Sustainability. What can I do?

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Sustainability Resources

There are many things you can do to help contribute to sustainability at George Brown College.

The following resources can help shape a more sustainable future for the college, our community and the planet.

  • Sustainable Transport: This page will inform you of ways to choose a more sustainable mode of transportation that is healthier and better for the planet.
  • The Story of Recycling: Learn what happens to the items you put in the recycling and trash containers at George Brown.
  • Bottled Water Station Locations: Find out where you can fill up your water bottle at each of our campuses.
  • Paper Reduction Tips: Discover 8 ways that you can save paper while on campus.
  • Green Meeting Guide: Learn how to plan an event or meeting that is in line with the college’s sustainability commitments.
  • Recycling Plan: Find out what you can and can’t recycle around the college.

Acts of Green on Campus:

  • Practice the 3R's in Teaching. Model best practices in terms of reducing and reusing materials in teaching labs and workshops so that students can "Learn It By Living It".
  • Integrate learning about triple bottom line sustainability. Find new ways to embed themes and issues related to social, environmental and/or economic sustainability into your course work.
  • Be a sustainability role model. Demonstrate environmental stewardship in classrooms to students through your own behaviour.
  • Sustainability research. Take part in research to solve sustainability challenges and opportunities, and engage employers in the discipline or vocation that you teach.
Join the Sustainability Squad
  • As a member of the Sustainability Squad, you'll be able to take part in student-led initiatives on campus where you can contribute towards environmental conservation efforts.

Learn more about the Sustainability Squad:

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  • Use a central power bar at your work desk. At your work desk, have everything plugged into a central power bar so then when you leave the office you can switch it off each night so nothing is left running over night.
  • Take away some printers. If you have personal desk-top printers in your office, consider if they are really necessary. Using a Xerox printer is more energy-efficient, uses less ink and saves money. Contact the College's Business Services Office at x 3674 to find out more.
  • Turn-off kitchenette or break room appliances when you leave the office at the end of the week. They are still consuming energy when not in use. Most small appliances such as microwaves, coffee makers and other small appliances can be unplugged at night when not in use so that after a certain it would shut off on its own.
  • Shop at the Good Food Markets on campus. They favour local, seasonal whole foods.
  • Choose Fair trade coffee available from the cafeterias. While you're at it, treat yourself to a Cadbury's Fair Trade chocolate bar.
  • Make your lunch a "Litterless Lunch" Pack all your food items in reusable containers. Purchase reusable wrappers for dry items like sandwiches, hard cheeses, crackers etc. and different size containers for liquid items.
  • Reuse office supplies. Not all office supplies need to be thrown out after one use. Things like folders, paper clips, pens, binders can be used more than once. Have a dedicated spot in the supply closet so that you can share used office supplies.
  • Rethink Your Drink. Instead of buying bottled water, bring your own reusable water bottle and fill it at one of the College's water hydration stations.
  • Bring Your Own Mug. Instead of using disposable coffee cups, use your own and save 10 cents on coffee at Chartwell's Tim Hortons! (Note: Unfortunately, your Tim Horton's coffee cup is not recyclable, but the plastic lid is. Please use the College's recycling bins properly.)
  • Recycle large electronics properly: If you have used electronics, please download the Excel E-Waste Recycling Form at GBCommunity and return it to:
  • Use reusable cups at meetings. Instead of having bottled water and juices along with paper cups, provide everyone with a reusable glass cup or better yet, ask them to bring their own reusable mug. Plus, you can take advantage of a discounted cup of coffee or tea at Chartwell's and Tim Horton's if you bring your own mug.
  • Recycle your batteries. Take them to your Campus First Aid Office battery recycling depot. Or even better, buy rechargeable batteries in the first place
  • Stop using individual sugar packets: Instead of having a bunch of sugar packets for your morning coffee or tea, have a jar of sugar with a spoon in it so we aren't constantly throwing out individual wrappers.
  • Recycle Toner Cartridges. Don't dispose of used Xerox toner cartridges from the printer. Request a pick up from Purolator so they can properly recycle it. Download the PDF from GBCommunity for instructions. Non-Xerox toners can be returned to your Campus Shipping and Receiving and they will be returned to the Staples Advantage for recycling.
  • Compost Your Coffee Pods: Switch to coffee pods that are compostable or at least recyclable. Get a small compost bin in your office and schedule a weekly volunteer to take them home for recycling or for the green bin organics collection.
  • Dedicated recycling bin for small electronics. Have one small recycling bin in the office dedicated to items such as old modems, mice, telephones, cell phones, pagers, PDAs etc. Once full, take the bin down to your campus Shipping and Receiving to be stored until the next Electronic Waste recycling collection.
  • Save Paper: Think before you print. If all the photocopy paper that the college uses was stacked into a pile, it would be more than four times as high as the CN Tower.
  • Encourage electronic submission of assignments. This saves paper but also student time and money. Or use the Brightspace testing labs as well which allow paperless testing and examinations.
  • Share documents electronically: Instead of printing multiple sets of paper documents, share files online and keep central electronic files for your department. Information on how the College's Corporate File Shares works.
  • No need to print course outlines, use in-class screens and Brightspace instead: To ensure all students see their course outlines, present them in class, on the classroom and lab screens: it's a great opportunity to highlight points of particular interest. Or post them on Brightspace - that way, every student has access to it, including students who miss the first class, it never gets lost (or trashed), and they can refer to it throughout the semester.
  • Don't Use Printed Course Packs: The GBC Library's collection of electronic articles are an excellent alternative to print course packs. Using the Library Reading List Builder, faculty can quickly and easily create lists of links to digital resources (including library journal articles, eBooks and streamed videos, or any web content), which students can access from their Brightspace course. Please review the instructions for creating an online reading list, and contact your Liaison Librarian if you require assistance.
  • Reduce paper margins. If printing is absolutely necessary, then reduce the size of your margins so that when you print out your full document, fewer pages are used overall. Visit the College's Paper Use Guidelines for other paper saving ideas, located in the Sustainability section of our website.
  • Double-sided printing. Whenever possible, print of both sides of the page to reduce paper consumption. When you bring print jobs down to Xerox for printing, ask them to print double-sided too.- Make use of scrap paper. When one piece of paper had been printed on you can use the other side as a piece of scrap paper or print something else on it.
  • Don't make class sets of handouts. Post material on Brightspace and let learners print for themselves, if they prefer it.

