Student Contributor

  • Have an old textbook you can’t sell? Donate it instead!

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Textbooks for Change is a global initiative that collects used university-level textbooks and transports them for reuse by students in several African countries. 50% of the textbooks are donated to campus libraries in East Africa, 20% are resold at affordable prices to students and the remaining 30% that are outdated or damaged are recycled. This is a sustainable, educational alternative to a question that many North American students face – how to get rid of my used textbooks?

    These textbooks are collected regularly and then deployed to countries where students cannot afford to pay the high costs of textbooks. They are reused or resold to students at reasonable prices, thus giving them an opportunity to learn and gain knowledge that they would otherwise not have a chance to. Some of the donated books that cannot be reused are recycled in a sustainable method, resulting in reduction of waste. This is a great opportunity for university students to discard textbooks they no longer need, in a sustainable and educational way. The saying really is true “what is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

    Brock University has Textbooks for Change drop boxes across campus at 5 different locations. Click here for an interactive map of the locations. Below is a list of where the drop boxes can be found:

    • Mackenzie Chown A & Taro Hall Hallway
    • Walker Complex – Main Entrance
    • South Hall – 4th floor
    • IRC Library – Welch Hall 2nd floor
    • Entrance of Union Station (opposite Brock Press)

    To date, Brock University’s donations have accumulated to almost 12,000 textbooks, recycled 50,000 pounds of waste and saved 595 trees! As a campus, we can make a difference, even if it’s a small one, in the lives of students in Africa and help positively impact their educational experience!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Summer Wrap-Up: My last week with the ESRC

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Brock Community Garden

    It’s crazy to think that only three months ago I was writing my first blog for the ESRC and Sustainability at Brock, talking about my experiences and expectations after the first week of working in the ESRC.

    Looking back now, it went by fast, but we accomplished quite a bit in such a short amount of time, and I’m really proud of our achievements.

    One of the things I mentioned in my first blog was that I was looking forward to contributing something positive and meaningful to Brock, and I really do feel like I had the opportunity to do this. Over the past few months, we worked on a lot of different research, background documents, and reports, ultimately helping to strengthen sustainability at Brock.

    One of our biggest achievements was the environmental sustainability plan, which outlines Brock’s current sustainability initiatives, sets goals and strategies, and has allowed Brock to receive $7.9 million in provincial funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus. Our efforts have made it possible for Brock to replace outdated equipment in its district energy plant with efficient items that will increase Brock’s energy production capacity, while also significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    But we also worked on several other initiatives. We did a lot of work to help Brock prepare for future long-term planning, and the creation of a campus-wide, long-term sustainability plan. We gathered information on current sustainability initiatives, worked on creating a database to track current and future initiatives, developed an action plan for long-term planning, conducted a SWOT analysis of the current state of sustainability at Brock, completed research on different evaluation tools, wrote a report for Dining Services, and completed several other complementary tasks.

    This research and collection of background documents and reports will be valuable resources for sustainability at Brock going forward.

    Not only do I get to feel good about everything we created, but I can also revel in the knowledge that I gained a lot of valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences in regard to sustainability. As I will be starting in the Sustainability Society and Science Graduate Program in a few weeks, I especially feel grateful for this summer. Working at the ESRC for the summer has helped me get acquainted with Brock, the Centre, ESRC staff and faculty, and my incoming program beforehand, which has given me so much more confidence in starting my program. It has also given me the valuable opportunity to engage with sustainability concepts, and gain insight into how sustainability operates within an institution, the many challenges that arise, and how to go about finding solutions to those challenges.

    While I stand by what I said in May—that there is a lot of good work being done at Brock, but with room for improvement, I have also had a first-hand glimpse into sustainability at Brock, and strongly believe we’re heading into the right direction. A lot of important steps were taken this summer and Brock has impressed me by proving that it is serious about committing to sustainability across campus.

