Teaching, Learning & Research
20 Years of Sustainability at UBC
What do a sociologist, marketing expert and chemical engineer have in common? At UBC, they have all been engaged as Sustainability Fellows, developing sustainability curriculum within their respective departments or faculties. Established in 2010, the yearly fellowship recipients meet once a month throughout the academic year to discuss their projects and work on shared curriculum goals. Some of the developments led by these fellows include the development of the UBC framework for sustainability education and sustainability learning pathways; white papers on advancing sustainability curriculum at UBC; and projects to advance sustainability research in a wide variety of fields.
Seeds of change
It’s been 16 years since UBC launched its SEEDS Sustainability Program in 2000, an academic program that links campus operations and academics in collaborations that address real-life sustainability issues on campus. It has come a long way since its first success, which connected UBC’s landscape architect with a graduate student in the School of Community and Regional Planning to design a campus trail that addressed place, history and landscape.
Today, SEEDS projects are making an impact on most areas of university operations. Together, students, staff and faculty work to address a range of issues, from green buildings and food systems to water management and wellbeing. Reports on every project are uploaded in the open access SEEDS Library as a resource for the university and the broader community. A first in western Canada, SEEDS remains the largest and most comprehensive of any such university program in North America. To date, the program has been globally recognized through several organizations, including the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the UNEP Green Gowns Awards, and the International Sustainable Campus Network.
Greening the city
The City of Vancouver has set itself a goal of becoming “the greenest city in the world” and UBC graduate students are helping it get there through the UBC Greenest City Scholars Program. Open to UBC graduate students from all academic disciplines, the program, which runs early May to mid-August, has sponsored more than 100 UBC graduates in paid summer internships with the City. In 2014, bolstered by the program’s success, UBC expanded the model to build the UBC Sustainable Scholars, which offers paid sustainability-internship projects with a variety of stakeholders including BC Hydro, Metro Vancouver, health authorities and other municipalities.
For students who want to integrate sustainability into their university experience, UBC’s Sustainability Education Resource Centre, opened in 2010, offers advising services that provide course and program exploration, one-on-one assistance and referrals to co-curricular activities. Housed in the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, students can discover where their interest in sustainability might lead them in their academic careers. With a staggering number of courses available, students from all disciplines can find a way to integrate sustainability into their studies.
Other student opportunities to get involved in sustainability initiatives abound. These include the Annual Sustainability Fair, held in the Student Nest each January; the UBC Reads Sustainability lecture series featuring prominent sustainability authors such as Naomi Klein and Roy Henry Vikers; and the Sustainability Ambassadors Peer Program where volunteer student ambassadors deliver sustainability programming to fellow students on UBC’s Vancouver campus. UBC’s sustainability ambassadors can be easily identified by their green ambassador T-shirts as they network with student groups and promote sustainability education to students, faculty and staff alike.
UBC is internationally recognized for the diversity in our teaching, learning and research on sustainability.
Special thanks to our story partners: The UBC Sustainability Initiative and Campus and Community Planning and the many units, departments, and faculties at UBC that helped contribute invaluable information on sustainability for this story.
Story team: UBC Communications & Marketing — Cindy Connor, online producer; Cynthia Deng, web developer assistant; Margaret Doyle, digital storyteller; Paul Joseph, UBC photographer; Michael Kam, web developer; Adrian Liem, manager, digital communications; Mark Pilon, communication designer; Jamil Rhajiak, digital communications specialist; Laura Stobbe, communication designer; Matt Warburton, manager, graphic design; Aida Viziru, web interaction designer. Content writer — Jessica Werb. Copy editor — David Leidl.
Published: May 2017