Make sure taps are completely turned off. After finishing your business with the tap, make sure to completely close it and not let it leak. A leaky tap at one drip per second can waste more than 25 litres of water a day. That's about 10 000 litres per year!

  • Carpool: A great way to save gas, make friends and reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Discounted TTC and GO passes. George Brown College offers discounted TTC and GO passes. Leave your car at home and take transit to reduce the carbon footprint being left behind. For more info visit: the Sustainability section of our website
  • Bike to Work: Consider cycling to work especially during June which is Bike Month in Toronto. Check out the Toronto event calendar for a schedule, along with hundreds of amazing events organized by Cycle Toronto wards and community groups all over the city. You'll reduce your carbon footprint and burn calories! For more information on bike routes and parking locations at the College visit the Sustainability section of our website.
  • Buy Green. When ordering office supplies, use the E-Way on-line ordering system and be sure to choose Staples Advantage Eco-Easy Products that are environmentally preferable and help to protect the planet.
  • Keep Orders of Office Supplies above $50. When ordering office supplies, don't have the order shipped unless it's above $50 in order to reduce the environmental impacts of delivering the purchases. Combine this with Tip #22.
Other Acts of Green
  • Plants aren't just for looking pretty. Bring a plant into the office. Not only will it spruce up your office it will also help clean the air in the stuffy room Spider Plants, Dracaenas, Peace Lily and Boston Fern and even Aloe Vera plants are all good choices.
  • Host an environmentally-friendly conference:
    • use sticker name tags over plastic ones;
    • forego the conference bags full of flyers and trinkets that often end up in the trash;
    • ask Chartwells to serve cream/milk/sugar out of bigger containers, not the individual plastic ones, and serve menu items that don't require plastic cutlery;
    • ask Facilities to put out compost bins by the food tables for organic waste;
    • serve a meatless lunch;
    • encourage people to bring their own coffee/tea containers and water bottles;
    • post your program online instead of printing copies for everyone
    • consider booking local keynotes instead of flying people in. Or use the train instead of planes.


