The Sustainability Scholars Program is an innovative paid internship program. We match UBC graduate students with on- and off-campus sustainability partners to work on applied research projects that advance sustainability across the region.
Apply your research skills to real-world sustainability challenges
Get paid and gain valuable professional work experience
Develop applied skills and knowledge under the guidance of a mentor
Build your professional network and enhance your career prospects

How It Works

The program is open to full-time UBC graduate students from any program or discipline. As a Sustainability Scholar, you work under the guidance of a mentor on an applied research project that supports their organization's sustainability goals.


UBC Sustainability Scholars work on applied research projects across a wide range of environmental, economic and social sustainability topics. See our list of current paid internship opportunities.

Project Library

The Scholars Project Library contains hundreds of reports, charts, tool-kits, and more, documenting the applied research produced by Scholars since 2010. A useful body of knowledge to support further research around sustainability.

Fraser Estuary Research Collaborative (FERC)

A new stream in the Sustainability Scholars Program focusing on applied research with the goal of restoring and protecting the endangered Fraser Estuary.

Partner with us

Partner organizations are essential to the UBC Sustainability Scholars Program. Partners provide work experience for UBC graduate students and benefit from their applied research.

Meet the scholars

UBC Sustainability Scholars come from all kinds of backgrounds and academic disciplines. Scholars stand out for being passionate about sustainability, having a strong work ethic, and for their applied research skills.

Program History

Sustainability Scholars’ projects have been helping to move the dial on sustainability across the region for over 10 years. Find out more about our history, milestones, and impact.

Project Library

The City of Vancouver  experienced 66 fatal and 571 severe injury collisions between 2015 and 2019. This project aims to help the City improve traffic safety by identifying the streets with the most collisions for pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and drivers. Results include a list of streets experiencing the most collisions along with a list of schools within 50 meters of those streets. The City can use the results to prioritize those streets for safety improvements.

Partner: City of Vancouver
Funder: City of Vancouver & UBC
Keywords: active transportation, healthy city, transportation

Gurdiljot Gill

This project aims to leverage existing policies to reduce embodied carbon in retrofits. This research identifies policies and incentives for reducing embodied carbon emissions in the existing building sector and provides policy recommendations. The findings can assist policy-makers and other stakeholders in gaining a holistic view of retrofit policies, understanding the barriers to the uptake of retrofit schemes, and developing more efficient retrofit policies in the future.

Partner: Community Energy Association
Funder: BC Hydro
Keywords: green buildings

Haonan Zhang

This project sought to understand anesthetic gas use and emissions across Canada and examine efforts and challenges to mitigate their carbon footprint. We conducted an environmental scan to review efforts to reduce anesthetic emissions; procured pharmacy purchasing data for desflurane and sevoflurane from 2016 to 2021 from six provinces; and interviewed anesthesiologists/environmental experts in academic/health institutions across Canada to discuss efforts to lower anesthetic gas emissions.

Partner: CASCADES / UBC Faculty of Medicine
Funder: UBC
Keywords: leadership & behaviour change

Andrews Nartey

This report aims to assess the environmental, social, and financial impacts of the implementation of water reclamation in the Metro Vancouver region. Reclaimed water can provide substantial benefits to the region, with those benefits potentially outweighing the costs of setting up such systems. The study finalizes by recommending the next steps of identifying potential users, setting a pricing structure for this new source, and projecting its distribution costs. 

Partner: Metro Vancouver
Funder: Metro Vancouver
Keywords: social sustainability, waste management & recycling, water 

Ana Patino

The project explored existing anesthetic gas emissions reduction initiatives to understand the GHG contribution of anesthetic gases across four health organizations in British Columbia, and prioritize the action needed to reduce their impact. The results emphasies the importance of collecting data regularly, educating anesthesiologists, setting goals to implement reduction initiatives, tracking progress, and developing a communication plan to support and empower anesthesia stakeholders.

