On Monday, January 21, Vancouver students hosted their first Annual Sustainability conference at Magee Secondary. The conference featured an interdisciplinary focus on sustainability. Committed student delegates, volunteers, trustees and other staff from other Metro Vancouver school districts converged at Magee to plan the next steps of action for proactive sustainable efforts across the region.
The conference supported Vancouver's efforts to becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.
Dr. John Robinson, the Associate Provost of Sustainability at The University of British Columbia (UBC), spoke to delegates about a regenerative approach towards sustainability in which future structures could become conduits for producing resources and energy, and transforming and filtering waste into new resources.
He stressed that to drive compelling environmental changes people must adjust their current mindset from one of a "damage limitation" approach to considering how to create net positive sustainability.
"We have to figure out a way to give back, not just harm less," said Robinson. "People get excited about how to do more good and how to be a part of that, not just how to be less bad."
Sean Celi, a Grade 12 student delegate from Killarney Secondary, agreed with Robinson's regenerative approach. He emigrated from the Philippines to Canada last year and has always been interested in sustainability, but did not see much support until he came to Killarney.
"Since my arrival to Canada, I appreciate the accessibility that schools here have provided me in terms of learning more about the environment and how we may help," says Celi. "What I like about this Sustainability Conference, is that you meet other equally passionate individuals who care about environmental issues that are affecting us all. We learn to work together."
Another speaker at the conference, Dr. Vanessa Timer, a sustainability consultant and co-founder and Executive Director of Vancouver-based One Earth, spoke about interdependency and how schools make changes that affect classrooms that in turn affect people outside of school.
Later on, students attended workshops in which workshop leaders discussed their respective topics ranging from Translink to water and agriculture issues. Afterwards, students participated in the Sustainable Planning Session where they discussed initiatives for a sustainable VSB future and created a roadmap of plans for sustainable initiatives for their school.
To learn more about the VSB Sustainability conference, click here.
Photography of the Conference courtesy of Evan Chan and Noah Friebel