Category Archives: Inspiring People

Get to know people and organisations and initiatives in campus sustainability.

Discovering green initiatives on campus

UAlberta is a leader in sustainability. In addition to highly visible features like solar panels, there are little pockets of green all over campus—a little something here and something tucked in over there. It’s easy to walk past an incredible initiative without noticing it on our way to class or the office.

I wanted to learn more about the unique, eco-friendly features around me, so I participated in a Sustainability Campus Tour. There were quite a few stops on the hour-long tour. Here are some unique things that stuck out to me.

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Eco Move Out: 4 cool things we learned about ReStore

Sponsored by
PODS: Moving and Storage, Solved

Eco Move Out gives thousands of students the opportunity to donate their stuff for reuse or recycling as they move out of residence. In this series, we introduce some of the partners who make it all possible, including PODS EdmontonGoodwill Industries, and others.

» Check out the whole series.

Habitat for Humanity is a familiar name to many of us, as they build homes for local families in need of a roof over their head. Maybe you or someone you know has volunteered with them or their Women Build program. It’s a worthy mission, and as it turns out, they do so much more. They also run stores that sell gently used furniture, appliances and building materials.

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How can academics bring energy and sustainability together?

My name is Dr. Naomi Krogman and I am a professor in Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. I am currently studying the future of sustainability sciences and scholarship in higher education. My past research has been on sustainable consumption, wetland policy implementation, social impacts of resource development and alternative institutions for resource management. I teach 300 and 400 level courses, such as RSoc 450 Environmental Sociology, RSoc 365 Sociology of Environment and Development and RSoc 555 Natural Resource Sociology.

I am also director of the academic arm of the Office of Sustainability. I became involved in the Office of Sustainability in 2012 because I care about how we prepare students to tackle the small and big problems of sustainability. I want to be involved in shaping our courses, programs, and learning experiences to foster courage and intelligence, passion and commitment for the common good.

Throughout 2014, the Office of Sustainability is focusing on energy issues. This is fitting for many sustainability-related reasons, given that energy sources are necessary for most everything we do in our Canadian context. Energy development and consumption has a myriad of social, environmental and economic consequences for people and ecosystems nearby and afar. Most significantly, the byproducts of energy production have disproportionately contributed to the climate changes we are seeing now, and will need to address worldwide for years to come.

Salt-flats

This year’s energy theme is all the more fitting because our province has been deeply involved in energy resource development for over half a century. Our energy development is often controversial on the world stage. Recent criticism has focused on the extractive and processing impacts of Alberta’s oil sands projects as well as on the geographical reach and potential disturbance of the Mackenzie Valley and Keystone XL pipelines. Shale production could create a great deal more energy in Alberta, but also has the potential to have a number of negative social and ecological impacts. Many First Nations bands, for example, have already reported a number of negative impacts from oil sands projects.

Various interest groups and members of the public sometimes, and should rightfully ask, “Where do you stand, academics in Alberta, as you espouse the values of sustainability, and simultaneously participate in energy research?” We have a great deal of research at the University of Alberta, for example, that is supported by the oil and gas industries.

Oil-Sands-Research

This is a fair question and one we can expect from our international and Canadian critics. Where do we stand, as academics, on the contribution of our energy research to the public good?

In my position as academic director of the Office of Sustainability, I have realized that there is no uniform consensus among my more than 1,500 academic colleagues. Some hope to mitigate damage, participating in oil sands research to figure out ways to extract more oil out of the bitumen, to lessen the water, air and soil pollution problems associated with oil sands production, and to reclaim oil and gas disturbed lands. Others study energy futures that move away from oil and gas altogether, researching the development of renewable and more decentralized energy deliver systems. I find that most academics, no matter what they study in relation to energy, often assert, “We are part of the solution, not a driver of the problem.”

Let me ask you: what is the highest calling of academics to contribute to a sustainable energy future, in Alberta, and beyond Alberta? What kind of ethical or principled guidelines might offer university researchers more careful selection of the research we do on energy, given that we are here to contribute to the public good?

Written by Dr. Naomi Krogman

She is professor in Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology and academic director of the Office of Sustainability at the University of Alberta.

Making your own gifts this winter holiday

Buy Nothing Day asks us to step back from the consumer frenzy of the winter holidays and rebuild our relationship with the holidays. For me, I’ve realized that the most important part of the holidays is the time I spend with my family and friends. As my mother says, the best gift I can give is my company.

My partner’s family is a little different: they absolutely love gift giving. So to make the holidays work for them, it’s important to think of ways that we can make our own gifts, instead of buying them.

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Gardening at the heart of campus

Here we are at the last stop on our tour of the university’s Adopt-A-Flower gardens. We started on the corner of a busy intersection, then retreated to a peaceful courtyard. Both of those gardens were flourishing experiments run by young, beginning gardeners.

Ellen Schoeck is no beginner, and her bountiful garden proves it. Today we’re taking a look at the Graduate Students’ Association Adopt-A-Flower garden. It’s a shady, restful location on the walkway between Cameron Library and the antique brick of Triffo Hall (the GSA’s home, and the university’s first LEED® Gold green building, by the way).

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Lister’s resident green thumb

Last week, we started on a tour of the University of Alberta’s Adopt-A-Flower gardens. These are gardens that are being tended by staff and students throughout the summer months. While colourful flowers are always welcome on campus, many opt to plant edible fruits and vegetables too.

Diana and Petya, who you met in the previous story, took on the challenging task of urban container gardening. If you check out the Adopt-A-Flower website, you can see a list of all the planters available in the spring. What you won’t know until after you’ve been accepted, though, , is that the university might choose to offer you a genuine in-the-ground garden plot instead.

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