Ryerson University students urge school to divest from fossil fuels in attempt to “go greener”

An image of the Ryerson Urban Farm under construction, which is one of Ryerson University’s few green initiatives. (Kaylem Boileau/Ryerson Urban Farm)
Written by Kayla Lyn

As efforts to reduce the effects of climate change continue to increase, universities across Canada are being urged by students to “go green” by implementing climate-friendly practices into campus operations and divesting millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry. 

On their website, Ryerson University’s Sustainability Office states, “sustainability principles and practices are fully integrated across all areas of the university,” from scholarly pursuits to campus operations; but second-year environmental studies major Paige Burton, says it’s not enough to qualify the university as “Green.”

“Although my program likes to claim that Ryerson is progressive in their pursuits of sustainability, I think there’s a lot more the school could be doing,” said Burton during a phone interview. 

Among suggestions like reducing overconsumption, Burton recommends Ryerson be more transparent about their investments.

“I was so disappointed to learn that Ryerson invests so much money into the fossil fuel industry.”  

Paige Burton

According to a student-led activist group named “Fossil Free Ryerson,” the school currently invests 17.5 million dollars into fossil fuel companies; Suncor Energy Inc, Pembina Pipeline and Keyera Corporation.

On their website the grassroot organization demands, “Ryerson must end investment in the fossil fuel industry,” but the group’s call for action has not been answered. 

In an article published by The Eyeopener on Nov. 9, it was reported that Ryerson “currently has no plans in place,” to divest from the fossil fuel industry. According to president Mohamed Lachemi, these plans are not even on the agenda. 

Although divestment is not on the horizon for Ryerson, University of Toronto announced on Oct. 27, that the school will be fully divesting from the industry by 2030. 

Alongside University of Toronto’s efforts to go green is UVic, who announced it’s $256 million divestment in Feb. 2021, and Quebec’s Laval University, who commited to divest completely in 2017, making them the first Canadian University to do so.

Despite Ryerson’s unwillingness to divest, Fossil Free Ryerson states that policies must be changed before Ryerson claims to be a Green University.  

“Ryerson has a responsibility not only to the planet and to its students to invest responsibly, but to themselves, they need to take a stand for a green future,” states the organization via their website. 

Fossil Free Ryerson states that for the school’s own sake, Ryerson should put a plan in place to divest like other Canadian schools, “or else risk getting left behind”.

See how Ryerson University compares to other Canadian universities on sustainability commitments through this infographic done by Daniella Lopez.

November 21, 2021

About Author

dana.masamra@ryerson.ca Dana Masamra is a journalism student at Ryerson University with a strong interest in politics, fashion and food. She's Palestinian but lives in the Greater Toronto Area, currently reporting on local news. She currently specializes in social media marketing but aspires to work in broadcast news one day. She speaks both English and Arabic (and a little bit of French).