York team wins second in TD GO Green Challenge

A sustainability project by two York students to revitalize the forest surrounding the Glendon campus has garnered second place in the fourth annual TD Go Green Challenge. The students, one from each of York University’s two campuses, combined their vision and collaborated on the project – “The Future of Our Forest: A Sustainability Vision for York University” – which included a video detailing their idea.

 From left, Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts, TD FEF regional manager Farzana Syed, Caitlin Langlois Greenham, Darnel Harris and FES Dean Barbara Rahder with the students' TD GO Green Challenge prize chequeRight: From left, Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts, TD FEF regional manager Farzana Syed, Caitlin Langlois Greenham, Darnel Harris and FES Dean Barbara Rahder with the students’ TD GO Green Challenge prize cheque

The second-place team of fourth-year Glendon history student Darnel Harris and masters of environmental studies student Caitlin Langlois Greenham, of the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at the Keele campus, received a cheque for $15,000 presented by Farzana Syed, regional manager of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (TD FEF), at Glendon on March 16.

Glendon College also received a $15,000 cheque, which will go towards making some of the project’s goals a reality as it is designated for planting trees in the Glendon forest.

“The judges were very impressed with how well this team articulated the challenge they presented, as well as the creativity, practicality and innovation of their suggested solutions,” said Natasha Alleyne-Martin, TD FEF manager of national programs.

Some 132 teams from 59 Canadian post-secondary schools participated in this year’s TD FEF Go Green Challenge, a national competition, which focused on sustainability and environmental stewardship on campus. The ideas ranged from paperless universities to an integrated energy and food greenhouse.

Above: The video detaling the second place TD FEF GO Green Challenge winning project by York students Darnel Harris and Caitlin Langlois Greenham

Top honours went to a team of students from McGill University, who will be awarded $20,000 and a paid 2011 summer internship with TD FEF for each student team member, while $100,000 will go to McGill University for greening the campus. Third place went to a team from the University of Victoria, who will receive a $10,000 prize and a $10,000 grant to support on-campus tree-planting initiatives.

The York team’s video outlines the challenge facing the forest around the Glendon campus, currently in a state of degradation because of overuse. It is one of the few remaining wetlands, a home to globally rare amphibians in Toronto, and an essential part of the Don Valley corridor that connects it to habitats downstream. The team proposed a four-step solution to restore the forest’s role in ecological, educational and social vitality.

Farzana Syed (left), Kenneth McRoberts and Barbara Rahder hold cheque for Glendon tree-planting projectLeft: Farzana Syed (left), Kenneth McRoberts and Barbara Rahder hold cheque for Glendon tree-planting project

“We are all great beneficiaries of the Glendon forest, a part of our campus landscape that is close to all our hearts. We are dedicated to preserving this magnificent campus, originally built and developed by the Wood family in the 1920s, and we are delighted to receive the funds for this project,” said Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts.

“Environmental degradation ranks as one of the greatest challenges for our society”, said Professor Barbara Rahder, dean of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. “Our students remind us that a more sustainable future is possible and begins at the grassroots level, with small but innovative ideas….This is just one of our areas of strength here at York….in fact, this is the second time in just four years that York students have finished at the top of this competitive contest. TD has demonstrated a deep commitment to the advancement of York University, to the sustainability of our surrounding communities and to the conservation and protection of our collective environment. “

The two winners expressed their profound thanks to TD FEF for its generous support and emphasized the collaborative nature of the project. They also paid tribute to the team’s behind-the-scenes contributors, including Alex Lisman’s videography, Micky Rodriguez’s music composition, the crew at Regenesis@York, the President’s Sustainability Council and its student subcommittee.

The Regenesis@York team with the prizeRight: The Regenesis@York team with the prize

“Our team is passionate about Glendon’s forest, an ecological gem containing multiple forest biomes, an endangered wetland, and a river, in the heart of the city,” said Harris, who is also co-president of Regenesis@York, a student organization dealing with sustainability projects on both of York’s campuses. “My love for the forest led me to notice its degraded state and I began to investigate what could be done to improve the situation. Finding Caitlin, someone of like passion, and working together was indeed a blessing.”

Langlois Greenham said: “As a lifelong environmental advocate, I know the transformative value of community-based stewardship projects, and having grown up not far from Glendon, I feel closely connected to the forests here, as do so many others. This project will revitalize the forest and the entire Don River Valley habitat corridor, reconnect people with natural spaces, and raise awareness about the importance of urban nature and the value of stewarding the environment around us.”

FES Professor Jennifer Foster, chair of the President’s Sustainability Council, was the faculty advisor for the project.

For more information about the winning teams and their projects, visit TD GO Green website

Submitted by Marika Kemeny, Glendon communications officer