UPDATED: October 2023

As part of our whole institution approach to creating a sustainable future, every division has undertaken initiatives to make an impact on campus and in our communities.


  • Over 30% reduction in energy use intensity since 2007
  • 34,730,786 kWh saved in annual electricity consumption
  • Reduced emissions have resulted in $5.2M received in utility rebates

York University has undertaken a variety of energy management programs over the past 10 years, including the installation and expansion of the building automation system, implementation of two cogeneration units, modifications to the district heating and cooling plants, implementation of energy efficient lighting technologies, motor replacement, and installation of green roofs. These programs have yielded good returns on investment, and the University is now planning to expand on these successes to implement a broader, more comprehensive energy management program to further reduce operation costs, improve environmental performance and to help renew aging infrastructure.

The Yorkwise program invested $39.5 million in building and infrastructure renewal, design technology and training solutions, to promote energy conservation and reduce utility costs. The university completed an energy audit of all campus buildings in 2008, and has since been retrofitting and replacing lighting, HVAC (heating and cooling) and water fixtures across campus. The reduction target by 2012 was a 25% reduction in the University’s overall utility bill from 2006-2007, which is equivalent to 275,000 GJ of energy or 18,900 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. To learn more, visit Energy Management

The process of co-generation uses a single fuel source, natural gas, to simultaneously produce electricity and heat, thereby increasing our resource efficiency and lowering operating costs. Co-generation is a cheaper alternative than simply purchasing electricity and heat separately, because it makes use of the “waste” heat that would normally be expelled in the process.
The cogeneration plants at York generate nearly 60% of the Keele campus energy requirements, with a capacity of 10.3 MW. For more information, please visit the Energy Management website.

Printing Services has taken a number of steps in greening the printing process at York. York University is the first Canadian postsecondary institution to make its course kits "carbon neutral". This means that kits are produced using environmentally responsible printing practices that include incorporating locally produced papers manufactured using sound forestry practices and increased recycled fibre content. York is also contributing approximately 10 cents per kit to the not-for-profit organization Zerofootprint, to purchase local renewable energy and support other projects such as tree planting. When factored together, the changes effectively bring the net carbon footprint of each course kit to zero, making the course kit program carbon neutral.

In addition, York University's Printing Services is one of the first in-plant printers in Canada to receive Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. FSC certification means that York community members can now choose to lighten their ecological footprint by selecting FSC-certified paper for their printing needs. FSC-certified printers are authorized to apply the FSC logo and product label to printed materials such as reports, brochures, invitations, and stationery. To learn more, visit Printing Services

The Res Race to Zero is an annual competition in which residences across campus face off to determine who can minimize their energy consumption the most over the month of March. The winning residence receives an award of $4000 toward a sustainability themed initiative in their residence (i.e. low flow shower heads in the residence building, energy saving light bulbs, motion sensor light switches, etc.). This program complements York’s energy management plan to reduce energy usage on campus by 25%.

Waste Management

  • 68% waste diversion
  • Plastic water bottle ban
  • Organic waste program
  • Surplus asset management
  • Free store and borrowing centre
Tri-bins across York's campuses
  • 73 tri-bins across Keele and Glendon campuses

In 1990 York University's Facilities Services department formalized a comprehensive, multi-faceted waste management and diversion program. Part of this was the ZeroWaste program to build on existing waste diversion and green cleaning initiatives. By 2019 the university had diverted 70.73% of the waste generated on its campuses.

  • All kitchenettes have been equipped with an organic waste container for all food scraps, which students, staff and faculty should use to throw away any organic waste.
  • Through the Green Cleaning initiative, offices are equipped with communal tri-bins and individual waste bins are emptied by the individual staff/faculty members who generate the waste. By becoming responsible for removing their own waste, individuals will have a greater awareness of the waste they produce. Custodial Services labour is reallocated to more important functions.
  • Stand-alone garbage bins are being removed and replaced with more tri-bins in the interior and exterior of campus.
  • In-ground tri-bins will increasingly be used around the exterior of campus, because they have a larger capacity and use gravity compaction, requiring less frequent emptying.
  • More outdoor organic digesters and battery recycling bin will be located around campus to allow for greater convenience. See the ZeroWaste website for a map of locations.
  • New types of materials are being captured for recycling, in participation with Stewardship Ontario and through other diversion programs.
  • With assistance from Printing Services, distinct labels have been developed for tri-bins and organic digesters to increase waste diversion and reduce contamination of waste streams.
  • Waste management tools are being developed to service the diverse needs of the York community, in Food Services (i.e. Eco-Takeout Program), Residence Life (i.e. Res Race to Zero), offices, special events, and other areas.
  • York continues to promote waste reduction and reuse through programs such as the Lug-a-Mug discount program.

York University’s Facilities Services Department, Waste Management unit manages and coordinates the disposal of hazardous waste materials on York’s campuses.

