1st Annual Catalyst Awards [2011]

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. 
Jonathan Glencross        Emerald Key 2011


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:


Sarah Archibald

Award for Student Collaboration on Sustainability with the Administration 2011

David Morris

Catalyst Award for Lessons Learned in Sustainability 2011

Dana Lahey

Catalyst Award for Applied Student Research in Sustainability 2011

Emanuelle Lapointe

Catalyst Award for Staff Contribution to Sustainability 2011

Oliver De Volpi Catalyst Award for Staff Contribution to Sustainability 2011



Jonathan Glencross (Emerald Key Award)

U3(Honours) Environment, minor in Philosophy


Jonathan's impact on the sustainability movement at McGill is immeasurable. His involvement is extensive and aligns with his belief that the university community should be at the forefront of leading societal change.

As Sustainable McGill Project Coordinator, Jonathan collaborated on the proposal for the creation of the Sustainability Office at McGill. He held community roundtables and a faculty forum to establish and communicate the vision, and was subsequently nominated by Associate Vice-Principal (University Services) Jim Nicell to sit on the Steering Committee for the creation of the Office of Sustainability.

 Through an upper level independent study course in the McGill School of the Environment, Jonathan authored a proposal to renovate an existing building on the Macdonald campus to LEED or equivalent standards through applied interdisciplinary research. The proposal also sought to establish an annual interdisciplinary field study semester focused on applied sustainability to be hosted in the building. Although the retrofit process for the building was not approved, the field study semester was, and has been given seed funding to begin summer 2011.
Jonathan is likely best known for spearheading the design, proposal, negotiation, and implementation of the $2.5 million Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF), and the creation of the SPF Administrator position, as well as a number of part-time student positions to suport the SPF. The SPF is the largest fund of its kind at any university campus in North America and as of April 2011, has 32 student- and staff-led projects on the ground.

In six short days Jonathan succeeded in informing and winning over the 20,000+ undergraduates, with a $200 budget and no access to email or list serves. He built a 200 volunteer team and resulted in one of the highest voter turnouts in SSMU history, with ~80% of the student body voting in favour. Jonathan also helped to ensure that the administration would match all monies raised through the student referendum.

Jonathan has also served as Coordinator of McGill Food Systems Project, where he has facilitated visioning sessions, helped secure $26,000 in grants from the Quebec Government, and supervised 20 student researchers. He successfully lead the proxcess to create full time sustainable purchasing agent at McGill Food and Dining Services, as well as local food days and other initiatives.

As undergraduate representative of the McGill Food & Dining Services committee for Sub-contracting, Jonathan helped author an RFP for food outlets for the next 3 years, with an estimated worth in the tens of millions. He successfully negotiated a mandatory minimum local purchasingrequirement of 25-75% of total purchases, depending on season.

Though his accomplishments speak for themselves, the way in which he unites the community through experiences that embody a shared vision for a better future. Jonathan is passionate about the need to create a culture of sustainability and he has poured his heart and soul into making this change come about and his impact at McGill will leave ripples for years to come.

Sarah Archibald (Award for Student Collaboration on Sustainability with the Administration)

U2 Agriculture and Environmental Science


Sarah embodies the culture of sustainability at McGill. She set up and now leads an independent research project which maps out how a shared vision of a sustainable food system can be operationalized at Macdonald campus, and has skillfully brought in key stakeholders from all levels of the administration and student society into the conversation.

Sarah did initial research to support and establish an ENVR 401 project in Fall 2010 that led to recommendations for sustainable seafood purchasing now in the process of being adopted and implemented by McGill Food & Dining Services. She organized the first ever community consultation session for McGill Food & Dining Services focused on the issue of the sustainability of campus food services and she helped organize a second and more in depth world café focused on key aspects of McGill Food & Dining Services’ 3 year sustainability strategy.

Sarah is an indefatigable co-coordinator of the innovative student-led McGill Food Systems Project, which stands on campus as a model for student-administration collaboration. With her colleagues, she has been successful in bringing stable funding and rotating internships to the organization, which will ensure its long-term viability.

Sarah co-hosted a workshop entitled Building Sustainable Student Initiatives with first-year students in partnership with the First Year Leadership office. She also regularly volunteers to host sprouting workshops in residence dining halls to build awareness and empowerment with first year students on Local Food Days. She often writes articles for the McGill Food & Dining Services’ newsletter. Sarah's energy and integrity shine through in her work and the meaningful impact she has had.

David Morris (Catalyst Award for ‘lessons learned’)

U3 Chemical Engineering


The Big Hanna in-vessel bioreactor under the Wong Building is one of the most visible commitments to sustainability at McGill. It is now composting pre-consumer waste, collected daily from several on campus locations, and providing learning opportunities to several groups of students .

Big Hanna was proposed eight years ago by the student group Gorilla Composting. It was initially proposed eight years ago by the student group Gorilla Composting as a pilot project, and finally arrived on campus in May 2010. David Morris has been the glue of the operation ever since. As a result he has been learning most from the challenges of its implementation and championing its integration into McGill’s operations.

