Student Life

Minimize waste to maximize impact understanding

The Dish Project challenges Concordia students and faculty to live waste-free for five days

From March 11 to 15, several Concordia organizations are encouraging students to partake in the Zero Waste Challenge 2019. Part of the event series Sustain’alive, the Dish Project, Concordia University Center for Creative Reuse (CUCCR), and Zero Waste Concordia organized this challenge to encourage Concordia students, faculty and staff to try living “zero waste” for five days.

“The objective of the challenge is to really start a conversation about waste and unsustainable waste management on and off campus, and to create a strong community around the zero waste movement at Concordia,” said Maya Provencal, the external coordinator of The Dish Project. Participants are challenged to refrain from creating any landfill waste, and instead use products that are recyclable, reusable, or able to be repurposed.

Adopting a completely zero waste lifestyle may sound difficult at first, which is precisely why the Zero Waste Challenge was created. Since it is a community effort, participants are encouraged to share tips and tricks for living a more sustainable lifestyle. This way, the challenge won’t seem as intimidating. “It can be really scary to try and move away from that dependency, especially alone, so The Dish Project started the Zero Waste Challenge in an attempt to make this a community affair rather than an individual one,” said Provencal.

Those wishing to partake in the challenge can sign up through email and receive tips from The Dish Project. Participants are also encouraged to tailor the challenge to meet their own lifestyle if they feel they cannot commit to living completely zero waste. For example, changing one aspect of their daily routine, such as packing a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic one, is an excellent start. Taking small steps towards being more eco-conscious contributes to larger change.

Taking steps to create a waste-conscious community both on and off campus is pertinent since sustainability is an issue that affects everyone, albeit disproportionately. Many think it is simply an environmental issue, yet it is also a social and economic issue.

Provencal explained that our current extraction-based economic system wastes valuable resources, contributes to landfills and other waste management sites, and that this system affects marginalized communities at an extremely disproportionate level. “We want students to understand that by reducing their waste production, they are rejecting this destructing system and creating a better world,” said Provencal.  

Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

Student Life

Divest Concordia spreads its wings

A hilariously well-networked class reignites the fossil fuel divest movement

Since the formation of Divest Concordia in 2013, the student-run group has been continuously pressuring the Concordia University Foundation (CUF) to freeze current investments in the fossil fuel industry and withdraw all future investments from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. The CUF makes all decisions regarding the university’s $185.9 million endowment fund, which is invested in various stocks and bonds that generate funding for scholarships, bursaries and research coming out of Concordia. Approximately 10 per cent of the endowment fund “may have some connection with fossil fuels,” according to former University Spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr.

Research and mobilization around the divest movement has largely been undertaken by student-run groups like Divest Concordia, Sustainable Concordia, and the Concordia Student Union (CSU) in 2016, when the CSU adopted divestment as their annual campaign. However, in January 2019, a group of students enrolled in a 400-level interdisciplinary geography course began brainstorming ways to utilize the class’s resources and networks to reignite the divest movement at Concordia.

“It’s a methodology class where students learn about how to do research that supports, and is engaged with the work of a social justice institution,” said Kevin Gould, an associate professor in the geography, planning and environment department, who created the shell of the course. “The class has become a space where people that have this common interest [of divestment] have been able to engage with each other—to learn, to think, to plan,” said Gould. Students are currently in the early stages of developing scopes of research that examine potential avenues for furthering the divestment movement on campus.

Concordia University Foundation common shares investment breakdown 2010-11. Graph illustration by Loreanna Lastoria

Emily Carson-Apstein, who works closely with Divest Concordia and is the external campaigns coordinator for Sustainable Concordia, was a key member in helping Gould structure the class around divestment. Carson-Apstein said that having the CSU campaigns department working with Divest Concordia meant there was a lot of people-power behind the movement. “[The divest movement] is smaller than it was in 2016 […] but it’s definitely still present,” they said. “It’s more in a negotiation phase than a public education phase.”

Increasing student awareness of the urgent need for full fossil fuel divestment, community mobilization and conveying the message that Concordia is not an institution completely committed to a sustainable economic future are a few of the goals the geography class hopes to help Divest Concordia with.

In 2014, Concordia boasted the creation of a socially responsible investment (SRI) fund of $5 million, which would transfer funds from existing assets to be reinvested in “environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors,” according to the university’s website. Divest Concordia representatives at the time condemned the foundation’s decision, saying it was “a flat-out rejection of student calls for full divestment from fossil fuels,” according to Newswire. Noting the distinction between sustainable investment versus fossil fuel divestment is pertinent, as sustainable investment is used as a redirection tactic to avoid addressing the foundation’s continued investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Despite heavy criticism from Divest Concordia, Concordia was praised by some of the wider Montreal community for exhibiting sustainable leadership. The Montreal Gazette published an article on Dec. 2, 2014 claiming that Concordia was the first university in the country to begin taking steps towards divesting from fossil fuels. However, it is important to note the CUF is able to continue to invest in the fossil fuel industry while simultaneously contributing to the SRI fund, as well as other sustainable investment endeavours. In February 2016, the foundation created the Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee (JSIAC) in response to increased pressure from Divest Concordia, Sustainable Concordia, and the student body to fully divest. Divest Concordia and Sustainable Concordia each occupy a seat on JSIAC, and the committee is the only channel of communication either organization has to the foundation’s board of directors. JSIAC’s influence over the board and its investment decisions regarding the endowment fund ends at making recommendations to the foundation.

