Barrie Campus celebrates Earth Day with clean-up
April 05, 2013

Jeannine Clayton gathers garbage at the Barrie Campus of Georgian College for the Earth Day event on Thursday April 3, 2013

Jeannine Clayton gathers garbage at the Barrie Campus of Georgian College for the Earth Day event.

More than 50 enthusiastic volunteers collected hundreds of pounds of garbage and recyclables from around the Barrie Campus as part of annual Earth Day celebrations April 4. GEEP was also busy collecting used electronic equipment for recycling.

Coffee drinkers also learned that they will soon be able to participate in a pilot project at the Barrie Campus to collect coffee cups and keep them out of the general waste stream. Georgian’s Sustainability Co-ordinator Dianne Corrigan announced plans for trials that will judge the usefulness of coffee cup collection stations.

These units allow users to pour out small amounts of old coffee, if necessary, and to then place cups and lids in separate compartments. This has the potential to divert a large amount of coffee cups from the college’s waste stream. Waste audits document that the Barrie Campus alone generates about 75 pounds a day of used coffee cups – a small mountain of garbage.

The recycling stations being used in the pilot project are designed and manufactured by Barrie firm Busch Systems. More details of the pilot project will be announced in coming weeks.

Emergy sustainability guru Tom Rand was keynote speaker at a related Earth Day event at the Barrie Campus the same day.

Smart investors already know there is money to be made in climate change – and it is financial considerations that will make the transition to a non-carbon-based economy happen.

That’s the view of entrepreneur and visionary Tom Rand, who spoke at the Barrie Campus during Earth Day celebrations April 4. His talk was sponsored by Georgian Students for Environmental Awareness and Research (GEAR), Transition Barrie and Living Green.

Rand, author of Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, told the audience that it is possible, and absolutely necessary, to run North America’s industrial system using clean, renewable energy – and that such a transition would pay off economically because it would make industry twice as efficient. The continent would need to reinvent the existing energy grid at tremendous investment – perhaps $30-trillion. But, said Rand, energy companies are already planning expenditures of that size to maintain and expand infrastructure for existing fossil fuel-based energy systems.

“We need to think big about renewable energy, and we need that infrastructure,” Rand said.

In the face of global warming, human beings have no option but to cut carbon emissions, and quickly, he said. “It’s not just a matter of whether we’ll be playing shinny outdoors, it’s a question of whether we’ll be able to grow enough food to feed ourselves,” he said.

Rand is a senior adviser to the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto and is managing partner of Cleantech venture capital funds. Cleantech has invested in a number of start-up companies that are involved in such diverse activities as creating biofuel from wood chips and building smart switches that enable power utilities to better manage their power grids.

He envisions a clean energy system that would integrate contributions from a variety of sources across the continent – electricity generated by solar, wind, hydro, ocean currents, geothermal and next generation nuclear sources. Each would balance out the other in terms of matching energy generation to demand.

Also key in managing energy use is energy efficiency, since it’s much cheaper to reduce demand that to keep trying to catch up to surging demand. Rand says he has proven the practical value of energy efficiency in one of his own businesses, Planet Traveller in Toronto. He renovated a derelict building to create a state-of-the-art hotel, called the greenest in North America. Primarily he was able to cut energy use by 75 per cent, through a variety of methods.

These range from rooftop solar panels and geothermal units to LED lighting and devices that capture heat from wastewater running through drains. He says these practical solutions give his hotel a financial operating advantage in the competitive hospitality industry.