Partner: Vancouver Coastal Health
Funder: Vancouver Coastal Health
Keywords: leadership & behaviour change, sustainable development & green economy 

Alpamys Issanov

This study compares an alternate test method (adenosine triphosphate, ATP) with the current method used by MetroVancouver (heterotrophic plant count, HPC) for monitoring bacteriological activity in the water transmission system to support continuous innovation of Metro Vancouver's water services. Includes a review of HPC and ATP studies, analysis of water quality data from Canadian municipalities, and results of preliminary ATP testing for the Greater Vancouver Water District transmission system.

Partner: Metro Vancouver
Funder: Metro Vancouver
Keywords: potable water, water treatment

William Chen

Evaluation is essential for measuring progress on sustainable and equitable food systems. However, a key challenge remains developing relevant indicators to measure and track progress on social justice in the context of food systems planning. The objective of the Food Systems Planning Evaluation Framework is to map out potential future visions of food systems in BC, including agricultural-related activities and social justice indicators, and provide metrics on how these visions can be achieved.

Partner: Public Health Association of Canada
Funder: UBC
Keywords: social sustainability, sustainable development & green economy, food systems

Mia MacKechnie

As civil society organizations (ENGOs more specifically) are beginning to reckon with past mistakes and strive for equity and inclusivity, they need tools to create meaningful and lasting organizational change. For several years, Sierra Club BC (SCBC) has been working to decolonize the organization's efforts; this project is among those that are the direct result of this initiative. 

The purpose of 'Implementing a Pathway Together' is to identify and create innovative approaches to intercultural climate engagement by centering Indigenous and diverse lenses. This includes generating reflection, analysis, tools and practices, enabling ENGOs, educational institutions, and other NGOs more generally, to engage with and learn from diverse communities on the climate crisis. The project builds on collaboration with the UBC Sustainability Scholars program on A Pathway Together (2020 - 2021). The scholar will work with SCBC to develop a "process guide" exploring questions of authentic relationships, intercultural collaborations that are respectful of protocol, and how we might centre the SĆȺ ~work with the lands and waters in good ways. 

Developing climate solutions that work for everyone requires increased capacities to learn from and work with diverse knowledge systems and tell different kinds of stories about the climate crisis. Implementing a pathway together, for ENGOs and other climate-engaged organizations to work with Indigenous and other historically marginalized communities is imperative to forward their climate action goals on a foundation of social and environmental justice.

Process guide:

A ‘tool’ for those that need to jump in the canoe and work together for a better future:

Partner: Sierra Club of British Columbia Foundation
Funder: UBC
Keywords:  leadership & behaviour change, social sustainability, decolonization

Melissa Plisic

The purpose of this project is to (a) Identify and create innovative approaches to research, knowledge sharing, storytelling and engagement by centring Indigenous and diverse lenses, and (b) Re-story and model how to implement walking A Pathway Together collaboratively.

Through respectful Indigenous and intercultural approaches, and centering the Coast Salish protocol, a holistic understanding of the interrelationships is invited.  Re-storying our relationships through an older oral traditions lens models both knowledge translation and dissemination across diverse perspectives.  Storytelling relays the rich nuanced cultural data being offered, encouraging connections between the Fraser River estuary, river, ocean and all who live within these communities, both human and non-human.

Process guide: 

Partner: Sierra Club of British Columbia Foundation
Funder: UBC (Sitka Foundation)
Keywords: biodiversity, ecological systems, indigenous Coast Salish & intercultural lens

Fiona Kelly

This project investigates different ownership models for renewable energy projects with Indigenous involvement in Canada. The ownership models are presented through case studies of past and current projects with the majority of cases being for remote renewable energy projects. The report presents and explains the different models and their uses and explores common themes important to the success of projects in partnership with a First Nation or Indigenous community.

Partner: Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation
Keywords: leadership & behaviour change, social sustainability, sustainable development & green economy

Arthur Bledsoe

This open-access toolkit is meant to serve First Nations across the Pacific Northwest as they navigate the creation and management of housing governance options for their communities. This includes an overview to better understand the housing system, a critical examination of why the current system does not work, and solutions for innovative community-centered housing governance models that are based in cultural wellbeing, economic security, and environmental sustainability.

