How Concordia is creating a culture of sustainability through responsibility and innovation

“Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm. It’s about doing more good.” – Jochen Zeitz

Environmental consciousness has become one of the buzz phrases of our generation. Eco-friendly lifestyles are creeping in at every turn, and if you would like the wonders of the world to be preserved for future generations, you had best jump aboard the global voyage of sustainability…

Why? Because Earth’s resources are not only finite, but considerably diminishing. The last 10 years have nurtured and informed our ‘green’ awareness, shining a light of urgency on this universal challenge. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2016 was the second warmest year ever recorded in the United States, with extreme conditions causing no fewer than 15 weather and climate disasters, resulting in loss of life and $46 billion worth of damage. The Administration adds that 16 of the last 17 warmest years to make the record books took place in the 21st century.

Climate change deniers may once have questioned the very existence of global warming, but these views are finally caving in under the substantial weight of impact and evidence. And with Donald Trump’s cabinet waging a war against the science that is trying to save us, there has never been a greater need for qualified minds in the field.

Concordia University is making major leaps and bounds in the sustainable revolution, giving the green light to its first ever university-wide policy. Defined as “a mindset and process that leads to reducing our ecological footprint and enhancing social well-being while maintaining economic viability both on and off campus”, this unique sustainable strategy applies to the whole Concordia community.

Sustainability seeps through every level of thinking and teaching at Concordia; everything from its curriculum to its research, green buildings and even student initiatives are set to inspire and refine responsible global citizens.

Nestled in Montréal – the largest city in Canada’s Québec province – the university’s environmental advocates are protecting a region recently named the world’s best student city.

Concordia has so far nurtured many impactful partnerships in both local and international sustainability projects, serving as a platform of opportunity for those most keen to change the world. Here, students, staff, and members of the public come together in an effort to reduce ecological footprints, launching a wealth of community engagement initiatives that affect neighbourhoods nearby and around the globe.

Research conducted at Concordia makes waves in the global realm, with its very own researchers standing up to complex issues like the global water crisis.

This fall, a collaboration between Concordia and the United Nations Environment Programme will introduce a brand-new course directly set to tackle urgent issues related to the world’s clean water supply.

“This course is about the basic building blocks of life – nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, how they cycle naturally through the earth’s ecosystems and how humans have transformed those natural cycles and created a host of problems,” explains Leonard Sklar, teacher of the new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called From Source to Sea to Sustainability.

“Land-based sources of nutrient pollution have a major impact on planetary health and particularly on the oceans,” he adds.

“We offer a holistic conceptual and practical approach, covering the scientific basics of nutrient cycling and pollution impacts, methodologies and assessment tools, financial mechanisms to protect our waters, policy and governance issues, as well as technologies for turning waste into resources.”

This innovative programme will also be provided as a blended learning option through the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, while students from Concordia looking to pursue this 13-week, 3-credit course can also do so through the MyConcordia portal.

“Concordia is a very exciting community, with tremendous diversity and energy,” says Sklar. “I particularly like the focus on bringing researchers together across disciplines and addressing big problems that matter to society.

“This course addresses an urgent need to train students who can contribute to solving the sustainability crisis, here in Canada and around the world.”

But with the passion and drive of all those at Concordia and beyond, there is no reason why programmes like this can not be implemented on a global scale. And Concordia’s sustainable transformation doesn’t stop here, with research being conducted every day and on every part of campus. From Water, Energy and Sustainable Systems to Biodiversity, and Climate Change itself, you can be sure Concordia and its environmental graduates will help conserve the world for future generations.

“Every year, our scholars, facilities and city inspire 46,000 students to engage with big questions head on,” the institution concludes. “We’re a comprehensive university. We search for innovative solutions and make positive contributions to society. Our creativity powers Montréal and connects us to the world… we plan to redefine the 21st century university.”

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