Sustainability Initiatives

AMS Sustainability Initiatives

The AMS represents over 48,000 UBC Vancouver students and operates student services, student-owned businesses, resource groups, and clubs. Recognizing the ecological crisis that humanity faces and the special responsibility universities and university students have in finding and implementing solutions, AMS Council passed an Environmental Sustainability Policy in January 2007 that called for the creation of a sustainability strategy for the AMS. In 2011 a referendum was passed to establish a Sustainability Fund, showing continued support for AMS Sustainability.

What We Are Doing


The AMS Student Nest is the culmination of a seven year process to build a bigger, better and more environmentally-friendly space to meet the needs of present and future UBC students. The old student union building, constructed in 1968, was bursting at the seams with the growing campus community, so AMS members converged to solve the problem, and in 2008 a referendum passed to build a new student union building, with sustainability at its heart.

The beautiful, finished product that the AMS now calls home is testimony to the determination and focus of UBC students, and the student executives, who pioneered the project from start to finish. The vision for the Nest is two-fold: to ensure the centre of campus remains a student-centered hub of activity with a focus on the needs and desires of all students on campus; to create a welcoming space for all students to eat, shop, study, and socialize while leading the way in sustainability practices and goals.

The building holds LEED Platinum certification, the most superior mark of quality and achievement in green buildings, for embodying sustainability measures which include natural ventilation, solar energy, heat recovery, and rainwater harvested for use in plumbing systems.

Food and Beverage

AMS Food and Beverage Department is the second largest provider of food services on campus, owned and operated by the students of UBC. One hundred per cent of the net profits are turned over to the students’ society to fund valuable services and resources to be enjoyed by all of the students at UBC. SafeWalk, Tutoring, Volunteer Connect, Minischool, and the Food Bank are just some of the many programs funded by the proceeds generated from the AMS businesses.
The AMS Food and Beverage Department is committed to providing sustainably and locally produced foods whenever possible, supporting applied learning on food-related issues, reducing waste, and fostering positive changes through staff training, menu design, and various community events.
Several other campus food providers, such as Sprouts, Agora, and UBC Food Services, are also committed to providing healthy and sustainable food at UBC. Together, we serve over 30-million meals annually, and your everyday dining choices will help us make a difference on and beyond campus.

Food Sourcing

  • A herb garden was planted in the SUB courtyard in 2009, with 11 large herb pots that are used by AMS Food and Beverage Department.
  • A produce procurement liaison (contract position) was hired in 2008 to create new relationships with local producers and identify steps to further increase local and sustainable procurement. A detailed report can be found here.
  • All dry goods and vegetables are purchased from local companies whenever possible. For example, when in season, much of the vegetables come from the UBC Farm, Delta, and only as far as the Fraser Valley.
  • All eggs AMS Food and Beverage Department served are cage free since 2008.
  • All coffee is certified organic, shade grown, and Fair Trade since 2004.

Teaching and Learning

AMS Food and Beverage Department has actively supported and worked with AGSCI 450 teaching team and students, UBC food system project coordinator, UBC sustainability office SEEDS Program manager, in designing collaborative research projects, providing ongoing support, and implementing findings and recommendations. Selected projects include:

  • A Lighter Footprint menu line called LOV (Local, Organic, and Vegan) in 2008 to raise awareness of the impact of everyday food choices and help customers make more informed purchasing choices.
  • An initial monthly “Eco-Friendly Day” to promote the LOV product line, which has been expanded to a monthly Eco-Friendly menu that features the most in-season LOV items.
  • Implemented AGSC 450 proposals on recipe development, procurement, waste reduction, and awareness campaigns.


  • We created an AMS sustainability outlet officer position for all AMS food outlets in an effort to increase the success of outlet participation in AMS sustainability initiatives and provide a mechanism for staff to discuss new ideas and existing challenges.
  • Raise awareness through various community events, such as the first AMS Farmer’s Market, Annual Farmade, and Imagine Day Green Lounge during undergraduate student orientation.
  • Encourage staff and managers to participate in sustainability-related workshops, such as the Community Based Social Based Marketing workshop, to learn new skills that will help identify and overcome internal and external barriers to better sustainability practices.
  • Implemented various AGSC 450 proposals, such as the LOV (Local, Organic, and Vegan) menu line. Please check out “Teaching and Learning” for more information.


  • Reuse/reduce before recycle: customers who bring their own mug for hot drinks or containers for meals receive a $0.25 discount. All AMS employees are strongly encouraged to lead by example and use reusable containers and service ware from the office kitchen to reduce the use of disposable containers.
  • Responsible purchasing: All napkins are made from post-consumer recycled material. In addition, all foam coffee cups (lid excluded), plastic cutlery, and 1000ml foam containers have been replaced with compostable ones, and a full switch to 100 per cent compostable containers is planned for 2010.
  • Composting: The first pre-consumer composting program was introduced into AMS Food and Beverage Department in 2003. Now the program has been expanded to every AMS food outlet and we compost 100 per cent of our pre-consumer food waste. We have also included post-consumer composting stations at AMS eating areas, and are working on incorporating more tri-bin waste stations around the SUB.

