Innovators look to commercialize research with York fellowship

Concept of idea and innovation with paper ball

By Diana Senwasane

Four aspiring researchers have completed York University’s Commercialization Fellowship program, advancing their potential to bring to market innovations driven by the latest in emerging technologies.  

The Commercialization Fellowship program is aimed at preparing and supporting postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows in understanding the process of transforming academic research into a product or service.  

Funded by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, the program started in 2021, providing a group of annual fellows education on intellectual property (IP) and commercialization, exposure to industry and community partners, experiential learning opportunities, and a $7,500 stipend to use towards creating a proof of concept, testing their prototype and completing validation studies. 

“Research commercialization can lead to real-world solutions, turning York community’s great ideas into products and services that provide both social and economic benefits,” said Suraj Shah, associate director of commercialization and industry partnerships. 

Aspire spoke with this year’s fellows about the program and their products. 

Hamed Esmaeili, mechanical engineering 
Project title: An accelerated strategy to characterize mechanical properties of materials 

Hamed Esmaeili
Hamed Esmaeili

A PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Esmaeili’s research leverages the power of machine learning to create new software that could have widespread application in the automotive manufacturing and construction industries. 

His software innovation streamlines the way in which materials’ mechanical properties are characterized, eliminating the need for extensive physical testing.  

“For designers and engineers, this software offers a way to prototype new parts or evaluate existing materials without ever having to set foot inside a lab,” said Esmaeili.  

This could prove useful in many industries such as infrastructure – when it comes to designing and testing structures, like buildings and bridges, to ensure they can withstand forces and automotive manufacturing – where components of a car, like the doors or brakes, consistently operate under various load conditions.  

Esmaeili’s software allows users to input specific parameters – such as material composition, environmental conditions and processing factors – resulting in a comprehensive prediction of a material’s behaviour when subjected to external loads. 

While the project, under the supervision of Reza Rizvi, an associate professor at the Lassonde School of Engineering, is still under development, the implications are vast. Being able to predict how materials will respond in different environments – without the need to physically test each variation – can dramatically accelerate innovation, reduce costs and promote sustainability in manufactured components, making this an advancement in the manufacturing industry with far-reaching impact.  

Esmaeili said the Commercialization Fellowship has helped him utilize code development software and allowed him to conduct validation experiments in the laboratory to ensure the software effectively predicts material behaviour. 

He has completed the back-end code of his software and is currently working on developing the front end for the desktop version in the coming months. 

Lauren Turner, kinesiology and health science
Project title: Digital Decision Support for Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes 

Lauren Turner
Lauren Turner

A PhD candidate in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Turner’s doctoral research has resulted in the creation of a decision support platform designed to transform how individuals with Type 1 diabetes approach exercise.  

Addressing the fine balance between maintaining glucose levels and staying active, the platform allows users to input data about their current glucose levels and planned physical activities. Based on an extensive database of research and insights, it provides personalized recommendations on carbohydrate intake to maintain safe glucose levels during exercise.  

“Anyone with Type 1 diabetes can use it,” said Turner. “We’re also hoping that it can be a clinic tool to help individuals, especially those newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, understand how their needs may differ depending on their different types of activity and their current blood glucose levels.” 

While exercising has numerous health benefits for individuals living with Type 1 diabetes, it can also make blood glucose management difficult and, in extreme cases, lead to potentially severe consequences, such as low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), which could result in dizziness, confusion, seizures or even death.  

The platform, led under the supervision of Michael Riddell, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, directly addresses and alleviates these risks, offering a layer of protection and confidence to those affected. And unlike traditional insulin pumps, which may only adjust glucose targets and/or insulin delivery, this platform offers actionable advice for its users.  

Turner credits the fellowship with helping her to advance the project and said the monthly check-in meetings, advice on how to bring her idea to market, and hearing about events and opportunities were highlights of the program. 

Turner and her team have been working closely with a web developer to develop the platform and they hope to launch it shortly.  

Parham Mohammadi, electrical engineering and computer science 
Project title: PowerSync: Intelligent V2G Charging with TinyML Analytics 

Parham Mohammadi
Parham Mohammadi

A PhD student in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Mohammadi’s project hones in on tiny machine learning (TinyML) to infuse electric vehicle (EV) chargers with unprecedented levels of intelligence and autonomy, giving them the ability to make decisions without relying on a centralized control system. 

