SDG Week at Capilano University and Why Sustainability

Samantha K. Cheung // Contributor
Rachel Lu //  Illustrator

When was the last time you thoroughly considered the health and well-being of the environment? Are you familiar with the 17 SDG goals? And more importantly, when was the last time you actively considered how your lifestyle can affect the world’s energy resources? Last month, Capilano University (CapU) hosted a full week to bring awareness and education towards sustainable practices.

The second week of March marked the first CapU Sustainable Development Goals Week, more recognized by its acronym (SDG Week).  However, what are the SDG goals? SDG Week’s core provider is the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), founded in 2012 after the Rio Summit to promote social, economic, and political sustainability. This is where the development of the SDG goals was formed and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change as cited by the SDSN website. In addition, the SDSN provides many resources for creating policies and research work on climate, energy, extractive and land resources and the six SDSN long-term transformations. CapU, alongside other universities in BC, such as UBC and SFU, are members of the SDSN network. In 2015, the 17 SDG goals would be developed by members of the United Nations to be used as the primary framework for making Earth a place that would be more sustainable and liveable, as outlined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In relation to CapU’s goals on sustainability, the events showcased at SDG week correlate to the CapU 2030 Illuminating Academic plan.  

Throughout SDG week, students, faculty, and staff were invited to attend free workshops and talks about sustainable education and sustainable goals and initiatives on the North Shore. The highlight of that week was CapU’s first Sustainability Fair in the Birch Cafeteria. In attendance at the fair were CapU TRECSA, CIE, CityStudio North Vancouver (CityStudioNV), City of North Vancouver, EarthWorks and many more who were advocating for awareness towards the SDG 17 goals. This would not have been possible without the organization of Tourism and Outdoor Recreation instructor Roy Jantzen and his research assistants Raymond Ang and Jason Lau. Many students in attendance at the fair were invited to participate in a bingo game using the 17 SDG goals. “I came up with the idea of Bingo Games. This entertaining activity challenges students to familiarize themselves with the SDGs represented at each booth and encourages them to explore as many booths as possible,” said Lau. Furthermore, Jantzen shared that the idea for the bingo game was inspired by the fact that the 17 SDGs looked similar to a bingo card.

In December 2023, CapU was awarded a grant worth $1.5 million from the Natural Sciences, Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), which is a grant that provided Jantzen the funding towards “external industry partnerships towards non-profits or commercial” that Capilano University currently has. In his personal teaching portfolio, Jantzen also mentioned that partnering with CityStudioNV is one of his preferred work-integrated learning hubs for creating projects for his students. In addition, creating projects outside the classroom has been a beneficial strategy for him to help his students understand sustainability education while incorporating the 17 SDG goals. His most recent teaching endeavour was last fall in partnership with REC 156- Natural History for Tourism and Recreation with CityStudioNV, City of North Vancouver and IMPACT North Shore. Jantzen’s learning outcomes for his students included challenging his students to create an outdoor walking tour in Mosquito Creek Park.

 “I can talk about the SDG (goals) within my class, but at best, it’s 35 students. More commonly, maybe 25 students. For me, we don’t have awareness at this university, so I thought an SDG week and my connections with outside non-profits and industry and student connections, I thought it will all fit to help educate students on that,” said Jantzen. SDG week is an outcome of Jantzen’s passion for sustainable education outside of the classroom, and his interest in the 17 SDG goals became the foundation and a priority for promoting sustainable education at CapU. Finally, as remarked by Jantzen on SDG week, “Anybody looking at the 17 sustainable development goals, they’re going to find something that is going to relate to them. No poverty, zero hunger, somebody who is physically active, good health and wellbeing.”  

As of today, most programs at CapU require students to take to meet the Science and Technology, and there are a number of courses students can choose from that include sustainability education, climate change and energy resources; examples of these courses include GEOG 435 Energy, Communities, and Environmental Change and GEOG 316 Climate Change. While this is the first year that CapU is putting on SDG Week, this is just the beginning of CapU’s plan and Jantzen’s hope to share more sustainable education initiatives with more students in years to come.

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