"The students are gung-ho about the Living Planet Community," says Professor Nelischer, Director of Guelph University's School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (SEDRD). The building entrance is decorated with posters celebrating their greenhouse gas savings, illustrating the changes to come. "We set the tone in September by signing onto the Living Planet Community and we've kept the momentum going all year."
Professor Nelischer is an energetic dynamo who lives the talk. Aiming for a "smaller footprint, bigger quality life," he and his family are "hanging onto our car," waiting for the elusive electric model to hit the market. They fit into a small house and use a clothesline. They don't use chemicals, they harvest rainwater, enjoy their garden and tend their six ducks.
A unique feature of the school faculty is their carbon footprint audit, performed each fall by Professor Nelischer and his trusty calculator. The professor is on a mission to "ingrain in the students an ethic of sustainability." To this end, he adds up how many conferences are attended (by auto or plane), the cost to heat the building and keep the lights on, and how everyone gets to work. Once the carbon audit is complete, a carbon tax is applied and deducted from the school's budget.
Then comes the fun! Each year, this money is directed to a sustainable project to benefit and educate the students. They've built a green roof, been one of the first schools to distribute metal water bottles (which meant talking about plastics and the social responsibility of selling a public commodity) and distributed re-useable tote bags and coffee cups. And there is a sustainable garden at the front of the school, which reinforces the message of eating locally.
Professor Nelischer is getting the 'bang from his bucks'. The sustainability projects are benefiting his department and generating increased awareness throughout the university. Joining the Living Planet Community is a great fit with SEDRD, because "it's a positive program that measures the gains our students achieve by their efforts." He estimates that every Landscape Architecture student has signed onto the Living Planet Community and they're reaching out to the rest of the campus to pull all hands on board for sustainability.
The SEDRD students are committed to making their future green. The carbon tax money this year was spent on corn-based biodegradable coffee mugs - 'thinking and drinking green.' The department sends a Sustainability Coordinator to the University Student Union and every month students hold their own Earth Hour evening - watching videos related to environmental issues.
"Engaging with the Living Planet Community has heightened awareness. People are overtly buying into it because it's interesting and easy to use," says Professor Nelischer.