At John Abbott College, sustainability education is no longer an elective

JAC_Sustainability_LRZLocated on the western tip of the island and surrounded by a vast natural habitat, the College’s grounds and campus instills in our students and staff a deeper appreciation of nature and the environment. Students and staff alike are fortunate to experience one of the most beautiful campuses in Quebec. Our surroundings and our buildings, especially the Anne-Marie Edward Science Building, provide us with several opportunities to learn about environmental responsibility outside the classroom.

In celebrating and promoting sustainability at John Abbott College, we are promoting an education that balances autonomy and responsible citizenship as well as a respect for the natural environment and the diversity of our communities. Through academic programs, the environmental studies certificate, student clubs and activities and employee projects, we are informing, educating, introducing and integrating sustainable practices throughout our ginkgoCollege’s landscape.  Students and staff alike are learning to shift their thinking in terms of sustainability and the environment.

In August 2012, the Anne-Marie Edward Science Building (AME) held its first classes.  Born from the need to resolve a space deficit and the need to modernize aging science and technology equipment, the LEED Gold Certified building has become central in the last four years to the promotion of sustainability in the College.  Built around a centuries-old Gingko tree, the layout of the building emulates the branches of this tree.  The building is designed to encourage interaction among students and faculty.  There are informal and formal learning spaces on stairseach floor and benches and spaces throughout the building promote spontaneous discussions and interactions.  The staircase, atrium and open spaces were designed to link departments and create interaction zones.

Many of the principles applied to the construction of this building have been carried over to our many renovation projects throughout the remainder of the college and many academic activities have also been developed to further support sustainability education.

The immediate impact of the LEED construction on college life was the energy savings and subsequent payout resulting from the optimal performance of our geothermal heating and cooling system.   This enabled a reinvestment in two other sustainable projects, notably the installation of an exterior network of LED lighting and four electric car charging stations thanks to Hydro-Québec.

oval geothermalThe building and its components provide material for many of our science and technology classes.  As a result of a grant provided by Entente Canada-Québec in 2014, two interactive learning kiosks were installed in the atrium of the AME where students log in to learn about the building and get real-time information on the energy performance of the building.

Many classes have used the information generated from the kiosks for research and experiments.

The promotion of responsible citizenship is one of the key outcomes of many of our activities. Through our partnership and involvement in the City of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue’s Environmental Committee, we have benefitted from Sustainable Development Funding for three projects that were aligned with their Sustainability Plan and have educated our students to be responsible citizens and neighbours of the City.  With this funding, we were able to create a campus garden, start a recycling program in our residence and install a bicycle repair station along our bicycle path near the lakeshore benefitting thousands of cyclists each year.kiosk

Since 2013, composting is possible at John Abbott College thanks to the City of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue who subsidized our bins and our weekly collection.  Annually, we generate over 7000 litres of organic waste. Several times a year, the Sustainability Committee holds composting information sessions in the cafeteria to educate the college community about what is compostable.

In the classroom, students of all programs have the opportunity to learn about sustainability and the environment through our Environmental Studies Certificate.

Certificate courses are offered in many different areas – anthropology, biology, chemistry, earth and ocean science, economics, geography, physics, mathematics, media, nutrition, philosophy, psychology, religion and sociology, for example.

compostOn our campus grounds, many examples of collaboration exist between departments and our Campus Garden is an example of this teamwork.  Two humanities classes (three faculty members teaching a total of six sections) planted our first Campus Garden in the spring of 2013.  It had been discussed in these classes that many students had never been to a farm nor had they ever gardened.  The produce grown in our garden continues to be made available to our on-campus food bank and the harvested herbs make their way to our food services provider.  Funding for this project was made available through a grant from the City of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue’s Sustainability fund.  Since then, the garden has relied on plant donations from members of the college community.

Thanks to a “Sustainable Campus” class project, many of our learning centres and common areas in the Anne-Marie Edward Science Building have been made more welcoming by the addition of plants. Students and staff volunteer to water them weekly throughout the year.  Plants are continuously divided into smaller plants and once a year we have a plant sale that generates funds for our student assistance fund thus promoting the idea of giving back to those less fortunate than us.  Another class has raised money through a series of bake sales to purchase and plant nine trees on campus through the SOVERDI’s (Société de gardenverdissement de Montréal Métropolitain) tree purchasing program.

Our highly successful Sports and Recreation program showed great innovation as hosts of the Canadian Colleges Athletics Association Men’s National Basketball Championships in 2013.  In striving to reduce our carbon footprint, John Abbott College was awarded the CCAA’s innovation award in 2013 for successfully hosting the first–ever ecofriendly men’s Basketball National Championship.  We continue to put measures in place to host environmentally friendly events and conferences and have put processes in place to facilitate these endeavours.

ACCC awardIn conclusion, John Abbott College’s statement of values captures key messages with respect to sustainability:

  • We value student learning that fosters “autonomy and responsible citizenship”
  • We value responsibility to our communities through the “respect for the natural environment” [1]

We hope that these values remain enduring and impactful for years to come.

[1] Strategic Plan 2015-2020:  The Whole John Abbott College family contributing to student success.