Mike Nunn Supervisor of Building Operations, collaborator and recycling champion
Mike Nunn has been working at Camosun for thirty-four years, supervising custodial services, waste and recycling in Facility Services. Whether it is toxic-free cleaning, improving composting, or finding ways to reduce paper towel waste, Mike and his team are some of the unsung heroes behind changes to make Camosun a "greener" campus. Mike has had the unique opportunity to be a part and witness Camosun progress positively in terms of sustainable practices and attitudes. Mike is an approachable, warm face in the facilities department and has worked cross-departmentally, with students and the community to create a successful recycling program on campus.
"I try to lead the college in directions to reduce our carbon footprint, and I collaborate with students and staff to promote sustainability practices."
Who are you and what do you do on campus?
I am the Supervisor of Building Operations and I have been working at Camosun for thirty-four years. I deal with custodial services and waste and recycling, and I am also a member of the Recycling Council of BC.
What do you do on campus related to the environment/sustainability?
I try to lead the college in directions to reduce our carbon footprint, and I collaborate with students and staff to promote sustainability practices. For example, I worked with the students involved in the CRD Ready Set Solve challenge on their project to design signage to help inform and educate Camosun College community to achieve better waste diversion. I have also collaborated with students from the Environmental Technology program with their campus-wide composting program, and with David Greig from the Employment Preparation program with the vermicomposting project here at Interurban. I work directly with food services and custodial staff to ensure the proper sorting of waste, recycling and composting streams.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Following practices that lead in a positive direction and that don't create negative effects down the road… practices that are good for the long-term and not just the short-term. Individual actions do make a difference and everyone has to be involved for these sustainability changes to be successful.
What drives operational changes to move Camosun to more sustainable practices? Is it student demand? Organizational responsibility? Other?
It's a combination of all three. In part, it is society's expectations.
What is on the horizon for more sustainable operations?
I would like to set up depots at each campus where batteries, styrofoam, compact fluorescent lights can be dropped off. A place where people could go – something outside that isn't limited by operational hours as our current storage facilities are right now.
What changes have you seen in terms of people's views and thoughts about sustainability since you started working here?
I have seen real progression in what we recycle, and in the attitudes of students, staff and faculty towards sustainability initiatives in general since I started working here. Students now come to me wanting to know where to recycle, where to compost. They are often surprised at how diverse and complex the issues around recycling and waste diversion can be. Students are educating themselves about sustainability, and they are really driven to make changes. It wasn't that way fifteen years ago.
There are champions of sustainability and I believe that eventually the scales will tip and it will become more of the norm.
What have been your greatest environmental challenges?
The most difficult thing is changing people's behaviour. Contamination in the recycling and composting streams is a huge issue and it is disappointing to see it still occurring.
On the flip side of that coin is that some of our biggest successes include the steps we have taken to reduce contamination issues: better signage, increased number of waste/recycle stations (many of which now include compost). Also, moving to the use of clear bags exclusively at our waste stations has improved our source separation.
We have also started recycling soft plastics, and we have started eliminating a lot of waste from washroom paper towel, which can now be composted in most buildings.
Looking back over the past five years, what are you most proud of in helping to make Camosun a greener campus?
The recycle sort stations in the corridors. It has created a good foundation for us to build upon. Previously there were just simple recycling bins in the classrooms with no organization and no signage.
Moving to central collection stations has been a huge step. It gives people more selection in what to do with their waste, and the signage explains what to do with it. We have also replaced many garbage bins in offices with small garbage totes attached to larger recycling bins. It has a real affect because people are more mindful about the waste they create and what should be going into the recycling/compost when they have to empty out their own garbage in the central sorting stations.
We have made a lot of changes so I expect to see continued improvements in our overall waste diversion.
In your ideal world, if you had limitless resources, what would you change or do at Camosun to make it a more sustainable place?
That's a hard question to answer because there are no instant changes. Change is slow and it's about taking the correct steps and ensuring that we are moving in the proper direction.
On the other hand, I detest disposable coffee cups. We are so ingrained in that disposable mentality in our society, and here is an example of how human behaviour puts up real road blocks to sustainable practices. The paper cup is recyclable - as is the plastic lid – but people will not take the time to separate the plastic top from the paper bottom which leads to contamination in the recycling stream. I would love to see Camosun one day go "disposable coffee cup-free".