Western gets WISE about sustainability

Reducing meat and dairy consumption, clean energy and food sharing were just some of the ideas brought this year as part of the Western’s Ideas for Sustainability and the Environment (WISE) competition.

Established in 2014, WISE seeks to foster innovative and high-impact ideas to reduce or eliminate today’s most pressing environmental concerns. The aim of the competition is to generate ideas and initiatives among Western’s students around the topic of sustainability, and to officially recognize innovative and progressive ideas for green and sustainable initiatives.

The WISE competition aligns with Western’s commitment to the Council of Ontario Universities’ Statement on Creating a Sustainable Environment, which notes universities in the province have responsibilities on three fronts:

  • To assist in finding solutions to the challenges of environmental sustainability;
  • To share knowledge about environment and sustainability; and
  • To incorporate principles of sustainability into our own operations wherever possible.

Separate competitions have been established for undergraduate and graduate students. Over the course of three months, students are encouraged to identify a current environmental problem faced at an institutional, local or global level, and to come up with resourceful ideas for mitigating this problem. Social and economic considerations must be included. Proposals were reviewed by a selection committee and finalists within each competition were invited to pitch their idea to the committee in a brief oral presentation.

The grand prize for the winning proposal, within each competition, is $1,500. The final round of the competition was held last week.

Below is the winning team, as well as the top two finalists, from the 2017 WISE competition.

WINNERS

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No-Meat EatsSara Husni, 4th-year Health Sciences, Danielle Sakher, 4th-year Ivey Business School and Sahar Ataya, 4th-year Ivey Business School (not pictured)

Global meat consumption has increased by 62 per cent in the last 50 years because of population growth, urbanization, and rising incomes. Excessive meat consumption harms individual health and the environment, with 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions coming from the livestock industry. If consumers reduced their meat consumption to meet dietary recommendations by the World Cancer Research Fund, agriculture-related emissions would be reduced by 33 per cent globally.

No-Meat Eats is a plant-based cooking education program for students living in Western residences. Students pay a small fee (subsidized by residence services) to learn how to prepare affordable, nutritious vegan meals. No-Meat Eats uses incrementalism to encourage students to take small steps in reducing their meat and dairy consumption, with the ultimate goal of empowering them with the skills needed to adopt a low-meat, vegetarian or vegan diet.

FINALISTS

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Blockchain Energy DisruptionGareth Gransaull, 1st-year Health Sciences

Current energy grids are inefficient, wasteful and prone to failure – and current use of fossil-based fuels can cause damages to the global biosphere. Through the use of blockchain, you can design a grid system which expedites the clean energy transition by making clean energy more economically feasible.

Blockchain can be used to create a decentralized renewable neighbourhood microgrid, accessible to all producers and consumers. Renewable energy producers can tabulate the surplus energy they produce and turn them into tokens, which can then be traded for money. With the use of smart devices, ‘smart contracts’ can be developed so transactions can be executed and enforced automatically, enabling the grid to run autonomously.

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PlatterMary Yao, 2nd-Year Ivey Business School and Environmental Sciences

Food waste is a major environmental, social and economic problem in our world today. In addition to consuming enormous amounts of natural and human resources, food waste also contributes to inequalities in food distribution and insecurity. Waste occurs at all points in the food value chain, but is most prevalent downstream from production and at the consumer level.

Platter is an online and mobile platform in which users can donate and receive food that would otherwise be thrown away. Platter strives to create a food-sharing community that will be self-sustaining in the long term, all the while increasing awareness and education around preventing food waste.