The waste management unit manages hazardous waste in accordance with Provincial Regulation 347 General-Waste Management

Surplus Asset Management

A surplus asset is any asset other than real estate that is no longer of use to a University department, Faculty or other operating unit. As part of the York University policy, surplus assets are re-allocated to other departments to decrease waste and maximize the life cycle of any University asset prior to considering its disposal. Unwanted items may also be donated to a non-profit organization for re-use through arrangement with Procurement Services. To learn more, visit Procurement Services.

In the spirit of a share economy with an emphasis to reusing, repairing and upcycling, Regenesis at York operates a Free Store and a Borrowing Centre.  Learn more at Regenesis


Bike Share Toronto on Keele and Glendon campuses
  • 80% commute using sustainable methods
  • Inter-campus shuttle service
  • Metrolinx Smart Commute program
  • Cycling infrastructure
  • Car share program

Transportation Services encourages commuting to the University through alternative transportation such as public transit, carpools, bicycling or walking. Despite the growth in enrollment in recent years, Transportation Services has managed to increase the percentage of York community members commuting to both campuses by means other than single occupancy vehicles. Currently, more than 80% of York University students, faculty and staff use alternative means of transportation to campus.

Transportation Services offers free shuttle services between Glendon and Keele campuses and from Keele Campus to the Village at York University. To learn more, visit Transportation Services.

York University features extensive cycling infrastructure on campus such as bike lanes, bike racks and posts, secure storage areas and shower facilities. To learn more about cycling at York visit Transportation Services .

Regenesis operates the Cycle York Community Bike Centre in the Quad on The Pond Road.  The Centre provides free cycling education, low-cost bike rentals, and DIY bike repair and expert mechanic services. To learn more, visit Regenesis Cycling Initiatives.

Carsharing is a program which offers cars by the hour or by the day for errands, meetings or just having fun.  It is intended to substitute for private vehicle ownership, making occasional use of a vehicle affordable. A car sharing program is available on the Keele campus for York community members. Currently the Zip Car has two locations on the Keele campus, Sentinel Road and Albany Road Parking Lots. To learn more, visit Transportation Services.

Security Services now has trained officers on bikes (PACT), decreasing the need for vehicles and they have also incorporated hybrid vehicles into their fleet. Numerous departments on campus also operate electric golf carts.

Water & Wastewater Management

Xeriscape garden
  • Green building design and retrofit
  • Grounds maintenance
  • Water refill stations

York's Life Sciences Building

  • On-site stormwater attenuation
  • Filtration and infiltration systems
  • Rainwater recycling system
  • Green roof

York University has a number of campus-wide initiatives aimed at water conservation, from green building design and retrofit to grounds maintenance to the installation of water refill stations across both the Keele and Glendon campuses.

York University accepts metered water from the City of Toronto. The University is invoiced based on the amount of water it takes in from the City of Toronto. Conscious about water usage, the University is currently installing domestic water meters in all its buildings on its campuses. This project when complete, will provide the University with the tools necessary to address water consumption.

York University’s Central Utilities Building (CUB) uses a water reclamation system. The system uses clean water recovered from plant operations and pumps that water to the University’s cooling towers to offset City of Toronto water usage.  This water is measured and reported to the City of Toronto on an annual basis as part of the Sewer Credit Rebate program.

Free drinking water is available to the York Community. Committed to providing alternatives to the use of disposable plastic water bottles, the University has eliminated the sale of single use plastic water bottles and installed 70 refill stations across both the Glendon and Keele campuses. Please see the Green Maps page for the locations of the water refill stations. In addition, there are approximately 200 drinking fountains across both campuses.

York University’s creative landscaping helps to conserve water while respecting the water supply. York's Xeriscape garden and buildings with green roofs help to reduce water use by up to 50% less than a traditional landscape; it also requires less fertilizer, less pruning, and less mowing. The University is moving towards xeriscaping- pronounced “zair-i scape”, which focuses on native, drought resistant plants that require little or no irrigation. New plants are typically watered only to allow them to take root. York is now focusing on reducing irrigation required on campus grounds through new and creative designs, development and management procedures.

The University has eight full and/or partial green roofs which helps to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of stormwater runoff and help advance urban biodiversity; they also provide visual appeal from other buildings. Of the green roofs on York’s campus, the Rob and Cheryl McEwen Graduate Study & Research Building at the Schulich School of Business is one of the most environmentally sustainable and socially responsible academic buildings in North America. In addition to its green roof, it uses the principles of Thermally Active Building Systems to achieve LEED Gold certification and features a 27-metre-high solar chimney to maximize natural ventilation and makes use of renewable energy.

The City if Toronto effectively manages wastewater under strict regulations and meets and /or exceeds standards set by provincial and the federal governments to ensure the health and well-being of the City’s residents and to protect the public health and the environment.

