Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation: Improving Water Quality in Barnes Creek
For those Interested in the environment or looking for a chance to develop their research skills, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, in partnership with the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation had an incredible opportunity!
A site survey was carried out and samples were collected during summer 2015. Students accessed the lab results. The opportunity to visit the study site and assist with sampling allowed them to get a better understanding of the factors that may be influencing water quality and provided them with field monitoring experience. This was done under the supervision of the RVCA staff responsible for water quality monitoring throughout the RVCA watershed. Students also received valuable instruction in field sampling techniques.
Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation: Tenant Engagement and Environmental Sustainability Campaigns
This exciting and unique opportunity engaged and educated the local community about environmental sustainability! Working together, three students were tasked with developing and implementing environmentally-based outreach campaigns in three Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (CCOC) non-profit residential buildings which will subsequently be used annually to help tenants in CCOC’s 1600 households.Campaigns included outreach events such as lobby intercepts, workshops developed for tenants, and communications materials that will be distributed to tenants depending on what type of outreach is determined to be the best fit for the category selected.
The outcome of this project was to help tenants become more connected with issues of environmental sustainability and help them take steps to green their lifestyles.
Ottawa Riverkeeper: Protecting and improving health of the Ottawa River
In a close partnership with Ottawa Riverkeeper—a grassroots organization of activists dedicated to protecting the Ottawa River, seven uOttawa students worked on a four-month-long research project to develop information kits for property owners and community members to help them understand the importance of shoreline health.
Some of the recommendations stemming from the project include planting water gardens and adding buffer zones between a property and the water’s edge. Doing so would help enhance biodiversity, prevent erosion and benefit overall river health.
As one of Canada’s largest rivers, the Ottawa River currently provides water to more than 1.7 million people, yet it’s a system that is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
The research project provided students with a wide range of experiences, allowing them to, among other things, improve their communications skills and apply concepts learned during their studies. “Seeing people from different backgrounds coming together in a project everyone genuinely cares about was the highlight for me,” says Jean-Luc Fournier, who is doing a major in Aboriginal studies and a minor in environmental studies.
Meghan Murphy, River Watch program coordinator, described the project as a win-win situation for all involved and underscored how water conservation is an issue that unites us all and one in which we can all play a positive role.
Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict: Downtown Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) Recycling Assessment
Urban sustainability continues to take a more prominent place in ecological discourse. Recently, seven University of Ottawa students worked together with Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict (OCED), a collective of engaged city dwellers, on a project to study what building owners in the downtown core can do to improve waste management.
Tthe main goal of the project, Public Trends Towards Waste and Recycling: An Observational Study of Privately Owned Public Spaces in Downtown Ottawa, was to come up with recommendations for waste separation in public food courts.
The study found that almost 30% of participants did not do any waste separation and concluded that posting information posters and relocating waste bins to near main entrances would facilitate on-site recycling and separation. According to the City of Ottawa Diversion 2015 report, 60% to 70% of urban waste is from the industrial-commercial sector, with less than 20% being diverted from landfills through recycling.
Those involved in the OCED partnership hope that the conclusions of the study will have a positive and concrete impact on both city planners and property managers as they expand their recycling programs. “Most important, the lessons we’re learning in the downtown core can be applied anywhere in Ottawa,” says Clark Trivers, OCED program coordinator.
Tree Canada schoolyard greening: Promoting a healthy and friendly environment at an Ottawa area school
On June 4, 2015, University of Ottawa students gathered with members of Tree Canada at Featherston Drive Public School to sow the seeds of knowledge—literally and figuratively.
Through tree planting, schoolchildren learned about environmental sustainability, food security and the value of teamwork for the benefit of their school. Each child had the chance to grow a green thumb and was encouraged to make new friends.
At the event, the school also unveiled two new additions to its playground.
The friendship bench—built by uOttawa students and painted in bright colours by the schoolchildren—offers a place for kids to go when they’re feeling lonely.
The accessibility pathway opens up the garden to those who would not otherwise have access so that all members of the community can enjoy it.
A uOttawa first-year environmental science student who participated, Sarah Zeidan, noted some of the long-term benefits of the project: the trees will provide shade in the summer, act as a sound barrier for the schoolyard and even offer fresh fruit. “Not only is this is something for the community to look forward to but the kids and trees will grow with one another”.
