Community and change. In my short experience of being on campus, I have seen the power of collective action, and its ability to influence behavior and drive change. With eco-anxiety and climate concerns on the rise amongst the youth, being connected to peers who have the same experiences and aspirations to see improvement can prove to be very reassuring. Peer networking is an advantageous activity to engage in while in university, as it helps build a shared space to k,engage with those with common goals. It provides a safe space to talk comfortably, and plan out action.
UBCO officially declared a climate emergency back in 2019. Since then, we have seen a multitude of initiatives on campus trying to make a difference in various areas of sustainability and climate action. To move past the fragmented approach in this arena, a group of graduate students organized a Climate Networking event on February 9 at the UNC Ballroom. With an attendance of over 30 people, faculty members, staff, and students interacted with each other and got involved in engaging discussions, while enjoying delicious pizza. The event also facilitated the free flow of information, providing an opportunity for the attendees to join ongoing activities on campus.
Friday’s for Future Kelowna:
The student volunteer group primarily works in the areas of climate action and advocacy. Comprising primarily of students from UBCO and Okanagan College, it also sees participation from high school students and community members who wish to take action and raise their voice against environmentally harmful activities. Previously, they have hosted climate strikes; their most recent climate strike was on March 3 (Friday) at City Hall, at 4 pm. Currently, they are also working on preventing old growth deforestation, and organized petition signing events. Reach out to email@example.com if their initiative resonates with you and you wish to get involved.
Innovate, Design, Sustain (IDS):
Being UBCO’s first club dedicated towards sustainable design, their vision is to be pioneers in promoting project-based initiatives, moving towards the goal of a more sustainable campus environment. The Solar Bench Project (SBP), the Campus Waste Initiative (CWI) and the Solar Decathlon Project are the leading initiatives the club is involved in to incorporate clean energy and prevent waste stream contamination on campus. Recently, they hosted a re-design competition to revamp the visual signage for garbage disposal stations in on-campus non-residential buildings. The Campus Waste Initiative (CWI) also previously partnered with the Disability Resource Centre (DRC) to promote inclusivity in action, and start the conversation about the accessibility of waste bins and signage.
To address this growing area of concern, UBCO started the Local Food Procurement Pilot Project in 2021 to bring more Okanagan-grown food to the campus community, and share the multitude of benefits associated with buying and consuming local food. The project first started with the help of Land to Table (a North Okanagan non-profit committed to strengthening the local food system), local farmers, Dr. Mary Stockdale from the Institute for Community Engaged Research (ICER), Gary Hartung and Chef Brad from UBCO Food Services. They collaborated on a pilot project to examine the possibility of UBCO Food Services procuring more food grown by small farmers/producers in the Okanagan bioregion, with a goal of developing relationships of trust between all of the participants. This acted as the first step in creating an effective and functioning supply chain from local farmers to UBC Okanagan Food Services.
Dr. Mary Stockdale also spoke to the audience about the upcoming UBCO Food Values Dialogues series. With engaging conversations around the topics of sustainable food sourcing and justice, led by an interesting line up of guest speakers, the series is open to anyone interested. Sessions will take place on March 9, 16, and 23 (Thursdays), from 2–3:15pm in EME 1202 or on Zoom!
One of the most apparent public issues in Kelowna is transit. Kristin Stewart, a graduate student in association with the Fridays for Future group, has been working with the University, transit workers, and the City of Kelowna to find a resolution to the issues faced by the students and local community. They organized the first transit townhall back in November 2022, followed by another earlier in 2023. Greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles are one of the largest sources of pollution. An efficient, effective, and affordable transit system can positively contribute towards increasing air quality and reducing emission levels in a city, by allowing commuters to choose more carbon-friendly options.
While a lot of us are conscious of the wrongs around us, very few try and take measures to remedy it. Sustainability and climate action is an area which requires action at all levels of society. Let us do our part where we can and get involved!