Acts of Green at Home:

  • Flip The Switch. So much power goes to waste when we leave lights and devices on when they are not in use. Be sure to flip the switch when you leave the room & unplug your devices when they are finished charging.
  • Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Producing energy generates carbon dioxide (CO2) a greenhouse gas (GHG) that plays a major role in climate change. At home, you can help by using Energy Star certified appliances, and energy-efficient lights, use a programmable thermostat, insulate your house and choose a high-efficiency natural gas furnace.
  • Replace your light bulbs with CFL bulbs. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) bulbs should replace your standard incandescent bulbs. They use 75% less energy while giving out the same output of light.
  • Use window quilts or shutters. Using quilts or shutters can keep the cold out in the winter and heat out in the summer. An uninsulated drape can cut window heat loss by a third and insulated drapes can cut it by half!
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Washing your clothes in cold water saves on the energy needed to heat the water. It's easier to go green with all the cold water laundry detergents out there now.
  • Use fans instead of air conditioning. As your first line of defence against heat, use a fan instead of going straight to the air conditioner. A fan costs between 8 cents and $1.50 to operate while an air conditioner costs between $6.75 and $40.50 a month.
  • Energize Your Home: Take advantage of GreenON fund rebates for home insulation and high-performance windows. For more information, email The Enbridge Smart Savings program also provides incentives for home energy audits.
  • Recycle. Make it easy for your family to recycle by keeping bins in convenient places.
  • Stop using plastic bags. Instead of getting a new plastic bag for your groceries, bring a reusable bag for all your shopping needs. The lifespan of one reusable bag can eliminate the need for 1000 plastic bags!
  • Buy Less Stuff: Reduce your ecological footprint by buying less, reusing and repurposing old items, and when you do purchase, buy items that are durable, recyclable or contain recycled content. Or swap, borrow, buy second hand, and try bartering for what you need—it works!
  • Start a Compost: Back-yard composting could decrease your weekly garbage by 40%. If you think you don't have enough room for a compost, try using a worm vermi-composter! They take less space and provide an excellent source of fertilizer.
  • Stop buying regular batteries. Instead of constantly buying new batteries, consider buying rechargeable ones. In the long run, they will save you money, reduce waste and keep batteries outside of our landfill for a little while longer.
  • Reduce Waste. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins at dinner.
  • Donate unwanted items. Instead of throwing out your items and sending them to the landfill, donate that item or see if anyone else you may know can use it and keep it out of the landfill for just a little longer.
  • Purchase for durability. Instead of buying products for cheap because they are easily replaceable, buy a product that will last you for several years. Think of the energy being used to constantly replace the cheap product.
  • Get e-tickets for the movies instead of buying paper tickets.
  • Pay all of your bills online and file your taxes electronically. This will not only save you time but will also help to reduce paper wastage.
  • Cancel your newspaper subscription and read the news online instead.
Water Conservation
  • Install a rain barrel at home. Installing a rain barrel is simple and can reduce the risk of flooding in your basement. You can also increase the groundwater supply by directing the rain water into your yard instead of the sewer.
  • Save Water Inside: Keep a jug of drinking water in the fridge to avoid waiting for cold running water. Give your dishes a quick rinse - not a shower! If you wash dishes by hand, don't leave the water running for rinsing. Don't flush your money away. Replace leaking taps and your toilet with a new efficient ultra low-flush toilet and use between 50% and 80% less water per flush, depending on the size of your current toilet.
  • Save Water Outside: If you need to use water in the garden, to reduce losses due to evaporation, water early in the morning (after the dew has dried). Use sprinklers that are suited to the size and shape of the lawn; that way, you avoid watering driveways and sidewalks.
  • Buy Locally Grown Food: Buying local, sustainably produced benefits the local community and local economy while supporting the environment, and minimizing energy consumption. One easy way to start buying local is to choose one product to focus on. Vegetables are often a good place to start. Produce also offers a good introduction to eating seasonally—an excellent way to learn about local agriculture. Then, try seeking out sources for local meat or dairy.
