Sustainability snapshots

April 22, 2021 | Science, Society, Campus Life
While bees, aeroponic gardens and solar panel arrays are all tied to MacEwan University’s commitment to the environment, they are also about providing opportunities for students to get involved in initiatives to help build and test new knowledge and skills tied to sustainability, says Kalen Pilkington.

“Across buildings, departments and disciplines, you can find examples of projects and initiatives that turn our campus into a living lab,” says the director of community relations and sustainability. “And the experiences that living lab provides can help students become forward-thinking, informed leaders of tomorrow who can look at challenges through a holistic sustainability lens.”

Just in time for Earth Day, here are a few snapshots of how our students, faculty and staff are working to make our university – and our world – more sustainable.


After several years and lots of hard work, MacEwan University's Facilities department earned its ISO 50001:2018 certification. This global recognition shows MacEwan's commitment to improving its environmental impacts and campus-wide energy efficiency. Part of its measures in reaching the certification included energy system upgrades, lighting retrofits and ensuring new buildings (most recently the SAMU building) achieve LEED certification.


Since launching the Urban Beekeeping Project in 2016, the flow hives on Building 5 have created a lot of buzz. According to the United Nations, early 90 per cent of the world's wild flowering plant species depend on pollination, and MacEwan is doing its part to help our bees do theirs.


One of the measures that earned MacEwan's Facilities department the ISO 50001 certification involved implementing a solar array pilot project. Fifty solar panels on the roof of the Robbins Health Learning Centre now provide the campus with access to a renewable source of energy (with an estimated annual production of 15,000 kWh, or equivalent to the electrical energy used in 10 classrooms with 25 computers running for eight hours).


Around this time of year back in 2019, Danielle Molenaar (now a Bachelor of Science grad) was at Student Research Day presenting her research that used silicone wristbands to look at flame retardants and their link to electronics use.

On Monday, April 26, students from programs across MacEwan will share their work on everything from invasive species (weeds and Prussian Carp) to what northern pike stomach contents tell us about post-management community dynamics. Make sure to check out Student Research Day and the full program of student presenters.


Those same students who will present their research on Monday work alongside faculty members who also conduct work out in the field, including Dr. Matthew Ross and Dr. David Locky (pictured here with Bachelor of Science alum Kaitlynn Weisgerber gathering invertebrate samples).

Dr. Ross and Dr. Locky’s work looked at microplastics at over 50 sites in and around Edmonton, including natural wetlands and Edmonton’s stormwater ponds. (Make sure to check out Nicole Cubacub’s Student Research Day poster presentation on microplastics pollution in sediments of stormwater retention ponds).


While students dig into environment issues and impacts in many ways, there are a few classes solely dedicated to studying sustainability. The interdisciplinary Certificate of Achievement in Sustainability introduced last year allows both current students and graduated post-secondary students to build their knowledge about how sustainability theories and practices apply in business, government, education, and more. One of the certificate’s core courses is Sustainability 201, which was introduced back in 2015 and broke ground as the university’s forest course focused solely on sustainable action.


Six years ago, three aeroponic units were installed at the bottom of the spiral staircase in Building 6 as part of a pilot project. Since then, on-campus food cultivation has expanded to 15 units that serve as a living lab for lessons tied to food security. We’re looking forward to returning to campus and seeing the Tower Gardens (most of which are in the basement of the Residence building) once again bursting with a bounty of herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and more.

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