Last Week in Sustainability: May 5, 2016

Highlighting some of the work at the Office of Sustainability in the last week.

Erin Akins, Sustainability Initiatives Co-ordinator, and Matt Wolsfeld, Community Engagement Co-ordinator, helped to facilitate a donation of 25 used bicycles to the Bridge City Bicycle Co-op last week

Welcome to Last Week in Sustainability, a feature where we look at some of the things that we've been doing in sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan.

Syrian Refugee Donations Make Their Way Home

A joint effort between the Office of Sustainability, the Saskatoon Open Door Society, the Mothers' Centre, and Station 20 West was able to get last December's refugee donations out to over 250 newcomers and core community members last Monday.

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Saskatoon newcomers and core community members take part in a donation giveaway at Station 20 West on April 25.

It was a late Christmas for the Office and Station 20 West last week. After months of planning and co-ordination, the Office of Sustainability - in co-operation with the Saskatoon Open Door Society, the Saskatoon Mothers' Centre, and Station 20 West - was able to distribute all of its holiday season refugee donations to over 200 new Saskatonians and core community members on Monday, April 25.

It's been a long time coming to see this project through. In December, the Office of Sustainability was able to collect a 40 ft. shipping container's worth of Christmas donations for the new Syrian refugees who were expected to arrive shortly in Saskatoon. As a result of delays in the refugee process and bottlenecks in storage space for the Saskatoon Open Door Society, it took much longer to identify an ideal time to distribute these donations to the people who needed them. After four months of co-ordination, we were finally able to organize a giveaway to get these materials to the people who needed them most.

It was a full day that began with Office of Sustainability staff and Open Door Society volunteers transporting the items from the U of S Recycling Centre to Station 20 West. A full complement of volunteers were on-hand to help sort and arrange the donations to help attendees enjoy the best possible experience. Throughout the day, visitors to the location were able to take home items from an enormous variety of clothes, baby supplies, toys, housewares, and toiletries all generously donated by U of S students, staff, and faculty.

The event was one of the Saskatoon Open Door Society's most successful giveaways to date, seeing more than 200 visitors and less than 10 small bags of items remaining, all of which were subsequently donated to the Saskatoon Food Bank. A great big thanks goes out to Stephanie Shyluk at the Saskatoon Open Door Society and Shantell Kelly at the Saskatoon Mothers' Centre who helped co-ordinate and follow-through with this great event.

Bike Donations Help Local Co-op

The U of S bicycle donation program returned in full force last week with donations to the Bridge City Bicycle Co-op, Princess Alexandria School, and Treaty Six Education Council.

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Erin Akins - Sustainability Initiatives Co-ordinator - and Matt Wolsfeld - Community Engagement Co-ordinator - were able to facilitate a number of bicycle donations last week.

The U of S used bicycle donation program was able to properly welcome spring last week through donations to the Bridge City Bicycle Co-op, Princess Alexandria School, and Treaty Six Education Council.

At the U of S campus, abandoned bicycles are a frequent issue for Parking and Transportation Services. Several times a year bikes that have been left on racks for long periods of time are flagged for removal, giving their owners time to move their bikes before they are removed from racks and taken to the Facilities Management bike compound at the University Services Building. After a 90-day police search to ensure that the bikes have not been stolen, the bikes are marked for clearance and the Office of Sustainability facilitates their donation to local community groups.

This spring, we have found ourselves with an abundance of abandoned bicycles on campus. With Saskatoon's growing cycling community, we see this as a fantastic opportunity to get these bikes into the hands of those who will truly appreciate them. In the past two weeks, we were able to donate 20 bikes to Princess Alexandria School, 30 bikes to Treaty Six Education Council (in addition to 30 bikes which were donated late last year), and 25 bikes to the Bridge City Bicycle Co-op.

Our donation to the Bridge City Bicycle Co-op - one of many that typically occur throughout the year - was able to catch the attention of Saskatoon's own StarPhoenix newspaper. The article identified our program as a strong example of waste reduction that could serve as a model for the city's own abandoned bicycles. While we don't pretend to know the details of the City of Saskatoon's abandoned bicycle situation or the difficulties they face, we can say that if the City of Saskatoon wishes to pursue a program like ours municipally the Office of Sustainability would be happy to be an ally in their efforts. Bike donation programs are a great mix of waste prevention and facilitating sustainable transportation in the local community, something we cannot endorse enough.

Green Give and Go Reduces Campus Move-Out Waste

An upgraded green move-out represents the Office of Sustainability's newest attempt to reduce waste at the U of S.

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Green Pack volunteer Madeline Berezowski poses with our Green Give and Go swap table on Thursday.

After a multi-year hiatus, the Office of Sustainability was able to bring green move-out services back to residences this year with Green Give and Go 2016.

On Thursday and Friday the Office set up shop at Voyageur Place and College Quarter respectively to provide recycling, landfill, electronics, and hazardous waste collection services to students moving out of residence for the year. Perhaps most exciting was our swap table, which collected student donations that were then given for free to other community members or donated back to core volunteer organizations in the city. Through our efforts, we were able to divert 278 lbs of waste from the landfill.

As this was our first year back to providing these services (we were forced to take a year off following a rash of bed bug issues in previous years), we were able to identify a few areas to improve next year's services including:

  • Holding the event earlier in April to capture more residents who may be likely to move out early,
  • Extending the event over the course of a week to allow more opportunities to donate, and
  • Having swap table-exclusive events in Place Riel to better facilitate used item transfer.

Overall, we were happy with the success of Green Give and Go 2016 and are looking forward to next year already. As the saying goes one person's trash is another's treasure, and as long as it all avoids the garbage can we're happy.

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