Two Western students and a staff member were recognized for their contribution to advocating and utilizing sustainable practices on campus, by being given the 2023 Western Green Awards at the Sustainability Impact Showcase 2023 on Thursday, March 30.
Cogie Cogan, an undergraduate student; Brendon Samuels, a PhD student and Craig Clifford, operations manager in hospitality services were honoured at the event, which also showcased two notable projects related to sustainability and the environment on campus.
“We are proud of our community’s engagement with sustainability and look forward to continuing to support initiatives at all levels of the university,” said Heather Hyde, director, sustainability.
The awards were initiated to raise awareness of sustainability at Western University through the acknowledgment of community members (students, faculty and staff) who have made positive contributions. This year marked the 16th iteration of the awards.
Cogan, first-year undergraduate student in global studies at Huron University College, received the award for their numerous contributions to issues related to environment and sustainability.
As sustainability commissioner at the Huron Student Council, Cogan led a campaign to make the college a Blue Community by eliminating single-use plastic water bottles from campus. They also coordinated Shabbat dinners with plant-based recipes.
Cogan has actively advocated for the environment at different forums, including as delegate to the UN Environment Assembly in Kenya in 2022, guest speaker on waterway conservation, climate fellow at Duke University and founder as well as former director of Western Environmental Business club.
Cogan is also a recipient of the London Youth Green Leader Award.
They were nominated for a green award by Nic Feldman, undergraduate student at the HBA program in Ivey Business School.
Samuels is a PhD student in biology. He is the first sustainability coordinator for the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) and led numerous campus clean-ups during the year, with the focus on the Thames River.
Samuels led the construction of a structure intended to be a template to help barn swallows breed. He also led initiatives to secure funds from multiple sources for this project.
He successfully advocated to have bird-friendly decals added to reflective windows on campus.
Samuels also presented a motion for SOGS to endorse a letter against Bill 23 More Homes Built Faster Act, and successfully defended a motion relating to the bill at this year’s Canadian Federation of Students’ national general meeting. He also organized a demonstration against the bill with elected officials as speakers and over 150 attendees.
Samuels was nominated by Yousuf Hasan, graduate student in philosophy.
Clifford is operations manager, procurement and facilities at hospitality services and was nominated by Anne Zok, nutrition manager at hospitality services.
He works with foodservice providers to ensure local, sustainable, ethically sourced supplies are secured for each area within hospitality services, which is a large department with annual food and beverage purchases over $13 million.
Clifford has been instrumental in securing contracts with many local suppliers. He also ensures sustainable, compostable and recyclable to-go containers and cutlery are available. This year, Clifford created a comprehensive list of all package containers with recycling instructions. He is at present planning for a fully sustainable packaging program for September 2023.
“As an institution we are committed to being global leaders in sustainability. That goal can only be realized by promoting and supporting grassroots movements and our own green leaders on campus,” said Lynn Logan, vice president, operations and finance.
The event also showcased two of the five currently active Campus as a Living Lab (CLL) projects.
These included the Biodiversity Inventory at Western, led by Tim Hain from the Faculty of Science, supported by Brendon Samuels and graduate student Peter Baker. The project seeks to study the range of biodiversity that exists on campus. Community participation is encouraged by posting to iNaturalist. Over 1,100 species have been identified so far.
The second project showcased was a department of visual arts class project through the course titled ‘Visualizing Foodways: Art + Relational Approaches’. The course is taught by Amanda White.
The project, a community garden art installation, consists of two sections. In the first, the class painted and installed signs at the garden to bring colour and create interest during fall/winter months, while encouraging campus community to reflect on their relationship with food and plants. The second part involved a participatory webpage created by the class featuring food plant submissions from the community on the significance of certain foods for people.