The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.


The Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) program is a two-year diploma program, based at the Centre of Excellence at the Penticton campus. SCMT is a forward-thinking program designed to enable, empower and inspire the emerging generation of construction managers and technologists to deliver true sustainable development

Okanagan College employees are regularly engaged in applied research projects, with many featuring sustainability components. Check out current and past research projects.

Okanagan College hosts many campus engagement activities that showcase the value of sustainability initiatives: Recyclemania, Carpool Week, and Bike to Work Week. Check out Events at the College.

The College is involved in several community partnerships that support sustainability:

  • Penticton Campus Community Habitat Memorial Garden: this is jointly maintained garden that is located on the southwest corner of the Duncan Avenue campus. The theme of the garden is all natural plants that are individually marked and there is a leaflet that is jointly produced by the college and the garden society. Maintenance of the garden is done by both the College and the Garden Society. The College maintains the water system and the society does the clean-up. Examples of the plantings are to be used in the roof gardens on the Centre of Excellence.
  • The College is a partner with the South Okanagan–Similkameen Conservation Society – this group is particularly dedicated to the species at risk in the South Okanagan Similkameen. Recently we provided office space and in kind support for the organization as well as being a partner. We are now a partner and provide in kind support in waiving booking fees and some of our staff attend meetings and provide technical expertise.
  • Clean the Creek, Kelowna Campus. The College adopted Fashieux Creek in 2008 which runs along the west border of the campus in Kelowna. The Campus pulls together teams of students, staff and community to clean the Creek 3-4 times a year. Since it adoption noxious weeds and garbage have been removed by and in the Creek. As a result ducks, turtles, muskrat(s) and fish have returned to the Creek. In 2009 the College Campus was awarded by the City of Kelowna the most dedicated community group for this clean-up project.
  • The institution also collaborates with other colleges and universities, having established a four-college sustainability coalition with Durham College, Lethbridge Community College and Nova Scotia Community College. Okanagan College also works closely with the En’owkin Centre, a First Nations cultural centre and post-secondary institution, to develop curriculum for land and resource management diploma.

With the direct correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, the College has been actively trying to reduce our emissions wherever possible. The need for this kind of action has been enhanced by the B.C. Government’s requirement that all public-sector organizations become carbon neutral. This is achieved by reducing College carbon emissions as much as possible and then purchasing carbon offsets for the remaining emissions. Reduction efforts are mapped out in the college’s Energy Plan, Transportation Plan and enforcement of the Anti-Idling Policy.

Okanagan College is comprised of four campuses. The properties represent a total area of approximately 93.5 acres. The footprint for all buildings is equivalent to 16.9 acres. The parking lots and associated asphalt cover an estimated 35.5 acres. The remainder, approximately 41.1 acres is an assortment of treed areas interspersed with turf, natural grassland and various planted arrangements of perennials and indigenous flora. Much of the green area also acts as a natural wildlife habitat. Two of the campuses border natural wetland. Of the 41 acres, almost 75% is either natural non-irrigated terrain or xeriscaped.

Okanagan College is committed to building sustainable facilities, as evidenced by several projects like the Jim Pattison Centre for Excellence and Penticton day care. Where possible, innovations are considered to improve energy consumption of existing campus structures. In 2003/2004, OC's Facilities Management investigated and implemented a method of using the City of Kelowna Waste Water Treatment Facilities discharge to heat the OC Kelowna Campus by running clear water lines from the Treatment Facility to the OC boiler house and extracting the heat from the clear water to heat the surrounding buildings. This is achieved by using heat recovery chillers and "harvesting" heat from the clear water. In addition, OC has replaced old boilers with high efficiency boilers and replaced old cooling units containing environmentally hazardous refrigerant with new high efficiency, environmentally friendly cooling units. These steps, along with many others to come, greatly reduce energy consumption and pollutant discharge equivalent to 819 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. This allows OC to focus its resources even more on educational purposes while preserving the environment. Okanagan College is committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Kyoto Protocol in efforts to reduce our depleting ozone.

