Sustainability champions honoured

A Hospitality staffer committed to waste diversion and a student who designed an app to improve use of electric-vehicle charging stations are among winners of this year’s Western sustainability awards.

The Western Green Award and Western Ideas on Sustainability and Environment (WISE) awards honour students, faculty and staff whose ideas and practices show environmental leadership.

The Western Green Award goes to nutritionist Anne Zok and Visual Arts professor Kirsty Robertson.

Zok, nutrition manager for Western residences, was lauded for her work in promoting waste diversion through programs such as Choose2Reuse, which encourages students in residence to order food-to-go in a reusable container, and a Refill to Win competition that offers prizes for students who bring a reusable mug instead of a disposable one.

Zok’s nominators also noted her dedication to bringing locally sourced food to campus eateries.

Robertson was recognized for weaving sustainability principles into her course curriculum and focusing on collaboration in the face of an ecological crisis.

She has opened a discussion nationally and internationally on curating and communicating sustainability through the arts.

“We received dozens of impressive applications and nominations,” said Sustainability Director Heather Hyde. “The reviewers had to make some very difficult decisions.”

WISE competition winners include graduate student Devin Machin and undergraduate Catherine Andary.

Machin received the nod for his idea to develop an app called ChargeAway that would facilitate the sharing of charging stations between electric vehicle (EV) owners. An enhanced charging network will improve motorists’experience and increase EV sales, Machin noted.

Andary was honoured for NutriCycle, a plant fertilizer, made from recycled and by-product paper sludge and fortified with natural nutrients. The soil supplement increases water retention, decreases erosion and provides an additional source of nutrients for industrial and backyard agricultural products.

Undergraduate runners-up were the team of Marissa Liu, Cem Torun and Estelle Chung for an app that calculates users’ carbon footprint; and a team of Jordan Ramnarine and Kierra Holowachuk for their solution to remove contaminants from wastewater.

Western Green Awards have been recognizing members of the campus community for more than a decade. The accolade acknowledges individuals and/or teams who initiate or support activities with positive environmental outcomes, encourage participation, work together with others or demonstrate an environmentally friendly effort.

Established in 2014, WISE invites undergraduate and graduate students to foster innovative, high-impact ideas to address pressing environmental concerns. First-place winners in each category receive $1,500 towards their project.

Although the annual recognition event was cancelled this year, Hyde said celebrating work that supports the three pillars of sustainability (environment, economy and social well-being) continues to be relevant.

Lynn Logan, Vice-President of Operations and Finance, added, “Western has deep roots in sustainability,” and the university’s continued success is directly linked to the engagement of the community.

The presentation of this year’s awards is the first time for Western University President, Alan Shepard.

“Western has an important role to play in mitigating the impact of climate change through our teaching, research and campus operations,” Shepard said. “It’s super to see these award programs recognizing students, faculty and staff alike for their innovative ideas because it’s our collective efforts as a community that will make the biggest difference.”