Colten Yamagishi and Tim Ira, Students' Union

Transitioning from high school to university is always a daunting task, which is why the Students’ Union puts so much effort into both Orientation and Week of Welcome planning. But with organizing activities for so many students – upwards of 4,500 new students will go through Orientation in addition to the 30,000 students audience for Week of Welcome – the impact can be enormous.

But the Students’ Union is taking a proactive approach to sustainability when it comes to both Orientation and Week of Welcome, two of the largest events the organization hosts. Vice President (Student Life) Colten Yamagishi said the SU is working towards placing sustainability practices at all levels.

“It’s part of our strategic plan,” said Yamagishi. “It’s one of our values, to promote sustainability and citizenship within our students.”

Both Orientation and Week of Welcome will have large composting and recycling stations at events, making it easier for students to properly dispose of waste and giving them the opportunity to get to know their campus recycling system. Organizers have also switched from Styrofoam® plates for the traditional pancake breakfast to compostable paper plates. Yamagishi figures as many as 2,000 people are served during WoW pancake breakfast, giving this decision an even more significant impact. They will also be serving Cram Dunk’s Fair Trade® certified coffee.

Additionally, all paper materials will be printed on Forest Stewardship Council® certified paper – an international non-profit certifier that guarantees paper products have come from a more sustainable, well-managed forest- with 30 per cent post-consumer recycled content.

There’s also a lot going on for the SU’s Orientation efforts. Approximately 600 volunteers have to be trained every year, and Tim Ira, the assistant manager at the Centre for Student Development, said they only use reusable plates. In fact, Orientation is the single largest user of the Reusable Dish Program through the SUSTAIN SU, the Students’ Union sustainability service formerly known as ECOS.

“Our office will not be providing printed materials,” said Ira. “There will be no paper handed out to students on the days of orientation from our office.”

In the past, Ira said each student was given two to three sheets from Orientation organizers. With some 4,500 students participating, that translates into a large paper savings. There are still some handouts going to students, but the paper savings are significant.

Orientation will also educate all new students on sustainability features of campus during their required tours and be given tips on how to get involved in campus sustainability during their various presentations. Watch out for these “Sustainability Stops” lawn signs highlighting sustainable aspects of campus. Everything from self-compacting garbage cans to LEED® certified buildings will be featured.