About Saint Mary's

Regeneration: The Path To Sustainability

Saint Mary’s University is excited to have incorporated a unique combination of science, engineering and art into our sustainability strategy. After careful consideration like any important decision, and using the widely accepted elements of sustainability (environment, social justice/equity and economics) as a reference, a long-term course for Saint Mary’s University was mapped out for sustainable improvements.

Our continued efforts and ongoing initiatives have made Saint Mary’s University Sustainability Strategy its own living document, while transforming the university as a whole into a “living laboratory to create a sustainable future.” As we continue to move forward, we are setting the tone and raising the bar, for our students and faculty and the world.

In line with our push to turn the SMU campus into a ‘living laboratory’ for sustainability we are proud to have been the first to create a living wall in Atlantic Canada and one of the largest living walls in the world. This initiative cemented SMU as an industry leader in environmental sustainability and LEED certification.

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory, which is an outdoor learning space is another example of our commitment to walking the walk of building a sustainable campus. The observatory offers unparalleled learning opportunities such as evaluating biodiversity and discovering new supernovas; but those are only a few perks from studying in the only green roof research facility in Atlantic Canada. The observatory is called home by many of our winged-companions, which acts not just as inspiration, makes it difficult to not think outside of the box. As it’s not uncommon to stumble across poetry readings, or a class enjoying a seminar outside, you may start calling the atrium and observatory home as well.

The Sustainability Strategy is a living document

Context  |  Vision  |  Mission  |  Strategy Principles

Themes and Goals  |  Implementing and Monitoring the Strategy

To see a complete copy of the strategy, please see Sustainability Task Force Report.

Saint Mary’s University Context

In 2007, The Board of Governors mandated “the development and implementation of a sustainability strategy appropriate for the campus environment” (in Terms of Reference of its Property Committee).

Saint Mary’s aspires to be the University of choice for aspiring citizens of the world. In achieving its mission, the Saint Mary’s community is guided by core values of academic integrity, the pursuit of knowledge, responsiveness to community needs, openness to change, concerns for a just and civil society, a commitment to environmental sustainability, and fiscal responsibility.

The University is committed to accessibility, diversity and the provision of a positive and supportive learning environment through the effective integration of teaching and research. Through promoting the importance of critical enquiry, leadership, teamwork, and global awareness, we aim to prepare students for responsible and rewarding lives and to remain engaged with our Alumni worldwide. We recognize the importance of the contribution and growth of each individual in the University’s success. Saint Mary’s welcomes mutually beneficial partnerships and strategic alliances with all levels of government, with other educational institutions, non-government institutions, and the private sector.

Sustainability is widely accepted to consist of environmental, social justice/equity and economic elements. The Sustainability Task Force is articulating this strategy based on the premise that the campus should be the “laboratory where we invent a sustainable future”. For Saint Mary’s, students, faculty and staff as well as the community and other partners have been creating sustainability initiatives on an ad hoc basis for many years.

Similar to the University’s Academic Plan, the Sustainability Strategy/Plan will build on existing strengths and initiatives as well as developing new areas where there is identified need and convincing opportunities for improvement. It espouses the fostering of collaborations within the University and with external partners. It intends to inform as well as encourage and invite participation.

The primary focus of this strategy articulation is environmental sustainability, interconnected with the University’s vision and values. It is intended to align the current sustainability activities and foster the development of new programs, with education and awareness being a cornerstone. Academics (teaching, research and service), Students (SMUSA, Societies) and Operations are all significant contributors to the ongoing evolution of the University’s sustainability commitment.

The Sustainability Strategy Discussion Document, the overview of sustainability activities and successful initiatives to date have been presented to various University groups for feedback, buy-in and eventual approval including EMG, Senate, Student Representative Council, Senior Administrators, Town Hall Meeting, Property Committee, and Board.

This Sustainability Strategy was approved by the University’s Board of Governors, following a broad consultation process. The Sustainability Strategy includes the Vision, Mission, Principles, Three Strategic Themes, and the Committee/Reporting Structure.

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  • Inspiring a culture of sustainability through
  • Understanding...the impact of our choices on the world
  • Engaging...in rethinking, reducing, reusing, and recycling
  • Transforming...as individuals and as a community
  • Coordinating and communicating...towards the creation of a sustainable future


To create a University culture where sustainability stewardship plays a key role in everyday commitments, practices and operations; to create and support initiatives and actions across disciplines that aim to embed sustainability understanding and practices throughout campus; to articulate, achieve, and measure progress toward living more sustainably environmentally, socially and economically; and to communicate these outcomes to the University community.


Operate sustainably as a part of everyday practice.

