Building a More Sustainable Future

Student Speakers at Trafalgar Climate Rally

I had the opportunity to attend all three of the Climate Rallies held at Sheridan on Friday, September 27 – the first at Trafalgar by the Medicine Garden, the second at HMC in our Creativity Commons, and the last one at Davis looking out over the pond. 

Surrounded by very different but equally compelling physical environments, I listened to students, faculty and staff courageously share their lived experiences, insights, and fears.  I was particularly moved by a number of young, compelling contributors from the Art Fundamentals program.  Each of them talked about eco-devastation and the importance of making small changes to your diet and consumption habits; they also underscored the importance of being informed and exercising the right to vote.  Together with faculty leaders, they called on Sheridan to continue demonstrating leadership and implored us to do more – solar panels, windows that open, living walls, vegetable gardens, electric car plug-in stations, better transit, and less concrete dedicated for parking.   

By the end of the day, I was overwhelmed, exhausted and terrified about the planet my kids will inherit.  I was also, however, genuinely inspired by the community leaders I met and their unwavering commitment to driving and sustaining change.  For my part, I left committed to doing more across the 6 R’s:  re-thinking, refusing, reusing, reducing, repairing and recycling. As of the following week, my family of four (plus my parents, who often stay with us) also started practicing “Meatless Mondays”, which – thus far! — are going well.     

A few members of our community (and many from outside it) have queried my decision to actively participate in what had been widely referred to as a climate ‘strike’.  More broadly, I’ve been asked why Sheridan decided to organize the events on all three of our campus, in the middle of a school day. 

My answer is simple.  As a senior leader in the post-secondary system, I am accountable to the current and future students who choose Sheridan as their learning community.  I heard what Greta Thunberg said in her speech to the UN on September 23:  young people don’t want my hope, or for me to be hopeful.  Rather, she and others – including the passionate activists who came out to the rallies at Trafalgar, HMC and Davis – want me to “act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”

To that end, Sheridan has embedded five empowering enablers in our new Strategic Plan, including, “Fiscal and environmental sustainability”.  Specifically, we have committed to reinforce our leadership in green campus initiatives by: (i) continuing to set new standards for environmental sustainability on our campuses and in local communities; and, (ii) to renew our Mission Zero environmental sustainability initiatives with expanded 2024 goals. 

The concrete planning to deliver on this commitment will be reflected in Sheridan’s new Campus Master Plan, which is currently under development.  Consultations are ongoing; please stay tuned for further opportunities to provide your ideas and feedback.

In addition to modifying our own behavior to manage our impact on the planet, Sheridan has a pivotal role to play in building a more sustainable future through innovation, education and principled leadership.   I have been proud to lead in the post-secondary sector for 30 years because I firmly believe that engaging young and progressive voices and mentoring people about citizenship and the responsibilities inherent in living within a democracy is what propels change – and at this critical moment in time – what may save the planet.  I am tremendously proud of our community for standing by these commitments and by showing, through our actions and involvement, that transformative change is both necessary and possible.