I've always had a passion for sustainability. I've been a part of the York community since the mid-90s as a student at Glendon. Since then, I’ve had various roles at the university. Before becoming the Program Director for York’s Office of Sustainability, I was the Manager of Transportation.
In that role, I was heavily involved in the ways we could get people out of their cars and into sustainable transportation. I built a network of relationships with transit agencies to further the support for institutional transit services; in addition to bike share, car sharing, and increasing opportunities for active transportation on campus. When the subway was under construction, I was involved in community engagement and focused on building communications with the community as there were lots of changes happening on campus at the time.
When the subway stations on campus opened, I then transitioned into this current role as the Program Director for Sustainability. In this role, I have been passionately trying to embed sustainability into the culture and fabric of the institution, from operations to inner teaching and learning, and research. For example, we’ve partnered with C4, for example, to pitch ideas to engage our students to tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Overall, we seek opportunities for using the campus as a living lab to showcase student involvement across the campus and help us solve some of these challenges in real-world issues at a local level.
York has done a lot within sustainability and I'm really proud of our accomplishments. York is known for its commitment to sustainability and to social justice issues; I think we've really paved the way on many fronts. Yet, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. These are the most pressing societal issues of our times and I truly think there is nothing more important in the world than addressing our sustainability challenges together. It'll take an entire community approach for us to address these issues as it's in everything we do - from our operational practices to teaching and learning.
While studying at York, the focus of my work was looking at how education is so important for solving a lot of our planetary issues. Goal number four within the SDGs is education; not only access to education but also what we are teaching and rethinking. How are we graduating our students and what are we teaching them? Are we teaching the right things within our business school, for example? Are we embedding the proper principles to create a better world? Lassonde for example, are they teaching the tools of how we address our current challenges from an engineering perspective? How do we rethink and transform our current system and address these challenges from there?
We're graduating students from the institution, and they can go out and change the world. I think it's important for the York community to be champions and changemakers to tackle these pressing issues. It's important for our researchers to help us navigate in terms of research, technology, and innovation, because it takes the entire institution to address what we need to do in terms of moving forward to reach our net zero goals.
From a campus perspective, we need to embed sustainability within our operations as a teaching method. Students learn from looking around our campus and our environment. So, I think we need to embed sustainability within our own practices - everything from transportation to food. Asking ourselves, where are we procuring food from? How are we procuring it? Embedding more opportunities for plant-based options in our menus, for example. This is where even our social procurement policy plays a huge role in supporting local equity seeking groups, diverse vendors and the ability to provide that lens of social justice.
It's about thinking how we do things differently and how we do things smarter and better, not necessarily just adding more to your plate. It's about rethinking what we're doing and creating that mindset. Sustainability is everybody's responsibility. We need to embed it in all of our jobs. We need to embed it in everything that we do in our culture. And I feel that we're at a very pivotal moment of change at York. I'm very passionate about sustainability and want to make the world a better place. I think our universities are a key driver in helping to achieve those goals.
Nicole Arsenault is the Program Director for Sustainability at York. She is now leading efforts on a range of programs to integrate sustainability into all parts of campus life. Driven by an unrelenting passion, Nicole employs a partnership approach with colleagues to help foster a culture of sustainability, to create positive change for our community and the world around us. Prior to joining the Office of Sustainability, Nicole worked as the Manager of Transportation, where she led the implementation of several institutional sustainable transportation solutions and identified opportunities in which the University could advance its leadership role in sustainability. Nicole recently completed a Masters degree in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change. Her interests include climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable transportation and advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Nicole loves family time, hiking through nature and doing yoga.