Students on Sustainability helps add environment to elementary education

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Students on Sustainability

Students on Sustainability is a group of university students in Calgary working on bringing more environmental education to Alberta classrooms.

Growing up in Calgary and going through the public school system, the group’s founder Patrick Duke felt as though he had received a quality education, but found climate change wasn’t thoroughly included in his schooling. Even when it was, he said, it wasn’t multidisciplinary, it was often rushed, and was usually only offered within a higher level science course.

“Your grades should not hold you back from this kind of education,” said Duke, “from being aware and being environmentally conscious.”

Environmental education shouldn’t be something only for some students. Duke sees climate change as a topic that should be “for everyone – in science, the humanities and option classes throughout a student’s education.”

In his own education, Duke saw the effects of learning more about climate change in his first year of university. Duke enrolled in the petroleum geology program, “because my parents, my neighbors, and my friends all worked in oil and gas.” But when he started learning more about climate change in one of his first-year courses, he changed programs.

Climate change is happening and it is something students need to be informed about so that they can think about it when picking a career for the future.
— Patrick Duke

“Climate change is happening and it is something students need to be informed about, so that they can think about it when picking a career for the future,” he said.

With Students on Sustainability, Duke hopes their lessons will “open up perspectives and career choices that a student wouldn't think of otherwise as an option.”

Duke founded Students on Sustainability in December of 2017, and started to collaborate with education groups to generate content that meets the regular requirements of Alberta lesson plans, but with a slight spin on sustainability. By the end of January the group had 28 volunteers trained to give curriculum-based lessons across Calgary, and hopes to soon expand their reach across the province.

One group Students on Sustainability works with is the Alberta Council on Environmental Education (ACEE), which helps connect students to its network of teachers. From February to June last year, Students on Sustainability delivered a total of 35 school presentations and participated in several events, reaching some 1,500 kids in their first few months of outreach.

Students on Sustainability allows for younger students to learn about sustainability from a university student who is engaged and passionate about what they are doing. Duke said that this dynamic is key to their success.

“It’s impactful,” he said. “The students often look up and connect to the university students. Having that different perspective in the classroom is great.”

Learn more about Students on Sustainability, here.

For more information on environmental education in Alberta, see our resources page.

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Calgary’s Wind-powered LRT

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Calgary’s wind-powered LRT

Calgary’s C-Train light-rail system is overwhelmingly popular with residents, boasting an average weekday ridership of 325,000. It has kick-started smarter, denser development around its stations. And best of all, it is 100 per cent powered by renewable energy.

Now, the LRT does not run on electrons delivered straight from wind turbines — instead, it’s connected to the standard electricity grid, which is still dominated by coal and natural gas power. In 2001, Calgary city council voted to purchase 21,000 megawatt-hours of wind power a year for 10 years. That’s how much electricity the LRT uses in a year. Twelve wind turbines were erected to fulfill Calgary’s investment. By purchasing wind power, Calgary Transit reports it is avoiding the emission of 56,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

In 2012, Calgary went all-in on renewable energy, purchasing enough renewable power for all of the city’s operations. Because of this, two wind farms were built, totaling 144 megawatts of installed wind capacity.

While the C-Train is completely wind powered, the City’s other operations use a mix of renewables: wind, hydro, biomass and solar power. The power purchase agreement totals 450,000 megawatt-hours a year, or the equivalent power demand of over 65,000 Calgary homes.

Cities like Calgary are playing a leadership role without breaking the bank. While the City of Calgary wouldn’t disclose the terms of their power purchase agreement with ENMAX, wind is the cheapest source of electricity in Alberta. The first round of the Renewable Energy Program announced in December 2017 yielded the cheapest wind price in Canada at 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour while the average price for electricity from coal was 7.7 cents per-kilowatt hour.

Doubly cool is the phenomenal ridership rate Calgary has achieved for its LRT, logging 102 million trips in 2017. That is reducing congestion, bringing down emissions and building the clean energy economy of the future.

A full three-car C-Train carries 600 people. Not only does the C-Train take a lot of cars off the road, it also helps the city grow in a smarter, denser way.

“Our next step is a big shift, and that’s transit-oriented development. That means making sure more people are living at the transit nodes outside of the downtown core. That’s not something we’ve done a lot of in the past in Calgary, but it has to happen now,” says Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi.

With 46 stations and 118 km of track, that thinking makes sense. When you start talking about location efficient housing, more people living closer to an LRT station means less money spent on transportation by residents, less pollution and less congestion on the roads.

Read the full story on Green Energy Futures here

For more information on how to undertake your own renewables project, check out the resources page.

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