Environmentally Friendly Initiatives
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.
We produce many bilingual publications and promotional materials each year, in English and French. These widely-distributed materials include application guides, forms, newsletters, brochures and posters. Over the past decade, the OUAC has used several strategies to reduce the impact of our paper publications on the environment.
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. FSC is an international certification system for forests and forest products supported by WWF Canada, Greenpeace and the David Suzuki Foundation.
Under FSC certification, forests are certified against a strict set of environmental and social standards. Fibre from certified forests is also tracked from the forest to the consumer through a “chain of custody” certification system. The OUAC prints many of our annual publications on FSC-certified paper stock. Each year, we increase the number of publications that bear the FSC logo.
Biodegradable Poly Mailers
For certain types of mailings, the OUAC requires a large, durable envelope. For these mailings, FSC-certified paper envelopes are not an option, so we use biodegradable poly mailers instead.
Poly mailers are large, plastic envelopes that contain an additive that allows them to biodegrade after 2 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 we send to our university partners. We aim to replace our paper reports with electronic distributions.
To facilitate this change, we are developing new electronic tools that provide the universities with flexible options for data transfer.
Ontario Universities’ Info (OUInfo)
OUInfo (formerly eINFO) is a comprehensive website that replaces the former INFO Magazine, the largest publication we regularly produced.
INFO Magazine contained nearly 160 pages and was distributed to every graduating high school student in Ontario.
Now, all of the information contained in INFO Magazine is available on the OUInfo website in a searchable format. We no longer print paper copies.
In 2002, the year of the double cohort, the OUAC printed and distributed 300,000 INFO Magazines. Today, the OUInfo website receives more than 1 million visitors each year.
Promoting Online Resources
We have greatly reduced the number of publications we print by developing and promoting online resources, and gradually transitioning to paper-free, online processes. All printed publications are available online. These online resources are considered the primary and most up-to-date sources of information at the OUAC.
As of the 2017 cycle, references in support of professional applications are available online instead of on paper, and all application guides are available online only.
We have drastically reduced our consumption of paper from 128,443 kg in 2002 to 6,604 kg in 2017. 2012 was the first cycle in which the OUAC incorporated paperless distributions into our core business.
At the OUAC
OUAC Green Team
In 2010, the OUAC introduced its Green Team to officially implement environmentally friendly endeavours, both internally and externally; however, environmental initiatives have been entrenched in the OUAC’s operations since the early 1990s.
Part of the Green Team’s mandate is to monitor the OUAC’s environmental practices, and research and implement new sustainable workplace initiatives.
Some environmentally friendly endeavours that the Green Team implemented include:
- An eco-friendly coffee machine
- An annual, local Earth Day clean-up
- Organizing internal recycling initiatives
- A previously loved books depository
The members of the Green Team meet on an ongoing basis to evaluate the progress of its continual projects.
The OUAC recycles cardboard, paper, plastic and metal items. 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 are saved by staff and distributed to local farms.
Reusable Plates and Utensils
The OUAC hosts many staff lunch events throughout the year. In order to reduce the amount of paper and plastic waste at these events, staff are encouraged to bring reusable plates, cups and utensils or use those purchased by the OUAC’s social committee. When fulfilling meeting requests, the OUAC requests that caterers avoid using disposable and plastic packaging. The OUAC also avoids use of plastic straws.
Bike racks are installed at the OUAC to promote sustainable transportation to and from work.
Water coolers are available on each level of the building and staff are encouraged to avoid using bottled water. For meetings, we 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 detergent is required.
Low-flow faucet aerators are installed on several bathroom faucets to reduce water usage from hand washing by 75%. Eco-friendly hand dryers are also available in some OUAC bathrooms to reduce the use of paper towels.
When the OUAC moved to its Research Lane location in 2001, the custodian collected 8 bags of garbage per day. Now that staff recycle, he collects only 2.5 bags per day.
Ontario Universities’ Fair (OUF)
The OUF 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 OUF.
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
- FSC-certified paper used 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
- A re-usable OUF bag for collecting university brochures and booklets
- Links to TTC and GO Transit added to OUF/FUO websites to encourage public transit
- Schools are encouraged to order sustainable giveaways
- Electronic scanners used to collect contact information, instead of paper forms that were used at some university booths