The University of Winnipeg



An Earth Day mentality all year long

Patty Wiens stands in front of Wesley Hall with her e-bike.

UWinnipeg staff member and cycling advocate Patty Wiens gets to and from campus on an e-bike. Photo by Ian McCausland.

No matter the season, no fossil fuels are burned getting Patty Wiens to and from her job in The University of Winnipeg’s Rice Centre.

Wiens, Executive Assistant to the Vice-President of Finance and Administration, is an avid winter cyclist and enthusiastic e-bike advocate with a growing following on YouTube, where she shares scenic pathways, gear tips, and helpful advice for beginners.

I was riding my bike so much that I really didn’t want to get back into my car.

Patty Wiens

Wiens didn’t set out to be an e-bike advocate. She owned a car and had free parking at work. But she spent three hours a day behind the wheel, driving to and fro, feeling restless and stressed.

“I was living a lifestyle that I didn’t know was optional,” she said.

A few years ago, Wiens moved to a more walkable neighbourhood and tried cycling to work.

“I was a fair-weather cyclist,” she said. “Puddles on the road? Slight chance of rain? No, I don’t think so. But I just loved the way I felt when I rode my bike.”

Soon, her 10-minute commute felt too short, and she began looking for other reasons to cycle.

“I was riding my bike so much that I really didn’t want to get back into my car,” she said.

But when autumn arrived, she put her bike away for the winter. Then she took a job at UWinnipeg, lengthening her commute to 45 minutes.

Wiens sought out some winter cycling tips on social media, bought some winter tires, and went for a test ride in the snow. The commute took more than an hour, due to headwinds and snow drifts, but she wasn’t deterred.

She grew interested in e-bikes, which have an integrated electric motor assisting the rider, to help on days when her route to work was covered in snow drifts. After some research, she ordered her first e-bike, which have exploded in popularity over the last five years.

“My rides to work were immediately transformed. I couldn’t believe how easy they became,” Wiens said.

She began her own YouTube channel to document her e-bike journey during that first winter, and to promote winter cycling to others, especially women. Once inspired by what she saw online, she is now the one inspiring others, and recently joined the board of Bike Winnipeg. She was also recently named Winnipeg’s first Bicycle Mayor.

Thanks to YouTube and her yellow windbreaker, she now gets recognized around Winnipeg.

“I talk a lot about bikes,” Wiens said. “But I can’t help it. My bike brings me so much joy, I can’t shut up about it. And I no longer dread winter.”

UWinnipeg staff can hear Wiens share more about her e-bike journey at a Green Office Program event on commuter cycling on Wednesday, May 8, hosted by the Campus Sustainability Office (CSO). Pre-registration is appreciated.

On Wednesday, June 5, staff can also take part in a bike ride and free bike tune-up workshop, presented by the CSO to coincide with Clean Air Day and the Green Action Centre’s annual Commuter Challenge. Join the 2024 UW Commuter Challenge team here and stay tuned for more details.

Sustainability Ambassadors leading the way

UWinnipeg’s Sustainability Ambassadors also exemplify the Earth Day mentality year-round.

This team of UWinnipeg students carries out sustainability education efforts on campus and assists the CSO by collecting important survey data on campus commutes and general sustainability.

“The data from these surveys help us improve sustainability programing across campus,” said Joseph Wasylycia-Leis, the CSO’s Campus Sustainability Coordinator.

Caption: UWinnipeg’s Sustainability Ambassadors during Roll Call 2023.

Sustainability Ambassadors at Roll Call 2023.

Sustainability Ambassadors can often be seen tabling at special events and in high-traffic areas, talking to anyone and everyone who is interested in sustainability practices and programs on campus.

They often conduct bin-side education, showing campus regulars and visitors how to properly dispose of their waste using UWinnipeg’s newly designed multi-stream waste bins. Sustainability Ambassadors also conduct waste sorting for waste audits, which provide another important window into the effectiveness of sustainability programming.

“The CSO aims to conduct campus-wide waste audits once every two to three years,” said Sara Campbell, Sustainable Programs Coordinator. “This data allows us to see where our waste is going, what we need to get better at, and where we’re doing well. The audit we conducted in February 2023 also served to provide a baseline against which we can measure the success of our multi-bin update and expansion project.”

Practicing sustainability every day

UWinnipeg’s institutional sustainability programs complement individual and group actions.

Diversity Food Services offers some of the most sustainable campus meals in North America, thanks to its LEAF Level 2-certified kitchens, local procurement model, and compostable or biodegradable food packaging.

Multi-stream waste bins located around campus keep landfill waste generation to a minimum. In 2007, UWinnipeg became the first university in Canada to offer campus-wide composting, and dedicated recycling programs continue for face masks, gloves, writing utensils, batteries, toner cartridges, and e-waste.

One of Winnipeg’s largest solar panel arrays sits atop the Axworthy Health and RecPlex, supplying 20 per cent of the building’s annual electricity needs. Manitoba’s first urban biomass silo, located outside Ashdown Hall, runs on locally sourced wood pellets and decreases greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent. Five buildings on campus have been certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

UWinnipeg is also leading the way in sustainability research and instruction. The Prairie Climate Centre publishes the interactive Climate Atlas of Canada, and 21 university departments offer courses focused on or relating to sustainability topics.

Each spring, the CSO organizes the McFeetors Hall Residents’ Giveaway to donate surplus reusable housewares and other items to local organizations that serve community members in need.

On Earth Day and throughout the year, UWinnipeg is building a sustainable future for students, staff, faculty, and the wider community.

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