After more than a decade of work implementing a vision of sustainability and well-being for all, Dawson College has achieved the international gold standard for leadership in sustainability. A third-party review team in the U.S. rated Dawson with the highest points in the gold category for any diploma-granting college in the world.
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) awarded Dawson College the Gold-level accreditation. Dawson College is the first CEGEP in Quebec and the sixth college in Canada to achieve this high level of sustainability. With more than 900 participants in 40 countries, AASHE’s STARS program is the most widely recognized framework in the world for publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance.
Leadership demonstrated in five areas
“Dawson College has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Gold Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser. “This is recognition of Dawson’s leadership in sustainability in academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership.”
“I am very proud of the Dawson community,” said Director General Richard Filion. “This achievement represents years of work and dedication to transforming education and our world. Dawson College is committed to sharing our knowledge and collaborating with other CEGEPs, colleges and universities to continue promoting a sustainable future for the benefit of the youth of Quebec, Canada and our planet.”
Story begins as response to tragedy
Dawson’s commitment to sustainability is part of the community’s response to the terrible events that occurred in September 2006. Since 2009, Dawson has consistently attained the Cégep Vert Excellence Level. The College adopted a goal in its Strategic Plan for 2016-2021 to become “a leading Canadian post-secondary institution in promoting and practising sustainability in all its endeavours.”
In 2017, the College deepened its commitment by opening the Sustainability Office. The Board of Governors made a bold pledge in 2018 that Dawson College would be Carbon Neutral Forever. Last year, Dawson supported its students as they mobilized for their future at the historic Montreal March for Climate Action.
“Dawson is now mapping its implementation of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which are woven into all aspects of our students’ educational experience,” said Chris Adam, Dawson’s Sustainability Coordinator.
A Living Campus that teaches Sustainable Happiness
“We are continuing to develop real-world projects that explicitly focus on building positive relationships with each other, other institutions and our natural environment. Hope abounds at Dawson and we are watching our community flourish,” Adam said. “In addition, we are sharing our Sustainable Happiness programs and our Living Campus concept with educators across Canada.”
The concept behind the unique Sustainable Happiness program is to demonstrate how engaging in sustainability projects can increase happiness, an important component of well-being for students and employees, especially during the pandemic.
What does sustainability look like on campus?
Some highlights of sustainability at Dawson include 1,500 volunteers creating gardens on rooftops and on the grounds, planting trees and helping “green” campus operations. Student-initiated projects led to composting over one ton of waste per month, recycling light fixtures and raising funds for the College’s international friends after extreme weather events or earthquakes.
Social justice issues are important sustainability elements and are incorporated into many Dawson programs. Employees have dedicated countless hours to help students with special needs, who need financial support during challenging times and fight for equity and inclusion. Dawson’s core value of well-being for all also goes beyond people.
“Reconnecting to Nature is psychologically restorative,” said Director General Richard Filion. “It has brought healing to the Dawson community and is the cornerstone of the College’s work to advance sustainability and well-being for all.
“We must teach ourselves and our students how to take care of each other and engage in restoring our relationship with the natural world. The tremendous changes and challenges of today require a community mobilization that emphasizes empathy, positive relationships and a renewed connection with each other and Nature,” said Filion.
Committed to building a more sustainable world
Diane Gauvin, who will take over as Director General Jan. 1, recommitted the College to building a more sustainable world. “We look forward to continuing to develop sustainability projects and to teach and mobilize more people so that we can contribute to a brighter future for our students and all young people,” she said. “Climate change is one of the greatest threats. Working for climate justice is linked to Dawson’s tradition of promoting social justice and fostering engaged citizens who will go out and improve the world with their unique talents.”
Dawson College is continuing to advance its commitment to sustainability and well-being for all. The next project in Sustainability is the development of a Certificate in Environment & Sustainability.
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About Dawson College:
Located in the heart of downtown Montreal, Dawson College offers five pre-university programs and 22 technical programs as well as a thriving Continuing Education offering.
There are also many opportunities to learn and grow outside of class. Explorers can join S.P.A.C.E. (Sciences Participating with Arts and Culture in Education), individuals seeking to connect with Nature can volunteer on the Sustainabili-Team, and would-be computer programmers can join Coffee ’n Code. Athletes play on 17 different Dawson Blues teams.
Dawson’s heritage campus has extensive gardens that have been designated an urban biodiversity zone and monarch butterfly oasis. A Dawson education offers the preparation required to face evolving challenges in a complex world. As a sign of its commitment to the well-being of its students and the planet, Dawson’s Board of Governors voted unanimously to be Carbon Neutral Forever.
For a complete review of Dawson’s achievements, visit the Sustainable Dawson site and click on “Get Involved” should you want to support student projects.
About the AASHE accreditation:
Colleges and universities report achievements in five overall areas: 1) academics 2) engagement, 3) operations, 4) planning and administration, and 5) innovation and leadership.
The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework measure sustainability performance. STARS is intended to engage and recognize the full spectrum of higher education institutions, from community colleges to research universities. The framework encompasses long-term sustainability goals for already high-achieving institutions, as well as entry points of recognition for institutions that are taking first steps toward sustainability.