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York rated greenest university in Canada

York University has ranked first among Canadian universities in a global campus sustainability survey and 14th in the world. This is the second year in a row that York has ranked No. 1 in Canada.

The 2011 UI GreenMetric Ranking of World Universities rated participating universities in 42 countries based on criteria such as energy consumption, commuting practices, waste and water management, percentage of green space on campus, and the application of eco-sustainability policies and efforts.

“York University continues to strive to be at the forefront of sustainability strategies,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “Our first place ranking in Canada by the GreenMetric World University Ranking demonstrates that we are committed to enhancing our environmentally and socially responsible practices for the benefit of all members of our community."

The University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom placed first overall in the ranking, while Northeastern University and the University of Connecticut from the United States placed second and third.

From 2006 to 2011, York University has met or bettered its sustainability targets, all while increasing enrolment and adding new buildings to both the Keele and Glendon campuses.

“This is testament to the excellent work of students, faculty and staff on sustainability issues here at York”, said Professor Ilan Kapoor, chair of the President’s Sustainability Council. “This is only the beginning, and clearly demonstrates that we are on the right track.”

York’s recent achievements in the area of sustainability include:

  • The design and construction of seven campus buildings to green building standards in the last 10 years, including the Lassonde Building which was one of the first ‘green’ buildings constructed in Ontario. This, along with the Yorkwise program that has guided the retrofitting of lighting, heating, cooling and water fixtures in older buildings, has enabled the University to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in energy usage between 2007 and 2010, totaling over 60 million kilowatt hours of electricity over three years – enough energy to power both Keele and Glendon campuses for 240 days.
  • A 50 per cent reduction in single occupancy vehicle use by the York community over the past 10 years. Currently, approximately two thirds of York community members commute to campus by environmentally preferable means, including walking, cycling, public transit and carpooling. York also operates a free campus shuttle service, offers a discount on public transit passes and awards incentives to carpoolers. Cyclists can make use of bike racks, indoor monitored bike parking and shower facilities.
  • A 70 per cent increase in waste diversion rates between 2004 and 2010, resulting in more than 10 million kilograms of recyclable and compostable materials being diverted from landfills. Over the past year, York’s ZeroWaste program has increased food waste composting by approximately 20 per cent and significant increases were also found in the recycling of building materials and furnishings, with a 50 per cent increase in scrap wood and a 45 per cent increase in scrap metal recycling.

York University also offers a broad curriculum of sustainability programs, with over 350 undergraduate and graduate courses that focus on environment and sustainability across several Faculties including Environmental Studies, Education, Science & Engineering, the Schulich School of Business and Osgoode Hall Law School.

“Effective sustainable practices reduce University costs, and will result in the legacy of a better environment for current and future generations, so the University is committed to the principles of sustainability, both in the classroom and across all aspects of campus operations,” said Richard Francki, assistant vice-president of Campus Services & Business Operations. “We will continue to enhance our environmental management practices to ensure that York maintains its leadership in campus sustainability in Canada.”

In light of this commitment, the President’s Sustainability Council is advancing a number of new initiatives such as the Sustainability Ambassadors and Green Office programs, both of which will be launched in early 2012. These initiatives will actively engage the York community in further achieving the University’s sustainability goals through a number of activities and learning opportunities.

For more information on sustainability initiatives at York, visit the President's Sustainability Council website, or send an email to sustainability@yorku.ca.

Submitted by Andrew Plunkett, sustainability project coordinator, and Pavel Graymason, sustainability engagement coordinator, in the Office of the President.

Updated on January 10th, 2012.