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McGill renews its approach to sustainability with Vision 2020

On Oct. 16, McGill University launched the Vision 2020 Sustainability Strategy, a blueprint for increasing social, economic, and environmental sustainability in the McGill community. Over a hundred and fifty students attended the launch event at the Y-intersection last Thursday afternoon.

Developed under the mandate of the McGill’s 2010 sustainability policy, the strategy divides sustainability at McGill into five categories: Research and governance, administration, education, operations, and connectivity. It also outlines 14 priority actions that fall into the five categories, including increased student research geared towards sustainability, the development of campus hubs to foster a culture of sustainability, and a greater commitment towards green building standards.

The construction of the sustainability strategy was spearheaded by the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS) and funded by the Sustainability Projects Fund created in 2009. The consultation process took place over the span of two years.

“Since February 2012, over 1,000 McGill community members have contributed their visions and action ideas to this process through more than 20 public events, dozens of presentations, and online,” reads the document. “Students, staff, and faculty were engaged in countless conversations, world-café style discussions, flash consultations, one-on-one interviews, and working groups to imagine and plan for a more sustainable McGill.”

While previous drafts of the strategy included up to 51 priority actions, the final document was pared down to 14. The final draft was approved by the McGill senior administration in March of 2014 and was then later presented to the university’s Senate and Board of Governors.

Senior Communications Officer of MOOS Julia Solomon said that although the strategy specified a two year time frame from 2014-2016 for its objectives, the vision and goals would be relevant for many years to come.

“We chose a short period so that the actions would be tangible, and there would be a sense of urgency about moving them forward and reporting back on progress,” she said.

According to Solomon, the actions detailed by the Sustainability Strategy will be implemented by partners across the McGill campus. Vision 2020 has formally identified key institutions for accomplishing each action and the MOOS aims to facilitate the connection of departments and individuals in pursuit of these actions.

“Each of the priority actions has a lead partner—usually an administrative unit—who will work with many other groups, including student groups, to move that action forward,” Solomon said. “It’s also important to remember that the Sustainability Strategy is about more than the Priority Actions. The vision and goals are written so that anyone can identify with them, and there are many, many ways for individuals to contribute.”

Alan Chen, U3 Arts and Science and projects coordinator at the McGill Spaces Project, expressed optimism on the launch of the strategy.“With the principal’s name on the strategy and the Board of Governor’s approval, hopefully we’ll have a complementary administrative front to grassroots initiatives from students and staff moving forward on each of the priority actions listed in the Sustainability Strategy,” Chen said.

Kristen Perry, U3 Science (Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), also praised the strategy for bringing together sustainability efforts with a larger vision.

“There is already lots of wonderful work being done by various student groups and individuals on campus, but these have often been conducted in a certain degree of isolation from each other, so the strategy serves to create some overarching goals and help to bring people together around specific actions,” Perry said. “It also goes a long way in getting higher-level buy-in so that these initiatives can be more supported by McGill as an institution.”

Solomon noted that the project creates a conversation on campus about sustainability.

“The completion of the Vision 2020 Strategy is a huge milestone for McGill,” Solomon said. “We are in a great place now to make major progress on sustainability in the next few years­—partly because of what’s in the Sustainability Strategy, and partly because of how we all built it together.”

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