Going greener at the School of Pharmacy

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The School of Pharmacy’s Green Office Team was formed in 2019. From day one, they have been eager to implement changes to decrease the School’s carbon footprint and to launch projects to raise awareness about sustainability in the workplace.

But then the pandemic hit, putting many of those plans on hold. Staff and faculty transitioned to home offices and students shifted to primarily online learning. Like everyone else, the Green Team had to adapt to changing public health guidelines and consider additional challenges for implementing sustainability projects. Given the tremendous stress of the pandemic, the team knew that their community might have limited time or bandwidth for environmental concerns.

As a result, the team brainstormed new green initiatives that would be easy and fun for students, faculty, and staff, not asking too much at such an uncertain time. 

Here are two projects they came up with:

Sustainability Bingo

Designed by Raida Chowdhury, student rep, and Brianne Croteau, Finance Officer, this quarantine-friendly online activity invited participants to fill out a sustainability bingo card. The goal was to raise awareness about the many small actions we can take each day to be more environmentally mindful.

bingo card example

How it worked:

  • The challenge was open to faculty, staff and students at the School of Pharmacy
  • Participants were challenged to complete tasks like using sustainability cutlery, buying Ontario grown produce and eat a vegetarian meal
  • After completing four or more challenges, participants submitted their entry via a Google Form
  • Participants were also given the option to submit photos of their bingo wins on Padlet, a free online tool for creating collective post-it style boards.
  • The contest was promoted on the School of Pharmacy social channels
  • Five participants were selected via random draw to win prizes (two $25 Etsy gift cards and three sets of swag bags including School of Pharmacy swag)

Results: The Bingo Challenge ran for two weeks in August 2021. We had 108 participants who submitted a total of 432 sustainable actions!

The top three sustainable actions were:

  1. Turn off the lights in your room when not in use
  2. Bring your own shopping bags
  3. Exclusively use a reusable water bottle

Here are some of the photos submitted by our community:

Submitted photos of gardens, water bottles and other sustainable actions

Interested in running your own sustainability bingo challenge? Download the bingo card and rule sheet (PDF).

Sustainability Tree

Small holiday tree with recycled gifts under itBetween wrapping paper and Christmas trees, gift buying and long drives to visit family, we often increase our carbon footprint during the holiday season. The Green Team wanted to encourage sustainability in an accessible and fun way that would also make holiday ‘shopping’ easier.

Led by Melinda Recchia, Graduate Studies and Research Administrative Coordinator, the Sustainability Tree event was designed to encourage a circular economy of gift giving and to discourage unnecessary purchases.

How it worked:

  • The team set up a small artificial Christmas tree in the lobby (the tree belonged to a Green Team member)
  • Students, staff and faculty were invited to bring gift-worthy used or previously unused (but not newly purchased) items to place under the tree
  • Anyone was welcome to take a re-gifted item from under the tree at any time – participants did not need to bring in a gift to take one
  • The tree was accompanied by a sign to encourage re-using gifts and minimizing the environmental impact from purchasing new items for the sake of gift-giving
  • the sign also informed participants that items that weren’t taken would be donated to Goodwill at the end of the event
  • On the first day of the event, the Green Team populated the tree with several gifts to get momentum going

Results: The Sustainability Tree initiative ran for two weeks in early December 2021. Participation was active, with many items being swapped in and out. Students, staff and faculty participated and expressed excitement:

The increase in omicron cases in December made the University of Waterloo transition to working from home partway through the two-week period. Participation dropped at that time. A Green Team member who was on campus donated the remaining items at the end of the event.   

Want to run your own Sustainability Tree? Download the Sustainability Tree signage (PDF) to get started.

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