Arthur News School of Fish

On Trent Land: 'Sus'tainable

Written by
Francene Francis
and
February 19, 2021
On Trent Land: 'Sus'tainable

Those of us following the Trent Lands and Nature Areas Plan (TLNAP) will know that the plan was approved by the Board of Governors on Friday, February 05, 2021, but more on that later. I’m here to talk (rant) about the current sustainability of Trent and how the Plan will help or hinder our current sustainability at the Trent University Symons campus. The Plan was introduced with the three pillars of sustainability (economic, environmental, and social) in mind and have even included the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their framework to demonstrate their true commitment. An important aspect of the Plan is that the decisions within won’t be implemented overnight. This plan is meant to guide the generational growth of the University and its continued integration into the community.

I’ll start with one of Trent’s proudest achievements: how ‘green’ and ecologically sound the school continues to be. Even the most critical mind can’t argue with the facts, Trent has put a tremendous amount of effort into being environmentally sustainable, and they’ve been successful in most of their ventures. They’ve eliminated the use of single-use plastics (except the vending machines, but profit is profit) which was a student-led change, but Trent approved it so I suppose it’s a win for University publicity. According to the Sustainability Office, Trent has also either reduced their use of natural gas by 22% or they use 3% more natural gas. In the words of Kanye West “I guess we’ll never know.” The Symons campus also has extensive infrastructure targeted at waste diversion. On most corners on campus, we find those three-bin stations for trash, recycling, and compost respectively, and I sincerely hope that students take the initiative to properly sort their waste. The bins seem to be effectively utilized though, since in 2017, Trent managed to divert over 80% of its waste from landfills. Trent also boasts the ‘most successful take-out tray program in the country’ but they also boast to be the ‘#1 undergraduate university in Ontario’ so while the program is successful, I would take their brag with a grain of salt. Besides that, I could drone on about the sustainability efforts of Trent because they have done a great job of being environmentally sustainable, there’s a reason they’re the third most environmentally sustainable university in Canada and 80th in the world. The Lands Plan will hopefully improve these rankings, though a main hindrance to the Lands Plan is the slap in the face of sustainability that is the degradation of numerous natural landscapes to construct their campus visions. Generally, the TLP will likely improve the environmental sustainability of Trent and preserve the lands in accordance with western and Indigenous ideals.

An hotly debated pillar of sustainability is social sustainability. Trent strives to be economically sustainable, but what about socially? Trent has done a great job of accommodating for our physical wellness by integrating accessible washrooms, wheelchair ramps and other infrastructure around the campus. There are mostly stairs inside the buildings, but the ramps got you inside didn’t they? Trent has also emphasized the health and wellness of their students with their Wellness Centre located conveniently at the edge of campus in Blackburn Hall. About to faint in your lecture in Wenjack? No worries! It’s just a short trek across the bridge, then a 10-minute walk past the library, the student centre, and the athletic centre (all possible locations for a student wellness centre) until you get to Blackburn Hall. But I digress, this article is about the positives of Trent. The Wellness Centre is meant for the holistic health of students and provides mental health counselling, accessibility, and health services. All services provided are by certified medical professionals by whom you have a high chance of being treated respectfully. Accessibility services are here for you with any permanent or temporary disabilities to make your time at Trent fully worthwhile no matter your physical condition. These services are included in our tuition, so I encourage you, make the most of it. Stubbed your toe on a corner? Have a headache? A deadline stressing you out? It’s in my non-expert opinion that you seek professional medical attention pronto. Your health comes first and it could be life-threatening! In the Lands Plan there’s no mention of improving current human health services or allocating new spaces. So after the pandemic, I’ll be sure to hike to Blackburn for a certified health professional to remove a splinter from my finger.

Regarding economic sustainability, it’s not a secret that it’s a main aspect of the Lands Plan. Currently, the university makes on-campus capital from the likes of food services, rent , and tuition. Trent was also the first university to own and operate a hydro-electric power station, the Adamson Power Station. Tying back to environmental sustainability, the dam provides nearly 40% of Trent’s electricity. The Robert G. Lake Generating Station is also located on lands leased to the university. In fact, Trent is the only university to have two dams located on its property. I haven’t researched this, but a professor told me, so it’s gospel. With the additional structures of the Lands Plan, economic benefits will reign supreme with the addition of Cleantech Commons, increased tourism along the Otonabee River with the removal of Nassau Mills Road from the banks of the River for a ‘pedestrianized’ river edge, and increased docking on the River, the Seniors Village, and the development of East Bank land for a future complete community. While all these infrastructural changes can be framed to put students at the forefront, they all conveniently offer avenues for the University to make a profit. This in and of itself, is sustainable. A two-for-one deal making efficient use of resources. If you’re providing students experiential learning in a nursing home, might as well make some money from it. The Lands Plan isn’t going to magically pay for itself after all. 

Trent does a solid job of incorporating the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into current and planned infrastructure--or at least they try to. It seems like they’ve thought of it all. The Lands Plan promotes human and terrestrial health, accounts for life below the water, focuses on clean technology and energy, economic growth, quality education, and reduced inequalities. Whoops, maybe not that last one. But yes the fruition of the Lands Plan will likely raise their sustainability index. 

The Lands Plan was approved by the Board of Governors, so we’ve either won or lost, depending on your philosophy. The best we can do now is tag along for the ride and hold Trent accountable to their promises because trust me, they’re hefty.

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