Articles by author: eharper

  • Sustainable Development Goals Training Day: A Reflection

    Group of students with SDG symbols

    Blog Contributor: Nolan Kelly

    On Saturday November 16th, Brock University hosted Sustainable Development Goals Training Day on campus, after months of planning and countless hours of hard work. The event was made possible through a collaboration between Sustainability at Brock, a partnership between Facilities Management and the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, and the Brock student Model United Nations Club. The focus of the event was to provide an introduction to the 17 SDGs and to highlight how we can address these goals at both the global and local level in our everyday lives. The event included an overview of the goals, a simulation to showcase the interconnectedness and implementation of the goalsand a workshop that aimed to put participants knowledge to use in addressing issues in the Niagara Region.  

    The event kicked off with an address from Brock President Gervan Fearon, where he discussed the importance of the SDGsboth globally and locally at Brock and in the Niagara region. Next, there was a presentation from Nour Hage and Kaileen Jackson, Secretary Generals of the Brock Model United Nations Club, in which they gave a complete overview of the 17 SDGs and explained the purpose and significance of the goals as well as how they all connectFollowing this, the participants watched a UN SDG video that highlighted the urgency and importance of achieving the goals followed by a video created by Brock graduate student, Nico Gadea, which highlighted how specific regions were addressing the SDGs  

    After the introduction was complete the participants were split into two different groups. One group took part in the simulation workshop and the other took part in the action-based workshop, before switching after the lunch break. The Simulation Town workshop session offered a unique opportunity for participants to expand the limits of their creativity and build teamwork and collaboration skills in the process. The simulation took place in the fictional town of Brockville and encompassed several elements that parallel real life conflicts, each specifically relating to different sustainable development goals. The rationale for creating this project was to foster an interactive environment with a great deal of replayability that stimulated learning with critical skill development. The simulation aimed at making a game that was inclusive and allowed participants of all skill levels (from high school to post grad) to feel a sense of value and contribution. It took a team of six dedicated Brock student volunteers (Alex Albano, Christina Zugno, Rachel Housser, Noah Nickel, Nour Hage, and Nico Gadea) a total of just over 200 hours throughout the span of four months to complete the project. The simulation received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the participants and in the essence of sustainability, the simulation game along with a full set of instructions will be donated to the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) at Brock. 

    The second workshop session was titled SDGs in Action. This workshop allowed the participants to put their knowledge to use by tackling current issues in the Niagara region. Far too often people believe issues such as poverty, public health, and education are only issues outside of Canada and that there is nothing they can do to help. However, this could not be further from reality as these issues (along with many others) are present and prevalent in Canada and more specifically in the Niagara Region. This workshop gave the participants a local perspective of these issues and showed how those in Niagara are directly affected. The goal was to show that these issues are prevalent all around us and that it takes collaboration along with multiple perspectives to work on solving these issues. After a brief slideshow highlighting the interconnectedness of the SDG’s the groups of participants were broken up into smaller groups and tasked with addressing specific local concerns at home, at work/school, and in the community. The workshop finished off with a poster presentation from the groups which highlighted their ideas. These discussions highlighted the importance of the SDG’s in our everyday lives and what steps can be taken to further advance the goals. This workshop session came to fruition through the hard work of Amanda Smits, Centre Administrator for the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Research Assistants Erica Harper and Nolan Kelly, along with assistance from the Brock Model UN Club. 

    After all the participants had completed the workshops, Dr. Ana Sanchez concluded the event with an overview of the SDGs where she reminded everyone why they should care and take action at both the global and local levels. She stressed the importance of the interconnectedness of the goals, as you cannot achieve one goal without also addressing the othersDr. Sanchez used many real-world examples and spoke with passion as the event concluded.  

    The event was designed to educate and inspire those who attended so that they can further progress the SDGs and make a difference whether that be in their individual choices, in their community, or on a global scale. We believe this event achieved the overall goals and we could not be happier with the end result. Thank you to all the participants that came out as well as all of the organizers, guest speakers, and volunteers that made the event a resounding success!

     

    Categories: Student Contributor, Study Sustainability at Brock, Sustainability, Sustainable Development Goals

  • Theal House: The Home of the Environmental Sustainability Centre

    Blog Contributor: Nolan Kelly

    Background 

    Did you know that Theal house is the oldest structure on Brock University’s campus and one of the oldest buildings in all of St. Catharines? If you blink you might miss it as it is tucked away amongst the trees on the south side off Brock right off the Sir Isaac Brock Way entrance. The stone house has a long-storied history and currently serves as the home to the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.  

     History  

    Theal House was built in 1837 by Samuel Theal, using stones from the Niagara Escarpment. The building served as the family cottage house for several generations. Although Theal House has undergone many renovations throughout the years there is still a place to view the brick from the original house. The building has held many names over the years including Sympathy House, Turney House, Wright House and White House. However, it is now officially called Theal House and is home to the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre.  

