Two months into the Sustainability Challenge fifteen teams are actively developing solutions across four priority areas for campus sustainability: sustainable food, climate action planning, waste management, and wellbeing and physical activity.

Launched in October 2015, as part of UBC’s Centennial celebrations, the Sustainability Challenge provides students the chance to develop their professional skills in an interdisciplinary environment alongside their regular course work.

Working towards their final submissions in March, student teams will present their solutions to a panel of judges who will evaluate the projects and award cash prizes to the top three teams.

“I’m really excited to see the proposals that the student teams submit,” says Shiloh Bouvette, Manager of Community Programs and Outreach with Campus and Community Planning. “We’ve commissioned a project that looks at ways to boost student engagement in Bike to Work Week. What better way to tap into the fresh, creative energy of students, help them apply their critical thinking skills to real matters related to our university and create a wonderful synergy across our academic and operational mandates.”

The Challenge brings together 69 students from across eight faculties and draws on the strength of their interdisciplinary backgrounds. Working under the guidance of project advisors and mentors, the student teams have met weekly since October to research, plan and develop strategies, in advance of the submission of their midterm reports on December 15 th.

“Students are definitely enthusiastic, and they are asking insightful questions. It’s exciting to see them engaged in this way and it’s rewarding on a personal level to share my professional experience and knowledge with them. It’s also satisfying to get their fresh perspectives, they have encouraged me to think about sustainability in ways that I hadn’t before,” says Shannon Lambie, UBC Sustainability Initiative Communications and Engagement Specialist, and mentor in the challenge.

In the New Year, student teams will hone their professional skills with a series of workshops focused on report writing, public speaking, and presentations. Advisors and mentors will continue to provide support and expertise as the teams move into the final phases of project work and solution development.

“The UBC sustainability challenge is empowering creative students to be the change we want to create. The Food Waste challenge has finally given me the opportunity to tackle the biggest sustainability problem that I see every day at all food shops around campus: the impressive amount of waste we create through the use of disposable containers. Although there have been some improvements, there is still a lot to do in order to make all students conscious of this”, explains Isabel de Gainza, fourth year student in Faculty of Arts, International Relations, and team member for U Bring Container. “UBC is giving us a chance to come with innovative solutions to everyday problems that we think of as normal. It is time for a change”.

The Student’s Solutions Showcase will mark the conclusion of the challenge as teams will present their findings. Judges will then evaluate the proposed solutions based on their sustainability impact, quality and feasibility of implementation.

Top teams will be awarded cash prizes ranging from $2,500 – Gold, $1,500 – Silver, and $1,000 – Bronze.

“It’s something new that we are trying as part of our efforts to provide students with co-curricular opportunities and advance our work on providing every student an opportunity to integrate sustainability into their UBC experience,” says Kshamta Hunter, Manager, Advising and Student Involvement with the UBC Sustainability Initiative. As part of the 20-year Sustainability Strategy, UBC is striving to integrate academic and operational sustainability and improve environment and human wellbeing both on and off campus. “It’s a small step, but it enables us to tackle these issues together.”