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York’s Earth Day celebration will honour sustainability champions and achievements

On Tuesday, April 22 at 2pm, the York University community is invited to join York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and Vice-President Finance and Administration Gary Brewer for an Earth Day Celebration in the Life Sciences Building.

The Life Sciences Building terrace on York U's Keele campus

The Earth Day event, which will take place in the lobby of the Life Sciences Building, will pay tribute to a number of sustainability champions and achievements across York’s campuses. The occasion will include the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the LEED Silver certification of the Life Sciences Building, and an announcement about sustainability at York University. The event will also feature the presentation of the inaugural President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards.

Created to celebrate the many champions of sustainability at York, these new awards recognize students, faculty and staff who are contributing to making the University a leader in sustainability among postsecondary institutions. The President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards are intended to raise awareness of the important work that sustainability champions are doing at York, to provide much-deserved recognition of their work, and to encourage others to get involved in sustainability initiatives on our campuses. Up to five awards will be given out each year.

“I am very pleased to announce the first winners of the President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards,” said York President Mamdouh Shoukri. “These awards honour members of the York community who have demonstrated outstanding and ongoing commitment to making ours one of the greenest universities in Canada, and indeed, the world. We are incredibly proud of their achievements, and I look forward to the opportunity to honour them in person at next week’s event.”

This year’s winners of the President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards are:

Brad Cochrane
Director, Energy Management, Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO)

Cochrane oversees York University’s Energy Management program, focusing on ensuring efficient heating, cooling and power for York’s 115 buildings and eight-million square feet of space. He has steered York’s five-year energy renewal plan, aimed at a 25 per cent reduction in utility consumption. His tenacious pursuit of energy rebates has provided dramatically more energy improvements than originally thought possible, specifically resulting in doubling financial incentive grants to the University. This has resulted in more than $1.5 million in additional funds, which are being further invested in new energy conservation measures. An outstanding professional and true steward of sustainability planning and practices, Cochrane is deeply involved with York faculty and researchers from Environmental Studies, Engineering and Science to explore common goals and potential partnerships. 

Tim Haagsma
Manager, Grounds, CSBO

A long serving York employee, Haagsma epitomizes sustainability in action. He is educated as an entomologist, a branch of zoology focusing of insects. This has served him well in his capacity as grounds manager, given the challenges that this area has faced with infestations, including the Asian Long Horn Beetle and more recently the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Haagsma was quick to act at the first evidence of EAB, developing a management plan to save as many Ash trees as possible. His work on the Ash tree inventory and audit led to a full tree inventory of both campuses. Haagsma is also an advocate for conscientious waste behavior, and has been a key player in the roll out of a comprehensive recycling program and organic waste collection program that has achieved a landfill diversion rate of over 65 per cent. He was an early advocate for sustainable landscapes, including xeriscaping. Haagsma has fostered excellent relationships with faculty, staff and students, and is a constant volunteer for initiatives to improve the campus environment.

Helen Psathas
Senior Manager, Environmental Design and Sustainability, CSBO
Senior Fellow, Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) 

Psathas works with many CSBO and York departments and divisions, and is a committed champion of the importance of sustainability in all development projects—from campus greening to reuse and recycling of material, energy conservation, and renewable energy concepts. She has contributed significantly to York’s corporate sustainability profile by participating in various committees and institutes, including the President’s Sustainability Council and IRIS Executive Board. Her participation in the York Master Planning and Facilities Committee allows her to ensure that the need for sustainable development is recognized and respected at the highest level of the institution. Psathas also stewards and supports environmental initiatives such as Lights Out, Campus Cleaning, YorkWise! and Res Race to Zero. She has personally managed a number of projects related to improving the greening of the campus, including Osgoode Green, the University Tree Inventory, and improvements within the Glendon forest. Her management of various sustainable transportation initiatives has resulted in York’s ZipCars and Smart Commute programs. Psathas has also been a champion of accessibility on campus, ensuring that new development projects recognize and respect the need to remove barriers to accessibility.

Osgoode Sustainability Committee

As a subset of Osgoode’s Environmental Law Society, the Sustainability Committee is run entirely through committed student volunteers who have gone well above the call of duty to create a more sustainable campus. The committee established five sub-groups to tackle the challenges that mattered most to students, and as such, has a very wide breadth and has significantly improved sustainability at Osgoode and the wider York community. The committee initiated a Food Advisory Group to discuss food sustainability and waste management with on-campus food providers, resulting in the reintroduction of Fair Trade coffee, reusable mugs and cups, and promotion of Aramark’s Vegan Mondays initiative. The committee also developed an Osgoode Campus Group, which led a to Lighting Efficiency signature campaign, established an e-waste bin in the Osgoode building, and created a double-sided printing poster beside Osgoode library printers to encourage students to save paper. Their events group has also worked to involve all students in programs to make campus more sustainable, including their Lug-A-Mug campaign and Fork Drive, in which students returned/donated metal forks, spoons and knives to the bistro. Overall, the Osgoode Sustainability Committee has made considerable contributions to the sustainability of Osgoode and the greater York Community over the past year. 

