Our Story

When it comes to sustainability, we have history. We have momentum. And we have ambitions to accomplish much more. Here is The University of British Columbia’s sustainability story, so far.

Although our institutional history dates back some 100 years, our modern sustainability story begins in 1990 when The University of British Columbia signed the Talloires Declaration. In doing so our University, along with hundreds of other leading educational institutions who signed the Declaration, pledged to make sustainability the foundation for campus operations, research and teaching. 

Since then, UBC has led the campus sustainability movement in many ways. We were the first university in Canada to adopt a sustainable development policy and the first to open an office devoted to campus sustainability. In 2007, we met our Kyoto targets, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6% below 1990 levels, this despite double-digit increases in floor space and student enrolment. We've won numerous awards and have marked our progress with these milestones: 

2015

2014

  • Completes comprehensive Zero Waste Action Plan and launches Sort It Out campaign across UBC's Vancouver Campus
  • Finalizes 20-year Sustainability Strategy, a long-term framework to embed regenerative sustainability across teaching, learning and research, operations and infrastructure and community at UBC's Vancouver Campus

2013

  • UBC begins development of its 20-Year Sustainability Strategy with a rigorous public consultation process lasting the entire academic year
  • UBC completes its Community Energy & Emissions Plan (CEEP) in partnership with the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA) and BC Hydro
  • UBC unveils a sustainability visual identity and launches the first annual Ripple Effect Campaign

2012

  • UBC and its partners open the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility which will reduce campus greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 9% and prove clean energy technologies at a community scale
  • UBC completes its Housing Action Plan, a comprehensive plan to improve housing affordability and choice on the Vancouver campus for faculty, staff, and students
  • UBC launches the Sustainability Ambassadors Program, a sustainability education outreach activity committed to leading and inspiring the UBC community to learn more about sustainability
  • UBC, in partnership with the City of Vancouver, launches the Greenest City Scholars Program, an innovative summer internship program that sponsors UBC graduate students to work with the City on sustainability projects

2011

2010

  • UBC sets bold targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, commiting to reducing GHG emissions 33% by 2015, 67% by 2020, and 100% by 2050, compared to 2007 levels
  • UBC President Professor Toope announces the UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI), an ambitious sustainability initiative that will promote and unite sustainability efforts in teaching and learning, research and campus operations

2009

  • The UBC Community develops the Sustainability Academic Strategy, involving over 350 students, staff, faculty in consultations, which recommended establishing and expanding shared infrastructure and programs to connect sustainability across academics and operations
  • UBC integrates sustainability as one of nine core commitments in Place and Promise, further institutionalizing sustainability in UBC’s highest-level strategic plan
  • UBC publishes a series of case studies on sustainability to showcase and share our operational and institutional sustainability experience

2008

  • UBC President Stephen Toope and five other BC university and college presidents are the first to sign the Climate Change Statement of Action for Canada
  • UBC achieves an A- rating in the Sustainable Endowment Institute’s Green Report Card, among the top in North America

2007

  • UBC reaches its Kyoto targets, reducing GHG emissions from academic buildings to 6% below 1990 levels, despite a 35% growth in floor space and a 48% growth in student numbers
  • Faculty member Dr. John Robinson shares the 2007 Nobel Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

2006

2003

2001                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

1998

1997

1996

  • Faculty member Dr. William Rees and graduate student Mathis Wackernagel of UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning originate the award-winning ecological footprint concept

1990

  • UBC signs the international Tailloires Declaration, a 10-point action plan for incorporating sustainability into higher education