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Sustainability Pledges

The following sustainability pledges are suggestions for small changes that you can make in your daily life that can make a big difference in your community. You may already practice some of these green activities. In that case, try to pick some new pledges that will challenge you to be more sustainable in your day to day activities. Take one pledge, or take them all. To date, hundreds of York community members have taken at least one, or more, of the sustainability pledges. So join with these other sustainability champions and take a sustainability pledge today.

Make Your Pledge!


It is important to lead by example because not only will your words carry more weight, but, in fact, people actually learn better from the example of their peers when it comes to changing values and motivations!

It is important to lead by example, but it is also important to be a positive, patient, and encouraging peer leader. Very few people don't care about sustainability, but perhaps most don't really know where to begin or if their actions are really making any difference. By taking this pledge you are committing to using positive encouragement and to demonstrate personal example in order to lead the way!

Check out "Sustaniability, Policy On" for further details.

This pledge is about seeking out opportunities to work with other members of the York University community (and especially Sustainability Ambassadors) because together we can accomplish so much more than we can working alone!

The more people willing to be champions for sustainability and to commit to making change, the better!


For safety reasons, never turn off communal lights (or unscrew light bulbs!), like hallways or washrooms, for which you are not already responsible (which, in all likelihood, is because you work for York University facilities). Just turn off lights which affect you personally - let others turn off their own lights!

When not actually charging, or when your device has a full charge, unplug the charger from the socket. According to the Ontario Power Authority doing this could save you 15% on your 'phantom power' energy use!

Set your computer monitor to turn off when not in use – screen savers do NOT save any electricity! Unplug your laptop from the charger if your battery doesn’t actually need charging and set it to energy saver settings so it doesn’t need to be charged as often. On your smartphone, perhaps lower the brightness a notch to extend battery life. And, of course, whenever possible, use rechargeable batteries!

This one is simple… if you are able to use the stairs, do so! Technology has greatly improved our quality of life, but in some cases doing the simple things, unassisted by gadgets, may be the most 'sustainable' option. Some people may need to use the elevator for mobility reasons, while other are just in a rush, but the point of this pledge is to "rethink" seemingly simple daily choices, like whether or not to use the stairs.

Turn off your computer when not in use, like at night and on weekends for office computers. Ideally, have your monitor, computer, and any other electronics you use in the office or at your desk at home (like a cell phone charger or a lamp) plugged into a power bar with surge protector that you can simply turn off at night (or during the day when you aren't at home), which will, again, help eliminate that 15% 'phantom power' use.

Get rid of old refrigerators and replace with smaller, Energy Star fridges (which could save you $125 per year in energy costs per fridge!). Only preheat when baking and make sure your pots match the size of your stove elements. Use cold water for all clothes washers and avoid using dryer. Run only full loads in your Energy Star dishwasher. Leave a space at the back of (outside) the freezer and set it for -18 degrees Celsius. Regularly scrub your electric kettle, and unplug small appliances to eliminate 'phantom power' use.


FSC certification means the Forestry Stewardship Council of Canada has approved the source forests and ensures that our forests are healthy and our communities are strong by: protecting conservation areas, respecting the rights of aboriginal peoples and local communities, protecting our waterways, and protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat. It does not necessarily mean the paper is recycled, but all FSC paper will specify if there is any recycled content. Also, did you know that York University printing services is the first University printer in Canada to be FSC Certified?!

When you have the choice, choose fair trade, organic, and/or local food. When you don't have the choice, if appropriate, ask why not! A common concern is that these foods can typically be more expensive, but in reality perhaps you are just paying the "real" cost of sustainably producing that particular food. Also, check out the YFS Good Food Box program, open to all students, staff, and faculty. To order a Good Food Box visit the YFS Member Services Office (Room 106 Student Centre) and place an order - cash or debit only please.

Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking Soda are all natural and cheap alternatives to store bought chemicals.

Part of buying what will last is also buying what you really need. Did you know that the City of Toronto will dispose of about 1 million tons of waste annually? Be part of the solution by rethinking, reducing, reusing, and recycling!

Try to always avoid disposable, single serving, one use type purchases as in the long run, it can be cheaper to buy items that don't need replacing and you will also save a lot of packaging and resources by doing so. Try to rethink these choices! For instance, is a juicer really more expensive than a year's supply of pasteurized orange juice? Is that textbook something you could buy used or just borrow from a friend or the York University Library? Do you need individually wrapped cereal boxes or small packages of trail mix, or could you instead bring small servings in a Tupperware container instead?

Always buy Energy Star electronics! Buy energy saving light bulbs (which are sometimes called "CFL", meaning compact fluorescent light bulbs). Also, think about how you will use the item you are purchasing; for example: do you need to switch out the vacuum bags or is it a reusable container, does that pen have refillable cartridges, is that LCD monitor really worth the small saving over an LED monitor, or is that expensive networked printer actually cheaper than basic printers on every desk? Also, consider the source of the item; for example: are your office supplies made from post-consumer recycled materials, or is it fair trade/organic?


