This year's Sustainability Soirée was attended by more than 175 faculty, staff, students, and special guests, including the Honorable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The annual event was held on June 12 at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre to acknowledge the efforts of participants in applied campus sustainability research projects and employee engagement programs. These engagement programs support the university in achieving it’s sustainability targets, operational priorities, international commitments and sustainability learning.

Honorable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, commends participants at UBC for another successful year advancing sustainability in the region. Photo by Ricardo Seah.

The Soirée brought together a network of UBC staff, faculty and students representing a diverse array of program participants from 12 of UBC’s faculties and schools and a wide range of departments. In particular, the event recognizes participants in the SEEDS (Social, Ecological, Economic Development Studies) Sustainability Program, and the Sustainability Coordinator Program in offices and labs, two of the most well-established and long-running programs which help operationalize sustainability and build a culture of sustainability on campus.

Celebrating 20 Years of Sustainability at UBC

Philip Steenkamp, Vice President of External Relations, opened up the event by remarking on the 20th anniversary of the first Sustainability office on campus. UBC was the first University in Canada to open a sustainability office in 1998, and is now internationally recognized as a leader in sustainability. 

The Honorable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, attended as a special guest, and spoke of the important role of student, staff, and faculty contributions to advancing sustainable solutions locally and globally. 

Interactive displays and project demos

During the event, participants enjoyed interactive food stations with menu demonstrations from UBC Food Services Executive Chef David Speight, and representatives from Vancouver Farmers Market Society and Albion Fisheries. The menu emphasized low carbon, local and seasonal offerings with Ocean Wise and Fair Trade ingredients. Attendees mingled in between the live performances by UBC music students and program showcases of achievements from the past year.

Event participants engage in an annual networking opportunity while enjoying low carbon footprint hors d'oeuvres with Ocean Wise, Fair Trade, and seasonal ingredients. Photo by Ricardo Seah.

The Soirée also featured applied campus research, interdisciplinary collaborations, and Campus as a Living Lab project demonstrations which advance campus sustainability and address societal issues on campus and abroad. Participants flocked to the Pollinator Research Station, based on a SEEDS collaboration between UBC Botanical Gardens and the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 

Tabinda Shah, Biodiversity Project Coordinator for the SEEDS Sustainability Program, invites attendees to engage with the Pollinator Research station, one of many interactive activities at the event. Photo by Ricardo Seah.

Other interactive stations included a SALA Living Roof Sustainable Architecture Demonstration, and the launch of the SEEDS Lexicon of Sustainability photo project series which displayed stories of research projects on themes ranging from biodiversity to food sovereignty. 

Supporting sustainability plan implementation

The SEEDS Sustainability Program and UBC’s sustainability engagement programs play an important role in achieving UBC’s sustainability aspirations and objectives, directly supporting the University’s strategies, operational sustainability plans, provincial and international commitments. Program research and activities directly support UBC’s 20 Year Sustainability Strategy, Zero Waste Action Plan, Climate Action Plan, Transportation Plan, AMS Lighter Footprint Strategy, Wellbeing at UBC, and emerging Green Building Plan and Water Action Plan.

At the event, Liska Richer from the SEEDS Sustainability Program thanked program participants for their support in helping continue the legacy of this innovative initiative. In the past year, SEEDS has engaged about 1,000 members of the campus community and community partners in over 100 projects to advance UBC’s sustainability strategic plans and priorities. 

Mustafa Akhtar, Coordinator of Community Programs and Outreach at Campus + Community Planning engages with Sustainability Soiree attendees. Photo by Ricardo Seah. 

In fact, last year SEEDS projects aligned with and advanced both the development and implementation of 24 sustainability plans and policies. These student-led projects included an investigation of air travel emissions, research to support the development of a Healthy Beverage Initiative, mapping of UBC’s natural assets, and research to understand UBC’s role in reducing plastics in the ocean. 

This award-winning program has received recognition from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the international Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN), and the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) for forging innovative, sustainability-focused partnerships that positively transform campus curricula and operations. 

Charlene Ponto and Hannah Land, who chair the Sustainability Coordinator Program and Green Labs committee, recognized the 140+ faculty and staff who champion resource conservation behaviors as Sustainability Coordinators in departments and units across campus. The Sustainability Coordinators program, which has been in place since 1999, has helped reduce the campus footprint from offices and laboratories significantly. 

Program outcomes at a glance

The event celebrated these program outcomes - watch the animated gif below:

Learn more and get involved

UBC’s sustainability champions play an integral part in helping UBC achieve its sustainability goals in the classroom, research environments, and in everyday operations.

To learn more and to get involved:

Photo gallery

View more photos from Sustainability Soirée on flickr and on Facebook