Planning and Renovations Unit, CSBO 

The CSBO Planning and Renovations Unit has a longstanding commitment to green building as evidenced through early citations and awards. This 20-plus member group includes six LEED Accredited Professionals. Annually, the group undertakes approximately 200 projects ranging in scale, complexity and cost. Projects are undertaken with consideration to sustainable practices, starting with the most efficient means of delivering the project, including the reuse of existing materials, including lighting, as well as other passive green design strategies. Solutions include practices in energy efficient building systems to reduce energy consumption and minimize York’s carbon foot print, minimize waste and maximize resource deployment by focusing on every opportunity for reuse. There are many examples of the unit’s innovative thinking and practice on sustainable building, including the development of the Sherman Health Sciences Building, which saw the adaptive reuse of York’s old ice rink into a state-of-the-art, world-class research facility through sustainable strategies such as bringing natural light into the interior for energy savings, incorporating a high-albedo roof, landscaping with drought-resistant native plants and storm water runoff management. By re-purposing the arena, an incredible York facility was created, adding value to the campus and bringing new life to an old structure.

York University celebrates sustainability and Earth Hour

The following is from the March 25, 2014 edition of YFile.

The Seeds of Hope poster exhibit

This coming Saturday will mark Earth Hour around the world, but every hour is earth hour at York University. So in the days leading up to Earth Hour, the York University community will be celebrating sustainability with events in Vari Hall and York Lanes.

On Thursday and Friday, York University will host the Seeds of Hope poster exhibit from 10 am to 4pm in Vari Hall. Based on a simple premise – “it starts with one” – the Seeds of Hope exhibit conveys the importance of individual action for community sustainability. Through a series of 24 panels, it focuses on the themes of interconnectedness, social justice and peace to show how one idea can inspire and transform an entire community towards sustainable living. The exhibit offers examples of how individuals and small groups inspired by the Earth Charter have taken simple actions to create more sustainable communities.

Seeds of Hope

In addition to Seeds of Hope, the President’s Sustainability Council, the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS), and students in ENVS 3505 Business and Sustainability will be hosting information tables for anyone interested in learning more about the many ideas and opportunities for getting involved in sustainability at York. Student clubs, campus organizations and businesses focusing on sustainability will be tabling throughout both days.

Along with the activities in Vari Hall, IRIS will be hosting its annual Earth Hour Every Hour events in York Lanes. This year’s lineup includes an updated version of the climate change “Inconvenient Truth” presentation, created by Former Vice President Al Gore’s, which will be presented by Julie Strilesky, who received training from Al Gore and his Climate Reality Leadership Corps in July 2013.

The IRIS event will also feature the Word Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) very own Panda Band – led by Senior Officer of Species, Pete Ewins as well as WWF staff and volunteers. The band will perform a mix of original songs and covers.

For more information, please contact or

Dawn Bazely: From biology to sustainability

The following is an excerpt from University Affair's article, Meet 5 academics who have switched disciplines mid-career, published February 12, 2014 by Daniel Drolet.

Dawn Bazely: From biology to sustainability

Director, Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability 
York University

With degrees in botany and zoology, Dawn Bazely was content working in her field as a biology professor with a specialty in ecology, particularly forest and grassland ecology. But when she was recruited in 2006 as director of York University’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (known as IRIS), she encountered a whole new discipline – and a steep learning curve.

“I have learned to feel uncomfortable,” says Dr. Bazely. “But I get to be a student every day. How awesome is that?” She says that the chief editor of Ecological Monographs tells her “that I have done a de facto PhD in sustainability, science policy and environmental security.”

IRIS has a tradition of breaking down barriers: Its first director was a political science professor, its second came from York’s Schulich School of Business. When the position opened up again, Dr. Bazely was asked to apply. “At first I was terrified,” she confides.

“I can’t begin to tell you how different it is from what I did as an ecologist. It’s publishing in completely different journals, it’s science policy. The most important thing I have learned is that social scientists generally believe that researchers in science and engineering don’t understand the history of our own field.”