    I will be coming back as one of the two research assistants from the graduate program in the fall and am excited to continue to strengthen sustainability at Brock throughout the 2018/2019 school year.

    Here’s to a bright, green future at Brock!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Reflections on my summer at the ESRC

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    ESRC Summer Students at the CUB

    Photo: Scott Johnstone, AVP Facilities Management with ESRC summer interns Kaitlin James, Shanen D’Souza, Shelby McFadden

    This summer I had the pleasure of working as a summer intern at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. I am super excited and proud of all of the work we’ve accomplished thus far and feel as though myself and the other interns created documents and reports that will be of great assistance to the Research Assistants in the fall when continuing to develop Sustainability at Brock.

    This experience has really helped solidify some of the ideas I had in terms of next steps in my career and academics. I’ve been interested in environmental sustainability for as long as I can remember, but a real-life experience in the field has really been beneficial for me.

    In April of this year, I decided to declare a minor in environmental sustainability to complement my major in Public Health. The two really do go hand in hand, and impact each other in more ways than many people realize! What a better way to start my path in sustainability than by immersing myself in sustainability all summer.

    This summer, myself and the other interns helped create several reports, plans and documents, whilst conducting background research in different areas of sustainability. I really got to immerse myself in all things sustainability, examining areas such as communications, sustainability indicators and rating systems, and helped collect information on Brock’s current state of sustainability on campus which was really interesting—In fact, I actually learnt a lot about initiatives that are ongoing that I’ve never even heard of in my four years at Brock!

    Overall, it was a great experience and allowed me to meet and work with some amazing people and researchers! I definitely appreciate the opportunity I was given and am glad I took it! The Charter allowed for what I think is some great progress towards a more sustainable Brock! I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for what is yet to come in terms of sustainability during my last semesters here at Brock this year!

     

    Categories: Blog, Co-Op, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Meet the Faculty of the ESRC: Dr. Julia Baird

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Julia Baird, an Assistant Professor at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) to find out more about her research and role at the ESRC. Her research interests centre around water. She agrees with the notion that water issues are ultimately issues of governance, and so her research focuses on the human dimensions of water resources. She has numerous publications that exemplify her vast amount of research within the field of sustainability science. It was great to learn more about her and the journey she took to get to where she is today.

    Julia Baird

    Photo: Dr. Julia Baird, Canada Research Chair & Assistant Professor, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre

    Q1:  What path did you take to end up where you are today, and how did you end up doing research for the ESRC? 

    I started as an undergraduate student in agriculture – crop science to be exact – and I think that was due to an increasing appreciation for the farm I grew up on and realizing just how much I didn’t know about how agriculture works. I had an excellent professor in my final year that guided me toward an opportunity to undertake a master’s degree in soil science at the University of Saskatchewan, where I developed a real love of research and realized that I wanted to continue on. I pursued an interdisciplinary PhD in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the U of S. Around the time I was completing my dissertation, my husband and I made the decision to move to Ontario for him to start graduate school. Our plan was to spend one year here and I contacted Ryan Plummer on the advice of one of his colleagues about a potential short term post-doc. It’s almost eight years later and I’m thrilled to still be here!

    Q2: What are your research areas of focus? 

    I have a range of research interests that reflect my path to this position, but all of them share the common threads of decision-making about our environment and environmental sustainability. I have a keen interest in water resources, agriculture, and resilience, and bring a social-ecological systems perspective to all of them.

    Q3:What do you want to achieve with your research? 

    Save the world, of course! It’s really important to me that my research contributes to both theory and practice, and what’s really great about the ESRC is that it supports that goal in an explicit way through its emphasis on transdisciplinarity and community engaged research. I hope to make an impact on real-world decision making and enhance the resilience of governance of water resources, whether it be in urban or rural settings.

    Q4: What is it like being one of Brocks’ 11 Canadian Research Chairs? 

    It’s an honour to hold a CRC, and there are benefits in terms of being able to focus more of my time on research which I appreciate and truly enjoy. I’m also working very hard to ensure that I make the most of this position and building a program of research that will have an impact locally, in Canada and internationally well past the tenure of this position.

