UTBEAT - U of T Biology Environmental Action Team



"Incubating" & Ongoing Projects

These projects are currently in the brainstorming/discussion phase. These were suggested to us by the community at large! There is more to come.

A. Droppin' the Rock Salt
B. Electronics Recycling
C. Summer/Spring Swap Stuff @ New College
D. Renovations at ESC/RW
E. UTSC a greener campus

Success Stories

These projects are established and ongoing success stories!

1. Composting
2. Paper reduction
3. Down with disposable dishes!
4. Promoting eco-friendly practices
5. Lights out campaign
6. Lab sustainability


A. Rock Salt

Project Leader: Donna Wheeler

We are currently in discussion with Facilities and Services about reducing the amount and/or kind of rock salt being placed to help melt the ice. While there is certainly an uncompromising need to ensure safety of the walking community during icy weather, there may be alternatives to the sheer amount and/or type of melting/traction additives.

B. E-waste

Project Leaders: Rachel Bokhut and Nikhat Nawar

Have electronics that you don't want to throw out? U of T's Facilities and Services does currently collect and ship electronic waste for recycling. However, concerns have been brought up concern whether this waste is recycled in an ethical manner. Stay tuned!

C. Summer/Spring Swap Stuff

Project Leaders: Aaron Hall and Jenn C.

Swap Shop
DROP IT. Drop off your gently used and reusable items like: accessories, kitchen items, housewares, electronics, and other items.

GET IT. Get stuff you need without having to buy!
Help the environment out too!

We identified a need both for students moving OUT at the end of the academic year and for students moving IN at the beginning of the academic year - outgoing students had too much stuff whereas incoming students needed stuff.
Our solution: The New College Swap Shop! During the MOVE OUT and MOVE IN days at the New College Residences, we are accepting gently used and reusable items. These include accessories, kitchen items, housewares (including plates, cutlery), electronics, and other items. Basically we are collecting small items that do not present a hygienic issue and/or that can be washed. UTBEAT will hold these items over the summer and have them available for incoming New College Students at the beginning of the academic year.

Our first full run of our Swap Shop from April 2011 - September 2011, we were able to rescue dozens of items including TWO printers (one was wireless!), a large CRT TV, a bathroom scale, mats, coat racks, desk lamps AND MUCH MORE. Best of all, in September, incoming New College Students were able to get ANY of our items they required - free!

This event is proudly brought to you by UTBEAT in coordination with New College Residence Life

D. Efficiency Renovations at ESC/RW

Project Leaders: Andrew McKinley (RW and ESC) and Felix Gunawan(RW).
We are currently petitioning the adminstrative staff at Earth Sciences Centre and Ramsay Wright Zoological Laboratories for renovations/upgrades to their buildings to increase energy efficiency.

We are hoping to use the upcoming round of renovations as well as the Energy Resource Management Fund (from the Sustainability Office) to effect meaningful change.

E. UTSC - a greener campus

Project Leader: Saira Meese-Tamuri.
We have now branched out to UTSC! We are now working within the campus to impliment sustainable practices in research labs.


1. Composting

Where to compost in RW:

1st floor Undergrad Student Lounge
4th floor Grad Student Lounge
5th floor East Hallway

Where to compost in ESC:

2nd floor EEB lounge
2nd floor Forestry kitchen
3rd floor EEB kitchen

As of the fall of 2008, both Ramsay Wright and the Earth Sciences Centre have organics collection programs, courtesy of Facilities & Services and the caretaking staff of both buildings. The program is the result of petitioning by UTBEAT's Composting project leader, Simona Rasanu. In the 2007/08 schoolyear, she led a successful compost volunteer-based program in both buildings, which demonstrated that occupants of the buildings would compost if given the option. Management of the program by F&S will help ensure its longevity.


2. Paper reduction

Paper reduction in courses

The focus of this project is to encourage course instructors and coordinators to implement a double-siding policy for their courses by asking students to hand in all assignments double-sided and double-siding all course materials. We have been pleased to find that not only were many were happy to include such a policy, but that some had already implemented these and other paper-conservation practices within their courses.

