Mohawk’s strategic commitment to sustainability has not taken a pause, even during pandemic shutdowns
The pandemic has changed much about campus life at Mohawk College, but the college’s strategic focus on sustainability has not wavered.
Efforts continue unabated to divert as much waste as possible from landfill and to ensure energy and water resources are used to maximum efficiency, says Nico Strabac, Coordinator, Sustainable Programs and Services.
And wherever necessary, the sustainability commitment has pivoted.
For instance, the college’s successful 48-plot community garden at Fennell Campus was transformed in 2020 into a victory garden approach.
In typical years, demand is so high that plots have to be shared across teams of staff and students, so that about 300 people take part each season.
But campus shutdown meant that Ashley Packer, Sustainable Food Systems Coordinator in the Sustainability Office, singlehandedly worked the plots to grow and harvest more than 214 pounds of produce that was donated to the Neighbour to Neighbour food bank.
“It was lovely and she did an awesome job of taking care of it, and really making sure it was still a space that kept the spirit of community alive,” said Kate Flynn, Acting Director of the Centre for Climate Change Management, which oversees the Sustainability Office.
Packer also manages the Mohawk Farm Stand, a trolley at the Fennell Campus that features locally sourced produce for students to buy at cost.
Since spring 2020, the Farm Stand has pivoted by partnering with the Mohawk Students’ Association’s food bank to offer a local food delivery box. Students in need received boxes of locally sourced produce.
Each year, the campus electronic waste disposal, which includes hardware and batteries, diverts thousands of pounds of waste from landfill and in that respect, 2020 was no different.
Last year, campus-wide efforts resulted in the diversion of more than 10,000 pounds worth of electronic waste, said Strabac.
Looking forward, the Sustainability Office is planning for a return to campus, especially in terms of transportation. When fully operational, Mohawk’s campuses welcome about 17,000 people – as much as a small town.
To make up for a lack of on-campus volunteer and learning opportunities for students, Strabac and Packer worked together with subject-matter experts across Mohawk and in the community to develop a seven-module sustainability leadership program that teaches students to apply the principles and knowledge of sustainability to real-world problems.
Each completed module goes on a student’s co-curricular record and those who finish all seven get acknowledgement as a Sustainable Leader.
The ongoing success of Mohawk’s sustainability focus are clear, with the college being named this year among Canada’s Greenest Employers for the seventh-straight year.
The college has been recognized for offering discounted transit passes, a bicycle loan program managed by the Sustainability Office, support for carpoolers (allowing up to four employees to share one parking pass), and shared-use Zipcars available on campus.
Judges also noted community gardens, honeybee apiaries and pollinator gardens, and The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation, Canada’s largest net-zero building.
Image: Nico Strabac, Coordinator, Sustainable Programs and Services; Ashley Packer, Sustainable Food Systems Coordinator, Sustainability Office