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People of Queen's: Keeping Queen's sustainable

[Aaron Ball]
Aaron Ball is Queen’s Sustainability Manager and says that one of the great things about his job is working with students who are eager to make a difference. (University Communications)

Aaron Ball’s face lights up when he talks about the work he does with students.

“One of the greatest things about this job is that there’s a ton of interaction with students,” says Mr. Ball, who has been Queen’s Sustainability Manager since 2008. “They’re full of energy, they’re bright, intellectual and super engaged. I get to feed off that energy.”

As Sustainability Manager, Mr. Ball works regularly with Queen’s student governments to put into action the campaigns and initiatives they plan and with classes as they imagine and design solutions to major sustainability challenges. It’s just one part of a job that has him working to reduce the energy consumption, waste output and improve the overall environmental impact of campus.  

While technological changes and efficiency improvements can have a large impact on campus’ carbon footprint, Mr. Ball’s office typically focuses on changes that can happen at an individual level.

“We often focus on everyday behavioural changes, because these are easy for people to change,” he says. “To make our programs and initiatives successful, we need the buy-in and cooperation of other units on campus. We’re rarely in a position where we develop and launch something on our own.”

An alumnus of Queen’s, Mr. Ball (Artsci’01) returned to campus three years after graduating to begin working in Physical Plant Services. As one of campus’ assistant area managers, he oversaw the custodial work and maintenance of buildings like Stauffer Library and Gordon Hall. Interested in sustainability, he put into practice a green cleaning program for those buildings, and jumped at the chance to work as sustainability manager when the position was created.

Since the office’s creation, he’s worked to keep the university’s environmental impact in check, even as campus has grown to include new buildings like the Queen’s Centre and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

The key to making a more sustainable campus, he says, is by letting the people who work and study at Queen’s have their say.

“It’s important to an overall sustainability strategy for the entire community to get involved, think about it and change their behaviour in small ways. Ultimately, it’s a group effort.”

That’s the key to the sustainability office’s most recent undertaking to improve waste diversion from landfills. Their posters and materials remind people to take special care when sorting garbage and recycling because “one mistake makes the entire bin garbage.” 

It’s not the last campaign of its kind that Mr. Ball hopes to run, and he knows his work won’t be over anytime soon. 

“There’s no silver bullet for sustainability,” he says. “There’s always more to be done, better solutions and an endless variety of challenges.”