Farm To School

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MacDonald Campus’ ‘Farm-to-School’ project is a fun and innovative programme that teaches schoolchildren to value and appreciate the food they eat as they learn, hands-on, about its production from seed to table. The project is a co-operative educational venture between McGill University students and the children of Joseph-Henricot elementary school of Baie-d’Urfé.

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The McGill Energy Project

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MEP windmillThe McGill Energy Project (MEP) is a student-led collaboration of students, staff and faculty looking to make institutional change toward sustainability in energy systems through student research applied to the McGill campus.
The MEP, partnered with the Office of Sustainability and the Utilities & Energy Management Office, seeks to facilitate applied student research relating to sustainable energy management on the McGill campus. The MEP’s mandate also extends to networking ongoing campus energy initiatives and engaging the McGill community on the topic of sustainable energy systems.

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A Big Moment for Sustainability at McGill… Clarifying our Definition of Sustainability

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A year and a half ago the most common question we heard on campus was probably “hey, what’s Vision 2020?” After engaging thousands of students, staff and faculty in the process of envisioning a sustainable McGill and laying out the steps it’ll take to get there, we think that question got answered. But now that our intensive community consultation process has wrapped up and wound down, the question we keep hearing is “hey, where did Vision 2020 go?”…

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Double the Fun: Introducing the Vision 2020 Impact and Failure Reports

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We’re in a celebratory mood over here at the Vision 2020 headquarters. Today we’re releasing two reports: the Vision 2020 Impact Report and the Vision 2020 Failure Report! Twins!

It may seem like a strange time to release two mostly retrospective reports. After all, Vision 2020 isn’t over, and this next phase is mostly about looking ahead to the future. That being said, we have come a long way in the last 18 months, and we wanted to sift through the work that’s been done to uncover some important lessons.

To recap: the goal of this process has always been to set a long-term sustainability strategy for McGill, and we’re not quite done. We are still working to finalize the strategy and to put in place the structures necessary for its implementation. We have written a Situational Analysis for sustainability at McGill, engaged thousands of McGill community members around the development of a shared Vision & Goals for sustainability, and recently released a draft Sustainability Action Plan! As we turn the page from sustainability planning to sustainability action, it felt like the right time to report on some of the successes and failures of the process so far.

Why did we write an Impact Report? Vision 2020 has helped to make connections within the community while inspiring people to lead change processes of their own. While many of the changes set in motion by Vision 2020 will take years to reach maturity, the Impact Report presents a snapshot of some of the best parts of Vision 2020 so far. It describes: 1) Why Vision 2020 was important; 2) What we did; 3) What the impacts were; and, 4) Lessons learned. If you’re interested in kick-starting change processes or geeking out on methods, this one’s for you!

Why did we write a Failure Report? We didn’t write a Failure Report because we think Vision 2020 failed. This was not a pass/fail process! Instead, the Failure Report is our humble contribution to a growing movement that embraces the bold idea of learning from failures, big or small, and then sharing those lessons. In essence, it’s all about shaking off the cloak of perfectionism and fostering a culture of excellence that actively includes a lot of experimentation, some risk, and a bit of good old fashioned fumbling. In sharing these lessons of ours we’re also hoping that other groups around campus will follow suit, and that eventually honest accounts of flops will become a part of all routine reporting. Intrigued? Check out great work by the likes of Fail Forward, Engineers Without Borders, and this series of articles from the Harvard Business Review to read a bit about how we can acknowledge, learn from, and hit the ground running after failure.

The truth is, taking the time to comb through our experiences from the past year and shine a light on our collection of successes and failures has been a remarkably useful and inspiring exercise. All in all, it’s pretty amazing to consider the impact Vision 2020 has already had on so many individuals and communities here at McGill.

 

Lift-Off Key Note Listener Reflection: David Kalant

David Kalant, a member of the McGill Board of Governors, accepted our invitation to be one of the Keynote Listeners at Lift-Off: La Soirée Développement Durable on November 14th.  What’s a Keynote Listener?  For Lift-Off we decided to shake up the usual Keynote Speaker model by inviting important decision makers at the university to stand in as active listeners, open and receptive to the ideas of the community.  Active listening is something we’ve been doing a lot of since Vision 2020 began, and we want to celebrate it as one of the most important skills we can cultivate – and encourage in our leaders. We hope to invite Keynote Listeners to future MOOS events, and invite others to try out similar models. 

Here’s what David Kalant observed during the evening:

Several years ago I went to hear David Suzuki and Al Gore speak at an environment conference put on by Concordia University. While there I learned that Concordia students and staff had agreed to contribute a small fee toward their sustainability projects. I thought this was a great idea. I don’t remember who I contacted at McGill to suggest this be considered at our university, but the response was very discouraging. I was told that “at McGill we feel we need to take small steps”, implying that asking the McGill constituencies to contribute in a formalized way was going too far at that time. After listening to people talk about all the projects that MOOS is supporting these days, I’m encouraged to see that steps at McGill have become considerably larger. Not least, McGill now has Sustainability Projects Fund, which directly supports many of the initiatives that were featured at Lift-Off. There was a great turnout from all over the campus. I talked to and shared ideas with people who I knew through other work at McGill, who I didn’t previously know were interested in sustainability.

While listening to the speakers it became clear that people closer to the podium were very engaged and focused on the presentations. Unfortunately this engagement gradually fell off toward the back of the room, where people were more likely to be chatting. It occurred to me this was an analogy for people’s engagement with sustainability. I’m sure everyone in the room had good intentions toward listening to the speakers, just as many people have good intentions toward sustainability. But not everyone stays as engaged as we, and often they, would like. To create and maintain that engagement from those outside a dedicated core can be difficult. A few years ago I and some students created a green committee in our department. The goal was to foster sustainable practices in the department: recycling, even of products from the labs where feasible; changes in lab procedures to use less harmful chemicals; reducing transportation by combining orders for supplies; etc. The committee raised funds to defray the costs of some projects, hoping this would encourage more labs to participate. Some projects were more successful than others, and some labs more engaged than others. Regular reminding is necessary, even for something as straight forward as using the recycling bins we put in the lunch room and labs, with clear labels indicating what materials go in which bin. I have to admit it’s hard not to become frustrated at times. How do we get, and keep, more people engaged in sustainable practices?

One way is to foster good habits when people are young. So it was very exciting to learn that McGill students are teaching young kids about applied sustainability through the Farm to School Project­. This is but one of many great projects I learned about at the Lift-Off, and I hope it expands. I had no idea what to expect when I accepted the invitation to be a “listener” at this event, but now I look forward to hearing more about these projects and to sharing ideas to improve sustainability at McGill.

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