She also has learned that scientists don’t understand how they damage their own credibility because they insist on being “super-neutral” and not speaking up about policy or political issues. (The most popular research seminar she gives in science faculties is on “Why don’t scientists get more respect?”)

With her new insights, Dr. Bazely now believes this is because scientists fool themselves in thinking science is above the fray. “Being in sustainability has exposed me to the humanities and social sciences and ethics. It has caused me to question my own assumptions.”

She now understands that there are different kinds of knowledge, “and sometimes academic knowledge might take primacy and sometimes it will not. It’s situating that knowledge in the broader human landscape.”

Taking positions on topics of the day is something she is now comfortable doing. “I don’t think doing that damages my standing as a scientist.”

York University President’s Sustainability Awards

The first annual York University President’s Sustainability Awards recognize students, faculty and staff who are contributing to making York a leader in sustainability among postsecondary institutions. The awards are intended to raise awareness on the important work that sustainability champions are doing at York, to provide much deserved recognition of their work, and to encourage others to get involved in sustainability initiatives on our campuses. Up to five (5) awards will be given out each year.

“York University consistently strives to be a leading university in Canada on sustainability,” said President Mamdouh Shoukri. “These awards will help us recognize the many people across the University who are leading the way.”

Any student, faculty or staff member from the University community can nominate any other individual or group for consideration. Nominees will be considered for the award based on their demonstrated leadership in sustainability, specifically through the following criteria:
The overall impact of the nominee’s contributions to sustainability on campus, including the depth (how significant the contribution is) and breadth (how widespread, collaborative and/or replicable the contribution is). Degree of innovation and originality, and or degree of enhancement (to existing initiatives). How the individual or group went ‘over and above the call of duty’ (additional time and resources committed that were not part of their job description or academic program).

To submit a nomination, visit the President’s Sustainability Leadership Awards web page. Nominations will be accepted until Friday, Feb. 21.

Work and Climate Change Report: Issue 21, Oct 2013

The Work and Climate Change Report is a monthly online publication which alerts and informs academics, practitioners and students about important new research and legislation from Canada and around the world. WCR is published by the Work in a Warming World Research Programme, York University. 

To view this months report, click here

For questions, comments, or if you wish to subscribe to our monthly report, please e-mail us at: 

Visit us at:  

York University releases its first annual sustainability report

This report published in YFile 05.11.2013

The first annual York University Sustainability Report was released today. The report is a newly amalgamated report consisting of the President’s Sustainability Council (PSC) Annual Report, which has been compiled yearly since 2010, and a new Environmental Sustainability Report from York’s Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO) Department.

Covering the period from May 2012 to April 2013, the report summarizes progress on recommendations the PSC has made to the University’s president over the past three years, including several new recommendations advanced by the working groups of the council over the past year. For the first time this year, CSBO’s annual Environmental Sustainability Report is also included.  The Environmental Sustainability Report covers operational sustainability indicators such as energy usage, waste diversion and several other indicators of sustainability that are tracked by CSBO on an ongoing basis.

“I am very pleased to share this report with the University community,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “York University is committed to being one of the leading institutions in Canada on sustainability, and the new annual report highlights the significant progress we have made, including being named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2013.”

The report also highlights a number of new recommendations that form the core of the University’s sustainability plans, including new proposed initiatives in energy conservation, woodlot management, waste management, community engagement, and a farmers’ market piloted on the Keele campus this fall.

“We are very encouraged by the positive results we are seeing on sustainability here at York,” said Professor Ilan Kapoor, chair of the PSC. “The new annual report will help us communicate this progress to the broader York community, and we also hope it will encourage others to get involved in sustainability initiatives on our campuses.”

Consisting of students, faculty and staff, the PSC is an advisory body to the president with responsibility for providing input and recommendations on how to advance York University’s sustainability initiatives, projects, and practices and to provide oversight of the required actions from approved recommendations. CSBO oversees a variety of sustainability programs on both campuses, including energy conservation, transportation, and waste management initiatives.

To view the full report and executive summary, and to find more information on the PSC and sustainability initiatives underway at York University, visit the Sustainability website and theCSBO website

York hosts conference on sustaining a green economy

The following appeared in the Friday, October 25, 2013 edition of Y-File:


Brian Czech, champion of a steady-state economy, will give the keynote address Nov. 1 at an upcoming conference at York on sustaining a green economy.

Czech will argue for alternatives to a growth-based economy, the subject of his latest book,Supply Shock: Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution. His is delivering the keynote at the biennial conference of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics (CANSEE). The conference theme is Sustaining the Commons: Ideas and Actions for a Green Economy. Academics, policy makers, practitioners and activists from across traditional disciplines are expected to attend the conference Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 at Keele campus.