TinyML uses artificial intelligence algorithms within the EV charger to independently manage and adapt its operations – ensuring grid stability, predictive maintenance, fault analysis and more. It aims to not only streamline operations but significantly mitigate the potential for system-level power issues as the number of EVs and chargers continue to enter the market. 

The project, supervised by Afshin Rezaei-Zare, an associate professor at the Lassonde School of Engineering, reflects a broader shift toward a smarter, more efficient way of managing energy resources, especially as we pivot to renewable and clean energy solutions. Through the integration of TinyML technologies, EV chargers can seamlessly synchronize with the energy grid, efficiently distributing power without overwhelming the system. 

“For the everyday consumer and the environmentally conscious, this project is a pivotal step toward sustainable electric vehicle adoption,” said Mohammadi. “By integrating smart, autonomous chargers into the energy grid, we’re looking at a smoother, more reliable transition to green mobility solutions across the globe.” 

Mohammadi said the Commercialization Fellowship provided him with critical information for commercialization, IP management and connections with lawyers through the IP Innovation Clinic.  

He is currently in the process of developing a prototype, which is anticipated to be completed mid-summer. 

Siamak Derakhshan, electrical engineering and computer science 
Project title: Fully Soft-switched AC/DC Bi-directional Converters with High Power Factor and Minimal Low-Frequency Voltage Ripple 

Siamak Derakhshan
Siamak Derakhshan

A third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Derakhshan’s research aims to revolutionize on-board EV chargers. Deviating from traditional unidirectional charging methods, which function only to charge, Derakhshan has created a bidirectional converter, allowing the charger to not just power a car but also harness its battery power.  

The innovation unlocks tremendous possibilities – from lighting up homes during blackouts or emergencies to contributing power back to the grid during peak demand. 

Under the supervision of John Lam, an associate professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering, Derakhshan’s converter enhances existing on-board EV chargers in the market by making modifications such as reducing the size of the traditionally bulky capacitor by 20 times, which improves the lifespan of the on-board charger, its efficiency and reduces the potential for thermal issues such as overheating. 

“What we are trying to do is to improve the reliability, efficiency and power density of these converters,” he said. “We are designing better and more robust control systems to better support the power grid.”

Derakhshan says the fellowship’s workshops helped him understand the importance of IP and patenting his idea. He also found value in being able to connect with industry and showcase his work to industry partners. 

Derakhshan has designed the prototype for his converter and has successfully tested it for charging. He is currently working on the next phase to test the bidirectional component. 

Grant funds York-led household energy insecurity study

Bogota, Colombia historic centre

Godfred Boateng, an assistant professor in York University’s School of Global Health and Canada Research Chair in Global Health and Humanitarianism, has been awarded a grant by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development for a two-year project on household energy insecurity in Colombia.

Godfred Boateng
Godfred Boateng

Valued at $136,899, the grant will support the implementation of Boateng’s Household Energy Insecurity, Health and Sustainable Livelihoods in Colombia (HEINS) project – co-led by Diego Iván Lucumí Cuesta from the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia – between March 2024 and February 2026.

The HEINS study is a continuation of Boateng’s leading work in comprehensively measuring and understanding resource insecurity across the Global South, undertaken at the Global & Environmental Health Lab at York’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research as part of his mandate as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair.

In deciding to study this topic, the York professor observed that measurement of energy insecurity has historically been limited to the macro level – representing a country or region – and has not been widely extended to the household level, particularly outside the Global North. He also noticed there has been little assessment of the relationship between household energy insecurity and health outcomes among women and children in the Global South. As a result, it is difficult to determine how inadequate access to clean and safe energy sources impacts women and children differently in the household. It also becomes difficult to propose strategies to ensure clean energy transitions that effectively target the needs of that demographic.  

Boateng’s HEINS project, which will be conducted in three municipalities in the Choco province of Colombia, will address these issues. It will use a mixed-methods approach to find out whether or not household energy insecurity uniquely impacts disease, socioeconomic and psychosocial outcomes. The project will also produce and validate a scale – one of the first of its kind in Latin America – that can be used to comprehensively assess the impact of household energy insecurity on women, infants and children.

“With this grant, my team and I will advance current scholarship on the adverse effects of household energy insecurity in Latin America,” said Boateng. “It will produce a novel instrument for identifying energy insecurity hotspots, which will serve as recruiting points for a longitudinal study that examines the effect of energy insecurity and indoor air pollution from conception through the first two years of life.”