    Q5: Could you please share a turning point or defining moment in your work as a sustainability scientist? 

    This is an easy one – it was during the second year of my master’s degree at the U of S. I was doing my fieldwork, collecting weed densities, probably. My project was focused on identifying appropriate seeding rates for organic production of two legumes using a range of variables. I remember wondering how my research findings would be received and how you actually get farmers to change their practices based on the scientific knowledge I was generating. That was it for me – a short time later I decided to transition to an interdisciplinary social science doctorate and start to investigate these types of questions. My desire to focus on real-world ‘problems’ and use scholarly research as a mechanism to contribute to solutions was the foundation upon which this and all my research that followed was and is built (though I didn’t know that there was a term for it back then!).

     

    Categories: Applied Research, Blog, Faculty Contributor, Student Contributor

  • Checking out the Cogeneration Plant at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    CUB tour with AVP of Facilities Management, Scott Johnstone.

    Photo: Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President Facilities Management, Kaitlin James, Shanen D’Souza and Shelby McFadden

    Working in the ESRC on Sustainability at Brock for the summer has been an enlightening experience, but while one of the things we discuss and do research on is energy, there is only so much you can learn within a typical classroom or office. So, yesterday, geared with our hard hats, ear plugs, and protective glasses, we excitedly followed our guides, Scott Johnstone, Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management, and Drew Cullen, Manager of District Energy, for a tour of the cogeneration plant in the Central Utilities Building. Tucked away at the back of Brock along the escarpment, lies what Cullen refers to as the heart of campus, providing energy, heating, and cooling to the other branches of campus. Seeing all the engines, pumps, and pipes made us realize how much is going on in this building, and how our energy on campus relies on so many coordinating parts. The plant is really amazing, as it produces 85% of Brock’s energy, while also transferring excess heat and cooling across campus.

    As part of a project started in Fall 2016, known as the District Energy Efficiency Project, steps have been taken to make the plant more efficient and sustainable. To date, four of the older engines installed in the 1990’s have been replaced with two high efficiency electrically cooled units that can produce much more energy. The second phase of the project will replace the remaining four engines with two more new units and should be wrapped up by March. These updates will allow the plant to supply 100% of Brock’s energy, while also being 20% more efficient. Furthermore, the annual nitrogen oxide gas emissions will drop from 55 tonnes to 8 tonnes, and non-methane hydrocarbons from 15 tonnes to four. As the plant is currently responsible for over 80% of Brock’s greenhouse gas emissions, these are exciting initiatives to pay attention to.

    Check out the Facilities Management website for more information!

    Categories: Blog, Experiential Education, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Farmers’ Market at Jubilee Court

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Brock Farmers' Market

    Want to take a break from a busy day and enjoy your lunch break with some live music, great weather and a chance to buy some fresh produce? The Brock Farmers’ Market at Jubilee Court is the perfect spot to do that!

    Every summer, Brock holds a Farmers’ Market from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm every Thursday in Jubilee Court. There are stalls set up by vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods and handcrafted items. Barbeque lunches can be purchased fresh off the grill, while live music is played at the court. To put it all off, outdoor games such as ladder ball and bag toss are set up to get in some post-lunch fun. Vendors and stalls differ every week, so all attendees have a different experience every Thursday.

    The Farmers’ Market is a great way to build and grow community at Brock. Students, faculty and staff are welcome to enjoy the summer weather at Jubilee Court, while supporting local farmers and businesses. Brock prides itself in buying local whenever possible, especially for raw materials required for the cafeterias around campus. The Farmers’ Market is an added opportunity for the Brock body to help with this cause, while enjoying lunch in the sun!

    Directions to Jubilee Court can be found using Brock’s interactive map.