     Sustainability Features 

    The sustainability features of the Theal House include everything from the lightning and flooring to the furnishings and monitoring of the building. LED lighting has been installed throughout Theal House. The dimmer and daylight harvesting switches also work to reduce energy consumption. The flooring in Theal House was acquired form interface, a company internationally known for their focus and commitment to sustainability. Sustainable furnishing can be found throughout Theal House. This includes furniture from Creighton House Antiques, a local company in Niagara. Additionally, there are live edge wood desks found around the house that are made from sustainable timber, crafted by Brock University carpenters. Theal House also features an integrated system that controls HVAC, lighting, and monitor real time energy usage. 

  • How to Move Towards Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping 

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper 

    2019 was the year of exposing plastic waste and its effect on our environment all over the world.  Social media was littered with pictures and videos of shorelines and even animals covered in Ziplock or grocery bags, plastic bottles, six pack rings, straws and bottle caps to name a few.  Further, a report that was introduced at the World Economic Forum in January 2016 by Ellen MacArthur (British environmentalist) states that there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) by 2050.  Not surprisingly, much of the plastic seen abroad and on Canadian shorelines come from food packaging and grocery bags.  A simple way to eliminate this incredible amount of waste is to go grocery shopping in a zero-waste fashion because plastic-free packaging is in style! 

     Although the zero-waste “movement” can be daunting when you first look into it, it’s actually a lot easier than it seems when you have the right tools to be successful.  This blog post aims to be a guide to all things zero-waste and bulk shopping.  

     First things first, you need the right tools before you go out and make your first zero-waste trip: 

    • Reusable grocery bags 
    • Reusable produce bags (often overlooked, but very important!) 
    • Bulk containers such as mason jars  

     That’s it!  These three items will make your life much simpler and you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried this before.  Now, let’s go into a bit more detail. 

    Reusable grocery bags are pretty common in many Canadians’ lives, but there is still a percentage of people who either forget to bring them or do not bother with them whatsoever.  My tip is to keep bags in your car, in your purse and at the front door of your house or apartment so that you never forget them.  They are usually inexpensive and can be bought at most grocery stores or on sites like Amazon.  

    Reusable produce bags are a complete game changer.  They are usually made out of mesh or fabric and allow you to easily complete the produce part of your grocery trip without purchasing plastic.  Of course, there are exceptions and some fruits and vegetables come pre-wrapped in plastic (I’m looking at you, cucumbers!) but the important part is to do your best.  The zero-waste lifestyle is all about doing what you can with the stores and situations that you are presented with because there is only so much you can control as a shopper.   

    Bulk containers, such as mason jars, are great for purchasing all your pantry staples at stores like BulkBarn.  If you’ve never shopped in bulk before, this store will make you feel like a kid in a candy store.  Make sure to bring your containers to the checkout first to be weighed (the weight will be reduced from total cost at the end of your shopping spree).  Then take stroll through the aisles and choose from a variety of nuts, rice, oats, baking mixes, chocolate, candy, health foods and even nut butters.  Don’t forget to have a running list of the codes corresponding to each food item on your phone so that the employees checking you out can charge you accordingly.  Lastly, a great benefit of shopping in bulk is that you tend to save money and have less food waste because you buy exactly what you need instead of a pre-packaged amount. 

    As you can see, moving towards zero-waste grocery shopping doesn’t have to be overwhelming – it can actually be quite exciting!  Hopefully you feel inspired to begin eliminating unnecessary plastic from your grocery shopping routine and are looking forward to learning more about reducing waste in your life.  Please remember to be patient with yourself and to do your best whenever possible because moving towards being “zero-waste” is not about being perfect!  

    Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ocean-plastic-liberals-fact-check-1.5212632 

     

  • The Climate Strike: A Student’s Perspective

    Climate March - September 2019

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Photo: Master of Sustainability students taking part in St.Catharines Climate Strike on Friday, September 27, 2019.

    Global Week for the Future took place from September 20th-27th internationally and featured strikes and marches around the globe to bring awareness to the climate crisis.  The attendees included people from all ages who came in impressive numbers to show their disapproval with the direction in which citizens, governments and corporations have taken our planet.  Most had signs made from recycled pizza boxes and Amazon packages with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and Greta Thunberg’s famous “How dare you?” line.  Reading the signs was entertaining, intriguing and sometimes disturbing, but what really captivated me were the speeches at the St. Catharines strike.

    This was my first march, protest or strike of any kind and I truly did not know what to expect, but I was excited to be attending with peers from my cohort in the Master of Sustainability program.  On Friday morning we took our signs and made our way downtown to the St. Catharines library and were surprised by the number of people who came to rally together.  It was a well-organized event with wonderful speeches from Indigenous women, community leaders, young students and people who felt compelled to speak up in the moment.  With each speech that was delivered, I got more and more emotional about the challenges that we and future generations will face.  That being said, the main message throughout the day was to look inwardly and do what you can in your own life to make small differences each and every day.

    Although it can be quite overwhelming, climate strikes are an opportunity to have our voices heard by politicians and large organizations to prioritize our planet in their various agendas.  That being said, a system change unfortunately takes longer than a personal change and it is important to self-reflect and see what we can alter in our personal lives to make our planet a greener place.

    After my experience at my first Climate Strike, I am even more motivated to learn as much as possible about Sustainability Science to make my positive mark on this planet.

    Tags:
    Categories: Climate Strike, Student Contributor, Study Sustainability at Brock, Sustainability at Brock