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Sustainability Guide

Office workstation with computer screen off and reusable tote over the back of the chair, and apple, plants, traveller's mug, bike helmet and tupperware arranged on the desk.

Are you interested in incorporating sustainability behaviours into your daily life and/or work but just don’t know where to begin? This list of sustainability ideas outlines simple but meaningful actions towards living, working and studying sustainably at TMU. Choose a few to implement in your area of the university and personal living habits to help get the sustainability ball rolling.

  • Turn off all computers, monitors, copiers, printers and scanners each night and when not in use.
  • Enable sleep mode on all computers, copiers, printers and scanners after 30 minutes of inactivity.
  • Remove printers from individual offices where it is not necessary and develop a centralized printing management structure.
  • Label non-sensor light switches to remind staff to turn them off when not in use.
  • Designate an employee to turn off all lights at the end of the day, including within common areas, kitchens, storage rooms and conference rooms.
  • Encourage colleagues to use the stairs when/where possible instead of the elevator.
  • Plug all small appliances, including microwaves, kettles, and coffee machines, into a power bar and designate someone to turn it off at the end of each day.
  • Close the blinds at night to preserve cold air in the summer and warm air in the winter.
  • During cooler (below 15 degrees) and warmer temperatures (above 25 degrees), make sure all windows are properly shut.
  • Introduce natural plants into the space to improve indoor air quality and wellbeing.
  • Encourage phone/video conferencing over business travel where possible. Consider equipping one conference room with easy-to-use video conferencing technology if there are many people in your area who could benefit from this.
  • Ensure your colleagues are aware of the electronic service request process to report situations such as leaking faucets, cracked windows, etc.

In Residence or at Home

  • Only wash full loads of laundry to save time, energy and water
  • Wash your clothes in cold water instead of hot water
  • Use a drying rack or combine loads in the dryer
  • Take shorter showers (less than 5 minutes is a good target) and don’t let the sink run while you brush, shampoo or shave 
  • Leave your window closed when the heating in your room is on and close blinds or curtains on a cold day to minimize heat loss 
  • Take advantage of natural light when you can to warm up your room on sunny winter days
  • Distribute meeting agendas electronically in advance of your meetings.
  • If you must print materials for a meeting, ensure that you are printing double-sided and decreasing margins to a half inch.
  • Prior to meetings where beverages will be served, send a reminder to attendees to bring their own reusable mugs or water bottles.
  • Commit to the TMU pledge of not serving bottled water at any meetings or events.
  • Use reusable dishware, cups and cutlery whenever possible.
  • Purchase more or exclusively vegetarian food for events or meetings where food is served (reducing or eliminating animal agriculture products is much more effective than going local (external link) ).
  • Make sure your event room has a "waste station" with clearly marked recycling, compost, and trash bins.
  • For larger events, contact us at sustainability@torontomu.ca for help in evaluating and prioritizing your opportunities to increase environmental, social and economic sustainability.
  • Equip your workspace/office with reusable cups, glasses, dishware and cutlery for daily and meeting use.
  • Encourage peers to use reusable water bottles and coffee tumblers instead of disposable containers.
  • Use biodegradable, non-toxic or environmentally preferable dishwashing soap in the kitchen.
  • Do not purchase bottled water, styrofoam or plastic cups for your office.
  • Encourage staff or student peers to make an effort to bring waste-free lunches by packing reusable containers and avoiding individually-packaged snacks.
  • If your office purchases coffee for all staff, ensure it is fair trade and/or organic.
  • Post reminders near faucets to encourage water conservation and explain why this is important.
  • Inform peers of the environmental and health benefits of reducing animal product consumption and eating local.

In Residence or at Home

  • Purchase local and eat seasonally by learning which produce is available during fall, winter, spring and summer months and can help you save you money
  • Eat plant-based foods and try swapping red meat for fish, poultry, or vegetarian options. Diets consisting of red meat have a higher climate change footprint. 
  • Buy fair trade to support fair and safe labour practices, community development, and environmental protection; items like coffee and tea. 
  • Volunteer at the Urban Farm at TMU to learn more about gardening and growing food.
  • Making a grocery list before shopping is a great way to stop buying more than you need to avoid food waste and save money! 
  • Eat out less, and instead cook more often and in larger quantities so you can bring leftovers for lunch the next day
  • Plant a garden, whether it is a small potted, balcony or backyard garden, grow some commonly used herbs and vegetables.
  • Purchase paper that is minimum 30 percent post-consumer recycled and/or FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council).
  • Use the Staples Advantage to order office supplies, reducing paperwork and the carbon footprint of TMU’s office supply purchases with fewer truck deliveries and less corrugate to dispose of, while enjoying deep discounts.
  • When planning a renovation, communicate to the project manager that you would like to reuse as much of the furniture as possible.
  • Only purchase promotional items that encourage more sustainable practices (e.g. reusable mugs) and/or are quality products that users are able to use for a long time.
  • Only use Energy Star or EPEAT-certified (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) appliances and equipment.
  • Consider the sustainability of goods and services when developing requests for proposals or procuring new items.
  • Consider ethical and environmental aspects in all departmental purchases.
  • Purchase only vegetarian food for meetings/events to significantly reduce the impact of that meal (external link) . (Fully plant-based is even better when possible!)

In Residence or at Home

  • Install Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) or LED bulbs in your lamps 
  • Buy energy star certified appliances such as computers, printers and lighting
  • Purchase only what you need

In Residence or at Home

  • Collaborate when driving by finding out who lives in your area and arranging a carpool. 
  • Drive efficiently by accelerating smoothly and avoiding fast acceleration/braking which consumes most of your car’s energy. Also curb idling by turning off your engine after 10 seconds of stand-still.
  • Familiarize yourself with and participate in all of Facilities Management and Development waste management programs.
  • Post reminders in areas with printers and photocopiers to reduce paper consumption. 
  • Properly dispose of all ink and toner cartridges.
  • Use double-sided printing and set margins to a half inch as default options on all computers and printers.
  • Have a designated area where office supplies are stored and shared to reduce the need for employees to purchase their own supplies.
  • Evaluate the unique waste created in your area and explore ways to reduce it. (i.e. Does your department use a lot of paper? Do you use a lot of styrofoam cups or other single-use materials?)
  • Include a “Save paper, think before you ink” message in your email signature to discourage unnecessary printing.
  • Get involved in the RUsed program open to staff/faculty: if your office is refurnishing, participate in this program by listing your old furniture or repurposing other lightly used furniture on-campus. Learn more and sign up by emailing sustainability@torontomu.ca.

In Residence or at Home

  • Review where your waste goes both in your residence and across campus - choose the right bin to reduce waste contamination.
  • Share or borrow items whenever possible and participate in the Eco-Move Out event to donate unwanted items during the move-out period each April 
  • Bring your own shopping bag
  • Reduce your use of disposable items 
  • Use a refillable water bottle at one of the many water refilling stations on campus 
  • Print less

For information on broader, city-wide waste reduction and education, you can visit the city of Toronto’s recycling and education page (external link) 

This information was adapted from the Western University Green Office Program (external link)  and the Harvard University Green Offices Program (external link) .