SustainX Symposium

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Last Friday (March 23rd) was SustainX’s crowning event, a symposium & mixer including students, faculty, and Edmonton professionals. The event involved six speakers, who presented topics in environmental, social, and economic sustainability, as well as beautiful handmade decorations and food & beverages.

Here are some summaries and photos of the presentations!


Building Super Teams: Stephani Carter

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Keynote speaker Stephani founded EcoAmmoa company that administers sustainable building certifications and consults with businesses to make their buildings more sustainable.

Stephani applies behavioral science in her hiring practices at EcoAmmo. Employees take personality tests that explore personality traits like EQ and leadership style. By understanding each person’s unique traits, Stephani argues that we can assemble “super teams” that maximize individual strengths and cooperation. “Super teams” could be the driving force of sustainable innovation.

Urban Sustainability: Destyni deLuca

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Destyni’s hiding down in the corner 😉

SustainSU’s Volunteer Coordinator, Destyni deLuca, showed us how nature, people, and industry all come together in cities!

Topography, current infrastructure, histories, trees, weather, and people all collide within cities. Destyni revealed social inequalities like poverty or racism as barriers to urban sustainability. When certain groups within society lack the resources to live comfortably, it undermines the development of our city as a whole. Further, cities are interconnected– perhaps Edmonton can look to the flow of ideas, resources, and people along its networks as source of development?

Bikeology Festival: Karly Coleman

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UAlberta grad student Karly Coleman discussed how Edmonton’s Bikeology Festival helped to create the biking community and infrastructure we enjoy in the city today.

Karly discussed what makes biking as a particularly compelling activity– one we enjoyed as kids and should continue to enjoy as adults! The connections people build through grassroots biking organizations such as the Bikeology festival contribute to social and economic sustainability. Karly’s research focuses on how biking infrastructure is handled in cities. Could the rise of biking infrastructure in Edmonton signal a social movement towards fun and sustainable living?

Energy Economics: Dr. David Brown

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UAlberta assistant professor Dr. David Brown discussed the new, sometimes unexpected, economic implications of new sustainable energy sources.

While the renewable energy sector is growing, so are carbon emissions. Efficient use of sustainable energy sources requires unique considerations such as geography and climate.  For example, Dr. Brown noted the “duck curve” noted in California, caused by  people plugging in their electric cars in the evening, after the sun has gone down! Currently, energy is sold at the same price, ignoring the weather/geography considerations of new energy sources. Could new energy pricing strategies promote the growth of sustainable energy sector?

Root for Trees: Catherine Falk

Taking from City of Edmonton.

City of Edmonton representative Catherine Falk presented the “Root for Trees” program, an initiative that engages the community in the goal of planting 45, 000 new trees and shrubs in Edmonton every year.

“Root for Trees” aims to preserve, protect, and educate about Edmonton’s urban forest. They have three main programs: 1) Community tree planting, which provides tree-plating demos, guidance, and materials to up to 160 people, 2) “Have shovel, will travel,” a self-guided program that facilitates smaller groups, and 3) Public special events, free and hosted throughout the summer. Can community involvement foster stewardship of Edmonton’s urban forest?

Diversity & Inclusivity: Meghana Valupadas

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Taken from Sustainability Summit.

UAlberta student Meghana Valupadas, founder of the Diversity in Engineering Initiative, shared her top 5 tips for encouraging outside-the-box thinking and nurturing innovation.

  1. Do your research
    -learn inclusive language/vocab
  2. Lead by example
    -acknowledge mistakes & apologize
  3. Allyship over tokenism
    -don’t overcategorize people!
  4. Recognize privilege
    -understand how your perspective
  5. Be kind to yourself, nurture others

Efforts to be inclusive involve “growing pain”– can our continued efforts create a positive environment that encourages every mind to shine?

Waste Reduction: Christina Seidel

Taken from RCA.

Christina Seidel, Executive Director of the Recycling Council of Alberta, shared the emerging concept of “circular economy,” and its implications for zero waste policies.

Circular economy imagines a circular supply chain that emphasizes lengthening product life and maximizing product utility.  Christina gave the examples of Levi jeans, made from recycled materials, and Patagonia’s successful “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign. Circular is not just an environmental but an economic imperative. The rise of “product as service” companies, such as Bundles, which sells subscriptions to washing machines rather than the machine itself, operate in a sustainable and profitable market. Could circular economy be the next stage in economic development?


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SustainX Team
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SustainSU Attendees

A big thanks to SustainX for hosting this event, and to all the SustainSU members who attended. This event sets a wonderful precedent for many future symposiums!

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