Student Experience with Sustainability
By Noah Foster, 4th-year student in the Environmental Studies, Women & Gender Studies, and Indigenous Studies, Trinity College
In my first year of university, I was part of the Butterfield Environment & Sustainability Stream program taught by Professor Stephen Scharper and Professor Nicole Spiegelaar within the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program. During one of Professor Scharper’s classes, we paid a visit to the ENV461 U of T as a Living Lab class taught Professor Robinson and heard a lecture on regenerative sustainability. This lecture sparked an interest in me, and it made me excited for what was to come in the next four years of my education. From that point onward, I knew I wanted to be a part of Professor Robinson’s class once I reached my fourth year of university. Now, three years later, I am, in fact, a student in the ENV461* class working to distribute a survey assessing student, staff, and faculty sustainability literacy and behaviour. It felt like a surreal moment as I watched Professor Scharper zoom into our lecture with his new Trinity One students, remembering when I had been one of them. I sat now, three years older, in the place of the students I longed to be, doing work that felt far beyond my abilities as a first year.
This was an incredible opportunity to reflect on my time in university and environmental studies to see how much I’ve grown. Despite the tribulations of university, I managed to find my way back to Professor Robinson’s class and become one of the students I looked up to during my first year. Such a full-circle moment is so special, and I wanted to share this with other students who are just discovering the studies they are passionate about.
ENV461* and Trinity One Inspiration
By Professor Stephen Scharper, Director of Sustainability, Trinity College
Noah Foster was a student in the first offering of the TRN 140Y (Ethics, Humans, & Nature) and TRN 141Y (Environmental Science & Pathways to Sustainability) in the 2018 & 2019 academic year, which continue to be taught by Professors Stephen Bede Scharper and Nicole Spiegelaar, who now serve as Director and Associate Director, respectively, of the Trinity College’s Integrated Sustainability Initiative. These two first- year courses constitute the Butterfield Environment & Sustainability stream, created in close consultation with the University of Toronto’s School of the Environment, and which adopts a deeply interdisciplinary approach involving the arts, sciences, social sciences as well as practical experiential opportunities.
Trinity’s Integrated Sustainability Initiative, made possible through the generous support of Joannah and Brian Lawson, and the Butterfield Environment & Sustainability stream, created through the generous support of George and Martha Butterfield, are concerned with not only information but also formation and transformation.
The hope of these initiatives is to assist students to not only become well-grounded in sundry precepts and parameters of sustainability, but also to be “calmly on fire” about sustainability, and to become empowered, centred, and compelling sustainability advocates.
In light of Noah Foster’s trajectory, it seems some of these hopes are being realized.
* ENV461: The U of T Campus as a Living Lab of Sustainability
This case study was first published in the 2021 Annual Report of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability (CECCS).