5th Annual Catalyst Awards [2015]

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. 
Alan Chen            Emerald Key 2015

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:
Kristen Perry

Award for Student Collaboration on Sustainability 2015

Divest McGill

Catalyst Award for Lessons Learned in Sustainability 2015

Social Score Project

Catalyst Award for Applied Student Research in Sustainability 2015

Ria Rombough & Emily Clare [Residence Life Programming]

Catalyst Award for Staff Contribution to Sustainability 2015

Elena Bennett Catalyst Award for Staff Contribution to Sustainability 2015


Alan Chen (Emerald Key Award)

Powered by rollerblades and a compassion for community, Alan Chen is infectiously enthusiastic about fostering sustainability and driving institutional change at McGill.  As the Director of the McGill Spaces Project (MSP), he has played a critical role in driving a long-term vision for better connected campus spaces while shaping the nascent group into McGill's “go-to” organization for better understanding and transforming spaces on campus. Now a potent force for change, the MSP pursues an umbrella of placemaking and space-transformation initiatives across campus through cross-collaborative, multi-stakeholder partnerships with administration, faculty, staff, and students. While primed for greater impact in coming years, current MSP projects include a three-part situational analysis of downtown campus spaces to inform administrative decision making, pop-up placemaking initiatives like (Park)ing day and James’ Walks, the construction of an innovative mobile and modular chalkboard, as well as major redesign recommendations and implementation plans for the Brown Student Services Building generated through public consultation and the formation of an applied student research class in the Faculty of Architecture (with the help and commitment of Professor Nik Luka & staff from Student Services).

Alan also acts as a member of the Sustainability Projects Fund Working Group and works as one of eight live-in facilitators & researchers in-residence at the ECOLE Project, where he conducts sustainability-related research on placemaking in efforts to mutually support MSP’s and ECOLE’s intertwined mandates of social sustainability through the provision of spaces as places for community connection and engagement. As a kind-hearted “connector” who nurtures both an earnest intent and dedication to create positive change at McGill, Alan continues to push deeper for more open and inclusive strategies to shape our campus in ways that better support and bring our community together.

Kristen Perry (Award for Student Collaboration on Sustainability)

Kristen is a 4th year Environmental Science student who has been a proponent of green living and learning for as long as she can remember. Her current passions include climate justice, fossil fuel divestment, urban horticulture, green living and -perhaps most importantly- working for positive change through creating collaborative communities. Since she came to McGill, she’s gotten increasingly involved in the growing sustainability community on campus. After a year on SSMU Environment Committee, Kristen became the Environment Commissioner for SSMU, where she’s been working with many others for the past 3 years to promote and facilitate environmental and sustainability initiatives on campus. She’s aimed to build relationships with the amazing groups and individuals working on these projects by coordinating conferences, facilitating workshops and acting as an information resource and enthusiastic supporter.

As an organizer with Divest McGill, Kristen has enjoyed connecting with a network of climate activists at McGill and across the world to promote climate justice and meaningful action on climate change on and off campus. As a member of the ECOLE Collective, she has appreciated the evolution of the project from planning to implementation, and is especially excited to take the next step in her journey as a live-in Facilitator next year! Kristen carries her passion for sustainability and community-building into the academic, professional and personal facets of her life, and aims to support others who want to do the same. When not planning or attending events or doing social media outreach, she enjoys rowing, reading, caring for the worms in her vermicompost and growing vegetables and flowers in whatever garden space she can get her hands on. She’s also always happy to chat about what’s happening on campus or beyond, and especially loves hearing about creative solutions for our future from changemakers!

Divest McGill (Catalyst Award for ‘Lessons Learned’)

Divest McGill is a campaign calling on McGill University to address the urgency of climate change by divesting its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. They are part of a quickly growing global movement of fossil fuel divestment campaigns working towards climate justice, and were the first such campaign in Canada.

Beginning in the fall of 2012, Divest McGill has tabled, rallied, biked, banner-dropped, tweeted and marched their way to a high-profile presence on campus, with over 1700 signatures on our petition from students, staff, faculty & alumni, and endorsements from groups that include all 3 major student associations. After presenting to the McGill Board of Governors’ Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) in spring 2013, they ruled not to divest from fossil fuel companies, citing ‘insufficient evidence of social injury’ despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In the next school year, they worked with a broad coalition of McGill community members to reform CAMSR's terms of reference to include environmental harm and include more community engagement. Most recently, at the beginning of February 2015, the group submitted an appeal to CAMSR along with a 150 page report outlining the long term social and environmental harm that has come about as a result of the fossil fuel industry.

The group has a strong educative mission, and has facilitated a steady drumbeat of climate justice outreach events in the McGill community and beyond. Whether engaging students on the proposed tarsands pipelines that will flow through Montreal, coordinating trips to climate justice conference Powershift Atlantic or People's Climate March, or collaborating on panels and workshops, the group is dedicated to providing opportunities for students to meaningfully confront the climate crisis.

