Earth Hour Tour: Working Together for a Sustainable Future

On March 7, 2014 WWF’s David Miller moderated a panel discussion with a variety of experts, hosted by the City of Edmonton, Canada’s 2014 Earth Hour City Capital, and the University of Alberta.  The topic: visions for a future where climate change is no longer a threat.  We know that future is possible, and that the solutions are all around us – including in Edmonton.  And we want all of Canada to learn from their successes.  We asked panelists to answer a critical question: what is the one thing we need to do today to achieve that vision?  Here is one of the answers we received. 
Written by Len Sereda, Director of Energy Management and Sustainable Operations, University of Alberta
I believe that we as a university need to establish a culture of sustainability and a mindset of carbon neutrality to work towards this vision. We graduate over 8000 students annually at the University of Alberta. Imagine the possibilities if each one of those graduates left their university experience with a strong grasp of sustainability, and a sense of urgency and excitement about what they can achieve with their newly minted knowledge.

university of alberta
26 kW of building integrated solar photo voltaic panels are installed at the Medical Isotope and Cyclotron Facility on the University of Alberta South Campus. Photo courtesy of the University of Alberta.

I view post-secondary institutions as microcosms of society – mini-cities of sorts – in which we have a chance to innovate, set examples of the leading edge, and demonstrate sustainable practices. Higher education institutions like the University of Alberta are unique places where teaching, research, facility operation, and community engagement can all come together. The UAlberta Sustainability Commitment and Guiding Principles  and Sustainability Plan recognize this and were designed with an institution-wide approach in mind.
Building a culture of sustainability means engaging in knowledge sharing and collaboration; it means pushing beyond what we are capable of achieving individually or in our expert silos; it means reaching beyond our own university to share the examples we are setting with our surrounding communities and with the world.
I think it is very important to recognize that success requires a diversity of approaches and a continuous effort over time. There is no perfect answer, no magic bullet, and no single technology that is going to move us beyond our situation to a sustainable future.
At a university, or in a city, there is a lot of capacity and expertise to learn and experiment, and I believe that now it all needs to come together with a mindset of sustainability focused on this joint vision. Henry Ford captured my sentiments well – “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Interested in participating in the Earth Hour Tour: Out of the Dark, Into the Future? We’re coming to Halifax on Friday, March 21 and Toronto on Tuesday, March 25.
Celebrate Earth Hour, 8:30-9:30 p.m., March 29, and let us know what you’ll be thinking about during your #momentofdarkness at