Ultimately, the goal of the project is to generate scientific evidence to develop sound, scalable technologies and strategies to ensure equitable clean energy transitions across the Global South. Through this study, Boateng and the Global & Environmental Health Lab, in partnership with Lucumí Cuesta, will advance research that promotes equitable access, good health, human development and environmental sustainability.  

Charging up: new Tait McKenzie exercise machines power York

Person on a bicycle charges the battery
Renewable energy, green electricity, exercise bike generates electricity, healthy lifestyle, hard work to replenish energy and build strength for the future, a person on a bicycle charges the battery.

New electricity-generating workout machines introduced last year at York University’s Tait McKenzie Centre have demonstrated the University’s commitment to affordable and clean energy, one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by reducing emissions and powering the institution’s grid.

In 2023, at the Tait McKenzie Centre’s 11,000-square-foot fitness centre, many of the exercise machines used by the York community were worn down and nearing the end of their lifespan. While considering how to replace the equipment, Athletics & Recreation (A&R) saw a unique opportunity.

They could replace the machines with new, comparable ones, or they could take an approach that would further one of the University’s most notable ongoing institutional goals – affordable and clean energy ­– with something more innovative: electricity-generating workout machines.

Steven Chuang
Steven Chuang

The decision was an easy one. While the green machines were comparable in price to traditional equipment, they offered a notable advantage: the value of using human power to reduce emissions on the Keele Campus. “This is one of the key driving forces that led us to purchase these state-of-the-art machines that can advance our mission towards sustainability, contributing back to the grid and keeping up with our fitness goals, one step at a time,” says Steven Chuang, executive director for A&R. “We wanted to ensure that we’re really striving towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and educating students about the value of sustainability.”

Since August 2023, 42 electricity-generating machines – which include treadmills and indoor bicycles from green fitness company SportsArt – have been introduced to the Tait McKenzie Centre, helping York become one of the first universities in Canada to have green workout equipment at that scale.

The treadmills and bicycles have been plugged into outlets where no energy is drawn and are leveraging the energy generated by users to give back to the University’s power grid. Over the past months, the machines have been working toward the roughly 19,264 kilowatts of energy they can produce per year, which equals roughly 7,700 kettles of water.

York community member on a green bike

They are expected to save $25,000 over the next five years, as energy produced from workouts follows the path of least resistance to where it’s needed on campus – whether it’s providing energy to power a clock or an LCD screen. Tait McKenzie, and the machines, even offer a feature where those breaking a sweat on the machines can directly see their contributions to sustainability through a leaderboard display screen that tracks which workout equipment units are producing the most power.

“Having these machines on campus is a model for what can be done for sustainability,” says Mike Layton, chief sustainability officer. “That’s what being part of a university is all about – contributing not only to making the university space better but making a better world.”

In the past few months, these machines have made an impact on several users, including staff members. “I smile when I’m on them,” says Art McDonald, acting associate director of campus recreation. “It feels good to use these machines and give back to the planet.”

For those interested in testing these machines, visit the Tait McKenzie Centre on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Keep an eye out for the green SportsArt logo.

York prof leads groundbreaking research on green hydrogen

Modern city and environmental technology concept

York University’s commitment to sustainability and innovation takes a significant leap forward with Professor Hany Farag’s pioneering work on green hydrogen integration.

As a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the Lassonde School of Engineering, Farag is spearheading efforts to revolutionize Ontario’s energy landscape.

As previously reported, Farag has been tapped to receive funds from a new initiative to revamp Ontario’s energy system.

Hany Farag
Hany Farag

The newly created Hydrogen Innovation Fund, a funding initiative administered by the Independent Electricity System Operator, will invest more than $15 million to help integrate hydrogen into Ontario’s clean electricity system over the next three years. Farag is among the first group of researchers to successfully attain this funding.

A York Research Chair in Integrated Smart Energy Grids, Farag will use government support to advance the work he does at York’s Smart Grid Research Lab, which aims to seamlessly integrate green hydrogen resources into electricity systems to decarbonize not only the power grid but also hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy-duty vehicles, fertilizers and steelmaking.

In collaboration with Alectra Utilities, Bruce County, York University Facilities Services and other industry partners, Farag plans to investigate the implementation of green hydrogen plants (GHPs) across Ontario. Addressing the lack of infrastructure to support electricity and hydrogen integration, his research project will look to optimize GHP design and integration into Ontario’s power systems.

