How to get involved with sustainability at U of T

Sustainability-conscious students who want to make a positive impact on the planet have many opportunities to get involved at the University of Toronto.

From hands-on campus projects to volunteer opportunities and courses, U of T students can expand their knowledge, learn new skills, and contribute to sustainability—on campus and beyond.

‘At U of T there are so many opportunities for students to get involved and take a leadership role on sustainability issues,’ said Professor John RobinsonCo-Chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability (CECCS).

“Student initiative and leadership have historically been critical in influencing U of T’s responses to sustainability, and will be even more important in the future by helping to shape the university’s role in fostering the transition to a sustainable world.”

Sustainability initiatives at the U of T range from climate action to social justice and equality in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This broad definition of sustainability recognizes the intersectionality of challenges and underscores the importance of bringing diverse perspectives to bear when addressing sustainability issues.

Here are just a few ways you can get involved in sustainability at U of T:

Learn more about U of T’s sustainability initiatives

As the fall semester begins, there’s no better way to take a crash course in sustainability at U of T than by visiting the Sustainability Office booth at the Clubs Fair on the St. George campus on September 7th. If you don’t make it to Clubs Fair, follow @SustainableUofT and @UofTCECCS on Instagram to learn about initiatives and win prizes through giveaways on social media. You can also follow the Sustainability Offices at U of T Scarborough and U of T Mississauga to learn more about the sustainability efforts on these campuses.

The tri-campus sustainability offices act as hubs for sustainability awareness and services and are dedicated to cultivating a culture of sustainability by drawing on the enthusiasm and skills of each local community. For example, the Sustainability Office on the St. George campus empowers dormitories to follow sustainable practices and have their room, floor or place of residence certified by the Sustainable Change Programs.

Visit U of T’s sustainability home page to learn more about the university’s key sustainability initiatives—including its commitment to divest from fossil fuel investments and its ambitious pledge to achieve a carbon-positive St. George campus by 2050. The latter includes the construction of a giant geo-exchange field beneath King’s College Circle – in conjunction with the Landmark project to revitalize the historic core of the St George campus – which will help the U of T reduce emissions by 15,000 tons per year.

courses and programs

Would you like to integrate sustainability into your learning? U of T offers more than 3,000 sustainability-focused majors, accounting for 30 percent of all undergraduate degrees. Check out the sustainability course directory and search for offerings by location and department.

You can get involved in real-world challenges by enrolling in one of the many Campus as a Living Lab and Community-Engaged Learning courses to help you learn about sustainability initiatives at U of T or with partners in the private and contribute to the public sector. For example, as part of a “Campus as a Living Lab” course led by Robinson, graduate students from the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, commissioned by the City of Toronto and the Atmospheric Fund, examined a number of city climate policy challenges over the past year. To date, U of T students have completed over 330 Campus as a Living Lab and Community Engaged Learning projects.

The U of T also offers over 100 graduate and PhD programs with sustainability-related content, which can be found in the Sustainability Graduate Program Inventory.

sustainability paths

U of T’s Sustainability Pathways program helps you advance your skills and credentials through certificates and minors, extracurricular activities, and experiential learning.

The program consists of three components:

  • Become a Sustainability Scholar—and have the designation on your academic transcript—by earning one of these certificates or minors:

Sustainability Certificate (Faculty of Arts & Science)

Certificate in Sustainability of the Built Environment (Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design)

Minor Sustainable Energy (Faculty of Applied Sciences & Technology)

Minor subject environmental technology (Faculty of Applied Sciences & Technology)

Certificate in Sustainability (U of T Scarborough)

Certificate of Sustainability (U of T Mississauga – Introductory 2023)

  • Establish yourself as a Sustainability Citizen by participating in after-school sustainability activities conducted in partnership with the Tri-Campus Sustainability Offices—and have the term “Sustainability Citizen” added to your U of T co-curricular record. The program is slated to launch later this fall (sign up for the monthly sustainability newsletter for more information).
  • Stand out as a sustainability leader by completing the Sustainability Scholar and Sustainability Citizen programs and a final activity (this program is under development, so stay tuned to the Sustainability Newsletter for updates as they become available are).

student groups and clubs

Did you know that at the U of T there are over 240 student groups, clubs, societies, unions and associations whose mandates align with one or more of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals? Check out the Sustainability Student Group Inventory to read them all.

leadership opportunities

Ready to take on a leadership role? Consider applying to the SDGs @ U of T Institutional Strategic Initiative (ISI) Student Advisory Committee, where you can help advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the U of T.

You can also get involved in one of CECCS’ four subcommittees – Teaching and Learning; Research; operations; and engagement and partnerships.

Receive funding for your sustainability project

The annual Adams Sustainability Celebration offers several funding opportunities for students with a demonstrated interest in sustainability. These include the Adams Sustainability Student Grants of $5,000 for students working to advance sustainability on campus and $25,500 in funding for innovative student-led projects and start-ups through the Adams Sustainability Innovation Prize Competition. You may also apply for up to $300 in funding for student-led activities that will be part of the Adams Sustainability Celebration program.

If you are a summer undergraduate researcher working on a climate or sustainability topic, you are eligible to apply for a $5,000 Climate Positive Energy Summer Undergraduate Award.

Stay up to date with sustainability-related events throughout the year

The best way to ensure you don’t miss any sustainability events is to keep an eye on the tri-campus sustainability calendar. By attending all of the events listed on the calendar, you can earn points towards the Sustainability Citizen program.

Are you organizing a sustainability event? Submit your event to add it to the calendar and attract more interest and attendees.

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