shares Cabrero Purata. “From 2019 to 2022, there’s been almost a 50 percent decrease in departments requesting spring cleaning, and we believe that for this campaign, reduced engagement is a good thing.”

Learn more about Earth Day and what you can do to take action.