Eco-Friendly Day

Eco-Friendly Day was inspired by a project developed by students from Agricultural Sciences (AGSC) 450 from the faculty of land and food systems. This class aims to teach students through case-based learning how to integrate knowledge learned throughout their degree in dealing with real world issues related to UBC’s food system. Each AGSC group ultimately provides recommendations to the department studied by them. These departments include: UBC Sustainability Office, UBC Food Services, AMS Food and Beverage department, UBC Waste Management, and UBC Farm.
This class creates the opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience with various food-related departments across campus. In addition, students are able to aid staff and faculty in devising sustainable solutions/innovations for their departments/outlets that many times their busy routines would have not allowed them to do.
The Impacts Committee, an AMS sustainability group comprised of students, staff, faculty, and clubs, worked on the recommendations of these students throughout the summer of 2008 to make their projects a reality by that fall.
Eco-Friendly Day was created to raise consumer awareness of food choices and sustainability initiatives as part of a larger effort to help the AMS lighten its ecological footprint as stipulated in the AMS Lighter Footprint Strategy. Recently, a new line of menu items were launched at AMS Food and Beverage department outlets that are local, organic, or/and vegan (LOV). These products were created to help make our food system more sustainable, by providing support to local growers, sustainable production methods, and accessibility to foods that have a lighter ecological impact – ultimately helping provide opportunities for customers to make more informed purchasing choices. This new LOV product line is promoted on Eco-Friendly Day at every AMS Food and Beverage department outlet in the SUB.
There are a variety of other sustainability initiatives the AMS is introducing from green discounts, provision of free range eggs, and fair trade items, to recycling and composting. Ultimately, this initiative seeks to raise awareness, participation, and support among students, faculty, and staff of AMS Sustainability efforts and other campus sustainability initiatives to help our campus and the broader community become true leaders in sustainability.


AMS purchases and uses environmentally-friendly products as much as possible, and is planning on collaborating with UBC Supply Management to support suppliers of socially and environmentally responsible products and services. With the support from AMS managers, we’ve made good progress in lessening our environmental impact in several areas:

  1. Communication Department
    • All AMS insider agenda and mini-brochures are printed on FSC paper with environmentally-friendly inks and aqueous varnishes. To minimize packaging, no shrink wrap is used for shipping.
    • In 2009, all AMS promotional items are made from either biodegradable or recycled materials.
    • All display boards and banners for the Student Union Building are made from biodegradable foamcore and Bioflex.
    • All clothing is sweat-shop free.
  2. AMS Copyright has switched to 30 per cent post consumer recycled paper since 1999.
  3. Food and Beverage Department.
    • As of 2008, all coffee cups are compostable at AMS food outlets. In November 2009, all plastic cutlery and 1000ml foam containers were replaced with compostable ones. The department is looking to switch to 100 per cent compostable containers in 2010.
    • All coffee is certified organic, shade grown, and Fair Trade since 2004.
    • All eggs are cage free. Most of the vegetables are purchased from local farmers when in season.
    • For more information on purchasing initiatives from Food and Beverage Department, click here.


The U-Pass Program is designed as an integrated comprehensive transportation package that provides students with universal, accessible, and affordable access to public transit and other sustainable transportation programs. Since its implementation, transit ridership has become the preferred mode of travel among all UBC commuters and now accounts for 42 per cent of all trips. It is expected that with U-Pass, transit ridership will continue to grow each year by an average of 10 per cent, as overall traffic volumes continue to decline.
The AMS External Office has been actively working with the UBC TREK Program Centre and lobbying for better transit service. For more information, please visit:


Each year, AMS operations and business produce approximately 400 tons of waste. Minimizing waste remains one of the top priorities and challenges for the Impact Working Group. Various internal and collaborative actions have been taken to tackle this challenge.

  • Student Union Building Waste Audit: with funding support from AMS Impact Committee and UBC Sustainability Office, a two-phrase waste audit was conducted in 2009 to better understand the waste stream at the Student Union Building and identify next steps to minimize waste.
  • Think Outside the Bottle Campaign: in partnership with Common Energy Tangible Solution group, the AMS is examining its business operations to consider options for phasing out the sale of bottled water, and is looking to expanding this partnership with UBC Food Services, who is the other major bottle water vendor on campus.
  • UBC Waste Free Committee: the Sustainability Coordinator has been working closely with UBC Waste Free Committee and Sustainability Office to link AMS initiatives with campus-wide waste reduction efforts.
  • The AMS’ Water bottle initiative was featured in the TD Go Green Challenge!