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Waste Not, Worry Not—Brock’s Got it Covered

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Battery Recycling

    Sitting in the basement of Mackenzie Chown’s G-Block, I scribbled like crazy, trying to document all of the current initiatives and associated numbers for waste collection here on campus. Sitting next to me was Kevin Lawr, supervisor of the day-to-day operations of the Central Shipping/Receiving, Maintenance Stores, and Mail Services departments.

    Though initially confusing to find the office tucked away in the belly of Mackenzie Chown, the meeting was extremely interesting and enlightening, and I ended up walking away with a hopeful feeling.

    The fact is that there are already a lot of great opportunities for recycling and diverting waste on campus, managed by a skilled team of staff and faculty who are enthusiastic about sustainability at Brock.

    But there is still a lot of room to increase our usage of these programs, and it begins by becoming aware of existing opportunities, and spreading the word on to our friends, roommates, and fellow Badgers.

    Batteries, ink cartridges, cell phones, and other electronics are all collected and recycled at Brock, helping to reduce waste and keep dangerous toxins out of our landfill.

    In 2017, Brock recycled approximately 4800 pounds of used batteries! Many departments already have pails, but if you are looking to order a pail for your department, make sure to contact Kevin at klawr@brocku.ca

    Students can also participate by accessing a pail in the nearest department or the North and South Service desks in Decew and the Lowenberger lobby.

    Another opportunity for recycling is with ink cartridges, of which an estimated 500 pounds were recycled last year.

    Faculty and staff can place their cartridges in a box labelled “used cartridge,” and send it to Central Shipping and Receiving through interoffice mail. Students can make use of the pail on the help desk in Computer Commons or in the Campus Store.

    No discussion on recycling programs would be complete without addressing electronics, as they play an increasingly large role in our lives.

    An overwhelming number of items are accepted, from cell phones, tablets, laptops, computer cables and monitors, routers, cameras, speakers, gaming consoles, fans, power tools, etc. Make sure to check Sustainability at Brock’s website to view the list of all accepted items.

    Departments can fill out the following form to send to klawr@brocku.ca, before contacting custodial services to pick up the desired item(s). At this time, there are no collection points for e-waste, but students are encouraged to bring their items down to Central Shipping and Receiving (MC G207). It’s a little bit confusing to find at first, but let’s face it—as students, sometimes we need a mini adventure and excuse to wander around.

    To make it easier, if it’s a cell phone you’re looking to recycle, they can be dropped off at the ITS desk.

    There’s definitely room for improvements in waste management at Brock, but we have to start somewhere, and it’s important to support the existing programs that are already working to do good work. By taking an extra few minutes out of our day, we can demonstrate our commitment to waste reduction, and do a little bit of good.

    To do a lot of good, share this with other Brock students, staff, and faculty, so we can all do our part!

    Look forward to a future blog article on food waste initiatives at Brock!

    Categories: Blog, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Walking Trails located around Brock University!

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Bruce Trail - Brock University

    Did you know that Brock is located in the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO Biosphere Reserve?

    UNESCO Biosphere Reserves are ecosystems worldwide that have been recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) as important, and are communities committed to conservation, education, and sustainable development among other things (Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, n.d). Brock University falls within the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere reserve which stretches over 725 km, one of the 18 found within Canada (UNESCO, 2015).

    Within the beautiful Niagara escarpment that surrounds Brock, is the Bruce Trail, which is the longest and oldest hiking trail in Canada. There are so many different trails, short and long, that surround main campus. Perfect for a break between classes or lunch!

    I personally walk the trail that connects to the bottom of Lockhart Drive, right by the Brock University Research and Innovation Centre, which brings you right outside of Market! Just a quick 10-minute hike up the hill to class. What a great way to see some wildlife and get some fresh air!

    There are many access points to the Bruce Trail from the top of the escarpment! To find out more about the Bruce Trail, and the many access points found across campus, click the link below!

    https://brucetrail.org

    References:

    Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. (n.d) UNESCO Biospheres. Retrieved from https://www.gbbr.ca/about-us/unesco-biospheres/

    UNESCO. (2015).  Niagara Escarpment. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/biosphere-reserves/europe-north-america/canada/niagara-escarpment/

     

     

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Milestones achieved by Facilities Management at Brock!

