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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 6 | April 4, 2002

Finding the Green to Go Green

UBC's Freda Pagani proves sustainability is a good deal.

By Ruth Abramson

Freda Pagani is proving every day that you have to burn energy to save energy.

As Canada's only director of campus sustainability Pagani is working hard to discover more ways to save UBC millions of dollars in energy costs. Her efforts have already made the university a leader in sustainability.

First she spearheaded the concept of UBC's C.K. Choi Building, which, when it opened in 1996, set new green benchmarks for the world.

Recently she won approval for a $35 million dollar program to make mechanical and electrical upgrades to university buildings. The project, called ECOTrek, is guaranteed to generate $3 million in savings annually.

"ECOTrek will more than pay for itself within 15 years," says Pagani. "This energy retrofit is the largest initiative of its kind in Canada."

In the campus core, ECOTrek will reduce energy use by 30 per cent, water by 45 per cent, and C02 emissions by 30 thousand tonnes annually. Pagani's previous energy and water reductions have saved UBC almost $2 million since 1998.

"My biggest challenge is to get every member of the community to include sustainability in day-to-day decision-making," she says. "We usually know what we need to do - like refraining from driving and using less paper. But the difficulty in actually doing such things lies in changing our mindsets and habits."

Changing personal behaviour is the key to integrating UBC's Sustainable Development Policy, she notes. It acknowledges that UBC along with hundreds of other universities signed two international declarations promising to accept responsibility for creating an ecological, economic and socially balanced campus. UBC, it says, must also serve as a leading role model.

To address the mindset challenge, Pagani has launched some innovative behaviour-change programs. One of them is Canada's only initiative that brings together students, faculty, and staff specifically to address sustainability issues. Since SEEDS (Social, Ecological, Economic Development Studies) began in January 2001, more than 200 members of the campus community have participated.

Another initiative, Pagani's Sustainability Co-ordinator program, involves more than 100 volunteers who bring activities to their departments.

"None of our accomplishments could have happened without the commitments of thousands at UBC," she says. "The community should be very proud of itself."


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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