By Aloysius Wong
September 30, 2017
The Strand: Why did you decide to run for Sustainability Commissioner?
Sagar Kothari: I looked at the description of the role and what responsibilities came with it, and I thought it would be a good idea to run because I had that background: I was president of the environment club in high school; I was on student council; and I am generally passionate on a personal level about environmental issues and being sustainable overall.
In high school, we ran a promotion on reusable containers; we got our school certified gold by Ontario Eco Schools; we conducted waste audits and energy audits; we introduced composting; we also worked with children ages 8-14 and helped them with their own environment club. The role of Sustainability Commissioner matches my skillset exactly, and I can do a great job in terms of environmental awareness here at Vic. It’s the perfect match for me. I really enjoy what I do.
What do you believe you can bring to the role of Sustainability Commissioner?
What I can bring is (again) my experience and my knowledge, and a lot of ideas. There are a lot of things that go on here at Victoria College, such as the inefficient use of lighting, lots of posters—[often a] waste of paper—even the cards outside of VUSAC. We could digitize half of this stuff. UofT’s a digital school; everybody must be on Portal, and most use Facebook too. There’s no reason why we cannot do these things digitally. I know some people prefer paper copies, and, sure, we can have them, but surely we can reduce the giant piles of waste that we create.
Back in my high school, we had a game in which we had a whole bunch of trash—it was clean trash—and people sorted them into garbage, recycling, and compost bins, and that really helped. We also got more thorough signs from the city that describe what goes in the garbage and recycling bins. There are a lot of events that I’ve executed that I’d like to replicate here because I think that they could really help.
How do you intend to make the Vic community more environmentally aware?
The greatest problem with issues such as equity, climate change, and so many other[s] is that people aren’t aware of them. Therefore, the first thing we need to do is change their mindsets. I’d like to conduct some surveys to discover what people know and what they don’t know, because only then can we start promoting certain events and a certain kind of knowledge with regards to sustainability. I would like to challenge people’s mindsets to make them more educated, and more open and accepting towards the ideals of sustainability.
What are some initiatives you intend to start (or continue) as Sustainability Commissioner?
I’ve noticed a lot that there’s a lack of audits; I’m big on accountability and paper trails— metaphorical ones, of course. Furthermore, much of the action isn’t being done is because people don’t know that it needs to be; you would have no idea that lights are being left on in a room in Old Vic, for example, unless somebody were to check. This is why I stress the importance of audits and lists of issues so that we can deal with them—because they do need to be dealt with.
I also want to start a more comprehensive composting program, and implement water bottle refill stations. I understand that most of these things are already in motion, but I believe that with my skill set I can speed things up.
What aspect of sustainability do you think Vic needs to improve on the most? How would you go about doing so?
I would target food—food consumption, food disposal, food transportation. We have a lot of generic, non-fair-trade food; we don’t know where and how it’s being produced. If a company, say for example Burwash, outsources some of their production to another company that’s notorious for carbon emissions, we wouldn’t want to do that. We should choose another company that is fair-trade, which would also lower costs, because those companies are usually cheaper than the more popular brands.
Furthermore, ensuring proper disposal for food and promoting reusable containers would also be beneficial. Also, I would encourage bringing a water bottle to campus. First of all, water is good for you; second of all, it’s reusable; and finally, who wants to spend three to four dollars on a drink?