Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops has received two international honours recognizing its sustainability initiatives. (TRU photo)

TRU wins North American honours for sustainability strategies

By Michelle Young

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops has received two international honours recognizing its sustainability initiatives. TRU was recently ranked North America’s third Coolest School by the Sierra Club, and also made the Princeton Review’s 2021 Green Honour Roll (ranking 21st out of 695 colleges and universities in the US and Canada).

These distinctions build on the university’s outstanding efforts to attain a STARS Platinum rating in 2018 through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s global Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

Last year, the Sierra Club named TRU North America’s top Cool School from a field of more than 300 institutions. This year, TRU was still in the top three, taking bronze, with University of California Irvine winning gold and Stanford University getting silver. Rankings are based on sustainability courses, campus green initiatives and environmental engagement.

“With the impact of climate change increasingly evident around the globe, it’s imperative that we all do our part to make a difference. TRU is committed to being a part of the solution and to leading the way where we can,” said TRU President Brett Fairbairn.

“These recognitions indicate to us that we are going in the right direction,” said James Gordon, Zero Waste and Environmental Programs Co-ordinator with TRU’s Sustainability Office.

“TRU’s latest initiatives include launching a single-use item elimination task force, and a requirement for all undergraduate baccalaureate degree students to take a course that meets the Citizenship Institutional Learning Outcome promoting socially responsible and sustainable behaviour.”

One strategy that made TRU stand out is the campus electrification project, which consists of three phases. When completed (in a five to 10 year time frame), it will heat campus buildings almost entirely by electricity, thereby eliminating almost all burning of fossil fuels, Gordon said. The initiative is in the design and planning stage, with construction of phase 1 expected to start in 2022.

“I’m so glad we opened our rankings to Canadian schools, because TRU has a lot to model for schools everywhere. We at the Sierra Club have been continually impressed with this gold and bronze medal powerhouse’s commitment to teaching and embodying excellent environmental stewardship in all areas,” said Katie O’Reilly, Sierra Club Magazine’s adventure and lifestyle editor. “TRU truly stands out in this increasingly important space.”

These latest accolades are a reaffirmation of TRU’s commitment to keep moving forward with sustainability initiatives while fostering a culture among students, faculty and staff that encourages a responsible approach to the planet.

Michelle Young is Communications Manager for Thompson Rivers University

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