Farag’s scientific inquiry dovetails with York University’s brand message of shaping a sustainable future. York’s leadership in sustainability and its focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) find resonance in Farag’s quest to lead the charge in decarbonizing energy production and utilization, particularly advancing SDG 7, which looks to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

It’s an important initiative.

Although the production of green hydrogen is currently expensive, with estimates ranging from $4 to $6 per kilogram, it remains pivotal in the quest for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Across the globe, nations such as Canada and the U.S. are unveiling ambitious hydrogen strategies and investment goals for the forthcoming decades. In a significant move in 2020, the federal government released a hydrogen strategy with the aim of solidifying hydrogen’s role as a cornerstone tool in reaching the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

But while hydrogen holds promise as a potential game changer in combatting climate change, the shift toward “green” hydrogen faces significant hurdles. A 2021 report by the International Energy Agency highlighted a staggering statistic: global hydrogen production emitted 900-million tonnes of carbon dioxide, exceeding emissions from the aviation industry by roughly 180-million tonnes.

This alarming figure underscores the pressing need for a transition away from fossil fuel sources, as highlighted in a recent CBC report.

Although currently not recognized as a low-emissions fuel, there is optimism that hydrogen will emerge as a pivotal player in the fight against climate change. Its potential lies in serving as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels in various sectors such as power generation, home heating and transportation – an area where Farag’s expertise shines through.

“In the Smart Grid Research Lab, we aim to develop new solutions that facilitate seamless and cost-effective integration of green hydrogen to decarbonize the power grid and hard-to-abate sectors/industries,” Farag says.

“This vision is aligned with York’s efforts to decarbonize our campus, where hydrogen could replace – either fully or partially – the existing natural gas–based co-generators.”

Continuing Studies Building earns gold for sustainable design

School of Continuing Studies Building

Further solidifying York University’s place as an international leader in sustainability, York’s School of Continuing Studies Building has achieved LEED Gold certification from the Canadian Green Building Council. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is the global building industry’s premier benchmark for sustainability.

School of Continuing Studies Building
School of Continuing Studies Building exterior.

The six-story, 9,012-square-metre, 50-classroom building, which opened last spring at 68 The Pond Road on York’s Keele Campus, was designed by global architecture firm Perkins&Will, led by architects Safdar Abidi and Andrew Frontini. Its twisted design is said to symbolize the school’s twist on the traditional mission of continuing studies – that is, to solve Canada’s most pressing labour challenges by connecting employers to a highly skilled talent pool through innovative program offerings.

“Our stunning, architecturally twisted learning facility emphasizes sustainable practices, safeguards the environment and lowers operating costs,” said Christine Brooks-Cappadocia, assistant vice-president, Continuing Studies. “This purposeful design, with its abundant natural light and other innovative features, is welcoming and promotes a healthy atmosphere so we can focus on what matters most: excellence in programming and a vibrant community for student interactions.”

Some of the building’s most notable environmental features include: a self-generating heat recovery system; an infrastructure-ready, solar-powered water heater; a high-performing façade system for weather resistance; and daylight harvesting to offset electric lighting requirements. The building is believed to be well positioned to achieve net-zero emissions in the future due to its low energy consumption and ability to accommodate solar photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electricity.

But contrary to popular belief, LEED is not only about energy-efficient design. It also considers occupant wellness, an area where the School of Continuing Studies Building focused much attention. Designed with the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in mind, the building houses a lactation room for nursing mothers and a payer room, plus guide rails, automated doors, standing desks, screens for the visually impaired, elevators and large, wheelchair accessible hallways.

“LEED is a comprehensive sustainability objective,” explained Norm Hawton, director of design and construction for Facilities Services at York, “ranging from site selection and recycling of materials to designing for energy performance, minimizing waste, encouraging wellness – from daylighting to healthy commuting, by providing bicycle racks and showers – and thinking holistically about how this building will contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.”

According to Hawton, the LEED Gold certification could not have been achieved without the contributions of the School of Continuing Studies students, instructors and staff who were instrumental to both the scoping and design phases of the project, the University administrators, consultants, and construction and design teams.

“It was the collaborative participation by all throughout the project, from the initial building concept through to successful operations supporting continuing education, that led to LEED quantify the success of the School of Continuing Studies Building in this way,” he said.

