The snow that fell throughout the day today gave a decidedly white look to UNBC’s annual Green Day. But inside the Canfor Winter Garden, various activities and displays provided opportunities for members of the UNBC community to get ideas for reducing their personal environmental impact while also hearing of UNBC’s plans related to renewable energy and community sustainability.
UNBC President George Iwama used Green Day to host a conversation about the next phase of UNBC’s energy project. He described how UNBC’s existing bioenergy facilities – the wood pellet system at the I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Lab and the Bioenergy Plant that provides heat to the campus – can be connected to the residences and the campus daycare, providing a new platform for education and research on how to implement local energy systems in rural and northern communities. The idea is that this new energy network will provide the foundation for adding additional energy technologies, on-campus food production, and future housing to model sustainable communities. The opportunities for teaching, research, and public education would be unparalleled in Canada.
Green Day was created for conversations like these.
As UNBC traditions go, Green Day has some history. The first one occurred six years ago, in 2008, less than a year after UNBC trademarked “Canada’s Green University” and only a few weeks after the Government of BC announced its first bioenergy strategy. Two UNBC professors – Art Fredeen and Ken Wilkening – were the ones who made that first Green Day a reality. They converted a third-year Environmental Studies course that semester into a planning committee, mobilizing students who had a passion for the environment and sustainability. They put together a variety of displays and presentations ranging from air quality and an audit of UNBC’s trash, to local environmental science fair projects and the options for bioenergy in northern BC. Most importantly, they established Green Day as something engaging, informative, and participatory. Every year since 2008, Green Day has been the result of faculty, students, and staff working together. The intent has always been to mobilize the UNBC community around the “Canada’s Green University” trademark; to make it an active part of the UNBC experience.
UNBC has come a long way in the last 6 years and there continues to be discussion of what the green initiative means for UNBC. For me, it starts with where we are: at the centre of a region both incredibly beautiful and incredibly rich in natural resources. So much of UNBC’s programs and research – even the look of the campus – were developed in recognition of our natural environment and the diverse peoples and communities of this place. It extends to more social aspects, including our love of the outdoors for exercise or even to nourish our spirit. So much of the UNBC experience is captured in the green initiative; even UNBC’s official colour is green.
One thing it isn’t, is simple.
That was one lesson learned in the lead-up to the first Green Day, six years ago. “It was a blast,” recalls Art, “but Ken and I had to throw away our carefully crafted syllabus for the course. We ended up delighted with the results and no tears were shed for the syllabus.”
Green lesson #1: there’s no manual for this. Be flexible. Be progressive.
Who knows what could happen before Green Day 2014.