Czech is founding president of CANSEE, a chapter of the International Society for Ecological Economic, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing understanding of the relationships among ecological, social and economic systems for the mutual well-being of nature and people.

He earned a PhD in renewable natural resources studies from the University of Arizona with a minor in political science, and teaches ecological economics at Virginia Tech. A prolific writer about sustainable economics, he is also the author of Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, which calls for an end to uneconomic growth, and The Endangered Species Act: History, Conservation Biology, and Public Policy.

The opening plenary, Ecological Economics, Degrowth and Denial: The Role of Social Engineering, will feature William Rees, co-developer of ecological footprint analysis. Other plenaries will discuss the business case for sustainability and economics for a flourishing Earth. There will be a panel discussion on societal uptake of green fiscal measures, focusing on the Canadian experience with environmental taxes and incentives, and policies for environmental sustainability.

Speakers will give presentations on topics such as Canadian energy and climate policy, complexity science, limits to growth, green indicators, systems thinking and urban sustainability.

York faculty participating at the conference include environmental studies professors Peter Victor, author of Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, not Disaster; Ellie Perkins, whose research focuses on feminist ecological economics, climate justice and community environmental education; and Christina Hoicka, an expert in sustainable energy economics.

The event is sponsored by York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, the David Suzuki and Ivey foundations, Green Analytics and BlueGreen Canada. It is funded by a grant from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.

President to host a town hall on Oct. 2

The following appeared in the September 25th, 2013 edition of YFile.

Do you have an opinion about online education or experiential learning? A burning question about differentiation or credit transfer? This year's town hall is an opportunity to bring together York University faculty, staff, and students to discuss the rapidly changing post-secondary education sector and its impact on the University.

How do we drive innovation and strengthen the quality of education in an increasingly budget-constrained environment? How can we remain Headshot for bio and letterhead 2012competitive in a globalized context? Join York University's President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and members of the senior executive team for this interactive dialogue.

York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

The town hall will take place Wednesday, Oct. 2, from 11am into the noon hour, in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, main floor, Accolade East Building, Keele campus. All students, faculty and staff are welcome.

This year's town hall derives its focus from the five topics put forward in the summer working group roundtables hosted by the Province of Ontario, which are graduate placement, online education, differentiation, graduate education and credit transfer.

Joining the president for the town hall will be Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration, and Rhonda Lenton, vice-president academic & provost.

Can’t attend in person? There is more than one way to participate. The town hall will be available to watch via webcast at The President’s Town Hall website and questions can be sent in advance to the website. You can also submit your questions via Twitter using the hashtag #YUTownHall.

York University wins provincial award for environmental excellence

The following appeared in the July 31st, 2013 edition of Y-File: 

As part of Ontario’s plan to build a stronger economy, create new jobs and promote innovative ways to protect the environment, the province has honoured six organizations  – including York University – with the 2012 Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence, for making outstanding contributions to the environmental stewardship of the Great Lakes.

“Today we celebrate just a few of the most outstanding efforts of individuals, groups and companies in protecting the environment,” said Ontario Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley at the awards presentation Tuesday at Queen’s Park. “I hope the examples we see today will inspire others to be innovators in protecting the environment.”

EnvironmentAwardBack row, from left: Bryan Gilvesy, Y U Ranch; Mamdouh Shoukri and Pavel Graymason, York University. Middle row: Cathy Gilvesy, Y U Ranch; Cynthia Lee, Toronto Zoo; Geoff Peach and Pamela Scharfe, Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation. Front row: Elizabeth Simpson and Adrienne Mason, Pine River Watershed Initiative Network; Minister Jim Bradley; Kim Timmer and Brian Friesen, CleanFARMS

York was recognized for its Res Race to Zero competition, in which students and faculty reduced their energy use in several student residence buildings by 30 per cent in the past three years. The program uses a number of approaches for getting students to participate, including social media, and a weekly web posting that charts energy use. What started as a friendly competition between the Keele and Glendon campus residences is now a way of life for students and faculty across the university – and it’s all part of the school’s five-year plan to reduce energy use across the board. The program raised awareness, saved money, reduced demand on Ontario’s power grid and helped reduce air pollution.


Mamdouh Shoukri and Pavel Graymason accepting the award from Minister Jim Bradley

“We at York are very proud to receive this award for environmental excellence from the Minister, which recognizes the University as a leader in sustainability,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “I would like to acknowledge our dedicated community of environmental ambassadors and innovators – the many York staff, students, faculty and alumni who are leading by example and driving our greening efforts across campus. The Res Race to Zero is an outstanding program that takes a community-driven approach to sustainability and exemplifies York’s mission to create local solutions with a global impact.”