  • Eat Less Meat: Reduce your "food eco-footprint" by choosing at least one day a week to eat meat-free meals in your household. Plant-based diets are better for the environment, and a vegan diet has the smallest environmental impact of all. By designating one day each week to be meat-free, you'll conserve valuable water, energy and land. Changing your diet to reduce meat, and eating more fruits, vegetables and grains will improve your health and help the environment.
  • If You Do Eat Meat: When you do eat meat and fish here are some good rules to follow: Organic meat is best since organic farms are generally smaller and don't use the antibiotics and hormones conventional livestock operations do. Don't eat farmed salmon. Like red meat production, salmon feedlots consume a huge amount of energy in the form of feed while releasing antibiotics into marine environments. If you eat seafood, make sure you're not buying endangered species or fish from areas where harvesting causes other environmental problems.
  • Choose Sustainably Grown Coffee Tea and Foods: You can make a difference by buying Fair Trade certified coffee. This means that it is produced in a socially just and environmentally sound manner. It also helps provide a safe and healthy working environment for producers. If you want to go the next step, look for coffee that is certified as organic, shade-grown and bird-friendly coffee. And you don't have to stop there; most supermarkets now also carry fair trade tea, hot chocolate and chocolate bars.
  • Purchase organic food. Not only is organic food pesticide free, it also excludes products such as fertilizers, antibiotics and hormones. Fertilizers used to grow our crop these days are nitrogen based and use considerable amounts of fossil fuels.
  • Purchase your food in bulk. Instead of buying food to last you a week buy a package that could last you a month. This saves on gas you would need to get to the store as well as reducing the amount of packaging used for your product.
  • Reduce your transportation carbon footprint: Taking a road trip? Rent a hybrid car.
  • Swap out your old car for a green car. If your car is getting old instead of looking for a brand new SUV switch over to a hybrid and you can reduce carbon emissions by 70%. They also save on fuel and maintenance costs.
  • Make fewer trips while driving. Instead of driving everywhere to complete a bunch of errands over the course of a day, group them up and complete them all at the same time to lighten your carbon footprint.
  • Plant a tree or shrub at home. Planting a tree has many benefits such as making your neighbourhood beautiful, increasing its property value, prevent flooding by managing stormwater, buffer noise pollution, provide shade and wind protection and increased habitats for wildlife. Trees also clean air of pollutants, provide shade and alleviate storm run-off and soil erosion.
  • Plant a native plant. A native plant is a plant that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat. They require little to no maintenance since they evolved to survive in your natural conditions nor do they need fertilizer or pesticides. They are beautiful and can provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects.
Personal Health
  • Don't use personal care products such as creams and exfoliators that contain microbeads. Those tiny bits of plastic are NOT biodegradable and can end up in waterfowl, fish and even coral! Make your own body scrub out of oatmeal or sea salt and your favourite oil.
  • Use Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products: You can reduce your toxic footprint too by selecting cleaning products that are certified by either the Eco-Logo or Green Seal programs. Many of the products we use in our homes contain substances that can potentially damage our health and the health of the environment. By buying certified green products you can avoid the "green-washing" that can be misleading on some so-called green products.
  • Make Your Own Eco-Cleaning Products: Make your own healthy and green cleaning product by mixing water with white vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice gives you an effective all-purpose cleaner that won't harm you or the planet.
  • Detoxify Your House: Look around the house for old paint, cleaners, pesticides or other products that you no longer need, then click YOUR Environment waste navigator to find out how and where you can dispose of them safely. Sending chemicals to landfill or even pouring small amounts down drains can pollute creeks and rivers, lowering water quality and harming plants and animals.
  • Low Impact Living: Take the stairs instead of the elevator (good for the environment and your health).
Other Acts of Green

Support the Conservation Community: We can all make efforts individually to lead environmentally friendly lifestyles. Environmental groups can organize their members to take action and have a larger voice due to combined efforts. Find a group that works on an issue that motivates you and get involved, whether it's donating your time to plant trees or clean-up litter, writing letters to government officials or just making a donation.