With National Work Integrated Learning Day (March 23) following closely on the heels of the new United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Trent University is highlighting the ways in which our students are engaged in applied environmental education – equipping them with future career skills, while also contributing present-day impact.
Trent M.A. Sustainability student, Mohammed Abdulai—on an internship jointly funded by the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship program and the City of Peterborough—interviewed municipal workers from across Ontario to learn about how they are incorporating climate change considerations into their everyday operations and how they’re assessing the climate impacts of their programs.
Mohammad discovered that all but one of the municipalities he interviewed are evaluating at a qualitative level but not a quantitative level. The only municipality Mohammed found quantifying their carbon emissions was the City of Brantford, and only in the public works and community housing departments. Quantifying action and impact on climate programs is the most useful measure for the public and other stakeholders to see evidence of how a city is mitigating their greenhouse gas emissions, and whether they’re on track in achieving set targets.
Working alongside leading Trent faculty, the first cohort of students in the Sustainable Guyana program are advancing research on topics specific to their home country’s environment, economy, culture and society, including the impact of gold mining on water quality of riverine systems across watersheds of South-Central Guyana; understanding the structure and biochemical function of beneficial components in certain species of trees found in the Guyana rainforest; the use of Guyana’s tropical hardwoods in the production of activated carbons for aquatic environmental remediation; developing a natural medicinal product from a traditional botanical; and the functional applications of sustainable natural products based on the Crabwood in Guyana’s rainforests.
Eight students travelled to Montreal for COP15 as part of the International Development Studies course Post Carbon Futures and Radical Hope (IDST 4150Y). This full-year course analyzes the root causes of the climate crisis and explores possibilities for post-carbon futures.
At COP15, students transformed learning into community action, learning how to raise an educated voice, their concerns for their future and the standards for preserving biodiversity. COP15 was a skill-building exercise, offering an opportunity to work collaboratively, mobilize, and take direct action for environmental change via civil society.
International Development and Anthropology student Taylor Reilly-Smith is working with the social enterprise Mckingtorch Africa as part of the Trent-in-Ghana Program (TIG). Mckingtorch Africa's work helps reduce the amount of plastic waste in Ghanaian landfills. The material they collect from landfills is recycled into artwork, raw materials for the plastic industry, and newly fabricated products like park benches, vertical gardens, and even a fully functional and solar-powered bus shelter.
Through his work with Mckingtorch Africa, Taylor has learned many lessons, including the many ways plastic can be repurposed and the inner workings of a circular economy—where economic value is preserved through re-use, sharing, and repair. Taylor is doing his part to reduce landfill waste and create a more sustainable future while preparing himself for a career and life after Trent.
Dr. Stephen Hill, director of the Trent School of the Environment, is helping solve the climate change crisis one community-based research project at a time. Through the Trent Community Research Centre, Professor Hill and his students have partnered with local municipalities on a range of research projects.
For more than a decade, first-year students in the Environmental Science & Sustainability Studies course have served as citizen scientists, collecting data on bike and pedestrian patterns in the City of Peterborough. The data collected has helped the city analyze trends and changes as they add new carbon-emission-reducing infrastructure, like bike lanes and pedestrian paths.
With global industrial agriculture responsible for approximately 84 percent of species extinction on the planet, the urgent need for food system reform continues to grow. Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems student Carling Serran has combined his in-class learning with valuable farming experience, volunteering at the Trent Farm, and serving as the inaugural coordinator for the new Trent Seed Saving Club.
Through the Seed Saving Club, Carling is giving other students a way to learn about seed saving as a form of environmental and consumer activism. Saving seeds not only yields more productive and resilient plants over time, it also means people don’t need to buy from a commercial market. Farmers and other growers can take back more control of food production and address global issues of seed sovereignty.
As part of the Master of Bioenvironmental Monitoring & Assessment program, students completed a capstone project focused on an environmental assessment of the future site location for the peopleCare not-for-profit long-term care (LTC) home—the first step of the University-Integrated Seniors Village. The Stage 1 Site Plan for the LTC home has already been submitted to the City of Peterborough, but the students completed their own assessment of the site, conducting a preliminary survey of land features, plants and animals, hydrology, and possible needs for further assessment of the development project. The group made additional recommendations to mitigate environmental impacts further, including light, noise, and movement disturbances from the future buildings.
Advancing Trent’s environmental leadership
Hands-on learning at Trent is just one component driving Trent’s reputation as a long-standing leader in the environment. Other recent announcements and initiatives include: Trent’s ESG investment strategy for our endowment funds, prioritizing assets in sectors, companies or projects that are taking active steps to address climate change; energy performance upgrades, including an on-site Battery Energy Storage System to further reduce our carbon footprint and support the provincial energy grid and the addition of a new electric vehicle charging station at Trent University Durham GTA; our award-winning Forensic Crime Scene Facility – a first of its kind professional forensics training building constructed on a Canadian university campus which also aims to be Canada’s first zero-carbon building certified by the International Living Future Institute; and international research collaborations that transform local learning into global impact and vice versa.