Mohawk College: A Leader in Sustainability.

Despite the fact that I live just a stone’s throw away from Mohawk College I could not have anticipated the amount of effort and planning put forth by the institution in becoming more sustainable. Through sustainability education programs, innovative initiatives, and even a greener campus, Mohawk College is taking strides to be a leader in sustainability. I recently spoke with Alan Griffiths, the sustainable environmental specialist at Mohawk. The belief and value Griffiths had in a more sustainable Hamilton was evident in the work he does everyday. Working at an important educational institution in Hamilton, his efforts, along with others, have transformed Mohawk into a gateway for professional sustainability and communal development.

Although Griffiths explained that there is often a learning curve in programs focusing on sustainability, overall there is a supportive and enthusiastic response to this sort of education. A strategy to ease students into sustainable education involves expanding “green learning” into other stages of education. By starting sustainable education at a younger age, the exposure can lead to a lifelong commitment to sustainability. Griffiths suggests that perhaps sustainable education should be part of the curriculum as a way to ensure students are engaged with this material. Also, having sustainability as part of the curriculum allows for students to both learn theory and make sustainability a lifestyle.

In the college setting, Griffiths expresses a need to engage students in sustainable thinking. In doing so, when students are propelled into the workplace, their education and experience in sustainability can lead to a chain reaction of change. Students can employ their skills by influencing future bosses to become more sustainable. Rather than focusing on short-term solutions, Mohawk is fostering passionate sustainability professionals who will make long-term changes in the economic, social, and environmental spheres.

Griffiths suggests that in order to create a sustainable Hamilton, there is a need to “engage the unengaged.” There is a need for an entire community dedicated to a cleaner, healthier city. Mohawk has begun developing sustainable citizens within the institution itself by motivating staff and students, and is also branching out into the community, acting as a catalyst for change. By congregating the entire community we can tackle the unsustainable challenges that we face and approach problems from every angle. Effective solutions require communal support and must contribute to the community as a whole, so by engaging everyone, various needs can be considered and all opinions can be heard.

            The new building on the Fennell campus is a testament to Mohawk’s commitment to become a sustainable leader in Hamilton. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a third party certification programs that has deemed Mohawk’s new building LEED Gold certified (the highest ranking). The building itself is designed to operate sustainably, which sets a foundation for the education that occurs within. The building’s use of natural lighting, sustainable materials, minimal finishes, and much more has made it a unique and admirable example of innovation paired with sustainability. You can read more about this building and LEED certification here.

When I took a tour of the building, the most standout aspect of the building was the living wall. Within the building is an impressive, flourishing, and eye-catching wall made completely of living plants. That’s right, Mohawk does not simply have plants scattered throughout the building, they have an entire wall covered with lush, lively, plants. This wall attributes to better air quality and is no doubt a talking point amongst visitors.

            Mohawk is of course proud of their efforts thus far; however, the institution still strives to do more in the future. Their exhaustive, reflective, and forward-looking attitude reaches far into the sustainable future. In a constantly changing city, hungry for sustainability, Mohawk College stands tall. Using the pillars of sustainability, Mohawk is educating, facilitating, and inspiring sustainable change in Hamilton.

Check out Mohawk College’s office of sustainability here. You Can view the pillars in detail on the left hand side.

Steve Watts