The other recipients of this year’s award included CleanFARMS (Toronto), Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation (Goderich), Pine River Watershed Initiative Network (Ripley), Toronto Zoo and Y U Ranch (Tillsonburg).

To see more of York’s environmental initiatives, click here.

With files from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

York University named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers

The following appeared in the April 22 edition of YFile.

York University has been named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers in an announcement released today by Mediacorp Canada Inc.

The University was named along with 54 other organizations in a competition organized by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers project.

“This award recognizes the incredible efforts of York students, faculty and staff who take action every day to raise awareness and reduce our impact on the environment,” says York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri.  “We have made significant strides to date and will continue to lead by example in achieving results that make a meaningful difference.”

The green roofs on the Petrie Science & Engineering Building and the Lassonde Building are a big part of sustainability initiatives underway at York University

Employers were evaluated and ranked on their unique environmental initiatives and programs, success in reducing environmental footprints and employee involvement in sustainability efforts. The Canada’s Greenest Employers distinction specifically recognizes York University for creating the President’s Sustainability Council, its Green Office and Sustainability Ambassador programs, and the “Res Race to Zero” competition in which student residences across campus attempt to reduce energy consumption.

Other notable accomplishments include the following:

York University has invested $40 million in its Energy Management Program reducing energy usage by 25 per cent. In real terms, the energy savings over the course of the program equal 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough energy to power the University’s Keele and Glendon campuses for almost an entire year.

York University’s ZeroWaste initiative has been successful in diverting 65 per cent of the University’s waste from landfill

The University’s ZeroWaste initiative provides a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to waste management that encourages faculty, staff and students to divert waste from landfills through recycling and composting. “‘Tri-bins”, with designated containers for recycling and garbage, are located across both campuses, along with organic digesters and several battery recycling bins. For 2012, the waste diversion rate surpassed 60 per cent, with the University achieving its target diversion rate of 65 per cent by 2013.

Staff in York’s Transportation Services department actively encourages commuting to the University through alternative transportation such as public transit, carpools, bicycling or walking. More than 75 per cent of York University students, faculty and staff use alternative means of transportation to campus according to a survey done in 2012 by Smart Commute North Toronto Vaughan. These results have been achieved through expanded and enhanced bus service (including the creation of the priority busway), improved cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes and secure lock-up areas, carpool programs (in cooperation with Smart Commute) and car share programs (in cooperation with Zipcar). The University also offers a shuttle service between the Glendon and Keele campuses, between the Keele campus and the GO Station, and from the Keele campus to the Village residential community south of the University.

On the academic front, the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University was the first of its kind in North America. It was founded in 1968, and remains the largest environmental studies program on the continent with nearly 1,300 graduate and undergraduate students. Through FES and other Faculties, the University offers approximately 350 courses that focus on sustainability and the environment, including the Erivan K. Haub Program in Business and Sustainability at the Schulich School of Business (also one of the first programs of its kind in North America).

The University community uses tri-bins to sort recycling

The University actively encourages research into sustainability and environmental initiatives. The Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) was established by York University in 2004 to create an interdisciplinary University-wide research institute that is a focal point for the sustainability-related activities of all 10 Faculties at York. IRIS supports the sustainability related research of York faculty and brings academics together, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.

Community involvement in the York University Sustainability Ambassadors Program empowers volunteer leaders (staff, faculty or students) to act as role models, change agents and committed friends of the environment. They assist with the Green Office program, Campus Clean-up Days and other outreach opportunities, and are champions of sustainability within their departments.

The Green Office program at York makes it easy for faculty, staff and students (with office space) to incorporate a wide variety of sustainable practices into the day-to-day operations of work spaces across the University.

Now in its seventh year, employers who make the Canada’s Greenest Employers list have developed exceptional, earth-friendly initiatives and are actively attracting people to their organizations because of their environmental leadership.

York U community members can now include the Canada’s Greenest Employer logo in their e-mail signatures. To do so, save the Canada’s Greenest Employers logo ( English left, French right) to your desktop and then in Lotus Notes, click “more” in the top navigation bar. Select “preferences”, click “signature” and place the computer cursor on the line immediately following your contact information. Click on the “T” icon at the end of your signature and choose “graphic”. Click again to select the image and then click “import”. Click “OK” to save and close the window.

To learn more about York University’s initiatives in sustainability, visit the Sustainability @ YorkU website.