Inaugurating a new era of sustainability at McGill

On Wednesday, April 2, the McGill Office of Sustainability recognized students, staff and faculty who have made meaningful and enduring contributions toward a culture of sustainability at McGill during the 4th annual Catalyst Awards for Sustainability.
From left to right: Kathleen Bradley, Marcy Slapcoff, Marianna Newkirk, Christopher Tegho (6th from left), and members of the Out of the Garden and Farm to School projects. / Photo: Radu Juster
From left to right: Kathleen Bradley, Marcy Slapcoff, Marianna Newkirk, Christopher Tegho (6th from left), and members of the Out of the Garden and Farm to School projects. / Photo: Radu Juster










By Julia Solomon

Was it a beginning, or an end, that the crowd was celebrating at the 4th annual Catalyst Awards for Sustainability on Wednesday, April 2? Perhaps a bit of both. Martin Krayer von Krauss, manager of McGill’s Office of Sustainability, toasted to the closure of the Vision 2020 process, which has engaged over 1,500 McGillians in conversations about sustainability over the past two years. The evening also featured thunderous applause for Lilith Wyatt, outgoing Sustainability Officer, who has built McGill’s Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) from the ground up during the past four years, and who was making her final appearance at McGill before moving to Kingston to be closer to “her family and the forest.”

The overall tone of the evening, though, was one of excitement for the future. Numerous speakers, including Principal Suzanne Fortier, congratulated the sustainability community on McGill’s recently-approved Vision 2020 Sustainability Strategy and anticipated a year of strong sustainability action at McGill. The winners of the Catalyst Awards were also looking ahead, focusing in their acceptance speeches on the projects that they still have in mind and the changes they hope to create.

Kathleen Bradley (Emerald Key)

Kathleen Bradley is a fourth year philosophy and economics student finishing a minor in management. She loves to cook and recently opened and now co-manages the Student-Run Café, a sustainability initiative started in the Shatner Building at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). She is the finance coordinator for the McGill Farmers’ Market, and the Executive Director of Second Servings, a food waste redistribution program that addresses food security issues in Montreal.

Kathleen has recently been elected as incoming VP Finance and Operations at SSMU, where she will be taking her commitment to sustainability to the next level through managing the Society’s Investment Portfolio and overseeing the financial longevity of the SSMU’s many clubs and services. Kathleen is an incredibly passionate student who models the full breadth of sustainability — social, economic, and environmental — through her work and life.

Christopher Tegho (Catalyst Award for Collaboration with Administration on Sustainability)

Chris Tegho is a student in Electrical Engineering.His Energy Management Information System aims to develop analytical aids to help McGill laboratory users understand energy consumption data, and to put the results to practical use.

He is the current McGill Energy Project Internal Manager, and represented McGill University at the World Future Energy Summit, where he placed an emphasis on how applied student research can lead to advanced technology in sustainability. Chris’s strong belief in social equity also led him to become the EUS equity commissioner, where he launched a series of discussions on the concept of “safer space” in collaboration with the Dean of Engineering. Chris’s interdisciplinary efforts and attention to anti-oppressive principles have established important connections between social and environmental sustainability while breaking down barriers between diverse groups of people at McGill.

Farm to School Project (Catalyst Award for Applied Student Research on Sustainability)

The mission of Farm to School is to engage elementary school students in learning where food comes from, and the science behind the food system. The project brings together undergraduate students to build and freely share with teachers educational modules for different age groups,. Since May 2013, over 200 elementary school children have come to Macdonald campus to gain inspiration about science and sustainability in agriculture, environment and nutrition. Farm to School was the hundredth SPF initiative to be funded, and shows no signs of slowing down.

McGill student volunteers have participated in this project through AGRI 490, and spread a love for food systems to younger children. This semester, nine students are preparing modules for eighty elementary school students who will attend the camp over the summer. The intersections between education and environmental sustainability shine through in this wonderful project.

Out of the Garden Project (Catalyst Award for Lessons Learned in Sustainability)

The Out-of-the-Garden project (OGP) – Alternative Café is a club, a group, and a community that is dedicated to providing Macdonald students and staff with healthy, diverse meals using locally produced vegetables. The Café serves meals that are produced, processed, and served at Mac Campus, and has transformed the Ceilidh into a communal gathering and skill-sharing space. They offer delicious gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian and vegan meals, and their evolving menus are based on feedback from their customers.

OGP has worked with the administration while staying true to their core mission of providing healthy meals and nurturing learning around dietetics, nutrition, food science, environmental biology, agriculture, and business. Their strong partnerships with numerous student groups and educational workshops make them an excellent example of a student-run initiative dedicated to building a culture of sustainability at McGill.

Marcy Slapcoff (Catalyst Award for Staff Contribution to Sustainability)

Marcy Slapcoff is a devoted fan and champion of sustainability at McGill University. Since she first joined Teaching and Learning Services as an Educational Developer in 2006, Marcy has been exploring ways to promote sustainability as a foundational principle within the formal and informal curriculum.

As the founder of the Teaching-Research Nexus project and leader of the Inquiry Network, she has worked with cross-disciplinary groups of faculty members to find ways to further students’ development as engaged and critical citizens. Her interest in sustainability motivates her questioning of the values that underlie many of our habitual behaviors, and she has enjoyed many fruitful discussions with students and staff on this topic.

Marcy has been a member of the Sustainability Projects Fund Working Group since its inception, and has been especially active in developing the education pillar within the five thematic areas under Vision 2020. She is also the happy mother of 2 children, aged 9 and 12, and has spent much of her spare time during the last year building a cabin in Vermont with her husband.

Dr. Mariana Newkirk (Catalyst Award for Staff Contribution to Sustainability)

Dr. Marianna Newkirk retired from her role as Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University at the end of 2013 after almost 6 years in the position. She was a pioneer in bridging sustainability and the Faculty of Medicine, and has been a passionate supporter of Vision 2020 and Applied Student Research at McGill.

Dr. Newkirk was instrumental in establishing a sustainability project on laboratory practices with the focus on environmentally-friendly bio-banking and freezer use. One of the first to be funded by the Sustainability Projects Fund, this project has the potential to lead to considerable financial savings to the university while reducing environmental impact. Importantly this project has led to inclusion of these concepts in the curriculum. It is anticipated that a paper outlining the McGill experience with this project will be submitted for publication in the coming months.

Dr. Newkirk has collaborated with administrative units across the University to raise awareness on the subject of energy consumption, and most recently advocated to government Energy and Education departments on the importance of granting agencies in supporting sustainability research at McGill and other Canadian institutions. She is an active member of the Sustainable Procurement Core Team, and has been a source of inspiration for many faculty members, students and employees.