Cut down on waste, not trees!

Submitted by Elah Feder – Project Coordinator, Sustainability Office, UofT

A few years ago, a student researcher calculated U of T uses about 10 million sheets of paper each year. That’s just in first and second year courses on St. George campus, and it doesn’t include all the textbooks we use each year, so the real total is much higher.

Paper has its place, and we’re not suggesting everyone needs to go electronic, but we do think there are some great opportunities to cut down on waste. The U of T Green Courses program recognizes those instructors who have made an effort to do so.

So far, over 100 courses have been recognized for choosing basic practices like double-siding, posting lecture slides in compact forms, and choosing environmentally-friendly paper for their course readers.

The Sustainability Office is now accepting applications for spring semester courses. Learn more about the program and download the self-assessment form at uoft.me/greencourses.

Breakdown of paper use in first and second year courses,
excluding textbooks, based on research by Yi-an Chen.

Spotlight on Students: First in the Family

Did you know that 1 in 5 students at U of T are the First in their Family to attend university? These students are children of parents who did not receive post-secondary education.

Over the past year, programs on all three U of T campuses were created to mentor, advise, and support first-generation students during their first two years at UofT: First in the Family (St. George), GenONE (UTM), and First-year Experience Program (UTSC). Students who self-identify as first-generation can register online and connect over the year with senior first-generation students as mentors, and learn about the resources available on campus.

Unique transition

The transition to University life can be especially challenging for first-generation students. As Rahul Bhat, Program Coordinator for First in the Family at St. George, has seen with his group, they are less likely to ask for help or feel they should ask for help because they have less intuition about where to find help when they need it.  Attending office hours or asking a teaching assistant for advice is particularly intimidating. Roz Spafford, Learning Skills Counsellor with the Academic Success Centre, finds that “things that are like oxygen to people who’ve been around are mysterious to new people”.

Since these students are also more likely to live with family and support their household (by assisting with care of a relative or working part time to bring in income) the pressure from home can be intense. Parents are also often very supportive but uninformed about University life themselves, and so do not have an intuitive sense of how difficult it may be for their children to keep classes, studying, work and family life in balance.

Building community

What is most important about the program is it promotes the value of community-building through interaction with mentors, other students, and workshops on academic skills such as writing, studying, and time management, and learn about campus resources. The supports go a long way to transform an experience of feeling lost, confused, and anxious, into feeling of belonging, says Bhat.

Faculty advice

How can faculty get involved? Make referrals, either in person or by mentioning the program during lecture. Bhat reports that last year, enrolment grew steadily as a few large courses learned about the program. “Mentees have great respect for their profs”, he says, and respond especially well to their professors who also identify as first-generation, seeing them as models of who they might become one day. First in the Family also invites faculty to attend panel discussions during the year, for student mentees to learn from their experiences.

Do you think your students would like to learn more about the programs available? Find more information online: