'Greenies' put spotlight on environment

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sometimes Lois Armstrong wonders what the big deal is.

One person who never battles for a parking spot is Lois Armstrong. The Media Support Centre Supervisor (Faculty of Education) has been honoured with an inaugural Western Green Award for contributions to environmental sustainability at work and in her personal life.

She uses a travel mug, she composts, she rides her bike to work - it's what she does, and has been doing for years. It's safe to say Armstrong was environmentally savvy long before it was cool.

Armstrong's natural way of life has now been recognized with a Western Green Award, through the Physical Plant department. Physical Plant's Andy Merucci and Hospitality Services are also first recipients of the inaugural award.

Armstrong says for her, being environmentally aware began years ago on her parents' farm. From riding her bike and growing vegetables to hanging clothes on the line and reading about world issues through National Geographic, it became a way of life at a young age.

At the age of 16 she was already a member of Pollution Probe, a Canadian charitable environmental organization.

Being recognized with a 'Greenie' is nice for the Media Production Centre Supervisor (Faculty of Education), who hopes others will see the difference that can be made.

“It's a great start, getting more people to talk about it," says the soft-spoken Armstrong. “Raising awareness is the main reason. It's very easy to be preachy and I try not to do that. But it's one thing to say you're environmentally aware and another to actually do it."

On campus, she has taken the lead as the Faculty of Education's 'Energy Champion', resulting in ideas such as signs in the rooms reminding staff, students and faculty to turn off lights or close blinds; she was part of the 2006 Photocopier Selection Committee, ensuring copiers were Energy Star efficient; she has implemented a used battery depot in the faculty and the donation of old computers to the 'Komputer for Kids' program.

Val Van Domelen says her friend is more than deserved of this honour.

“In addition to living it personally, Lois has influenced Western's workplace wherever she can," says Van Domelen, adding the awards are a great platform to celebrate environmental efforts.

Armstrong has biked to work each of the 26 years she's been working at Western, a saving she estimates at around $75,000 when you eliminate car maintenance, insurance and parking.

“The savings is great, but the plus is the fresh air and exercise I'm getting," she says. “Not being inside that bubble (car) makes me feel more a part of the community."

Armstrong is also eyeing an early retirement where she'll join her husband, John Stephen, at a home they purchased on Pelee Island. Plans are to install a geothermal heating and cooling system, solar-powered hot water system, photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines to generate electricity - pretty much live off the grid.

Armstrong realizes not everyone will go to these extremes, but any little bit helps.

“Simply analyze what you do and how you can make a difference," she says. “It can be something very simple but with huge payoffs."

OTHER WINNERS

Hospitality Services
Hospitality services is committed to creating, producing and enhancing a sustainable culture for the Western community, through ecological, cultural and technological advances.

Through composting, awareness campaigns, donating to local food banks and recycling, Hospitality Services has put more emphasis on 'from-scratch' cooking in residences, with up to 40 per cent of its suppliers from London and the surrounding area - including a rooftop garden atop Somerville House, initiated this spring.

With enhanced efforts towards energy conservation, the reduction of paper and packaging and more organic products on residence menus, Hospitality Services sets an example by leading the way with other environmentally aware groups on campus.

Andy Merucci, Scheduler (Physical Plant):
When Andy Merucci noticed the large amount of paper going out each month for service interruption forms - up to 20 different groups - it gave him the idea of creating an online service interruption form, eliminating the need for paper copies.

On average, 700 service interruption forms go out each year to 20 groups on campus, each approximately two to three pages. This works out to be about 35,000 pieces of paper a year being saved.

Merucci showed everyone individually how the new computer form works to make the transition as easy as possible. Merucci has also taken the initiative to put other paper information online, stopping staff from having to print out new directories and sheets every two months, saving another 5,000 sheets of paper per year.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Lois Armstrong offers ways Western employees could reduce their environmental footprint

  • Reuse a travel mug for beverages and take the mug to meetings.
  • Bring a plate and cutlery to work from home to reuse for lunches.
  • Turn off lights, close windows and blinds before leaving work everyday.
  • Turn off your computer each night, instead of simply putting it to sleep.
  • Photocopy and print documents double sided.
  • Make use of the scan feature on the photocopier to scan and save documents as PDF files rather than printing them.
  • Reuse cloth shopping bags when shopping for groceries
  • Use a clothesline or clothes tree at home during spring, summer and fall months
  • Compost food scraps at home.
  • Reduce C02 emissions by walking, cycling or taking public transit. If this isn't possible, set up a car pool.