A project of sustainability for the forest surrounding the Glendon campus garnered second prize in the 4th annual TD Go Green Challenge. And what makes this project even more special is that it represents the combined vision and collaboration of two students – one from each of York University’s two campuses – 4th-year Glendon history student Darnel Harris and Masters of Environmental Studies student Caitlin Langlois Greenham of the Keele campus’ Faculty of Environmental Studies.
TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (TD FEF) announced the winners of this year’s TD Go Green Challenge on March 16 at Glendon, awarding second place to the Glendon/York project, whose title is “The Future of Our Forest: A Sustainability Vision for York University”. The Go Green Challenge is a national competition inviting Canadian post-secondary students to explore and offer solutions to sustainability issues. 132 teams from 59 schools participated in this year’s competition, which focused on sustainability and environmental stewardship on-campus. They shared ideas ranging from paperless universities to an integrated energy and food greenhouse.
The Regenesis@York team with the prize
Top honours went to a team of students from McGill University, who will be awarded $20,000 and a paid 2011 summer internship with TD FEF for each student team member. TD FEF will also award $100,000 to McGill University for greening the campus. Second place went to the Glendon/York team, and third place went to a team of students from the University of Victoria, who will receive a $10,000 prize and a $10,000 grant to support on-campus tree-planting initiatives.
The Glendon team’s video submission outlined the challenge facing the forest around the Glendon campus: a state of degradation due to overuse. It is one of the few remaining wetlands which are home to globally rare amphibians in Toronto, and is an essential part of the Don Valley corridor that connects it to habitats downstream. In their video, they propose a four-step solution for its revitalization, a process that they see as the way to restore its role in ecological, educational and social vitality.
Farzana Syed, regional manager of TD FEF announced the Glendon/York winning team and presented a cheque for $15,000, which the two students will share and put towards their continuing educational costs. Glendon College also received a $15,000 cheque which will go towards making some of the project’s goals a reality, specifically for planting trees in the Glendon forest.
Left: L-r: Kenneth McRoberts, Farzana Syed, Caitlin Langlois Greenham, Darnel
Harris and Barbara Rahder with students' prize cheque
Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts thanked the Toronto Dominion Bank for its generosity and also expressed his thanks to the students in the project. “We are all great beneficiaries of the Glendon forest, a part of our campus landscape that is close to all our hearts”, said McRoberts. “We are dedicated to preserving this magnificent campus, originally built and developed by the Wood family in the 1920s, and we are delighted to receive the funds for this project.”
“Environmental degradation ranks as one of the greatest challenges for our society”, said Professor Barbara Rahder, Dean of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. “Our students remind us that a more sustainable future is possible and begins at the grassroots level, with small but innovative ideas. […] This is just one of our areas of strength here at York, […]; in fact, this is the second time in just four years that York students have finished at the top of this competitive contest. TD has demonstrated a deep commitment to the advancement of York University, to the sustainability of our surrounding communities and to the conservation and protection of our collective environment. “
The two winners expressed their profound thanks for TD FEF’s generous support and emphasized the collaborative nature of the project. They also paid tribute to the team’s behind-the-scene contributions, Alex Lisman’s expert videography, Micky Rodriguez’s beautiful music composition, the crew at Regenesis@York, the President’s Sustainability Council and its Student Subcommittee.
Our team is passionate about Glendon’s forest, an ecological gem containing multiple forest biomes, an endangered wetland, and a river, in the heart of the city”, said Darnel Harris, who is also co-president of Regenesis@York – a student organization dealing with sustainability projects on both of York University’s campuses. “My love for the forest led me to notice its degraded state and I began to investigate what could be done to improve the situation. Finding Caitlin, someone of like passion, and working together was indeed a blessing.” Harris paid tribute to the dedicated work of Glendon faculty and staff, who had undertaken the creation of a comprehensive Glendon Forest Stewardship Plan in 2006, which resulted in some initial remediation, in 2007. “As York students, we feel extremely privileged to put ecological restoration and stewardship in the foreground at our university. The TD Go Green Challenge funding will allow us to engage the university community in restoring the health of the forest for the enjoyment of all species and generations to come.”
Right: L-r: TD FEF regional manager Farzana Syed; Glendon principal Kenneth McRoberts and professor Barbara Rahder, dean of York's Faculty of Environmental Studies hold cheque for Glendon tree-planting project
“As a lifelong environmental advocate, I know the transformative value of community-based stewardship projects, and having grown up not far from Glendon, I feel closely connected to the forests here, as do so many others”, said Caitlin Langlois Greenham. “This project will revitalize the forest and the entire Don River Valley habitat corridor, reconnect people with natural spaces, and raise awareness about the importance of urban nature and the value of stewarding the environment around us. This investment in the future of our forests will ensure that Glendon’s ecological gem is sustainable and healthy - today and in the future. Moreover, the valuable experiences that student, staff, faculty, and community members will gain by being a part of stewardship and restoration efforts will create a ripple effect, strengthening the spirit of environmentalism that we will all carry forward into the future at York and beyond.“
Professor Jennifer Foster, who teaches a course on restoration in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, is also Chair of the President’s Sustainability Council and was the faculty advisor of the project. She expressed her great pride at the team’s success and looks forward to working with them throughout the next steps.
“We are celebrating the accomplishments of Caitlin and Darnel”, said Natasha Alleyne-Martin, Manager of National Programs, TD FEF. “The judges were very impressed with how well this team articulated the challenge they presented, as well as the creativity, practicality and innovation of their suggested solutions.”
For details of all the winning teams and their projects as well as more information about the TD Go Green project, please visit their website.
Article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny