This week, a platinum sustainability rating has returned to the Thompson Rivers University campus for the second time.
TRU manager of sustainability programs James Gordon and his peers stood in the boiler room of the School of Trades and Technology to share accolades about the school’s performance in sustainability with the community during a press conference.
TRU is now the first Canadian university to have received platinum — the highest possible rating — twice and is one of six universities in the world to reach the standing, according to the Association for the Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
“I want to emphasize the reason that we’re standing in a boiler room, which is not a typical place for a media event,” Gordon explained. “The point that we’re trying to get at is one of the key issues to do with sustainability is climate change. I call it the granddaddy of sustainability issues and it’s really about fossil fuels. The reason we’re here is, in about 2030 — about eight more years — we will have very little need for a space like this to burn fossil fuels to heat buildings like this.”
Gordon added that a project called The Low Carbon District Energy System, begun two years ago in collaboration with Vancouver-based company Creative Energy to use air-source and water-source heat pumps, water-source heat pumps with BC Hydro’s “clean electricity” to reduce fossil fuel consumption to heat campus buildings by more than 90 per cent, compared to 2020 levels.
AASHE’s self-reporting tool is utilized to identify the performance of the sustainability tracking, assessment and rating system (STARS) program.
TRU reached the platinum rating for the first time in 2018 — at that time the first university in Canada to receive it. Today, TRU is one of only two universities in the nation to hold a platinum rating from AASHE’s STARS program.
The STARS rating is valid for three years, ending in the fall of 2025 because institutions were granted an extra year to submit their applications during the pandemic.
There were more than 900 participants from nearly 40 countries in competition for this year’s AASHE’s STARS program. Each respective participant is encouraged to report achievements in five areas — academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration — as well as in innovation and leadership.
Gordon is hopeful the new energy hub will replace the boiler room in the coming years. It will be located between the first basketball court and the Old Main Building outside of Starbucks. The university plans to have sustainability reporting metrics displayed outside for students and staff alike to be aware of their efforts to be green when the project is completed.
“Climate change, of course, does not end at the TRU border,” Gordon said, referencing the city’s commitment to its climate change action plan from 2021. “We believe that small, cumulative actions can make a big difference.”
In the next five years, TRU aims to focus on themes like active transportation, waste management and reduction both on campus and in residence buildings for students, as well as in demolition disposal from ongoing construction projects, to make continuous improvements.
To view the TRU STARS report, visit the website at https://reports.aashe.org/institutions/thompson-rivers-university-bc/report/2022-05-31/.