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3rd Annyal Catalyst Awards [2013]

The Office of Sustainability is proud to recognize the significant efforts that take place at McGill to grow toward campus sustainability. The Catalyst Awards and the Emerald Key acknowledge the students and staff who have gone above and beyond in their work to integrate sustainability into McGill's knowledgebase, operations, and culture.

Emerald Key

The Emerald Key is given out to a student who has made an outstanding and enduring contribution to the sustainability movement at McGill University. 
•   Marc-Étienne Brunet      Emerald Key 2013

The Catalyst Awards from The Office of Sustainability

The Catalyst Awards are given out to students, academic, administrative and support staff who have contributed to the sustainability movement at McGill University in the following categories:

Samra Lakew

Award for Student Collaboration on Sustainability with the Administration 2013

McGill Farmers’ Market

Catalyst Award for Lessons Learned in Sustainability 2013

William Agnew

Catalyst Award for Applied Student Research in Sustainability 2013

George McCourt

Catalyst Award for Staff Contribution to Sustainability 2013

Jerome Conraud Catalyst Award for Staff Contribution to Sustainability 2013


Marc-Étienne Brunet (Emerald Key Award)

Marc-Étienne has shown incredible dedication to promoting sustainability both at McGill and the community at large. He was an Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) sustainability coordinator, presenting opportunities to get involved on campus to first year students, connecting stakeholder groups in the faculty, and implementing a system to eliminate the use of roughly 25 000 disposal cups per year in the student bar. He co-founded the McGill Energy Project (MEP) to connect different sections of the university and convene conversations around using applied research to push the universities energy system in a more sustainable direction. In the eighteen months since its creation, he has helped drive the MEP from an idea to an organization with projects spearheading major energy savings throughout campus, faculty and staff partners, university funding, and over twenty-five student roles.  These projects have included the development of an energy systems map at McGill through consultation with over 40 stakeholders on campus, designing a thermal solar heating system for upper residence, informing decisions regarding energy management software, investigating energy consumption in labs, and optimizing the operation of the major boilers on campus.

Through the MEP, he has established partnerships with faculty, staff and students. Their trust in him encourages future student-staff partnerships, and a continued collaborative effort towards energy conservation at McGill. His hard work ethic and proven results motivate all those who know him to do the same. By giving students the experience of transforming their campus’ energy system for the better, they would graduate with the skills and confidence needed to make lasting positive change in their future endeavours. Having completed the groundwork of energy research at McGill, other members of the McGill community can continue using applied research to add to the model in future years, potentially lowering McGill’s footprint.

Now that he has graduated, Marc-Étienne has continued to contribute through the MEP, promoting CodeJam events to inspire engineers to solve some of McGill’s most complex energy problems.



Samra Lakew (Award for Student Collaboration on Sustainability with the Administration)

Samra co-founded and was the driving force behind McGill’s Team Montreal for the Solar Decathlon Competition, a competition involving 20 intercollegiate

teams individually designing and building a fully functional, net-zero energy solar house to offer sustainable solutions for the housing market. She co-founded the team in early 2011 and over the first semester she helped gain the support of approximately 100 students interested in the project and merged the team with another from École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), fostering collaboration between universities. With the support of Professor Goshal, Associate Dean of Student Affairs from civil Engineering, Professor Covo of the architecture faculty and Professor Daniel Forgues of ETS, the team began work on the proposal to be submitted for entry.

Samra helped foster the development of a very capable and driven team who autonomously developed the knowledge and resources required to build an ecological house, began fundraising efforts, gained support from the Montreal Biosphere for $300,000 and made efforts to integrate students from multiple faculties into the project. Participating students gained in-depth knowledge on sustainable building design that was available nowhere else.  The project also opened students to the many fields of green design and gave them an edge in the industry. The project touched hundreds of students and promoted awareness of sustainability in the built environment. To ensure that the benefits of the Solar Decathalon project are lasting, Samra helped integrate the project into the engineering curriculum of both ETS and McGill. A new effort has begun since to compete in the 2015 Edition of the Solar Decathlon Competition. The team has recruited 60 students and is now in a much better position to compete. This project will continue to educate engineers and open careers in sustainable development to McGill students.