Concordia University Foundation common shares investment breakdown 2011-12. Graph illustration by Loreanna Lastoria.

In an interview with The Concordian, Carson-Apstein stated that the yet-to-be released 2018 annual report estimate of the endowment fund is approximately $218 million, from what the CUF has informed Divest Concordia. In terms of financial transparency, the foundation has continually failed to clearly state which sectors of the economy it’s invested in since 2011, particularly with regards to energy resources. According to the foundation’s 2010-11 financial report, Canadian common share investments in oil and gas were about $9.1 million, investments in pipelines were about $2.6 million, and investments in metals and minerals were about $2.2 million.

However, in the foundation’s 2011-12 annual report, categories such as ‘oil and gas,’ ‘pipelines,’ and ‘metals and minerals’ cannot be found in the common share investment breakdown. Instead, the report vaguely shows an $11.7 million investment in the relatively ambiguous category titled ‘energy.’ According to the foundation’s 2016-17 annual report, a total of about $10 million in both Canadian and U.S. common share investments fall under the categories ‘energy,’ ‘materials,’ and ‘industrials.’ On Feb. 11, 2019, Concordia announced it is the first Canadian university to issue a $25 million sustainable bond, due by 2039, which will allow the university to finance the new Science Hub at Loyola. However, there have been no discussions of the more than $10 million continued investment in what is arguably the fossil fuel industry.

Carson-Apstein explained that a major challenge faced by Divest Concordia over the years has been institutional memory; the passing down of information and strategies from graduating students to newly engaged students. “Most of the folks who were founders of Divest Concordia have moved on by now,” they said. “But I think Kevin’s class is amazing […] It’s super cool that the work that’s happening in the classroom is going to be directly relevant to stuff that’s happening in the world right now.” Drawing attention to the discrepancies and financial patterns of the foundation’s annual reports is one of many strategies the geography class will use to shed light on the realities of Concordia’s investment practices, and continue pushing for full fossil fuel divestment.

Divest Concordia meets every Monday at 4:30 p.m. to discuss news, ideas and strategies. Meetings are held at 2090 McKay St. in the Z Annex on the top floor for anyone who wants to join the fight.

Feature graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Slice of Life: Growing sustainability

Check out Concordia’s Farmers Market for all things organic and local

Did you know Concordia has a farmers’ market? I didn’t until just last week. Crazy, right? I literally could not believe that locally-sourced, organic veggies, snacks and so many other handmade products were being sold right at school. The Concordia Farmers’ Market (CFM) takes place every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second floor mezzanine of the Hall building.

An Instagram post made by the CFM on Aug. 7 indicates that their location moved to the corner of Mackay St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. that week, so it would be wise to follow them on social media in case of any future location changes (see below). The CFM is supported by many on-campus organizations such as the Concordia Greenhouse, Concordia Food Coalition (CFA), Sustainable Concordia, Concordia Student Union (CSU) and Sustainable Action Fund (SAF).

According to an article from November 2014 on the university’s website, the idea of an on-campus farmer’s market started with two anthropology students. After an inspirational trip through the Costa Rican countryside, Kasha Paprocki and Alejandra Melian-Morse decided to start a recurring farmers’ market with the help of some volunteers “as part of an internship course on social economy, supervised by Satoshi Ikeda,” said the same article. During their first market on Oct. 29, 2014, 500 people came by. Melian-Morse is still the CFM’s project leader.

On the CFM’s Facebook page, you can find all kinds of affordable, organic veggies that cycle out depending on the harvest season. Other goodies from urban farms and greenhouses such as the Concordia Greenhouse, the City Farm School at Loyola, and Jardins Autonomnes can be found at the market as well. “It is also a great place to get gifts and lunch from,” the same page reads. They have everything from herbal teas to chemical-free, zero-waste shampoos, handmade beaded jewelry to a range of honey bee products—all offered at relatively affordable prices.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ll definitely be checking out what’s in season over the next few weeks at the CFM. The best part about doing even a portion of your shopping there—aside from the convenience of it being on campus—is that you’d be supporting small businesses and local food distribution networks in Montreal. This ultimately contributes to a more sustainable economy, something I think all of us can get behind.

Follow the CFM on Instagram @concordiafarmersmarket

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Redefining waste for a cleaner tomorrow

In pursuit of waste justice: student groups launch Concordia’s first Zero Waste Week

How many times a day do you throw something in the trash? Do you give it much thought when you do? New research published by the Worldwatch Institute suggests that the amount of waste produced worldwide could double by 2025—from today’s 1.3 billion tons per year to a whopping 2.6 billion.

In an effort to promote sustainable waste management practices, Concordia student groups such as the Dish Project, Concordia’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) and Waste Not Want Not are kicking off the university’s first edition of Zero Waste Week on Oct. 23.

