Wednesday, 19 March 2014

EDES 335 Questions for Response

Please respond to the following questions in the commenting section below the post.
Don't forget to include your name :)

Share your own experiences with sustainability (environmental or economic or social sustainability) activities/programs, if any, in formal or informal settings.

Based on these experiences, design a concrete activity that you would do with secondary students in your class.


  1. Post your responses here :) Feel free to include pictures, videos, links etc!

  2. Post your response here. Feel free to include pictures, videos, links, etc :)

  3. A recap of the concepts discussed during our sustainability walk on Feb 28:

    The sustainability walk around McGill's campus was to serve as an example of one of the activities you could do with your students at you respective schools. The sustainability initiatives featured in the walk are showcasing the ways in which your own McGill community already practise sustainability and to inspire ideas of sustainability for you to bring to your school.

    Lady Meredith House uses geothermal heating, which uses differential heat gradient of the underground vs atmosphere and water vs atmosphere(of the building) to heat water in pipes, which then heats the building when the atmosphere is colder than the ground during the winter. In the summer when the atmosphere is hotter than the ground, geothermal acts as a cooling system.

    Life Sciences Complex is LEED certified:
    - natural lighting
    - low flow toilets
    - uses rain barrel water to flush
    - green roof to reduce heat island effect of concrete
    - some other things I'm forgetting...

    Big Hanna Composter takes food waste from the kitchens of McGill's Residence Dining halls and turned into compost to nourish the plants around our beautiful campus during the green seasons. Yes its stinky, but I bet you're glad our campus grounds don't look like Concordia ;)

    Otto Maass Labs use a closes water recycling system so that harmful trace chemicals do not flow into natural waterways and the lab's water consumption does not increase. There is an Applied Student Research project called Green Labs (supervised by Lumb Lab, I believe) collecting data and doing lab personnel training to recycle chemicals in McGill's Labs - For those in Analytic Lab: are you noticing the separate waste receptacles for unreacted titrant?? YAY!

    Water is Life! Exhibit - some eye opening facts about our water usage and distribution of drinkable water on the earth. Did it inspire you to make any changes?

    McGill Food and Dining Services. THAT BROWNIE THOUGH. But really, McGill's got a whole team of Food and Dining people and a group of students called McGill Food Systems Project working very very hard to make sure that there is food served in McGill's cafeterias that are produced and transported ethically (fair trade), locally (produce and meat from McGill MacDonald campus - keeping the jobs within the community and reducing transportation, increasing freshness), sustainably - including the ingredients for those AMAZING brownies.

    Email May if you have any questions about these initiatives or others going on at McGill or the McGill Office of Sustainability.


  4. To answer your colleague's question today: What is sustainability?

    My definition of Sustainability:
    principle of using resources (ecological, social, economic) in way that ensures that the needs of future generations are met such that they may carry out a way of life that is at least equal in quality.

    Sustainability is absolutely NOT limited to environmental issues. There are also issues of social sustainability (eg poverty), economic sustainability (ie spending wisely) that I would be happy to discuss with anyone willing to listen.

    If you have any ideas to share or discussions to initiate - please post to the Discussion and Idea Board on this website.


  5. Part 1: At my house, we have always had a composting system in our backyard and one at our cottage. We collect vegetable and fruit scrapes, egg shells, used tea bags and coffee filters in a smaller container in the kitchen and then bring it out to the larger been once or twice a day. About four years ago, the city of Dorval implemented a compost pick up system so now we can compost all year long and we can compost more items because the city's system is much larger and reaches hotter temperatures than ours. We use the dirt produced by the composting system in our vegetable garden and in our flower pots.
    Part 2: Based on this personal experience, an activity I could do with secondary students would be to have them create informative posters about composting (how it works, what can be composted, why should we compost) that would be put up around the school to spread awareness about the benefits of composting with all the other students. This activity could be the starting point for a school wide project to implement a composting system into the school with collection bins in the cafeteria and the main system outside. This project could be created and monitored by the students with each grade taking on a different task or creating a rotation from grade to grade. This project would give the students the opportunity to experience an element of sustainable living.

