Funding is now available for sustainability projects that provide experiential learning to Concordia students

Groups of students, faculty and staff collaborating to meet the university’s goals can apply for support
February 2, 2021
By Sylvie Babarik

Close-up of a sunflower in a sunflower field Sebastián Di Poi: “We’re implementing the Sustainability Action Plan through experiential learning for students.”

Concordia and the Sustainability Action Fund (SAF) are introducing a new funding model for the Sustainability Living Lab — an important component of the university’s Sustainability Action Plan.

“Our current focus is getting word out that we have funding available for groups of students, faculty and staff who are collaborating on projects that advance the university’s sustainability goals,” says Cassandra Lamontagne, Concordia sustainability coordinator.

Lamontagne is working on the initiative alongside Sebastián Di Poi, SAF executive director. “We see this program as another tool to support the Concordia community in driving innovative solutions that implement the action plan, through collaborative projects that offer experiential learning for students,” Di Poi says.

Sustainability Living Lab objectives

The Sustainability Living Lab strives to connect the action plan’s goals, targets and strategies with the interests of Concordia’s innovative community. One way is to provide students hands-on learning activities that take the shape of classroom projects and internship opportunities.

Carly Ziter, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, oversaw a project with her students in Ecology of Urban Environments (BIOL 398), now on the verge of implementation.

“Student-led proposals for campus gardens that supports native, pollinator-friendly and edible plants were the result of a term-long class project,” Ziter explains. “Through the new Sustainability Living Lab program, we benefitted from a partnership with the Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management.”

That project earned a World Wildlife Fund Canada “Go Wild School Grant” — the first one for Concordia.

“The collaborative avenue provided by the living lab model will not only allow us to make our own campus more sustainable but also provide opportunities for students to put what they’ve learned in class into practice,” Ziter adds.

The Sustainability Living Lab also aims to facilitate partnerships between researchers interested in using the campus and its operations as a testing ground for solutions to sustainability problems. Another goal is to enable community members to propose and develop projects that help the university implement more sustainable food, waste, climate, research and curriculum models.

“We recognize that our community of students, faculty, researchers and staff is our greatest strength in striving for innovative sustainability solutions,” says Michael Di Grappa, vice-president of services and sustainability.

“This recognition informed the multi-stakeholder process for developing the action plan and will similarly influence its implementation with elements like the Sustainability Living Lab.”

Who can apply for funding?

The new program seeks to support the development and implementation of Concordia-specific projects that respond to the goals and targets outlined in the Sustainability Action Plan.

Already, teams of students, faculty and staff can apply for funding for projects that meet university sustainability criteria and provide experiential learning opportunities for students.

The SAF and Concordia will contribute matching amounts for each project. For the first year, they have earmarked $80,000.

“It’s worth noting that our contribution to living lab projects is in addition to the funding SAF continues to provide to students undertaking sustainability-focused projects, research and coursework, for example, our Sustainability Research Award program,” Di Poi adds.

Likewise, the university’s contribution to the Sustainability Living Labs Funding Program is incremental to operational and academic funding for projects that align directly with the Sustainability Action Plan or that support the ongoing sustainability culture-change initiative.

Feedback needed!

Given that the Sustainability Living Lab is currently in its development phase, the Office of Sustainability is eager to validate assumptions and respond to new or unaccounted-for community needs. The office will email students, staff and faculty a survey that can also be accessed through the living lab’s new web page.

“The process of developing the Sustainability Action Plan provided us with a lot of information about what community members wanted. However, ours is a dynamic community and goals change and evolve,” Lamontagne says.

“The funding program is one important piece of a larger, connective framework that we are looking to build at Concordia. We hope that members who feel particular interest in this conversation will also sign up to take part in live, remote stakeholder sessions.”

“Keeping communication channels open is vital,” Di Grappa says. “Community feedback will help the sustainability living lab and the funding model evolve based on the experiences of our members and the parallel initiatives available to them.”

If you have a sustainability project in line with Concordia’s Sustainability Action Plan,
see if your group might qualify for funding from the SAF.

Learn more about the Sustainability Living Lab and take the survey to provide your feedback about what’s to come.



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