In the summer of 2007, UTBEAT approached BIO150's Corey Goldman. BIO150 not only requested that students submit double-sided assignments, but adopted a number of other paper-saving practices. These included eliminating the paper slips for lab reassignments, refraining from reprinting class attendance sheets when enrollment changed, and providing a number of materials for both students and TAs only in electronic format online. Although we expect that a large proportion of these electronic materials were printed by students and TAs, we estimate that over 9,000 sheets of paper were saved through these initiatives (over 4500 through assignment double-siding). UTBEAT is now working with course coordinator Corey Goldman to develop a survey for students that will reduce the uncertainty in these estimates.

Furthermore, Melody Neumann (Department of CSB) has adopted paper-saving strategies in BIO130, BIO240/241, and BIO255.  These classes together reach thousands of first and second year undergraduates – leading to a further thousands of sheets of paper saved!


Double-siding bound theses

Thanks to UTBEAT, graduating students may now submit their departmental copies of bound theses in double-sided format to CSB, EEB, and Forestry. Double-siding means theses will weigh half as much and take up half the space in our libraries. Check out handy tips for double-siding theses. Thank you to Ian Buglass, Gary Sprules, Kitty Lam and Malcolm Campbell who are now working toward making this a policy for all future theses.


3. Down with disposable dishes!

Project Leaders: Aaron Hall(EEB) and Daryl David (CSB).

The goal of this project is to encourage our departments and departmental groups to phase out the use of disposable dishes during special events.

Currently, reusable mugs are now used at Departmental Seminars for both EEB and CSB. These mugs were collected both through generous donations of mugs (EEB) and by purchase of an excess order of mugs (CSB). Styrofoam disposable cups are no longer in use at CSB/EEB Departmental Seminars. Use a coffee mug, save the world!

UTBEAT developed a document outlining several possible alternatives on campus to the use of disposable dishes and distributed this in August 2008 to staff in EEB and CSB. This was well received, and EEB staff expressed their intention to make use of this information in planning future departmental events. This project has thus achieved one of its major objectives!

However, efforts to reduce the use of disposables will continue. In particular, we are actively promoting the use of travel mugs instead of paper cups, both at departmental functions and at cafes on campus--in part by raising awareness about U of T's Lug-a-Mug campaign.

4. Promoting eco-friendly practices

This ongoing project is intended to promote environmentally friendly practices by individuals in the department, specifically with respect to light use, water use, elevator use and recycling. In many cases, this involves posting signs in key areas, while in others, we are petitioning CSB to upgrade or repair current facilities in Ramsay Wright.


5. Lights out campaign

We aim to dispel the myth that turning lights on and off uses more energy than it’s worth. For a standard fluorescent bulb, this is only true if you’re flipping the switch more than once every 5 seconds! In general, if the overall lifespan of the bulb is taken into account, it’s best to turn out the lights whenever you’re going to be out of the room for more than about 5 minutes (e.g., if leaving for lunch or a seminar).

The first phase of our energy campaign was a competition encouraging occupants of Ramsay Wright and Earth Sciences to turn off lights when they're not needed, running from January 12th to February 13th, 2009.

Overall, we were pleased to find that lights were shut off in the evening quite diligently, and as the contest progressed, more labs were turning off their lights during lunch break, when rooms were left unoccupied. Moreover, thanks to the campaign and Janet Harrison, Ramsay Wright autoclave lights are now turned off after work hours.


6. Lab sustainability

Did you know that closing your fume hood sash can save a lot of energy? Or that you can recycle your batteries in both Ramsay Wright and Earth Sciences? Download this poster with handy lab sustainability tips and put it up in your lab (printing on scrap paper highly encouraged)!










Future projects: cast your vote!

Have an idea for UTBEAT? Email us at utbeat@utoronto.ca!

Photo in banner by Jenny Downing, creative commons