Impact! conference at Guelph aims for sustainable universities
As he walks into the room, Lars Boggild has a certain air about him—you just know this boy is a leader. The Dalhousie student is among four Halifax attendees at this year’s IMPACT! Youth Conference for Sustainable Leadership.
The three-day conference held in Guelph, Ontario aims to provide 165 Canadian students with the resources and knowledge they need to make their universities and communities more sustainable.
The conference features lectures and workshops led by mentors and experts on social, environmental and economic sustainability. This year’s keynote speaker is none other than David Suzuki.
Participants are “people who have the capacity to go back to their communities and have an impact; hence the name of the conference,” says Boggild.
The third-year political science and sustainability major already has a strong sustainability leadership track record. Boggild holds a position as an International Climate Champion with the British Council, and was a Canadian Youth delegate to the United Nations Climate Change Negotiations last December.
IMPACT! was developed by the Co-operators Foundation, a non-governmental organization. The Co-operators expect a lot from event participants, and the work begins well before the conference.
“It’s not just a weekend away,” says Boggild. “There’s a lot of homework to do before attending the conference.”
After the conference, participants are encouraged to develop or improve sustainability projects at home. In 2009, the Co-operators offered $50,000 to select participants to fund their independent sustainability projects.
Although Boggild says the details of IMPACT! remain a mystery, he has some ideas for post-conference projects.
He says sustainability groups and initiatives are too fragmented at Dal. “There’s no directory to know who targets which specific issues. More work could be done to co-ordinate that and develop shared resources.”
Rochelle Owen, director of the Office of Sustainability, says there are three levels of involvement at Dal. Those levels are student societies, the College of Sustainability and the Office of Sustainability, and each takes its own approach to sustainability on campus.
In April, Dal evaluated its overall sustainability performance through STARS, the Sustainable Tracking Assessment Rating System. According to the STARS evaluation, sustainability on Dal campus merits a silver medal. Dal scored points for green initiatives like the campus garden and for having student-run enterprises, such as the Loaded Ladle, a levied food co-operative run by Dal students.
“It was a good reflection,” says Owen. “It gives you a good sense of where we are, and we have lots of plans to improve that in the future. The next time we register, three years from now, we hope to achieve Gold.”
Owen says some city and provincial laws place challenges on improving sustainability at Dal compared to other universities.
“Greenhouse gases is a great example,” says Owen. “In B.C. you get your electricity from hydro. The emission factor relating to hydro is very low. In Nova Scotia, we get electricity from Nova Scotia Power. It’s a very high emission factor because it’s a coal-petrol gas mix. Even though we are trying to reduce it against our baseline, it’s a different starting point. So we would get less credits from an overall emission factor.”
Boggild says Dalhousie’s access to resources and information could be an asset to the city and that Halifax has potential for a program similar to the Green Scholars Program in Vancouver.
“The city hires students to look at and analyze sustainability issues for the city itself,” says Boggild. “Halifax needs to make full use of the resources and expertise [Dalhousie] has.”