Environmentally Friendly Initiatives at the OUAC
The OUAC is dedicated to providing a responsive, environmentally sound and cost-effective service to Ontario’s universities and their applicants. This service includes processing university applications and collecting related fees; administering other central services that benefit all universities; and providing ancillary services, on a fee-for-service basis, to individual universities, governments and related agencies.
The OUAC produces more than 20 paper publications each year, in English and French. These widely-distributed publications include application booklets, forms, newsletters, posters, flyers, brochures and bookmarks. Over the past decade, the OUAC has used several strategies to reduce the impact of its paper publications on the environment.
Promoting Online Resources
Between the 2002 and 2010 processing cycles, the OUAC successfully reduced the number of printed publications by 82%, by promoting online resources and publications, and gradually transitioning to paper-free, online processes. In the 2011 cycle, approximately 99% of applicants used the online application, greatly reducing the number of paper applications required. Currently, all printed publications are available online in PDF. These online resources are considered the primary and most up-to-date sources of information at the OUAC.
eINFO is a comprehensive web resource that replaces the former INFO Magazine, the largest
publication regularly produced by the OUAC. INFO Magazine contained nearly 160 pages and was distributed to every graduating secondary school student in Ontario. Now, all of the information contained in INFO Magazine is available on eINFO in a searchable format and in PDF. Paper copies are no longer printed.
In 2002, the year of the double cohort, the OUAC printed and distributed 300,000 INFO Magazines. Today, the eINFO website receives more than one million visitors each year.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification for Paper
FSC is an international certification and labelling system that allows consumers to identify wood and wood-based products from well-managed forests and verified recycled sources. Under FSC certification, forests are certified against a strict set of environmental and social standards, and fibre from certified forests is tracked from the forest to the consumer through a “chain of custody” certification system. The OUAC prints a majority of its annual publications and envelopes on FSC-certified paper stock. Each year, the OUAC increases the number of publications that bear the FSC logo.
Biodegradable Poly Mailers
For certain types of mailings, the OUAC requires a large, very durable envelope. For these mailings, FSC-certified paper envelopes are not an option. The OUAC uses biodegradable poly mailers for this purpose. Poly mailers are large, plastic envelopes that contain an additive that allows them to biodegrade after two years in a landfill, thereby reducing the burden of persistent plastics in the environment.
Electronic Reports and Data Sharing
The OUAC is reducing the number of paper reports sent to its university partners by
aiming to replace its paper reports with electronic distributions. In order to facilitate this change, the OUAC is developing new electronic tools that will provide the universities with flexible options for data transfer.
Bike racks were installed at the OUAC to promote sustainable transportation to and from work.
Reusable Plates and Utensils
The OUAC hosts many staff lunches and events throughout the year. Staff are encouraged to bring their own reusable plates, cups and utensils to these events in order to reduce the amount of paper and plastic waste.
The OUAC recycles cardboard, paper, plastic and metal items, and coordinates the proper disposal of batteries. Each office and kitchen in the OUAC facility has a recycling bin. The OUAC also ensures that all used printer cartridges and coffee and tea machine packets are recycled. Egg cartons and plastic containers are saved by staff and distributed to local farms and soup kitchens for additional use.
Water coolers are available on each level of the building and staff are encouraged to avoid using bottled water. Meetings at the OUAC offer water in sustainable drinking cups made from corn.
Twelve low-flow toilets were installed to help conserve water. A water softener was also installed to assist with dishwashing so that less water and hard-working detergent is required.
When the OUAC moved to its Research Lane location in 2001, the custodian collected eight bags of garbage per day. Now that staff recycle, he collects only two bags per day.
OUAC Green Committee
In 2010, the OUAC created a Green Committee to officially implement environmentally friendly endeavours, both internally and externally; however, environmental initiatives have been unofficially entrenched in the OUAC’s operations since the early 1990s.
It is part of the Green Committee’s mandate to monitor the OUAC’s environmental practices, and research and implement new sustainable workplace initiatives.
Some environmentally friendly endeavours that the Green Committee has implemented include:
- Sending out emails with environmental tips
- An annual, local earth day clean-up
- Organizing internal recycling initiatives
The members of the Green Committee meet on an ongoing basis to evaluate the progress of its continual projects.
Ontario Universities’ Fair (OUF)
The Ontario Universities’ Fair is committed to environmental sustainability and supports the use of green, carbon-free renewable energy in an effort to help reduce its overall environmental footprint. With the help of Bullfrog Power, the OUF is powered with 100% green electricity, which is injected onto the local grid to match the amount of electricity used during the fair.
Bullfrog Power is a renewable energy provider that offers sustainable green electricity, generated exclusively from wind and hydro facilities that have been certified as low impact under Environment Canada’s EcoLogo program.
Other environmental initiatives implemented at the OUF:
- Sustainable drinking cups made from corn
- The use of FSC-certified paper in many of the publications distributed at the event
- Water coolers available; water served in jugs/pitchers to reduce plastic bottle waste
- Recycling boxes provided and used throughout the event