Prepare students to lead responsible and rewarding lives in a socially and environmentally aware manner.

Achieve excellence in sustainability teaching, research, service, and operations, fostering growth of sustainability initiatives in each of these spheres of activity, and assisting in the creation of faculty, staff and student leaders who champion a “healthy, just, and sustainable future.”

Collaborate internally and externally to promote:

  • sustainability partnerships on campus;
  • awareness and increase dialogue between members and groups in the campus community; and
  • connections related to sustainability stewardship with the larger community.

Communicate, foster awareness, and nurture participation and involvement. Be transparent to build credibility and enhance the exchange of information.

Adopt an approach to decision making that incorporates consideration of environmental, social justice/equity/health, and economic impacts.

This document has been developed with reference to the University of Calgary’s Office of Sustainability’s Mission, Vision, and Goals (May 2008).

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Three Strategic Themes with Goals Create the Framework

The Sustainability Task Force has identified the following three strategic themes that create the framework for collaboration in the development of sustainability goals, objectives and action plans.

Academic Opportunities

Enhance and increase environmental and sustainability content in courses, programs, and research to give students and faculty the opportunity to gain knowledge of and contribute to the sustainability culture at Saint Mary’s and beyond.


  • Increase faculty and academic departments’ engagement in sustainability initiatives.
  • Increase the number of environmental and sustainability-oriented courses at SMU.
  • Increase the environmental and sustainability content in existing SMU courses.
  • Increase the number of students engaged in environmental and sustainability-oriented courses.
  • Expand the sustainability content in SMU research through encouragement and support.
  • Reduce energy and material usage in the conduct of courses at SMU.
  • Establish an inter-faculty hub at SMU that would promote, develop and support new and innovative environmental programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Learning and Working Environment

Reduce the University’s carbon footprint and solid-waste disposal, increase the sustainability of operations and the built environment, and engage the University community in the culture of sustainability at Saint Mary’s. Transform the campus into a “learning laboratory” for demonstration of sustainable initiatives.


  • Adopt a measurement/rating system for the University, to measure, monitor, and reduce the University’s carbon/ecological footprint.
  • Reduce SMU’s energy consumption and material usage in departmental practices.
  • Increase departments’ engagement in sustainability initiatives.
  • Expand the waste-separation program.
  • Increase the percentage of local food purchased.
  • Decrease food and solid waste output.
  • Engage partners such as ISI in the creation of sustainable policies.
  • Build to leading green building construction standards.
  • Foster student, faculty and staff sustainability initiatives.


Increase the University community’s awareness of sustainability issues and information, and increase collaboration and communication amongst operations, academic units, and staff to create a more sustainable University environment in order to foster a spirit of shared goals and journeys.


  • Create and maintain a Sustainability website.
  • Increase the number of interested members and departments that contribute their ideas and plans for initiatives.
  • Publish outcomes of the University’s sustainability measurement/rating system.
  • Expand the educational and communication tools of sustainability available to the University community.
  • Maintain or increase the number of events and venues for awareness of sustainability issues, such as Sustainability Week and the Sustainability Speaker Series.
  • Publish an annual sustainability report.
  • Grow a culture of sustainability.

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Implementing and Monitoring the Strategy – Committee and Reporting Structure

The Sustainability Task Force will be developed into the University Sustainability Committee, with the Vice President, Administration as Chair. The Committee would maintain the same interdisciplinary membership, with faculty, student and staff/administrative representation, augmented by other interested parties.

The University Sustainability Committee is the body to be responsible to:

  • support and monitor the implementation of the Sustainability Strategy;
  • facilitate the development of plans, goals and timelines with faculty, staff, students and other interested parties to support the strategic themes of sustainability at Saint Mary’s;
  • report annually on progress to the Board of Governors, through the Property Committee of the Board;
  • recommend new or updated goals on an annual basis to EMG, the Property Committee and the Board;
  • recommend to EMG regarding the assignment of responsibilities for achieving pertinent goals to departments and/or task forces; and
  • establish task forces/sub-committees for each goal, continuing the interdisciplinary participation format whenever possible.

Responsibility for development and implementation of the goals of the Academic Opportunities Theme rests with the Senate, Faculty, Deans, and Vice President, Academic and Research. The Board is requested to invite Senate to seek ways and means to develop a framework for advancing the Sustainability Strategy in academic programs and research.

Responsibility for the development and implementation of the goals of the Learning and Working Environment Theme rests with task forces, administration, departments, faculty, staff, and students.

Responsibility for the development and implementation of the goals of the Awareness and Communication Theme rests with the University Sustainability Committee.

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