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At Fleming College, employees and students can gain hands-on experiences with experiential learning opportunities and green initiatives such as implementing invasive-species control.Provided

In 2011, Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont., was the first Canadian college to ban plastic water bottle sales on campus. “If you want to be a community leader, you have to model best practices,” says president Maureen Adamson.

Since then, Fleming has introduced many green initiatives, from establishing pollinator gardens, implementing invasive species control, setting up an apiary and creating a nut orchard. “We work closely with community partners to help mitigate climate change and protect the natural environment,” says Adamson. “We’re also enriching applied experiential learning opportunities – our students expect this.”

There are multiple Fleming programs that have an environmental and ecological focus. In 2022, the college and Crayola partnered with the United Way City of Kawartha Lakes to establish the Edwin Binney’s Community Garden in Lindsay, Ont., which grows fresh, affordable produce with the help of Fleming’s sustainable agriculture program students and faculty. Last year, the garden produced over 18,000 pounds of produce that was distributed for free to more than 4,000 community members.

“This garden is a living laboratory, providing our students with an invaluable hands-on educational experience that travels far outside the classroom,” says Adamson. “It’s also a great example of corporate social responsibility that has enhanced food security in a community.”

Tania Clerac, dean of the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, is extremely proud of Fleming’s land-stewardship projects. One example is the creation of a tallgrass prairie seed orchard and prairie reconstruction at the college’s Frost Campus in Lindsay that will directly contribute to Kawartha Conservation’s Durham Eco Corridor project, an ambitious multiyear project that will restore the environmental quality and ensure the protection of a critical 11-hectare section of the Oak Ridges Moraine. “These grasses provide habitat to endangered species, so it’s a very important project,” she says.

At Frost Campus, energy, water and waste reduction initiatives are in place, while the Environmental Technology Wing includes energy efficient construction and geothermal heating. There are electric vehicle stations at the Sutherland Campus in Peterborough. And Haliburton Campus boasts a rainwater-catchment system and studio materials recovery (recycled glass and metal).

While Fleming hasn’t yet pursued LEED certification for any of its buildings, the Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre at Sutherland Campus has been constructed to LEED Gold standards. “We’re including sustainable features in all of our new builds,” says Clerac. The goal is to achieve net zero by 2050.

Fleming continues to build upon its unique environmental educational programming through a commitment to increasing the number of experiential and applied learning opportunities in its programs and research initiatives that support local sustainability goals. It also plans to engage with the broader community through initiatives with various community partners, including Sustainable Peterborough, Otonabee Region Conservation Authority and Trent University.

All of Fleming’s sustainability initiatives circle back to the students sitting in its classrooms. “We hope our students are going to make an impact in the fields they’re entering because we’re shaping environmentally responsible future leaders while they’re with us,” says Clerac. “If we on campus are modelling a sustainable culture, the hope is that they’ll take this behaviour and respect for the natural environment out into the world – those impacts go far beyond our small campus community.”

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