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Sherbrooke, the green university

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par Olivier Barrellier | 02.23.10


Its has been already three years that the Sherbrooke university of Quebec has endowed itself with a vice-president in charge of sustainable development then with a “Sustainable Development Action Plan”. The campus being located a few kilometers from the city center, the main practical measures impact student and staff mobility. But the approach is more global: internally it now affects the university curriculum itself, and externally the city draws profits from it.

In 2006 Canadian law imposed the implementation of a “Sustainable Development Action Plan 2008-2011” to state-owned companies. The university of Sherbrooke, being independent, had no obligation to follow it but decided to impose this exercise to itself and to entrust with it Alain Webster, an economist specialized in sustainable development after having followed a course in the university of Rennes. An ambitious plan, which contains about a hundred actions grouped into nine “strategic issues”.

Limiting the use of cars by offering an alternative

For the last ten years or so, Sherbrooke has been very popular among the growing number of students. Therefore the university had to take up a twofold challenge: building residence halls in situ and more parking spaces… Thanks to the Action Plan, a third way has been chosen: financing public transportation season tickets for all of the 35,000 students and offering discounts to the staff (6,000 persons). A few self-service bikes and a carpool program have also been added. As a first result, a few parking lots have been transformed into green areas so the campus got even nicer. Then, public transportation services to the city center being efficient, students go downtown more often (whether they live there or just go out), for the great satisfaction of shopkeepers. The university has moreover improved its own image as for its immediate economic usefulness for the community.


A student driving a Segway

Internally, the university has reexamined its purchasing policy and now favors “green” products by inserting in its analytical grids of responses to calls for tenders criteria related to sustainable development, the importance of which increase from year to year. For instance practically all the paper is now recycled and energetic performances of buildings have been improved.

Integrating sustainable development in student training

All students, whatever their curriculum, receive a minimum training in sustainable development. An approach made easier by the presence in situ of specialized teachers, for the university of Sherbrooke already was advanced on these issues. It delivers more than half of the master’s degrees in environment issued each year in Quebec. But in order to go further and be able to offer a transdisciplinary education, which means study how sustainable development impacts each discipline, the university has endowed itself with an “Environment Observatory” in which around fifteen local organisms (City of Sherbrooke, Industrial Research Council of Quebec, environmental associations…) take part. Its purpose is the integration of the sustainable dimension in research programs and above all help to finance the works of students researchers. A quest for money made easier by the excellent image of the green university. A firm has thus given one million Canadian dollars to finance a new green area.

The university of Sherbrooke in brief:

  • Students: 35,000 among whom 14,000 full-time.
  • Staff: 6,000 among whom 2,300 teachers.
  • Disciplines: Administration, law, education, physical education, engineering, humanities and social studies, medicine and health sciences, science, theology, ethics and philosophy.
  • Record of achievements: first university in the world to have offered an MBA in French. Innovator in learning by problems and in cooperative learning.

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