Wabano Community Gardens: Intergenerational Knowledge and Food Security for Urban Aboriginal Peoples
Following the success of the community gardens program in the summer of 2013, the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health submitted an application to the TD Environmental Leaders Program to help consolidate their community gardens program in its second year of operation. This program, which involved collaboration between a uOttawa student, the Elders Program and the Community Kitchen, was a great success this year. Seventeen Elders participated regularly in the community garden, and the 50 community kitchen workshop participants learned about gardening and cooking with fresh produce. Elders shared stories about their experiences with traditional food practices and gardening. Participants were eager to try what they had learned in the workshops at home. The program provided community members with produce and wild or native plants to take home. Over 300 community members participated in a Culture Night, during which Elders made presentations on harvesting and traditional food practices, offering another opportunity to share learning from the garden and traditional knowledge with the broader community. Of her experience with the project, uOttawa student Rebecca Broadman said: “I gained a new appreciation for Aboriginal perspectives of the earth and nature…. I also learned a great deal about organic gardening practices, and nutrition and health in an urban context, which I can now share with others.”
The partnership with the TD Environmental Leaders Program helped build momentum around the community gardens program. With the tower garden in place, the program is expected to be even more successful in years to come, since the organization will be able to provide a healthy head start to plants in the spring. The project helped facilitate the exchange of intergenerational knowledge on traditional food practices and cultures, but was also part of a larger organizational strategy to improve food security for Ottawa’s urban Aboriginal community.
Creating environmental sustainability plans for high school students
With the help of five uOttawa students, Ottawa Biosphere Eco-City (OBEC) led a project to plan, create and facilitate an environmental sustainability workshop at Woodroffe High School during the February 2014 reading week. The uOttawa students learned about environmental sustainability and current environmental issues from the OBEC team. They then developed a two-part workshop on sustainability for approximately 80 high school students. The first element involved a presentation by the volunteers on 10 sustainability themes. The second part of the workshop involved participants breaking out into discussion groups on the theme of their choice. Each group talked about the challenges and issues related to the themes and how they could minimize these challenges in their everyday environment. At the end of the workshop, uOttawa volunteers held a debriefing session and then submitted a sustainability plan, including a follow-up strategy, to the school that was developed using the information collected during the workshop.
Shoreline restoration along the Rideau River
Eleven uOttawa students volunteered with Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE), an Ottawa East Community Association committee, to plan and carry out a three-month project to restore the natural vegetation along the Rideau River. Over the course of the first two months, students planned and prepared for the planting. Students divided into sub-groups to do research on the invasive species along the shoreline, check City of Ottawa regulations, contact local experts and acquire the necessary safety equipment. They also visited the site twice.
The final stage of the project took place in May. During the first two weekends, students cleaned up along the shoreline, removed invasive species and participated in a guided walk along the Rideau River Pathway. During the project, students had the opportunity to learn about the planning aspects of an environmental restoration project and the different issues to be considered in order to ensure proper and safe execution of such a project. The project was cut short due to problems with approval for the planting activities. Nonetheless, the project proved to be a great learning experience for all involved.
Écoles écocitoyennes de l’Outaouais revitalization of elementary schoolyard
From April to June 2014, 11 students participated in the revitalization of the schoolyard at Notre-Dame elementary school in Gatineau. In addition to creating a new “green” schoolyard, the student volunteers organized a series of educational activities and workshops for the school’s 248 elementary students and staff. They also incorporated an outreach strategy to reach out to about 100 members of the local community.
Through several activities, uOttawa students raised awareness on the importance of nature and on the role that each member of the school community plays in helping to maintain the new “green” schoolyard. Activities included producing memos to be sent home in the children’s backpacks, holding classroom workshops, creating graffiti messages with chalk on the school wall and cleaning up the schoolyard. These activities allowed volunteers to reach out to parents, children, school staff and local community members.
This project benefited all involved. uOttawa volunteers had the opportunity to improve their planning and leadership skills and learned about the importance and benefits of a green schoolyard. They also learned about communication and outreach methods to help raise awareness on their cause within the community. The project put Notre-Dame elementary school in the spotlight and created a great sense of pride among students, staff and parents, which was one of the goals of the project. The final tree planting is scheduled to take place at the beginning of the school year, in September 2014.