posted on April 17: Students push for comprehensive environmental policy at McMaster


Two students in the Arts & Science Program are leading the call for McMaster to adopt a comprehensive environmental policy.

Kate Parizeau and Michael Law, both fourth-year students, asked the Senate at its Feb. 14 meeting to strike a committee to develop an environmental policy that would guide the University in everything from operations to curriculum.

“The policy,” says Law, “would make the way the University operates as a whole, more environmentally friendly.” In addition the policy would help educate all students about environmental issues.

The Senate referred the students' request to the Executive Committee with an understanding that the committee would report back with direction on how to proceed.

By providing students with an environmental component in their curriculum, whether in the sciences or the humanities, Law and Parizeau believe that McMaster graduates would be more well-rounded and ready to confront the environmental problems of the future. They believe students would become more environmentally aware as members of a university community that is striving to be sustainable.

The students told the Senate that the policy would be particularly timely now since the University is planning to build new residences. The policy would encourage the University to minimize the ecological impact through careful construction techniques and environmentally sensitive operations.

Law and Parizeau feel that the policy would be a significant public relations tool, building on McMaster's reputation for innovation and the local community's efforts to achieve sustainability. They also believe that measures taken to help the environment could result in cost savings for the institution.

Parizeau says environmental issues are an area of growing concern for students. A recent poll sponsored by the McMaster Students Union showed that 70 per cent of those students polled believe that the University should take a more active role in addressing environmental issues.

The pair were inspired to propose an environmental policy for McMaster after learning about Mount Allison University's policy at a Sierra Club youth conference they attended. The Mount Allison policy is structured into nine areas: curriculum, energy, hazardous materials, transportation, water consumption, solid waste, food purchasing and buildings.

The measures used to form part of the environmental policy at Mount Allison include:

7 issuing environmental certificates to acknowledge that its graduates understand environmental concerns

7 establishing projects to increase energy efficiency and decrease pollution around campus

7 using pesticides only used if required

7 making bike racks available at residences and academic buildings

7 keeping food packaging and waste to a minimum

7 conducting an environmental impact analysis before construction begins on a new building and trying to ensure environmentally friendly materials are used in the process.

Law and Parizeau say they believe an enforceable environmental policy has the potential to make a large and lasting impact on the University's graduates and on the community as a whole.