University of Calgary

Spotlight on Sustainability: Ruth Laing spearheads Schulich Year of Green

UToday HomeMay 1, 2013

By Jennifer Allford

Ruth Laing (in neck scarf and blue pants), is surrounded by engineering classmates during the last event of the Schulich Year of Green.Ruth Laing (in neck scarf and blue pants), is surrounded by engineering classmates during the last event of the Schulich Year of Green. Photo by Donna NgThird-year civil engineering student Ruth Laing was thrilled to see so many engineering students sign up for the first of a year-long series of green events she organized in the Schulich Year of Green, but it was a single comment from a single student at the last event that really floored her.

The student confessed he had only come to the waste reduction event to collect points for attendance that would help his team in the faculty-wide competition. “He learned so much about how to reduce waste that he was happy to have participated and not just to get the points,” recalls Laing, the environmental commissioner for the Engineering Student Society (ESS).

The Schulich Year of Green saw departments, clubs, teams, and first year classes compete in four different campaigns — reducing emissions through cycling or taking public transit to campus, reducing use of water and energy and finally, reducing waste.

It started with a bang. “I was overwhelmed with how many people registered for the first event, how many people who logged all the commuting they had done,” she says. “I was so happy that so many people had come out and they were so excited about it.”

The event encouraged students to think of other ways to get to school rather than driving on their own, and students who were already biking to school thought it was “cool” to be recognized.

Laing says over the course of the year, she saw plenty of students “get” sustainability. “I think that people didn’t necessarily see it fit in as part of their life and I really tried to teach people that small changes you’re making in your everyday life are making a huge difference.”

Instead of pitting the environment against the economy, Laing says her classmates understood: “It’s not one or the other, you are allowed to make steps toward greening your life while still wanting to work in oil and gas.”

The Schulich Year of Green was a great success and Laing hopes it’s an even bigger success next year, although she won’t be around to see it happen — she’s taking a year-long internship at AltaLink before coming back for her final year at Schulich.

“I am so proud to be a part of this student body and to have had some influence on making these changes toward sustainability accessible, fun, and exciting.”

Spotlight on Sustainability is an ongoing series profiling the work of students, faculty and staff. To submit story ideas please contact the Office of Sustainability.


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