Social Score Project (Catalyst Award for Applied Student Research)

Myko is an iOS and web-based application that scores everyday choices based on their impacts upon environmental and social sustainability using a lifecycle impact algorithm developed at McGill. Myko's habit-based framework enables users to commit to change, track their footprint, and share their progress. Their goal is to shift social behaviour toward sustainability.

Myko users choose energy, food, waste, water, health, social, and consumption habits to monitor: for example, “keep showers under five minutes” or “eat no red meat.” Once a day they then “swipe” right to indicate that they have completed the commitment, or left to indicate that they missed a day. They then receive a score, a breakdown of impact metrics, and a relative ranking on a leaderboard, which is also broken down by residence. The Myko score aggregates metrics for biocapacity of land, greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste production, energy use, water consumption, health effects, and social connectivity. In its test version for the McGill campus, Myko’s Discover tab of the app shows the real-time energy use of all McGill buildings and shows users an interactive map of both McGill campuses.

Myko has a multi-disciplinary team with complementary skill sets. Juan Camilo Pinto is a doctoral student at the Faculty of Law and Myko’s-The McGill Social Score Project Research Director. He is writing his thesis on the law and behavioural economics of nudges and incentives. Naomi Hill, a political science major, came to Myko from the McGill Food Systems Project and is the Campus Coordinator. Etienne Ravilet Guzman, a current McGill law student, also worked on the algorithm and is now the Myko Community Manager. Kendra Pomerantz, a McGill graduate of the Faculty of Arts program in Environmental Economics, worked also with the McGill Food Systems Project as the internal manager and is Myko’s Communications Coordinator. Bronwen Tucker is a recent graduate of the McGill School of Environment. She is the lead research assistant for Myko’s Algorithm Development team.

Expand the following names for more info about team members:

Juan Camilo Pinto

A native of Bogota, Colombia, Juan Camilo Pinto is a Ph.D candidate in law at McGill.  Having completed his undergraduate law degree with a minor in management, and a graduate program in tax law in Colombia, Juan was drawn to pursue his Master in Laws and PhD at McGill due to the strength of the law program and its bijuralism. He is currently the Research Director of the McGill Social Score Project-Myko app.

His background spans the fields of Behavioral Economics, Tax Law, Natural Resource Development, Sustainable Development, Aboriginal Law and Public Policy Design. His doctoral work is focused in advancing an evidence-based approach in the development of public policies and regulations that addresses societal problems within the framework of Sustainable Development and Natural Resource Development.

Juan was called to the Colombian bar in 2009, has worked as a Senior Advisor for a senator in Colombia and Consultant in various projects involving tax structures, oil, gas and mining projects and Strategic Development. He was the President of both the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and the Graduate Law Student Association (GLSA), a former member of the PGSS Judicial Board and a funding member of the Latin American Law Students’ Association.  He has also volunteered extensively, and was active in Making Waves Canada, a not-for-profit organization that provides swimming lessons and water safety education to children with special needs and taught English to Colombian soldiers injured in combat.

Naomi Hill

Naomi Hill is a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in political science and minoring in geography and economics. Having grown up in Berkeley, California, Naomi has always enjoyed exploring the outdoors and building connections with people from a wide diversity of backgrounds. Throughout her time at McGill, she has focused her studies on the political, social and economic dimensions of complex and pressing environmental issues. She is most passionate about addressing climate change and improving food sustainability in socially just and inclusive ways.

Joining the Myko team has given Naomi a unique opportunity to apply what she has learned in the classroom and through her involvement with student groups such as Healthy McGill, the McGill Food Systems Project, and Junior Peacemakers to building collective solutions in the McGill community. Naomi initially worked as a research assistant for Myko, contributing to the development of suggested habits and the metrics through which these habits are scored. She has since become Myko’s campus coordinator, meeting with stakeholders across the McGill campus to ensure that the app is accessible and has wide community support, coordinating the pilot launch of Myko to first year students, and organizing internal team communication. Naomi loves being part of such an interdisciplinary, multicultural, and collaborative team at Myko. She is continually inspired and energized by her intelligent and creative colleagues, and feels fortunate to play a role in developing what she sees as an important tool to empower her peers to change their behavior for the better of their communities and planet.”

Etienne Ravilet Guzman

Etienne Ravilet Guzman is a second year student at the McGill Faculty of Law, and an Executive Editor of the McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution. Originally from Chile, he first graduated from Liberal Arts at Dawson College and then obtained a BA as a joint honours political science and history student at McGill. Etienne has been involved with Myko since the beginnings of the Social Score Project in 2014. He has worked as a researcher and conceptual developer of Myko's algorithm and commitments, including the "social" and "health" commitment categories, and is actively engaged with the enhancement of Myko's features and the development of marketing strategies. Etienne currently holds the Community Manager position, and is a member of Myko's presentation team for the Desautels' Dobson Cup start-up enterprise funding contest. Upon graduation, Etienne plans to practice law in the fields of mining, M&A or corporate social responsibility.