The principal organizer of Zero Waste Week is the Dish Project. This student-run, zero-waste resource organization will be hosting multiple workshops from Oct. 23 to 27 that offer creative solutions for reducing waste. The Dish Project aims to reduce the volume of disposable items sent to landfills by storing and lending out reusable dishes to Concordia students hosting events. The service is available at little-to-no cost, making it accessible and economical.

The Dish Project offers a variety of reusable dishes for events on campus. Photo courtesy of the Dish Project.

“Up until recently, the Dish Project was mostly just focused on our operations of lending out reusable dishes to help reduce waste in and around Concordia,” said Vanessa Macri, the organization’s general coordinator. “However, after reevaluating ourselves internally, we thought that there was a gap with waste justice education on campus. So now we’ve started engaging with students a lot more. One thing that we thought would be a great vehicle to help us do that was Quebec’s Waste Reduction Week [from Oct. 21 to 29].”

Maya Spring, the Dish Project’s outreach and engagement coordinator, will be co-hosting four workshops over the course of Zero Waste Week. “I find that, in today’s society, there’s such a disconnect between us and the waste that we produce,” Spring said. “I think the first step towards breaking that disconnect is talking about waste, which is a huge part of Zero Waste Week and the workshops we’re putting on.”

CUCCR will also be participating in Zero Waste Week with a “Do It Yourshelf” shelf-making workshop on Oct. 27. For those who have yet to discover its hidden location in the Hall building basement, CUCCR is an initiative that collects used art materials and supplies from around campus and makes them available for repurpose by the general public.

Rather than solely focusing on waste reduction, CUCCR looks at how unwanted materials can actually be useful to people. Recent Concordia MA graduate Anna Timm-Bottos spearheaded this project with the help of funding won in Concordia’s Big Hairy Ideas competition. “I saw so much material being thrown out that I knew someone else could use if only we could capture it,” she said, adding that CUCCR plays a key role in Concordia’s sustainability efforts and in changing the larger culture around waste.

Waste-sorting games will be hosted in the downtown library cafeteria on Oct. 25 and 27 by Concordia’s composting advocacy group, Waste Not Want Not. Another beneficiary of the Big Hairy Ideas competition, Waste Not Want Not works to strengthen Concordia’s infrastructure in pursuit of zero-waste goals. Anyone conscious of their trash output is likely already aware of the many benefits of composting—not only does separating organics from other trash decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and creates fertilizer for plants. Waste Not Want Not’s mandate includes providing access to on-site composting facilities, increasing the number of composting bins around campus and educating students on why composting is integral to building a more sustainable future, according to the organization’s website.

“We’re hoping this week will open people’s eyes to the impacts of waste. It’s one thing to recycle and compost, but it’s another thing to understand where your waste actually goes,” Macri said. “We want Zero Waste Week to show that waste reduction doesn’t just stop at recycling and composting—you can also reduce, upcycle, reuse materials and get creative with how you’re repurposing waste. Hopefully folks will take that away along with how many opportunities there are at Concordia to get involved in the waste justice movement.”

For additional information about the Dish Project, visit To find out more about CUCCR, drop by H013-7, open Tuesdays to Thursdays between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. or visit For details about the Waste Not Want Not composting advocacy group, visit


Sustainable Concordia wants to get you thinking about a sustainable lifestyle

The Concordian: Tell our readers about the Sustainability Community Quiz 2.0.  How is the quiz interactive?

Press photo

Priyanka Pandy, Sustainable Concordia Education & Engagement Coordinator:The quiz is more of an information session about sustainable initiatives and opportunities at Concordia and in Montreal in general. In about 10 minutes we ask (also educate) and score our participants on questions related to their lifestyle choices and practices pertaining to water use, transport options, food choices, energy use, involvement in social justice, learning about sustainability, and waste management.  At the end of the quiz, we distribute a Sustainable Community guide and the scores of the participant through email. During the event, we talk about the composting and electronic recycling facilities, sustainable food options, sustainable transport options, sustainable water options, social justice issues and clubs, sustainability related education and research at and around Concordia University.


The Concordian: How can students participate?

P.P: Both students and staff can participate by showing up and registering at the event in the LB building atrium on Thursday Jan. 30 from 11:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m..


The Concordian: Many students might not have “sustainability” as a main priority.  What are some simple habits students can incorporate into their routines to have a more sustainable lifestyle?

P.P: Here are simple choices: Composting on and off campus, sorting their waste for recycling purposes; buying fair trade and energy efficient products, biking or using public transport, eating less meat and more local food.


The Concordian: Were there any interesting findings from the first pilot project?

The turnout was quite more than we expected. The event was well received and people enjoyed the information session.  Most of participants didn’t know about the sustainable options at Concordia, for example, composting.


The Concordian: Lastly, what is the goal of the Sustainability Community Quiz?

The goal is to promote education and awareness about environmental, social and economic issues related to sustainability  and motivate people to make sustainable choices and reduce their ecological footprint.

Both students and staff can participate by showing up and registering at the event in the LB building atrium on Thursday Jan. 30 from 11:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m.  Snacks and drinks will be served.

Visit the event on Facebook:

Sustainable Concordia online:


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