One day a year is not enough for UBC; it takes 365 days a year to celebrate the earth.  And so, as the world marks Earth Day on April 22, we want to share some of the real ways UBC works for sustainability – through our commitments, students, researchers and innovations on campus.

Taking the bus (and bike)

Taking cars off the road means less traffic congestion, less greenhouse gas emissions, less fuel consumption.  UBC is finding innovative ways to get people from point A to B without stepping into a car. 

Since 1997 and the introduction of the UPass – a discounted monthly transit pass for students – transit trips to campus have almost quadrupled from 19,000 per year to nearly 75,000. 

UBC has also made cycling easier with secure bike storage on campus, bike lanes and the Bike Kitchen, an awesome non-profit, full-service community bike shop in the Student Union Building.

Training tomorrow’s superheroes

One for the biggest opportunities for UBC to influence sustainability worldwide lives within the 55,000+ students that attend the University annually.

We’re working to transform the University’s curriculum so that whether students are studying medieval literature or chemical engineering, they can incorporate sustainability in their studies. Right now UBC offers some 480+ sustainability-related courses and 25 degree programs.

Of course, sustainability learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. Here’s just one example.

UBC graduate student Katie O’Callaghan never imagined her studies in community and regional planning would involve police car chases. But they did.  Through her involvement in the Greenest City Scholar program (a summer internship program that sponsors UBC graduate students to work with the City of Vancouver on sustainability projects), Katie helped reduce the Vancouver Police Department’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Living in the lab

UBC views the entire campus as a living laboratory, a kind of giant sandbox in which there is the freedom to explore — creatively and collaboratively — the technological, environmental, economic and societal aspects of sustainability.

Our latest living laboratory project is a new energy storage system developed in partnership with Alpha Technologies Inc. and Corvus Energy. The project involves three energy nodes that can supply one megawatt hour of stored energy — enough to power an average home for 1,000 hours —, providing backup power for three campus buildings and supporting research into innovative energy solutions.

Putting money where our commitment is 

UBC is investing $150 million in four signature sustainability projects that will help the University reach its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2015, 67 per cent by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2050, based on 2007 levels.

One of these signature projects is the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF), which opened September 2012. The BRDF is the first demonstration of its kind in the world of a community-scale heat and power system fuelled by biomass. It is designed to generate enough electricity to power 1,500 homes and supply up to 12 per cent of UBC’s heat requirements while reducing UBC’s natural gas consumption and GHG emissions.


There are scores of universities working to “green” their buildings and campus operations. There are probably just as many committed to research and teaching around sustainability. What sets UBC apart is our commitment to deeply integrating our efforts in operations and academics.

The UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI), established in 2010, is the University’s agent in this innovation. USI fosters partnerships and collaborations that extend beyond traditional boundaries of disciplines, sectors and geographies to address the critical issues of our time.

Academics involved in sustainability teaching and research now sit on key operational committees. Students, staff and faculty members work together through programs like SEEDS to find innovative, sustainable solutions to meet campus needs. Researchers use campus buildings such as the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) and the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility to test their sustainability ideas. And the list goes on.

To learn more real—and really exciting—facts about why every day is Earth Day at UBC, read more of Our Story.

April 17, 2013