Wastewater is collected 24 hours a day, seven days a week via:

  • Trunk sewers
  • Sewer service connections
  • Wastewater pumping station and
  • Four wastewater treatment plants

City of Toronto Wastewater web page

The Life Sciences Building at York University is a state-of-the-art academic and research facility that completes the “Sciences Quadrangle” at the Keele Campus. The building’s landscape was designed to address the unique functional requirements of the building while creating an important gathering space on the campus. The landscape incorporates several innovative sustainability initiatives that are integrated with internal building functions including a rainwater harvesting and filtration system that supplies water for flushing and cleaning of laboratory areas, an on-site stormwater attenuation, filtration and infiltration systems, a green roof and high reflectivity paving materials.

The landscape compliments the architecture by reflecting the colours and forms of the façade. The interior functions extend outwardly from the existing chemistry building into the Sciences Quadrangle into the landscape that integrates art and symbolism to inspire and motivate.

Food Services

Maloca Community Garden
  • Local farmers’ market
  • Vegan/vegetarian menu options
  • Community garden
  • Student-run co-op Lunik Café

York University has a variety of ongoing sustainability initiatives relating to food. From fair trade coffee to organic and healthy food options to community gardens, York is striving to reduce the environmental impacts of the food that is consumed on our campuses to create positive change. Some recent initiatives include:

Almost 25% of the University’s food budget is spent on local food, including cage-free eggs and milk that is hormone and antibiotic free. In addition, the University only purchases seafood that meets sustainable fisheries guidelines.

More and more Fairtrade products are being offered at the University. All cafes operated through York University's Food Services Department, with the exception of the national brand chain, offer Fairtrade coffee, tea and bananas.

Located at Glendon College, Lunik Cafe is a student-run co-op that focuses on ethics, health, and sustainability. Lunik offers fair trade coffee, vegan treats such as muffins and chocolate fudge cake, and has plans to offer a full menu of food in the near future. To learn more, visit Lunik Cafe.

Located at the south end of the Keele campus, the Maloca Community Garden was established in 1999 by students from the Faculty of Environmental Studies, and features approximately 2,000 sq. ft. of space for growing vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. The garden provides York and surrounding communities with the opportunity to grow and harvest food in a welcoming, non-judgmental environment, and offers workshops and volunteer opportunities to those interested in community-based organic agriculture. To learn more, visit Maloca Community Garden. 

The York University Market is a partnership between Regenesis at York and Food Services at York. This market operates at York University from September – April on a weekly basis every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of holidays, reading weeks and exam periods.


  • Social procurement policy
  • Fair trade clothing

Procurement Services at York University incorporates sustainability considerations into procurement policies and procedures wherever possible. This includes the purchase of environmentally preferable goods and services, and the integration of environmental performance considerations into the procurement process, including planning, acquisition, use and disposal. Environmentally preferable goods and services are those that have a lesser or reduced impact on the environment over the life cycle of the good or service, when compared with competing goods or services serving the same purpose. Environmental performance considerations include, among other things: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air contaminants; improved energy and water efficiency; reduced waste and support of reuse and recycling; the use of renewable resources; reduced hazardous waste; and reduced toxic and hazardous substances.

As part of the York University Policy on Procurement of Goods and Services, the University gives preference to suppliers of environmentally friendly products and services, and does not purchase apparel, including items with the University logo or trademark, from suppliers under investigation or being monitored by an external monitoring agency or third party for violating fair labour practices. The University Bookstore carries a complete line of sustainable and fair trade products.

In accordance with the University Policy on Procurement of Goods and Services, only FSC certified paper and Energy Star rated appliances and electronics are purchased.

In January 2020, York University released its Social Procurement Policy, making York one of the first universities in Canada with a comprehensive Social Procurement Policy.

Social procurement considers how procurement, the process of buying goods and services, can positively impact the social well-being of communities and assist to reduce poverty, promote economic and social inclusion, and support local economic development and social enterprise. It fosters an enabling environment by embedding supply chain diversity and workforce development initiatives within procurement processes to promote inclusive economic growth.

York University is committed to use its purchasing power to benefit local economies and to provide fair access to its procurement services by providing additional opportunities to underrepresented businesses and communities. York's Social Procurement Policy establishes the framework of values and principles for implementing these opportunities.

For more information on purchasing at York University, please visit Procurement Services.

Building Design and Campus Planning

York University Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence

York University's masterplan and campus vision calls for the university to promote sustainable capital projects and building design. York is constantly updating and constructing new buildings to be with national and international green building designs promoting water efficient planting and plumbing, low emissions construction, reduced energy usage, promoting sustainable land redevelopment, usage of recycled building materials and green technologies as well as encouraging sustainable modes of transportation. York seeks to meet the local requirements of Toronto Green Standard (TGS) which is Toronto’s sustainable design and performance requirements for new developments since 2010. 

To learn more, visit the Building Design and Campus Planning page.