Royal Roads University Bachelor of Commerce students Cynthia Durand-Smith (L) and Cameron Tulloch stand next to one of their colourful recycling centres. The two business students are working to help the university increase their waste diversion from approximately 63 per cent to 80 per cent.

Sustainability the business buzz word at RRU in Colwood

Business students coming up with plans to enhance waste diversion at university in Colwood

Their mission, should they accept it? Raising waste diversion from 63 to 80 per cent.

Six groups of five business students from across Canada huddled into amalgamated desks at Royal Roads University, delivering programming proposals to not only save money, but keep unnecessary waste created at the school from going into the landfill. RRU’s office of sustainability director, Nancy Wilken, said the different perspective, from students in classes that focus entirely on the environment or sciences, has been a healthy opportunity to mine the schools greatest resource, their students.

“When we first were established as a university in 1995, (sustainability) was one of its founding pillars,”   she said. “We are really lucky we are invited into the Bachelor of Commerce program each year and we do this challenge.”

With the landfill part of the greater community, she said, “we want to have less going in and not use any more land for garbage storage … It is resource management on the campus to lower our impact on the community.”

Ideas range from information sessions for RRU teachers – the constant at the school, as students come and go – to marketing the recycle bins with signs promoting them as the destination and also giving directions to them around campus, have been some of the positive ideas to come out of the class, Wilken said.

Hanging mirrors at the bins, to offer moments of self-reflection for every person putting their waste into the proper bin, is another example of an original idea she was excited to hear about.

“For students it is a good experience; they seem to really enjoy it. For me, I get new ideas that I have not heard of before that I can work in implementing,” she said. “(This) is our connection as a university with the students. With the reputation of Royal Roads (as) a sustainable campus, it is one of our core values and they are helping us improve that.”

Wilken, who also sits on the Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative, pointed to the students as an example of “living our learning.” She reiterated that it was past students who audited the sustainability of the school three years ago, pointing to composting as a viable option for pushing RRU’s already impressive 63 per cent diversion to 80 per cent over the next five years. When all ideas come forward, she said, the different solutions will be prioritized and rolled into the school as they move towards their goals, with the help of students.

Student Cynthia Durand-Smith said they are the ones using the systems at RRU, so they need to be invested in the solution.

“Initially the class could have been about anything … (We’re presented with) a challenge and we needed to find a solution. I don’t think we really realized what we were getting into about sustainability and the difference we can make,” she said. “It was just a business case, but how we feel today a week later is like we are part of the change.”

Classmate Cameron Tulloch, who hails from Ontario and is at the school only for the residency portion, said he, too, was intrigued coming into the class as a business student – not as a scientist or environmentalist – and being challenged to apply the knowledge to something so tangible.

“It is real and a shared experience with all the students here. Our class is about to go away for about a year of distance learning time and (return to) campus in about a year,” he said. “It will be interesting to come back and see that even as students who spend a lot of time working off campus, to see something that we did had a lasting effect.”

Wilken said the students, as in the past, have proven to be their greatest resources and continue to be excited to not only be part of the process, but part of the solution.

“We call the Royal Roads motto “life changing” and we didn’t make it up, it came from the students,” she said. “We have a student body that is ready to change and that is looking to change… It is all the better for the students and all the better for the community.”

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