Greenhouse gases are heating up: The time to act is now!

Welcome to the start of our six-week challenge tailored for students, staff, and faculty across Canadian colleges and institutes. This week, we’ll introduce greenhouse gases, how they’re measured, and ways to cut emissions on campus and in your life.

What Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat from the sun, creating a natural warming effect that makes our planet habitable.

The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These gases are naturally present in the atmosphere, and they help keep the Earth’s temperature stable, so we don’t get too cold. However, when we do things like burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas) for energy, cutting down forests, or using certain farming practices, we release extra greenhouse gases into the air. This traps more of the sun’s heat, leading to rapid changes in our climate.

The United Nations considers climate change the single-biggest global crisis threatening our survival – which is why Sustainable Development Goal 13 (SDG-13) is “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.

Learn more about climate change in this video by Environment and Climate Change Canada

Measuring Greenhouse Gas Emissions

When it comes to measuring greenhouse gas emissions, we use a standard unit known as metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

Different greenhouse gases have varying abilities to trap heat in the atmosphere. To make a fair comparison, we use CO2 as a baseline. We convert the emissions of other gases, such as methane, a much more potent and long-lasting gas, into CO2e to provide a common basis for measuring their impact.

Identifying the Major Contributors

In Canada, the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions include:

  1. Energy Production: Burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat.
  2. Transportation: Emissions from cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships.
  3. Agriculture: Methane emissions from livestock and soil management.
  4. Industrial Processes: Chemical reactions during manufacturing.
  5. Garbage and Wastewater: The treatment and disposal of liquid and solid waste.

Understanding Your Impact

Discover how your daily activities, like eating, transportation, and energy use, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions using an online carbon footprint calculator.

Taking Action: Strategies for Emission Reduction

As members of the college and institute community, we can make a significant impact by adopting sustainable practices that address climate change. Here are some strategies tailored to students, staff, and faculty. Take a moment and think about the ways these strategies could help us fight climate change and reach other SDGs mentioned below.

  1. Plant-Based Meals: Animal products are emission-intensive compared to plant-based foods, especially fruit, veggies, grains, and plant-proteins (such as lentils, beans, chickpeas) grown and processed in Canada. Replace meat, dairy, and eggs with local plant-based foods a couple of times a week. Urge campus food services to offer more plant-based options. (Goals: 12, 13, 14, and 15)
  2. Energy Efficiency: Turn off lights and electronics when not in use to reduce electricity consumption. Promote the use of energy-efficient lighting and appliances in campus buildings. In winter, keep heating between 18-21°C depending on your activity, and set cooling to 22-25°C in summer. (Goals: 12 and 13)
  3. Sustainable Transportation: Use public transit, bike, walk, or carpool to reduce emissions from commuting. Advocate for bike lanes, secure bike parking, and charging stations for e-bikes and EVs on campus. (Goals: 3, 11, 13, and 16)
  4. Waste Reduction: Think before you buy – preparing and planning can lead to less waste and always recycle and compost properly. Participate in your campus composting program or take the initiative to start one if it doesn’t exist. Organize awareness campaigns on campus to promote responsible consumption. (Goals: 12, 13, 14, and 15)
  5. Renewable Energy: Advocate for the transition to renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, for campus facilities. Learn about green tech and innovations in your field of study so that you’re ready for the greening of your profession. (Goals: 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, and 16)
  6. Green Spaces: Promote tree planting and converting campus lawns into meadows, this will reduce GHG-intensive lawn care, but also help reduce the heat island effect, provide windbreaks in winter, and help biodiversity better adapt to our changing climate. (Goals: 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16)
  7. Curriculum Integration: Encourage incorporating sustainability and climate change topics into courses to raise awareness and empower future leaders. As a student, ask questions and start the conversation. Tell your student association you want to see climate actions on campus.

Get Inspired! Sustainability on our Campuses

Meadows store 70% more GHGs than lawns. Lawns, due to frequent mowing, release stored GHGs back into the atmosphere. In fact, lawncare emits 4 times the GHGs stored by lawns.

Vanier College has been converting campus lawn into meadow, forest, and naturalized areas to store campus GHGs as well support biodiversity.

Enter the Challenge to Win!

Commit to the challenge and complete the short quiz for your chance to win $350. Complete all six weekly challenges to enter the draw for $1,000.

Carbon Footprint Challenge

Your Challenge: Use the online carbon footprint calculator. After using the calculator, take a moment to reflect on how your personal choices contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Discuss your results with friends and family. Share insights about our collective impact on the environment and explore ways you can work together to make positive changes.

Consider adopting one habit that can lower your carbon footprint and start integrating it into your routine.