McGill Farmers’ Market (Catalyst Award for ‘lessons learned’)

Since its founding in 2008, the McGill Farmers’ Market has become a fixture on campus. This complex, student-run, multi-stakeholder project works to ensure local food is available to the downtown campus, with a vision of community-building, education, and sustainability. There have been two main challenges to the project: first, to find a structure of ownership that reflected the collaborative nature of the project, and second, to become self-financing. Both challenges have since been overcome.

Through years of consultation with stakeholders, the project has developed a structure with student coordinators, an advisory committee, and general meetings, allowing for deep and broad community participation. No single group “owns” this project and it continues to be a beacon of successful collaboration at McGill.

While the project began with support from the Sustainability Projects Fund, they have slowly weaned off SPF funding and are now self-sustaining. Through a combination of fees and fundraising activities they have covered the difference between their prior revenues and their expenses, learning to balance their budget and become truly sustainable.



William Agnew (Catalyst Award for Applied Student Research (ASR) on Sustainability)

William’s involvement began when he volunteered with the Food System Project, working on local food, food procurement and transparency in McGill’s food system. His collaborative work helped McGill Food and Dining become a leader in sustainable practices on University campuses around Canada.

In 2010, a McGill School of Environment applied student research group, including Will and seven other students, started a four-month research project into sustainable seafood looking into the different possible certifications and criteria. They suggested a few different sustainable seafood certifications and criteria, including the Marine Stewardship Certification. Since then, MFDS has shifted completely to only purchasing seafood with the recommended criteria. In 2012 William took on the role as advisor and as Internal Auditor for MFDS.

To pursue Marine Stewardship Certification, they convinced Aramark to agree to the process. Next, they got the MFDS supply chain certified, encouraging both GFS Canada and Sysco Canada to become certified as well. During the certification process, William was directly involved in training over 100 staff. Since then, McGill has become the first campus in Canada to be MSC certified joining the ranks of UC Berkley and Cornell University. This certification officially signifies that MFDS supports and rewards sustainable fisheries, sustainable seafood companies, scientists, and conservation groups.



George McCourt (Catalyst Award for staff contribution to sustainability)

Professor McCourt has demonstrated his commitment to sustainability through teaching, by applying these concepts on campus and to the institutional framework of the university, and by encouraging his students to do the same. His contributions to sustainability through the voluntary supervision of diverse applied student research (ASR) projects about sustainability have been a driving force behind many positive changes at the university. He has supervised projects on Seafood Certification, Sustainability in Curriculum, Water Management on Campus, and Sustainable Thompson House. These have all contributed to progress in sustainability on campus in large part due to George’s input and guidance.

His contributions have not only made significant impacts on campus, but through long-lasting impacts on students. He has gone far beyond his formal roles of a teacher and supervisor, acting as a mentor and an invaluable resource for students seeking to apply their knowledge to sustainability-related problems on campus.

He is a pioneer for integrating sustainability into the curriculum, sharing with his students a ‘big-picture’ philosophy of sustainable learning and living, in addition to course material.


Jerome Conraud (Catalyst Award for staff contribution to sustainability)

Jerome Conraud has gone above and beyond his job requirements to be one of the driving forces for sustainability at McGill. After hosting a Sustainability Xchange on climate change, he later encouraged anyone interested to contribute to a report including scope 3 emissions related to commuting or business travel. This initiative preceded a Greenhouse Gas working group for investigating McGill’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Jerome has initiated, mentored and empowered countless students who have taken part in many SPF projects under his supervision. These projects have provided the opportunity for students to cultivate their passion for sustainability, and have empowered them to make positive and informed changes in the university’s operations. Jerome supervised a student intern who built the Pulse Energy Dashboard, measuring and displaying campus energy consumption. The Dashboard was introduced to residents, reaching over 1300 students. Further, Jerome supervised another intern who helped determine baseline water usage on campus. He enlisted seven students to help assess the McGill Food and Dining Services’ carbon footprint and develop strategies to reduce it. 

Jerome is a large contributor and member of the Sustainability Working Group within McGill’s Facilities Operations and Development Department and has volunteered to mentor projects such as the McGill Energy Project.