With respect to food services, all seafood is Oceanwise where possible, and Okanagan College follows guidelines provided by the Vancouver Aquarium, Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada, National Marine Fisheries Services and the Blue Ocean Institute. Two types of coffee are offered on campus, Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, both of which are ethically sourced and Fair Trade. We also offer a selection of organic coffees. The cups used feature 10% Post-Consumer fibre, an innovative food-safe material, and helps to preserve the environment by using less virgin tree fibre in the production process. From a health perspective, and also in an effort to reduce the GHG emissions generated from meat production, we offer an ever expanding menu of both vegetarian and vegan options in the cafeteria, restaurant and by request in the coffee shop.

All plants, shrubs and trees are purchased according to their compatibility to hardiness zones 4A, 5A, 5B and 6A. Preference is given to native plants and drought-tolerant species. Native plants are are cultivated on all four campuses, and one of the biggest benefits is they don’t require irrigation, fertilizer or pest control beyond what Mother Nature provides:

  • Penticton Habitat Garden features indigenous species of the South Okanagan. The centrepiece of the Duncan Avenue entrance to campus is maintained by staff volunteers.
  • Nancy Clark Garden in Salmon Arm is nestled in the courtyard beside a pond that remains open year-round due to an underground spring
  • Vernon campus overlooks coulees that traverse into Kalamalka Lake. The Ellison bench is dotted with arrowleaf ferns, rye grass, common snowberries and Oregon grape.
  • The Kelowna campus feature dogwood trees, barberry, juniper bushes, yarrow, creeping thyme and sedge grass.

Having adjoining green space it is important all neighbors work collectively to manage common pests. Turf areas are treated with granular corn gluten for annual seed germination suppression. Alfalfa – maize 5-1-5 and sea kelp extract are used as fertilizers. “Zeba” a moisture retention product is used in planters and overly arid areas. In conjunction with sunshine, horticultural vinegar is used to control weeds in paved areas. Additionally annual aeration and top dressing using organic mulch help to sustain the turfed areas. Trees are monitored by the certified arborists from the two companies listed. In 2007 a specimen tree value report was compiled. At that time the total value of the trees at the college campus locations was a staggering $1,752,760. It is important to maintain such a growing investment. The spring of 2010 saw an infestation of aphids populating the maple trees this was treated using water sprays where feasible and ladybugs on the trees in the courtyard. All irrigation systems at the four campuses are linked to a central irrigation management and monitoring system at the Kelowna campus, which has been expanded to include wireless satellite guided weather information programming control. Rain sensors at each campus monitor local weather conditions and control irrigation accordingly.

All cleaning products used at Okanagan College must fit within the ecologically friendly criteria. Any non-certified products are being replaced and this process is to be completed by 2012. All newly constructed buildings are built to a minimal LEED certification. All cleaning products used in these buildings are required to be “Greenseal” and/or “EcoLogo” certified. s of April 2011, over 65% of the products meet this standard.

The College’s Sustainable Transportation Plan is continuously being updated to meet the changing needs and expectations of the population. Highlights include: carpool matching service with preferred parking spots, car sharing, parking pass opt-out policy, anti-idling policy, and bike lockers. Students and staff can take advantage off all the possible ride sharing opportunities available through Staff have a second option through our O.C. staff car pooling utility: go to MYOkanagan > Employee > OC Express - Requests and Notices > Carpool There are currently a limited number of carpool parking stalls at the Penticton (Lot P1) and Kelowna campuses (Lot 14). These stalls are open to both staff and students. To park in these stalls all riders’ parking passes must be fully visible on the dash and rear-view mirror of the vehicle. Electric car charging stations are available on all four main campuses.

Okanagan College focuses on the 3Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle, with a particular emphasis on reducing the create of waste. Periodic trash audits have identified key items that dominate our waste stream: food and drink packaging, coffee cups, and empty water bottles.