  6. Elizabeth Virginillo26 March 2014 at 16:19

    Part 1:
    We recycle as much as possible and I visited a Recycling Plant with my highschool class. I also bring a reusable water bottle instead of using bottled water.

    Part 2:
    I actually created a total unit plan last semester which tied in the concept of sustainability, environmental awareness and consumer rights and responsibilities across the topics that would be taught all year to secondary 4 students, in both their science and math classes. The goal of the unit plan was for them to ultimately create their dream home that has to be economically friendly and follows the principle of sustainability, using the notions they learned all year, such as, deforestation and its link to the use of wood and resources to build their house, the choice of energy systems, renewable or non-renewable (geothermal, hydroelectricity, wind power etc.) or the types of lights they use in their house, etc. It's a really great unit, as it ties in all the topics they have to learn from the QEP, while making the subject very real to them, and they will learn that they have a responsibility for sustainability and to protect our environment.

  7. Part 1:
    I have always practiced environmental sustainability by doing the common things like recycling and always turning off the lights. However, just recently I decided to take this a step further by going vegetarian. It is a well-known fact that consuming less meat reduces our carbon footprint, but it wasn't until I watched Graham Hill's TED Talk that I was fully convinced ( In it, he touches upon the three reasons why I personally became vegetarian: because it is better for my health, because of animal cruelty, and because of the environmental impact. In terms of the environment, Hill states that the meat industry causes more carbon emissions than all transportation in the world combined (i.e., cars, trains, planes, etc.), and that the production of meat uses about 100 times the amount of water as the production of vegetables. These statistics were extremely surprising for me, and they led me to find out more and more about the effects of the meat industry. Although it took some time, I am now almost fully vegetarian, and am proud to say that I am being more sustainable because of this.

    Part 2:
    I would show my students this TED Talk video in class and ask them their thoughts and opinions on the matter. Then, I would ask them to research the topic of environmental vegetarianism and bring to class at least two articles about it. Then, in groups of four, the students would compile their research findings and create a poster that displays how consuming less meat benefits our environment. Finally, the students would put up these posters around the school for the rest of the students to see. I find this topic to be an important one because it is one that is extremely prevalent nowadays, yet is almost hidden in most contexts (probably by big meat companies and industries). Transportation emissions, for example, were always extremely emphasized at my school when talking about global warming, and how we should all carpool and ride more bikes. But if the meat industry causes more carbon emissions than all of transportation, why was this topic never even mentioned at school? Why is it that I only even heard about this after 19 years of my life? It is important to note, however, that such an activity in a classroom needs to be done completely objectively by focusing on the hard facts and statistics, and not even implying that the students should on any terms go vegetarian. The purpose is simply to create and spread awareness in the school, not to judge anyone on their lifestyle choices.

  8. Part 1: For my part, I try to do as many sustainable actions as possible like recycle, turn off lights and unused electronic devices (like computers and TV), use reusable bags and decomposing bags for my lunches, use cold water to wash cloths and dishes and program the thermostats to lower the temperature during the day. Also, at my work, there was no recycling program, so I have recently took the initiative to place cardboard boxes and get all the employees to through out their cans and plastic bottles in one and papers in another.

    Part 2: With a secondary science class, I would get my students to calculate their sustainable actions and carbon dioxide footprint. I would first explain what is sustainability; show them what type of simple actions they could do in their everyday life and the impact it would have for our planet. With the help of this website:, students would create their account and enter on a daily basis their actions done at school and at home. They would actually see that their actions are impacted the environment in a positive way, that they are participating in making our planet a better one and that they are themselves saving money by doing these actions.

