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The green shift: OISE launches groundbreaking sustainability and climate action plan

February 22, 2021

By the OISE Climate Action Advisory Committee

Photo of youth at the Global Climate Strike in Toronto on September 27, 2019. A large contingent of OISE community members attended the march and rally, and reaffirmed our commitment towards playing a leadership role in addressing the climate crisis. 


As Canada marks the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the OISE community are questioning whether a “return to normal” is the best way to move forward from this international crisis.

As many have noted over the last year, returning to “normal” doesn’t address the injustices and impacts of racism, settler colonialism, poverty or the climate emergency.

Instead, OISE faculty, staff and students are working on contributing to a just recovery, helping to address these systemic issues and establish a new and improved “normal” that focuses on developing more sustainable, just and equitable ways of living.

One step on this path began just before the pandemic, with OISE’s first Climate Action Summit. Held in January 2020 as a response to the global climate strikes, this event was attended by over a hundred members of the OISE community who came together to discuss how to minimize OISE’s carbon footprint and deepen its commitment to climate action. This began a year-long process of research, consultation and reflection on how OISE’s strengths can be put to promote sustainability and climate action in education.

The result is  OISE’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, which will be officially  launched at a virtual event on Thursday, February 25 — open for all to attend.

Led by Dean Glen Jones, the plan is the culmination of the work of OISE’s Climate Action Advisory Committee (CAAC), which has been meeting regularly since June 2020 to guide its development.

The Committee’s work aligned with the move towards sustainability taking place across the university, evidenced in the progress demonstrated by the University of Toronto’s Committee on the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability, and Low Carbon Action Plan. But OISE’s focus on educational research, curriculum development, and pedagogy is distinctive from other faculties at the university, and the CAAC aims to activate the Institute’s expertise and networks to accelerate the transition towards sustainability.

Dean Jones, who has supported this work from the outset, notes that “we can harness the tremendous academic resources and reputation of OISE to advance environmental and sustainability education within our local, provincial, national and global communities.”

Register for the virtual launch of the OISE Sustainability and Climate Action Plan on February 25.


OISE has been deepening its work in environmental learning over the last decade; its Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) Initiative was formed in response to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s policy framework on environmental learning in 2009. This initiative has actively embedded ESE into OISE’s programs through courses, co-curricular learning, conferences, graduate student training and research studies. It has also been manifested in creative ways, including a Community Learning Garden in front of the OISE building and over a dozen environmental art installations in its main stairwell.

A new addition to the lobby, a living wall full of hydroponic plantings, further reinforces the importance of sustainability and wellbeing to all who enter the building.

OISE’s climate action plan is an important step forward. It builds on the existing work of OISE scholars, staff and students to engage all members of the community in working towards sustainability and climate justice. As part of this ongoing process, learning from Indigenous Knowledge and the diverse perspectives that make up the OISE community will broaden and deepen its understanding of and experience with sustainability.

The plan identifies actions and strategies in key areas of the Institute’s work: governance and institutional supports, facilities and services, curriculum and teaching, research, community engagement and outreach. It brings a systems-thinking approach to how these can build on and support the key priorities of OISE’s Academic Plan to address the climate crisis through implementing adaptation and mitigation measures, minimizing OISE’s carbon footprint, and maximizing our local and global impact on the field of education.

The plan ensures that sustainability and climate action are integral components of OISE’s work in education, and its commitment to both individual and collective wellbeing. It also brings OISE closer to honouring its commitment in its 2017-2022 Academic Plan “to preserving our earth for future generations…as models and teachers of environmentally sustainable practices for our own community and beyond.” 

According to Dean Jones, “this plan signals our shared responsibility. There are certainly steps that each of us can take as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint, but much more can be accomplished if we think collectively about how to address climate change, if we consider ways of dealing with the systemic issues that underscore this emergency.”


For those interested in learning more about OISE’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, please join the virtual launch on Thursday, February 25. Registration is required.

The OISE Climate Action Advisory Committee is mandated to provide advice to the Dean on a strategic plan that will embed sustainability and climate action into OISE’s work in teaching, research and advocacy. 


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