The sustainability coordinator at Selkirk College, Kayla Tillapaugh
Building a brighter future for the planet requires collective action and Selkirk College is being recognized for its sustainability efforts by an international association that rates post-secondary institutions across the world.
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education recognizes achievements through its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) that considers efforts in academics, engagement, operations, planning, administration, innovation and leadership. With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, the STARS program is the most widely recognized framework for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.
“We are seeing the effects of unsustainability across the planet and because of the role that post-secondary institutions play in society, it’s incredibly important that we are preparing the next generation for the sustainability challenges of the future,” says Kayla Tillapaugh, Selkirk College’s sustainability coordinator. “Sustainability needs to be at the forefront of everything that we do, and it’s vitally important that we lead by example.”
Earning a silver STARS rating in the latest report, Selkirk College continues to push its efforts upwards in many areas. Highlights include full points in landscape management and biodiversity, particularly prominent on the Castlegar Campus where stewardship at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers is an ongoing priority. Continued infrastructure and operational improvements in areas such as vehicle fleet, paper consumption and energy usage have resulted in gains on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The college also scored well in campus and community engagement where the work of the sustainability coordinator is pivotal in planning and outreach.
Ongoing initiatives can be seen on all campuses across the college region. From local participation in the global TEDx Countdown and the installation of 275 solar panels on the roof of the library to reusable to-go containers and a robust composting program, the college builds on its commitment each semester.
Despite its relatively small size, Selkirk College has been a national leader in its commitment to overall sustainability. The college was the first post-secondary in Canada to sign onto the SDG Accord, a United Nations’ initiative that promotes awareness for 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that aim to create a more sustainable and just planet. From quality education to gender equality and zero hunger to clean water, the college works on making an ongoing difference with SDG goals which tie in nicely with the STARS rating system.
“People most often point to the environment when thinking about sustainability goals, but it is so much more,” explains Tillapaugh. “Sustainability and sustainable development refer to ensuring we can meet the needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is about social, economic, environmental, cultural and spiritual balance that will ensure we are able to be sustained… hence the term, sustain-ability.”
Over the next three years, the college will continue to expand its sustainability work as it strives towards a gold STARS rating. Despite limited human and financial resources, the immaculate grades within the framework are lofty goals that are not out of reach. “We should be proud of this rating because we are taking important steps that have increased our score each year,” says Tillapaugh. “There is lots of room for improvement and we will work hard together as a collective community to meet the targets.”
You can learn more about Sustainable Selkirk and STARS rating system at: https://selkirk.ca/about-selkirk/sustainability