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10 years of student-powered eco action at Concordia

As the Sustainability Action Fund celebrates its anniversary, environmentalist Steven Guilbeault take the stage on March 24
March 22, 2017
By Cecilia Keating

From left: Antonious Petro, the Sustainabilty Action Fund's project coordinator and Nadra Wagdy, its chief executive officer. From left: Antonious Petro, SAF's project coordinator, and Nadra Wagdy, chief executive officer.

Events are taking place across campus this week to mark the 10-year anniversary of Concordia’s Sustainability Action Fund (SAF).

They include a discussion about university food sovereignty on Wednesday, March 22, and a keynote address by acclaimed environmentalist Steven Guilbeault, co-founder of Équiterre, on Friday, March 24.

Guilbeault’s talk will be followed by a sustainability panel starring past and present Concordia community members.

SAF gets its budget from undergraduate and graduate fee levies, which it uses to fund student-led sustainability projects. These range from one-off events to long-term infrastructure changes, and relate to issues including social justice, urban agriculture, waste management, environmental education and research.

The Concordia Greenhouse, both Hive Cafés, the Concordia Farmers’ Market and the newly launched Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse are all past beneficiaries of SAF funding.

‘Culture change’

“Our mandate is to fund projects with the long-term goal of making Concordia a sustainable university,” says Nadra Wagdy, SAF’s chief executive officer.

“We’re not just changing the campus physically and operationally, but changing the culture around it.”

Wagdy explains that while accessing funding for research and academic purposes is often clear-cut, there are fewer opportunities when it comes to finding support for extracurricular activities and student engagement initiatives.

“We fill this gap.”

The fund totals approximately $200,000 a year. SAF’s Board of Directors, made up of students, allocates this to an average of 35 projects a year.

‘Build a more sustainable campus’

The Sustainabilty Action Fund was set up in 2007 by then Concordia students Mohamed Shuriye and Peter Schiefke. The idea came from a conference they organized called Less Talk, More Action. It took place exactly 10 years ago, on March 22, and featured David Suzuki, Al Gore and Steven Guilbeault.

Shuriye recalls the early discussions that led to the establishment of SAF.

“Imagine if we could pool our dollars together into this micro fund model, and then fund the best ideas? We hoped this would, in turn, spur creativity and ingenuity and help build a more sustainable campus.”

Motivated by the success of the SAF at Concordia, Shuriye and Schiefke embarked on a whistle-stop Canadian university tour to promote the idea in 2008, visiting 22 schools in 30 days. Universities across the country followed Concordia’s lead.

Shuriye returns to campus to speak alongside Guilbeault at Friday’s panel.

Event details

Thinking Big: Building a Food Sovereign Campus at Concordia takes place Wednesday, March 22 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, room FB-620, Faubourg Building, (1250 Guy St.).

Room to Grow: Celebrating 10 years of sustainability on campus takes place Friday, March 24 in room H-110, Henry F. Hall Building (1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.), from 6 to 8 p.m.

Find out more about
Concordia’s Sustainability Action Fund.


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