Setting a green example

November 7, 2014


Sustainability program ramps up for year two of Green Impact

As it gears up for its second year, the Green Impact program, which encourages sustainable action among MacEwan employees with help from students, is being hailed as an example of best practices for institutions across of the world, including North America, Europe and Australia.

“MacEwan was the first institution outside of the U.K. to participate in Green Impact and in our first year we had a fantastic response that far exceeded our expectations,” says Emma Shipalesky, sustainability coordinator, pictured above with the Green Impact message that the size of the university's environmental footprint matters.

She adds that most people want to make sustainable choices, but often need some direction to get started, especially when it comes to doing so at work.

“There typically isn’t a lot of sustainability programming for staff on university campuses—most efforts involve students,” explains Emma. “But staff offer a permanent presence on campus, so in order to embed sustainability into the culture, we need to get to the people who are going to be on campus for the long term.”

Small goals can mean big change

At its core, Green Impact is about getting people to do little things that can add up to greater environmental gains. It’s also just one part of a larger sustainability initiative on campus, one that Rick Lewis, recently retired director of MacEwan International feels strongly about.

“I’ve always felt that if you really want a sustainability mentally across the institution, you’ve got to be working with the people who are here on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “Our office is a mix of people who were already doing things for sustainability and those who weren’t, but everyone was eager to get involved—and it was often the people with less experience who would bring in new and creative ideas.”

Those ideas included sustainable pot luck lunches and even a trip to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre—things Rick says never would have happened without Green Impact.

And MacEwan International—which achieved Green Impact gold certification last year— will definitely be participating again, even though Rick won’t be part of their team (he has remained a sessional instructor, however, and is looking forward to participating in the Department of Biological Sciences Green Impact team.) “This isn’t something you do for one year and then stop,” he says. “We need to build on what we accomplished last year.”

Green Impact, student impact

Green Impact is aimed at faculty and staff, but students also have an important role to play. Meredith Black, a fourth year anthropology student, is one of 20 students who act as mentors and auditors, working with the teams to help them stay on track and evaluate their success.

“I really believe in being as environmentally friendly as possible,” says Meredith. “It’s something I try to do in my own life. It was great to see the teams take initiative, be creative and make sustainability a priority.”

And there’s always more you can do, says Emma. “This year we’ve added more social and wellbeing actions and teams will also have a chance to interact with teams in the U.K., creating opportunities for peer-to-peer mentoring and building on the global focus of the program.”

To learn more, visit the Green Impact website, or contact Emma Shipalesky at

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