The composter has presented technical and logistical challenges, all of which David has been central to identifying and addressing. He is responsible for recommendations for institutionalization, building an engagement strategy for integrating the composter into campus events and activities, and a final report on initial project intentions, outcomes, challenges, and lessons learned.

David and the composter team have adapted to challenges and learned through a process of iterative developmental evaluation. David has been the liaison with the project’s funding partners and balanced their various needs well with the intention of the project. Technical challenges have led to constant communication with both the local distributor, Vertal, and the maker of Big Hanna, leading to extensive modification of the machine for future production.

The Central Campus Composter has been the first large scale equipment project at McGill and as such has been a very effective pilot project not just for composting, but for any future project requiring similar collaboration and efforts to shift standard operating procedures to integrate sustainability.



Dana Lahey (Catalyst Award for Applied Student Research)

U3 (Honours) Sociology and Anthropology


Working for SSMUʼs VP University Affairs in 2009, Dana created University United, a report on the best practices of applied student research programs at Canadian universities leading this movement, and how their experiences could help build a system to support applied student research at McGill. Dana's report was used as support for creating and hiring an administrative position jointly responsible for coordinating applied student research and the Sustainable Projects Fund within the McGill Office of Sustainability.

The University United report inspired Dana to found the McGill Food Systems Project, an initiative between McGill Food and Dining Services and the McGill Office of Sustainability to use student research to study the campusʼ own food supply chain. Dana has helped to set up, oversee, and support applied student research with over thirty McGill students. The McGill Food Systems Project provides a framework that will continue to enable applied research to flourish long after Dana has left the university.

Dana also led a group of five students in researching and writing a report on the capacity for sustainable food sourcing in McGillʼs dining halls. The report that came from this project, Best Practices for Sustainable Purchasing at McGill, was used as support for creating and hiring the Food Systems Administrator position within McGill Food & Dining Services. This report also provided the foundation for building a partnership between McGill Food & Dining Services and Local Food Plus, a national sustainable food certifying organization which will certify McGillʼs suppliers starting in fall 2011.

Dana is finishing his undergraduate thesis in which he analyzes the effectiveness of the McGillFood Systems Project, specifically focusing on explaining the challenges and successes to inform future similar applied student research, at McGill and otherinstitutions.



Emanuelle Lapointe (Catalyst Award for staff contribution to sustainability)

Architect, Design Services


A LEED accredited professional, Emmanuelle strives to integrate all aspects of sustainability to her daily tasks. Further to chairing FOD’s sustainability workgroup, Emmanuelle has had a tremendous impact on sustainability at McGill at various levels.

Emmanuelle has worked actively with the project management team to advocate for better waste management practices. Her efforts have resulted in substantial amounts of waste being diverted from landfill for construction, renovation, and demolition projects; some projects have reached diversion rates well over 90%.

Emmanuelle’s team is the watchdog of McGill’s construction standards. She has pushed for more sustainable solutions and more durable materials at McGill’s. She has also proposed to develop a website application to help potential suppliers submit their products and to rank them according to their durability, environmental and health certifications, cost, and social acceptability.

Emmanuelle has also been actively involved in the renovation of classrooms and cooperated with teaching and learning services to that end. The new classrooms are recognized to be state of the art with energy saving features, recycled, emission free materials, FSC certified wood, and they offer a one of a kind learning experience to our students. She goes above and beyond her call of duty to build sustainability into McGill’s standard operations.


Oliver De Volpi (Catalyst Award for staff contribution to sustainability)

Executive Chef, McGill Food & Dining Services


Oliver has a special ability to challenge dogmatic thinking in sustainability and move the conversation one step forward by getting right to the real challenges and opportunities for action. He has supported a series of Local Food Days in residence dining halls over the past two years, raising awareness of sustainability in residences and allowing kitchen staff to gradually move toward more local and sustainable sourcing of food at McGill. He has also initiated various field trips on his personal time to help students understand the food system upon which McGill relies.

Oliver has supported student applied research in numerous sustainable food systems projects, independent research projects, and theses. Under Oliver’s direction and leadership, McGill Food & Dining Services has offered transparent access to its data & information and has implemented a large majority of student recommendations, including new commitments to sustainable poultry, fish, and seafood.

Oliver has been a champion in support of numerous sustainability shifts for kitchen operations, including phasing out water bottles and styrofoam purchasing in dining halls, offering a reusable take-out container to all students in residence, and composting pre-consumer kitchen waste in the new Big Hanna on campus. He also supported the creation of a Food Systems Administrator to get down to action on the unit’s sustainability commitments, and has closely managed and mentored this position in volume purchasing for institutional dining. He has also engaged suppliers to offer more sustainable and local options.

Oliver is one the “prime movers” behind the scenes in the McGill Feeding McGill project. The project’s goals are to produce food at the horticultural centre for the entire McGill community and to organize community building activities around the theme of food and sustainability. In 2010, McGill Food & Dining Services purchased over 20,000 lbs of fruits and vegetables from McGill’s very own farm. Oliver unites stakeholders around the table to not just talk, but to walk the walk of sustainability in food systems.


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