This pledge is pretty simple, as our own bodies are the most renewable, sustainable and healthy source of transportation available! At night you can also use York University's goSAFE service to ensure your walk is safe if you can't find anyone else to walk with. Also, every major building on campus has outdoor triangle bicycle racks, plus there are indoor monitored bicycle lock-ups in the Bennett Centre and Arboretum Parking Garages.

There are many transit options available to York University community members, with many routes from Brampton TransitGO TransitYork Region Transit and TTCTTC monthly passes are available for $104 for students from YFS and for $112.50 for faculty and staff from parking services in the William Small Centre. GO Transit also offers a discount to full time students, registration is done through the Transportation website. Also, did you know there are over 2000 bus trips per day on Keele Campus and that 65-70% of the York University community takes sustainable modes of transportation?

Carpooling, if you cannot take transit or ride/walk to York, is one of the best and arguably easiest ways to significantly cut down on your environmental impact because for every person that shares the vehicle that is one less car that is burning fuel and adding to congestion, plus it could save you money on insurance, maintenance, and fuel costs. Check out the Diamond Pool program with York University Parking Services for how you can also share the cost of parking or sign up for the Carpool Zone ride matching database: www.smartcommutentv.ca!

Driving more economically doesn't just mean not driving with a lead foot, although it most definitely DOES include that! It also means inflating your tires properly, regularly maintaining your vehicle, reducing the weight of your vehicle as much as possible (don't store all your text books, your golf clubs, and/or your tools in your car!), and, driving more economically also means planning your route beforehand, because it can be worth it to take a slightly longer route but one which is not stop and go the whole way. Instead of car ownership, consider joining a car sharing program such as Zipcar, York University community members can join at a discounted rate.

There are some myths about idling that are important to dispel:

Myth 1) cars need to be 'warmed up' in winter - this is simply not true with modern engines, and can actually harm the vehicle as the best way to warm it up is to drive it, which also, importantly warms up other essential parts like the catalytic converter.

Myth 2) Idling uses less gas than starting - not true either, as most modern engines have at most a 10 second break even rule!

Share your passion for sustainable transportation with other York University community members. Commit to supporting sustainable transportation such as public transit, HOV lanes, car sharing (Zipcar) and improved means for active transportation such as bike lanes/paths and pedestrian walkways if they come up in conversation, and if you want to get further involved as a starting point check out York's Transportation website and Smart Commute website in the resources section below.


The biggest reason to bring your own water bottle is that PETE (polyethelene terephthalate) plastic bottles, which is the most common bottles used for bottled water and carbonated soft drinks, will never decompose! PETE is quite recyclable (you can recognize it as it has the recycling "1" symbol), but that requires that it not to be placed in the proper recycling bin. Also, most other plastics take 450-1000 years to decompose and many of those are actually not recyclable.

Looking for reasons to bring your own reusable mug for hot drinks? In addition to the financial incentives paired with bringing your own reusable mugs, to produce the 1.6 billion paper coffee cups that Canadians consume each year it takes 190,235,800 tonnes of wood. In Toronto alone we use 1 million paper cups per day. Also, there seems to be some confusion on this point, but paper coffee cups are NOT recyclable (Source: Stewardship Ontario, 2012) because of the thin polyethylene (PETE) coating most of these cups have, which means they are actually treated as contaminants in recycling terms.

Also, for example, you only have to use a stainless steel cup that isn't made from recycled materials 25 times to make it more sustainable than buying the equivalent 25 paper coffee cups!

This pledge means simply to always put garbage (and recycling and composting) into the proper receptacles! No exceptions!

This pledge is actually harder than it seems, because it involves knowing what actually goes into recycling in the City of Toronto and what is either compostable or is just garbage. For example, did you know that, in addition to paper coffee cups, plastic 'clamshell' takeout containers, plastic wrap, and plastic cups and straws are all NOT recyclable? A full list of what can be recycled in Ontario communities outside of the City of Toronto.

One of the simplest ways to act more sustainably is to rethink and reduce the amount of paper you use on a daily basis. To begin with, challenge yourself to print less and, for example, get more used to working on drafts on your computer or filing documents electronically when possible. Double sided printing is another relatively easy way to save paper, especially if your printer allows for automatic "duplex" (double sided) printing. If you are unsure how to set your printer to default double sided then follow the steps found at: http://computing.yorku.ca/faculty-staff/computing-tips-how-tos/printing-double-sided/

Join the Freecycle network where thousands of people across the GTA share unwanted items that might otherwise end up in a landfill.  Freecycle is free and easy to use. To find a group near you, visit freecycle.

The City of Toronto has a good database of non-profits and charities that would be happy to take your donations.

Alternatively, there are two clothing donation bins located on Keele Campus, one behind the Passy Gardens Apartments and one at the loading dock of the 90 Atkinson Road apartments.

Bringing a lunch will save on all that packaging, will probably be more wholesome and healthy food, and also save money! For instance, don’t feel like you have enough time? Try putting an apple, some carrots and a sandwich in a container. Feel like you’ll miss out on the networking in the lunch line? Try starting a lunch break (or even a pot luck lunch) tradition in your office. Just don’t like packed lunches? Even small microwavable dinners/pizzas/soups use less packaging and generally have far fewer calories than some of that fast food you were trying to talk yourself into!