The McGill Sustainable Events Project’s mandate is to improve sustainability knowledge and access to campus resources that can help students make their events more sustainable.
The project was founded by two student interns at the Office of Sustainability, Brayden Culligan and Nick Milum. Through their experiences in event planning at McGill, Culligan and Milum learned that the biggest challenge for students organizing events was the inaccessibility of resources. “During our first year at McGill, we were both part of student groups that organized various types of events. We realized that the issue wasn’t that students didn’t care about sustainability, but that they were busy with other event logistics and didn’t have the knowledge or resources to make their events mores sustainable,” said Milum.
The project consists of three components, an online toolkit, a student consultant program, and an event certification process. Together, these tools will increase students’ understanding of strategies and resources related to sustainable events on campus. Funds were awarded from the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) to compensate the two project coordinators, as well as a web developer to produce the online toolkit. Resources from the SPF will also be used for workshops, tabling and other promotion material.
The project takes a broad view of sustainability in its evaluation criteria. “We’ve put an emphasis on equity; for example, we’ve done a lot of thinking about how one can implement diversity as a priority at all levels of an event—from team recruitment to ensuring that a diversity of communities feel welcome at the event itself,” explained Culligan.
Milum elaborated on the project’s view of sustainability: “We see sustainability not just in the conventional sense of environmental sustainability but with three pillars: social, economic and environmental.” He emphasized that equity is a key component to an event’s sustainability, stating “The equity component is part of the social pillar of sustainability. We want to plan events so that they are accessible to all, both physically and in terms of diversity.”
Examples of the certification criteria include:
- Integrate diversity into recruitment strategy
- Offer access to gender-neutral and parent-friendly washrooms
- Ensure that event location has as few physical barriers as possible
- Provide vegetarian/vegan food and beverage options
- Allow participation via teleconference
The project has offered a unique learning opportunity for the team of student consultants. All consultants participated in a two-hour training session on the materials and tools used to evaluate the sustainability of events. Further, guest speakers from various units on campus—such as the Office of Social Equity & Diversity Education and the Senate Sub-Committee on Equity—have been invited to speak to the consultants about their perspective of sustainability.
“It’s been a huge learning process for me. I was familiar with a lot of the environmental sustainability concepts, but I have learned a lot about the social aspects of sustainability,” said consultant, Tessa Murray.
In the next few years, Culligan and Milum hope that the event evaluation process will eventually be mandated for all events occurring on campus. To help them achieve this goal, consider having your event certified by visiting https://www.mcgillsustainableevents.ca/ or contacting events.sustainability [at] mcgill.ca.
Photo: McGill Sustainable Events Consultants: (Left-Right): Alexis Ocampo, Jeff Tétrault, Emma Willinger, Tessa Murray, Sabrina Gagnon, Kalli Glanz, Tamara Mitchell