  • Printing: Okanagan College uses print management software to monitor, track and charge for copying on campus. Learn about Pay Per Print.
  • Reuse of goods. The College works with other agencies to find opportunities to donate goods: hospital beds to organizations in Africa, furniture to the Salvation Arm, and surplus equipment to local churches and other institutions. We also hold periodic garage sales to raise funds for bursaries.
  • E-waste has been recycled since 2003. All e-waste is colelcted from departments, then shipped to a smelting operating in Trail, where precious metals are recovered and emissiosn are cleaned through scrubber before being exhausted to the atmosphere.
  • Battery boxes can be found in the libraries of all four campuses, and accept standard batteries weighing less than five kilograms. Complete cellphones with batteries are also accepted.
  • Composting bins are provided for students and staff in each kitchen. At the end of the day contents are emptied into bins provided outside of the cafeteria building. Pick-up and replacement of compost containers is facilitated through our Department of Facilities Management. We have a pilot program on our Salmon Arm Campus to handle post-consumer waste, with weekly pick-up of all food waste and used paper towels. Two more elements removed from mainstream garbage destined for landfill. We are also presently working on expanding this service to the Vernon Campus.
  • Napkins, both table and take-out are made from 100% recycled material and are Certified EcoLogo.
  • Incentives. Campus dining operations offers discounts to customers who use reusable mugs instead of disposable cups in to-go food service operations. Our cafeteria offers one flat fee for coffee in a reusable mug regardless of size. Coffee prices range from $1.25 to $3.25. The price for a reusable mug is $1.50
  • Eco Take Out Reusable Container program also exists. The containers are reusable, microwave safe, dishwasher safe, good for 1,000 washes and can be recycled (#5 on the recycle chart). We currently offer other types of take out containers which are 100% compostable.

According to the Okanagan Basin Water Board, 24% of all water used in the Okanagan region is used on household lawns and gardens. Okanagan College has implemented several initiatives to reduce water usage on campus. Irrigation practices as well as plant selection are designed and selected to minimize our water usage wherever possible. Currently, 75% of our green areas are covered with only native plants – requiring only natural irrigation. We have an ongoing plan to continue to replace our green areas with native vegetation as budgets allow. All new construction will allow for the planting of only native flora only. Our Irrigation Practice employs a combination of weather informed control supplemented with timers and manual inspections to ensure we are only watering when absolutely necessary.
Several water fountains – some on each campus – have been retrofitted with "bottle fillers" to make refilling reusable water bottles a breeze. An ongoing retrofit program will continue to identify and replace fountains wherever possible. The Centre for Learning in Kelowna uses only low-flow faucets, showers and toilets, as well as waterless urinals. The Centre for Excellence in Penticton has been fitted with low-flow fixtures as well. When required, all shower heads, faucets and water-closets are being replaced with low flow models. 

The College has seven communities that develop, organize and maintain the momentum of the College Sustainability Plan: Sustainability and Students, Curriculum, Operations, Purchasing, Planning and Administration, Diversity and Affordability and Community Involvement.

The College has Diversity and Equity Committee, which fosters community dialogue, support and planning aimed at ensuring that OC embraces and promotes diversity and accessibility, extending a warm welcome to all members of the community. Support programs for under-represented groups are available, and several access programs support students in need.

Okanagan College investments include socially responsible mutual funds with positive and negative screens, excluding specific industries that do not meet guidelines.

Okanagan College focuses on the well-being of its employees by offering sustainable compensation, evaluating employee satisfaction, providing professional development in sustainability, and incorporating sustainability into orientation for new hires. Childcare and an employee wellness program are also available.

In 2011, Okanagan College completed construction of the Jim Pattison Centre for Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation -- designed to meet the Living Building Challenge. It is now being used as a living classroom, and the backbone of the Sustainable Construction Management Technology program. Students work ON their classroom in addition to inside the room.

With a high cost of land and increased pressure on pricing, farmers are having greater difficulty sustaining themselves in this competitive international market. By importing produce, money is leaving our communities and creating unnecessary pollution from increased transportation. Enactus Okanagan College recognized this need and partnered with a company called Little Green Book, a local organization trying to achieve the same goal. We have worked with our local farmers to help market and distribute their produce during the off season by creating an intensive promotional campaign and reaching out to our community, raising awareness for our amazing, local and year round, agricultural opportunities while delivering a much higher profit to our farmers. Once a month, people come and pick up their pre-ordered 20lb bags of local food from a farmers market style layout. Through this program we raise money for the farmers involved and our other Enactus programs, while always taking the opportunity to educate the Okanagan on options for local food sustainability.

Contact us

For information about Okanagan College's STARS rating, contact Rob St. Onge, Sustainability Manager, at 250-762-5445, ext. 4876 or send an email