Link to online toolkit:

Partner: Ecotrust
Keywords: leadership & behaviour change, social sustainability, sustainable development & green economy

Ashli Akins

This project aims to investigate entry pathways of pharmaceuticals into Metro Vancouver wastewater to identify opportunities for source control interventions. A major component was understanding the current operation of the drug take-back program in BC. Recommended interventions included improvements in the drug take-back program promotion and operation and alternative strategies for the monitoring and risk assessment of chemicals. 

Partner: Metro Vancouver
Keywords: waste management & recycling, water, pollution

Georgia Green

This project examines whether Metro Vancouver’s residuals (biosolids and drinking water treatment residuals) and Biosolids Growing Medium (BGM), can be used as components in growing media to enhance and optimize the performance of Low Impact Development landscapes within Metro Vancouver. Includes a review of existing regulations, current practices, and scientific literature. This project identifies opportunities for the use of residuals and BGM in addressing stormwater challenges in the region.

Partner: Metro Vancouver
Keywords: green buildings, waste management & recycling, stormwater

Amzy Vallenas

This project explores best practices for policy and regulatory approaches for reducing embodied emissions in new construction and how these practices may be incorporated into a framework such as the BC Energy Step Code. The research identifies opportunities for local government and industry to reduce embodied emissions in new construction and makes recommendations to support the District of North Vancouver’s interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector.

Partner: District of North Vancouver
Keywords: green buildings, embodied emissions

Amir Kari

This report examines the intersection between human rights and land use planning. It reviews key concepts, including the applicable legal framework, and considers practical issues in human rights and land use planning. The report aims to help the City of Vancouver identify actions and future work on this topic through provincial and municipal examples and recommendations on how a human rights lens can be applied to the City's work in land use planning.

Partner: City of Vancouver
Keywords: healthy city, land use planning, leadership, behavior change, social sustainability

Stanley Omotor

Energy conservation plays a key role in reducing climate change. Unfortunately, energy conservation is a boring topic for most people. Smart speaker technologies have components that can make energy conservation more exciting. This project aims to explore critical design features of smart speaker applications that can be leveraged to increase engagement and promote behavioral change towards energy conservation.

Partner: BC Hydro
Keywords: leadership & behaviour change, sustainable development & green economy, water

Qomaruliati Setiawati

The purpose of this evaluation was to determine whether the Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) Education Portal was effective at supporting MHSU education and service navigation for point of care staff and leaders at urban, rural, and remote sites within the Vancouver Coastal community of care. This includes evaluating the reach, relevance, and usability of the MHSU Education Portal, as well as identifying areas of improvement and highlighting gaps in content.

Partner: Vancouver Coastal Health
Keywords: leadership & behaviour change, social sustainability, sustainability in education

Natasha Parent

Demolitions of homes built after 1970 are expected to increase in Metro Vancouver. This study aims to advance zero waste strategies in Metro Vancouver by examining the recycling and reuse potential of materials found in single-family homes built after 1970. The study focuses mostly on the diversion potential of wood materials because they make up the highest share of the regional construction and demolition waste stream by weight.

Partner: Metro Vancouver
Keywords: sustainable development & green economy, waste management & recycling

Jacob Forrest

This project aims to understand global best practices for quantifying reuse and assessing their applicability to the Metro Vancouver region. The project looked at three reuse industries in Metro Vancouver (textiles, electronics, and furniture), identified the key players and attempted to collect data from these organizations. Also included are the challenges encountered and suggestions for quantifying reuse in the Metro Vancouver area.

Partner: Metro Vancouver
Keywords: supply chain management & green procurement, waste management & recycling

Simone Rawal

Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is a form of alternate fuel which is manufactured from Residual Waste and can be used by industries as a replacement for fossil fuel. This report aims to provide the City of Vancouver a better understanding of RDF products currently being produced around the world and identify key potential RDF consumer markets within British Columbia. The outcome of this project highlights exploratory options for reaching Vancouver's Zero Waste goals.

Partner: City of Vancouver
Keywords: climate mitigation, green economy, zero waste, sustainable development & green economy, waste management & recycling, Waste to Energy 

Harshit Srivastava