Charlene Easton has led green projects around the globe, including seven years in Jamaica - photo by Darin Dueck
UBC Reports | Vol. 53 | No. 7 | Jul 5, 2007
New Sustainability Director Looks Beyond Kyoto
By Basil Waugh
You are about to successfully reach Kyoto Protocol targets. What next?
The question may seem premature considering disagreement among world leaders on how to tackle climate change, but that is precisely the challenge facing Charlene Easton, the new Director of UBC’s Sustainability Office (SO).
By the end of 2007, UBC will have reduced CO2 emissions six percent below 1990 levels, meeting Canada’s 2012 Kyoto targets five years early. That achieved, along with more than $18-million in energy savings, Easton says the university has turned its attention to a new challenge set by the B.C. government: zero net greenhouse gas emissions.
“In the 2007 throne speech, the B.C. government committed to become carbon neutral,” says Easton, a native of Sarnia, Ont. “It is a monumental, but exciting challenge -- and as an international leader in sustainability research and innovation, UBC has a major role to play in this enterprise.”
Easton arrives at UBC with 25 years of experience with sustainability solutions and strategies. She has a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University and has worked to advance sustainability leadership and innovation across a variety of sectors in Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America and South East Asia.
Career highlights include seven years in Jamaica, where she led the creation and adoption of a national environmental education plan and a comprehensive sustainable development plan for the city of Kingston.
In 2004, Easton moved to Vancouver, where she co-founded the Sustainability Purchasing Network and worked with mining companies to advance corporate social responsibility initiatives in Canada and Latin America.
Easton says she sees North America’s West Coast as “an emerging sustainability hub with UBC right at the centre.” She says she is most excited to work with the university’s brain trust of students and researchers such as Prof. Bill Rees, creator of the environmental footprint analysis.
Easton, who telecommutes one day a week to reduce her car use, is currently looking to engage stakeholders about how the university will go forward in the next 10 years. She says the process will further incorporate UBC’s Trek 2010 sustainability values into campus life, addressing everything from student learning, climate change and academic planning.
“UBC has been very successful at empowering students to authentically contribute to climate change solutions,” says Easton of initiatives such as UBC’s Social, Ecological, Economic Development Studies (SEEDS), an academic program that brings together students, faculty, and staff in projects that address sustainability issues.
“But I think there is still more we can do. One of the big-picture questions we are asking is ‘What attributes does a UBC grad have, sustainability-wise, regardless of their field of study?’”
Easton replaces the recently retired Freda Pagani, who helped establish UBC as a sustainability leader among Canadian universities through initiatives, including: Canada’s first campus sustainability office, green buildings and the largest campus energy retrofit in the country -- efforts that have twice been recognized by the U.S. World Wildlife Green Campus.
“In my experience, in capacity-building for sustainability it takes 20 years to influence systemic change, so it is amazing what UBC has achieved in the last 10 years,” Easton says. “With such a strong foundation already in place, this is a very exciting time for campus sustainability at UBC.”
Sustainability Program Hits the Road
UBC’s Sustainability Coordinators Program has become an international model for how to create a culture of sustainability in the workplace.
Earlier this year, 24 universities, governments, businesses and other organizations from all over North America came to UBC to learn about how nearly 150 faculty and staff have helped save $75,000 in electricity annually and inspire positive changes in waste generation and energy and transportation.
Due to popular demand, the Sustainability Office, in partnership with Continuing Studies and University-Industry Liaison Office, will be taking the workshops on the road this year. Sessions are planned for Maine, California and Vancouver.
“It’s inspiring to see how UBC’s leadership is helping others to foster sustainability in their organizations -- from as far away as Texas and Toronto to right here in Vancouver and Victoria,” says Ruth Abramson, Sustainability Office Marketing Manager.
More New UBC Sustainability Initiatives
This summer marks the launch of the UBC Climate Action Partnership. This collaborative, student-led sustainability network brings together student groups including the Alma Mater Society, the Graduate Student Society, the UBC Okanagan Student Union and Common Energy.
The Sustainability Office will lead a six-month audit of UBC’s greenhouse gas emissions, including those from buildings, automobile traffic and university-related air travel, including student exchanges.