  9. Part 1:
    I've been part of several sustainability-promoting activities throughout my school years, ranging from ones that are basic and simple (taking a shower instead of taking a bath, plugging off computers or microwaves after the use, using eco-friendly lunchbox, etc.) to others that are of a bigger scale (cleaning up the streets in our community as a group, visiting some accomodations for homeless people, etc.). I have to admit that I was not as serious when I was doing these activities in the past; I took part in them mostly because I was told to do so, without thinking much about "why" we do it. Sustainability had an unfamiliar ring to it, and remained as a rather vague term to me in those times. However, when we took a tour around the campus the other day, I was very surprised at what I saw, and the term "sustainability" struck me as something "real" all of a sudden. The composter, the life sciences complex that was built on an eco-friendly base, the recycling of used water in laboratories... when I saw all these efforts that people put into to promote sustainability, it wasn't just a text, but something that exists in our everyday life. Whether simple or complicated, all the experiences that I've had regarding sustainability came to have a real form, and I was able to detect the connections between the concept and practice through the tour.
    Part 2:
    Based on the experience I had, I'd like to design an activity that lets students see for themselves what is going on in their everyday lives. It will be similar to the one we had (taking a tour around campus), where the students take a tour around their school to find activities or facilities that are in favour of maintaining sustainability. Just like what we did, they will be given a sheet consisting of some guidelines to lead them in an appropriate direction, and make observations to see what real efforts are being made to promote sustainability in their community, the things that they might have been missing this whole time. Through this activity, I intend to help students make connections between the concept and practice just as I did, and realize that it is something "real", not something that only exists in the text or articles.

  10. Olivia Hollenbeck31 March 2014 at 10:19

    Olivia Hollenbeck

    Part 1:
    Environmental sustainability is an important factor in
    ensuring to maintain our current natural resources and also to ensure that the future
    generations will have access to these resources and a healthy planet. My family
    has always practiced sustainable use of resources, such as recycling, turning lights
    off when they are not in need, taking reasonably short showers and composting. Particularly,
    my mother regards composting as one of the most important sustainability
    practices. Apart from making excellent fertilizer for our vegetable and flower
    garden, but it reduces the waste sent to the landfills. Large institutions,
    such as McGill University, have also found value in composting. It is becoming
    wide spread, and I am beginning to see buildings with composting disposals
    beside the garbage and recycling bins. After all, why throw something into the
    garbage when its waste has further use?

    Part 2:
    An activity that can be done in the school setting regarding
    composting would be to build a compost pile in the school yard and to observe
    the cycle of biodegradable elements, and identify the buds and organisms that
    play a part in the degradation of waste. The materials needed: pitchfork or
    spading fork, “green” and “brown” plant trimmings, yard clippers, water,
    compost bin, flat-edge shovel. This project can be incorporated in the lesson
    plan of sustainability. For more information please refer to the following
    website “Do the Rot Thing, A teacher’s Guide to compost activities”

  11. Janet MacIsaac2 April 2014 at 18:34

    Part 1. During the course of my Biology Bachelor of Science degree, I took several courses that focused specifically on sustainability and environmentalism, both in a local and global context. Many of these courses included aspects that an individual person can implement in their own lives, with small changes that can make a difference - i.e.: recycling, upcycling, mixed-plant gardens, etc. One prof took us to see his front yard (he lived across the street from the university) which he had converted from a grass lawn to a more natural meadow-like environment with the purpose of attracting pollinators. As well, for the vast majority of my life my family has recycled (it's been around in Halifax for a while) and have been composting for the last ten years,

    Part 2. For a class activity I would really like to have students develop, plant, and grow an urban garden. By using what would be most-likely wasted space, students can learn to appreciate how the urban landscape is a poor one for diversity, can appreciate the economic and intrinsic value of gardening, and might choose to boost their own sustainabilty through growing their own food or participating in an crop-share agreement with local producers. The main purposes I would try to use would be: learning about biodiversity, learning about the importance of pollinators, learning about where food comes from, and learning about nutrition. As well, the garden could use the compost from the project suggested by Olivia (read below).