Kendra Pomerantz

Kendra is a recent graduate of the McGill School of Environment, having obtained her Honours Bachelor of Arts in Economics and the Earth's Environment with a minor in marketing this past December. During her time at McGill she was heavily involved in many sustainability endeavors, with a particular interest in food and waste management. Amongst other projects, she was the manager of the McGill Food Systems Project, sat as Sustainability Commissioner on the Arts Undergraduate Society, and worked on applied student research in conjunction with the McGill cafeterias and Compost Montreal to improve organic waste streams in the food retail locations.

Kendra was also fortunate enough to have been a member of the Myko team from April 2014 until January 2015. During that time she loved watching the project grow and develop from it's early stages into an exciting multidisciplinary tool that is bringing about concrete change at McGill! Kendra worked initially as a research assistant on the project, and then went on to take over Myko's marketing and communications. In this role, she was able to help the team network with many stakeholders and community members, helping to make the application truly a campus-wide endeavor.

Bronwen Tucker

Bronwen is a recent graduate of the McGill School of Environment. She is interested in research and advocacy for an equitable transition to a sustainable economy. She is a research assistant for the McGill Social Score Project and a key member of the Algorithm Research Team. She worked in an interdisciplinary team to develop metrics that clearly communicate key environmental and social impacts associated with individual and collective choices. She assisted in communication and outreach strategy, and helping to define long-term vision.

Ria Rombough & Emily Clare [Residence Life Programming] (Catalyst Award for staff contribution to sustainability - Administrative & Support)

Residences are the first introduction for thousands of McGill students to independent living. As this transition can be difficult, it is important that students are equipped to deal with conversations and experiences around race, consent, ability, and other touchstones of social sustainability. Having lived in Gardner Hall as a first-year student, Emily Yee Clare felt there was room to improve the programming around these needs, and approached Ria Rombough at Student Housing & Hospitality Services with an idea for the Residences Anti-Oppression Programme. The project, funded largely through the Sustainability Projects Fund, focused on further developing existing anti-oppression training and resources for all residence students through collaboration with a variety of campus partners, including SEDE, Student Services, and SSMU Equity. The project included the realization of a long-standing goal to expand Rez Project with a new workshop for students focusing on race and colonialism, debuted to students in January 2015. Other notable successes of the programme include the introduction of new trainings for staff and students, the organization and collaboration of the first student-focused Mental Health Awareness Week, the expansion of services such as OSD and the Writing Centre into Residences, and the development and completion of a comprehensive accessibility audit of the unit.

Emily Yee Clare is a recent graduate of McGill, and one of the developers and coordinator of the Residences Anti-Oppression Programme. They have contributed to furthering equity and community engagement on campus through various positions including serving as the SSMU Equity Commissioner, SSMU VP UA, and sitting on the QPIRG Board of Directors. Ria Rombough is an alumnus of the McGill School of Environment and is the Senior Advisor, Residence Life Programs. Wrapping up her 10th year living on campus, she has a vested interest in making life and work more sustainable for both staff and students. She has two children ages 4 and 4 months, and is board president of Les Maisons Transitionelles O3 in Benny Farm.


Elena Bennett (Catalyst Award for staff contribution to sustainability - Academic)

Elena Bennett is an Associate Professor in the department of Natural Resource Sciences and the McGill School of Environment. She has been devoted to real-life, on-campus sustainability since taking classes with David Orr at Oberlin College in the 1990s, where she had the opportunity to participate in early efforts to help design one of the first fully “green” University campus buildings.

Watching the synergies that happened when students and staff were actively involved in deciding what they wanted from such a building led Elena to develop McGill Net Positive. McGill Net+ is a project designed to be the first step in a community process to collaboratively imagine and design a hub for sustainability activities at McGill. The idea was that although McGill boasts a strong foundation of excellence in sustainability, including outstanding research, first-rate education, and an active community working to increase campus and community sustainability, a critical piece of the sustainability puzzle at McGill is missing. To fully leverage McGill’s sustainability efforts, we believe that McGill needs a “hub” for all of our sustainability activities – research, teaching, and action.  Other projects include ESMontreal.ca, a blog co-founded with former PhD student Matt Mitchell and the entire Bennett lab, funded by McGill’s Sustainability Projects Fund, and designed to connect people—especially McGill students—to their environment through stories. Elena is also the mom to two young children (aged 7 and 5). Together with her family, she keeps bees and is an avid gardener. She loves hiking, canoeing, and otherwise exploring the natural world with her family.

Complete List of Catalyst Awards 2015 Nominees:

Elena Bennett*
Amelia Brinkerhoff
Alan Chen*
Divest McGill*
Educational Community Living Environment (ECOLE)
Alexandra Heim
Bruce Lennox
McGill Social Score Project*
McGill Spaces Project
Zachery Oman
Kristen Perry*
Juan Pinto
Les Poules du Campus Macdonald (PPCM)
Ria Rombough and Emily Yee Clare (Residence Life Programming)*
Sustainable Procurement Core Team
Valérie Toupin-Dubé
Amanda Winegardner


* denotes winner of a Catalyst Award


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