In addition to this new sustainability certification, the building has also been recognized for its interior design achievements. Last October, the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) named it one of the most vibrant, innovative and inspiring educational spaces of the year – a true testament to York’s visionary leadership in the higher-education building space.

York conference inspires next generation of environmentalists

Change Your World conference 2024 team. Photo credit: Daniel Horawski

With news of environmental crises coming at us at an increasingly alarming rate, it can be easy to dwell on the doom and gloom of it all. York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) is doing its part to prevent that with its annual conference, Change Your World, which aims to empower Ontario’s youth to be the next generation of global changemakers.

Last week, some 500 Ontario high-school students and their teachers from more than 25 schools gathered in Vari Hall on York’s Keele Campus for the conference, where they spent the day learning how they can make a sustainable and equitable difference in the world – and its future – through a series of activities and workshops hosted in partnership with environmental and community partners from across the province.

Change Your World conference attendees gathered in Vari Hall. Photo by Daniel Horawski.

“At a time when there is a great deal of despair and ‘eco-anxiety’ concerning the state of the planet, it was inspiring to see young people coming together as active citizens to envision a different future,” said Philip Kelly, interim dean of EUC. “Connecting schools and environmentally-focused organizations for thoughtful discussions through events like Change Your World is an important role for the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change in our wider community.”

Pictured, left to right: keynote speaker Joanne Huy, EUC Interim Dean Philip Kelly, keynote speaker Alicia Richins. Photo by Daniel Horawski.

Students began the day by hearing from the conference’s keynote speakers, beginning with Interim Dean Kelly and ending with alumna Alicia Richins, director of strategy and governance for youth sustainability leadership organization Leading Change Canada and creator of multimedia platform the Climateverse.

Richins challenged the audience to consider their passions when choosing what change they should focus on and encouraged them to boldly share ideas, work collaboratively and never give up on their goals to make positive change.

“This annual event is all about showcasing ways youth can lead the change we need in our communities and around the world,” said Lily Piccone, strategic enrolment and communications officer at EUC and Change Your World conference co-ordinator. “Through inspiring keynote speakers, like our very own YU alumni Alicia and Joanne, and our community partners, the students can see local citizens that have turned their passion into a profession and are making positive change for people and the planet”

Toronto-based singer-songwriter and climate activist Brighid Fry performed at the 2024 Change Your World conference.

The students were then able to let their interests guide them by choosing two breakout sessions to participate in from a variety of offerings, including: a workshop on how to build resiliency in the face of anxiety about the future; a giant, immersive board game about power, peace and the planet; hands-on time with wind turbine models and solar panels; a tree identification walk; talks on green infrastructure, climate futurism, the importance of wetlands; and much more.

Following their lunch break, participants were treated to a special guest performance by Toronto-based singer-songwriter and climate activist Brighid Fry, recognized as one of the Top 25 under 25 by non-profit organization the Starfish Canada for her work on sustainability in the music industry. Students wrapped up their day of immersive learning with another workshop and enjoyed one final keynote address by community engagement professional and York alumna Joanne Huy, who shared her passion for transforming lives and communities through learning experiences and making local change in the York University and Jane-and-Finch communities.

Watch the video recap of the day’s events below:

For more information about the annual conference, visit the Change Your World website.

Professor receives inaugural funding to make Ontario energy greener

green hand holding green leaf

Hany Farag, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, is among the first to receive funds from a new initiative to revamp Ontario’s energy system.

Hany Farag
Hany Farag

Green hydrogen has the potential to be a world-changing form of energy. It’s a sustainable, renewable and versatile energy carrier that can be used to support many industry sectors without releasing greenhouse gases. Among the most promising options for producing green hydrogen is electrolysis, which can split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from a renewable energy source.

There is a significant challenge, however: the production, storage and transport of this resource is highly complex and costly.

The government of Ontario feels it’s a challenge worth taking on. It has created the Hydrogen Innovation Fund, a brand-new funding initiative administered by the Independent Electricity System Operator, which over the next three years will help invest more than $15 million to help integrate hydrogen into Ontario’s clean electricity system.

Farag is among the first group of researchers to successfully attain this funding. In collaboration with Alectra Utilities, Bruce County, York University Facilities Services and other industry partners, Farag will investigate ways to implement Green Hydrogen Plants (GHPs) across Ontario. “There is currently no infrastructure that can support the integration of electricity and hydrogen,” says Farag. “We want to facilitate the innovation of green hydrogen, and this project will help optimize the design of GHPs and their integration into Ontario’s power systems.”