  12. Janet MacIsaac2 April 2014 at 18:36

    Oh I forgot to mention that as I child, my parents helped me to grow tomatoes in the window of our apartment and last summer I grew herbs to use in the kitchen.

  13. Tasnim Rahman

    Part 1:

    One way I personally tried to be sustainable is by recycling
    as much as possible at home. Also, my mom loves to garden and I told her to
    start a compost and helped her start one. This of course helps reduces waste as
    well as fertilize her plants. Another thing I started doing very recently is turning
    off lights as I walk out of room. I never did this before but I am certainly
    trying to do this now.

    Part 2:

    The most important activity would be to educate the students
    about sustainability and about going green. Along with the knowledge, I would
    have them practice hands on at school. One idea I have is to have a monthly
    competition between classes to see who can recycle the most. The winning class
    would win a prize every month. Also, making sure the students turn off the
    lights as they walk out of the classroom for lunch/after school. Also, during
    the summer months, we could have our very own compost in the school!

  14. Part 1:
    At my high school the green club implemented a composting system. They set up separate bins in the caf in order to reduce the amount of garbage that the student were creating. There were also recycling bins in every classroom and teachers used single sided papers from the office in class when doing practice problems.

    Part 2:
    I would create a unit around sustainability. I would first start off by asking the students to calculate their carbon footprint. Once they have we would discuss some of the changes that they can implement to reduce their carbon footprint. I would then move from a local context to a more global one. However, this time instead of providing information i would ask students to form groups and I will assign them different countries all known for having a major carbon footprint. Students will be expected to present a 10-15 min presentation discussing the problems of sustainability in the country assigned to them, the country's carbon footprint and solutions that they think are feasible.

  15. Hi Adriana,
    Thank you for sharing your ecological wisdom !
    I looked up the "Why I am a weekday vegetarian" 2010 TED talk by Graham Hill and
    "What's wrong with what we eat" 2007 TED talk by Mark Bittman, as well
    as the documentary called "Food matters" by James Colquhoun and
    Laurentine ten Bosch. It seems there's overwhelming convincing evidence
    that being vegetarian is not only ethically kinder to the more than
    10,000,000,000 animals are killed yearly to satisfy for the unnatural
    human craving for meat, but it is also a good way to reduce greenhouse
    gas emissions and precious resources such as water ! Please feel free
    to write your sustainability education related thoughts on "discussion
    and idea board" anytime. The world needs more people like Graham Hill
    and yourself !

  16. In my internship with the McGill Office of Sustainability, my supervisor and I are responsible for Education and Research goals of McGill's Sustainability Strategy Vision 2020 One of the hidden educational gems that I promote and coordinate is Applied Student Research. Students conduct their own research over one semester under the supervision of a professor for credit. It is meant to be a course where students design their own research methodology with their professor and learn by doing, rather than passive learning. The sustainable aspect/requirement of applied student research is that it must have outcomes that benefit some community partner. Throughout the research, students work with a chosen member or group of the community (McGill support staff, Montreal businesses or organizations). The findings of the research will be put to use by the community partners upon completion of the course. This a rich learning and community outreach experience that can be scaled to secondary level with more scaffolding from teacher supervisors.

  17. Thank you all for sharing your ecological wisdom !

    I looked up the "Why I am a weekday vegetarian" 2010 TED talk by Graham Hill and
    "What's wrong with what we eat" 2007 TED talk by Mark Bittman, as well as the documentary called "Food matters" by James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch.

    It seems there's overwhelmingly convincing evidence that being vegetarian is, not only ethically kinder to the more than 10,000,000,000 animals that are killed yearly to satisfy for the unnatural human craving for meat, but it is also a good way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve precious resources such as water !

    Please feel free to write your sustainability education related thoughts on "discussion and idea board" anytime. The world needs more people like Graham Hill and yourselves !

    I’m sharing some TED Ed lessons worth sharing in the context of Earth Day !

    Happy Beautiful Earth Day 2014 to all !