    Blog Contributor: Shanen D’Souza

    Brock Engine Room at the CUB

    Photo: Engine room at the Central Utilities Building, Brock University

    Facilities Management (FM) is the department responsible for all activities related to the maintenance, operations and development of Brock’s facilities and grounds. The department is heavily focused on sustainable development and the functioning of the campus. FM is always looking to reduce its impact on the environment and community around us. The recent grant of $75,000 awarded to Brock by the Ontario government to install 10 new electric vehicle charging stations is a testament to FM’s continued work towards Brock becoming a more sustainable campus.

    In the past year, the efforts of Facilities Management have reduced the energy consumption of the university as well as its greenhouse gas emissions. These efforts have also created thousands of dollars of yearly savings for the university. Installing new Variable Frequency Drives to two return fans in the Schmon Tower has led to over $86,000 in savings and 456,000 kWh in energy saved! These frequency drives coupled with a new high efficiency motor reduce the energy consumption of the Tower, the most used building on campus. Even a simple change in the LED lighting in both the 1st and 5th floors of the Tower have resulted in annual savings of over $3,000 and 17,000 kWh in energy.

    Another notable initiative by FM was the recommissioning of the Chiller in the Plaza building. A chiller is a machine that is used to cool the various buildings on campus. By using the Central Cooling Loop on campus instead, FM was able to shut down the Plaza chiller, as the Central Loop provided the necessary cooling on its own using innovative engineering methods. This has resulted in over $82,000 in annual savings and 435,000 kWh saved of energy. Subsequently, recommissioning the electric boilers in Decew Residence is now saving the university $140,000 annually and reducing energy consumption by 75,000 kWh!

    These proactive projects, along with several others in the last year, have cumulatively saved 1,750,000 kWh of energy and $332,000 on an annual basis! As the Facilities Management department leads Brock’s structural initiatives towards sustainability, the campus as a whole, can reduce its environmental impact and continue to be a good social citizen in the community.

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock

  • Ready, Set, Charge!

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Electrical Vehicle Charging Station - International Centre, Brock University

    Photo: Electric vehicle charging station located at the Brock University International Centre.

    We have exciting news to share, as Brock was just approved for the installation of 10 new level 2 electric vehicle charging stations, which are to be installed by November 2018. Brock was generously given $75,000 through the Ontario Government’s Workplace Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive Program to carry out the project.

    To date, Brock has three electric chargers on campus, all of which are used frequently. The first charging station was installed at International Centre in 2013, through the partial gifting from Sun Country Highway. Then in 2016, two additional stations were added. There is one charger at the Central Utilities Building, and one in Lot H behind the tower.

    These chargers are available to be used by the Brock community, but also by people in the community and visitors to the Niagara Region. Currently, these chargers are free to use for permit holders, with non-permit holders only needing to pay a small amount for parking.

    With the student population sitting at around 18,000 students, and electric vehicles rising in popularity, these new charging stations will make it easier to accommodate electric vehicles on campus.

    This is really exciting, especially as someone who hopes to buy her own electric vehicle one day soon.

    While not perfect, electric vehicles have less impacts on the environment, as the only emissions are associated with electricity production, which is less of an issue with coal having been phased out in Ontario. By driving an electric vehicle, the average Canadian can reduce their car’s gas emissions by 60 to 90% (Plug ‘N Drive, n.d).

    This is a step in the right direction for helping to reach Brock’s emission reduction target of 20% by 2023.

    I am personally quite excited to see these chargers pop up around campus in the upcoming months, and am looking forward to future initiatives contributing to sustainability on campus.

    References:

    Plug ‘N Drive. (n.d). Electric vehicle benefits. Retrieved from https://www.plugndrive.ca/electric-vehicle-benefits/

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock