“Everything is interconnected in our world,” says Alice, one of 50 high school students from 12 different Vancouver high schools who visited UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) on April 13th. “Our survival as creatures relies upon every other thing in our world.”

Alice and her fellow students are the kind of young people Alberto Cayuela, the Associate Director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative, hoped would take advantage of this unique opportunity to tour CIRS and see demonstrations of sustainability related research being conducted at the University. “We wanted to help plant the ‘sustainability seed’ with some of the sustainability’s ambassadors of the future,” says Cayuela in explaining UBC’s motivation in inviting the Vancouver School Board to bring a group of students to campus.

Alice,  along with her friends Tesicca and Alan, had visited CIRS during a November 2011 international conference that marked the building’s opening . Through this exposure and her own studies, Tesicca has developed a view of sustainability as being more than simply climate change. “Sustainability is an issue that is interconnected with social justice, the economy, policy development and the environment. CIRS creates a space today that helps us imagine where we want to be tomorrow.”

The students began their day in the BC Hydro Theatre where they learned about UBC’s sustainability goals and activities, education opportunities and research.  Professor Ron Kellett and Ph.D. candidate Jon Salter demonstrated the theatre’s cutting edge technology that is being used to apply visualization, modelling and simulations  to urban development and sustainability issues.

After the presentations, students took self-guided tours of CIRS to learn more about the green design and operations of the building. A wrap up session brought the students back together with Kirthi Roberts, Manager of Energy and Climate Action at the Vancouver School Board, for a discussion about how to translate what the students saw and heard into action.

Alice and her friends have some solid ideas about the way forward. “Collaboration is the key to a sustainable future,” says Tesicca. “We are able to lead by example and take initiative ourselves,” says Alan. Alice has the final word. “Leading edge solutions are available today. We need to integrate them into our public conversations and our own lives.”

UBC encourages the public to visit CIRS and go on a self-guided tour of the facility or take a Green Building Tour led by UBC students.