By providing research-backed information and planning tools to support GHP implementation, Farag’s work will help inform action that contributes to Ontario’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.

“Electricity is the core sector we focus on in this work, but these tools will eventually help decarbonize other industries as well,” he says.

LA&PS prof publishes three books in one month

colorful book shelf banner

A busy 2023 has led to Hassan Qudrat-Ullah, a professor in York University’s School of Administrative Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), publishing three new books in short succession this past November, covering topics as diverse as systems thinking, supply chain management and sustainable development.

Hassan Qudrat-Ullah
Hassan Qudrat-Ullah

The first of the three, Managing Complex Tasks with Systems Thinking (Springer, 2023), is about improving human decision making and performance in complex tasks. Using a systems thinking approach, it presents innovative and insightful solutions to various managerial issues in various domains, including agriculture, education, climate change, digital transformation, health care, supply chains and sustainability.

Qudrat-Ullah’s second recently published work, a co-edited volume with York University Research Fellow Syed Imran Ali called Advanced Technologies and the Management of Disruptive Supply Chains: The Post-COVID Era (Springer, 2023), explores the cost-effective and efficient supply chain management strategies required to achieve resilience in the post-COVID environment.

“The book follows a didactic approach through which it informs global researchers and practitioners to deal with the most significant insights on future supply chains with a more in-depth analysis of post-COVID opportunities and challenges,” said Qudrat-Ullah. “In particular, it provides an in-depth assessment of disruptive supply chain management in certain industrial contexts and explores various industry 4.0 and industry 5.0 technologies to achieve resilience.”

The final book of the bunch, Exploring the Dynamics of Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development in Africa: A Cross-Country and Interdisciplinary Approach (Springer, 2023), explores the potential of renewable energy sources to promote sustainable development in Africa, with a specific focus on Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and Algeria. It delves into the challenges and opportunities presented by various renewable and clean energy technologies, including nuclear power, liquefied petroleum gas, bamboo biomass gasification and geothermal energy in addressing the energy needs of African nations. Additionally, it assesses the socio-economic and environmental impacts of renewable energy projects and evaluates their alignment with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“The book’s interdisciplinary and cross-country approach, as well as its incorporation of innovative concepts like social innovation and bamboo-based development, makes it a unique resource,” said the author.

How one professor is engaging community to shrink York’s carbon footprint

York Professor Burkard Eberlein, from the Schulich School of Business, set out to reduce the University’s carbon emissions in his 2021-23 Provostial Fellowship.

Burkard Eberlein
Burkard Eberlein

Through the program, Fellows have traditionally engaged the community to take action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Challenge – a key commitment of the University Academic Plan.

Eberlein’s project, “Advancing Carbon Neutrality at York: Reimagining Mobility,” took aim at reducing emissions from commuting and travel to studying, research and carrying out University business activities.

In 2022, Eberlein surveyed York community members about their travel and commuting routines, and this year he released a video highlighting the University’s current carbon footprint with a call to action suggesting how community members can help reduce it.

Here’s a look at the inspiration behind his work.

Q: What was the thinking behind creating this video and what did you hope to achieve?
A: I was looking for engaging and fun ways to communicate my findings to the wider community. I wanted this to be something we could all relate to and that would work as a call to action.

I worked with Alexandre Magnin, a francophone illustrator, who produced this animated video (available in English and French). Alex has a YouTube channel called “Sustainability illustrated” and he does excellent videos on sustainability that I have used before in my teaching. I provided the script and Alex produced this fantastic work to engage the community in thinking about ways they can help York achieve its net zero before 2040 target.

Q: What are some concrete ways community members can make an impact?
A: First thing, just be more mindful of the choices that you make when it comes to commuting and travel. Many of us have habits and routines that we can examine more closely. For example, if you’re driving to campus regularly, are there ways you can set up a car pool with colleagues or classmates? This would be a small but meaningful, positive change.

Bike share station on York University's Keele campus
A bike share station on York University’s Keele Campus.

Below are some concrete steps that people can take, along with advocating to get more community members involved:

  • Taking the bus or the subway can reduce emissions by around six (bus) and 30 (subway) times compared to driving alone. 
  • Walking and biking generate virtually no emissions and York is investing in bike share programs
  • Driving an electric car typically generates a third of the emissions compared to fossil fuel vehicles. 
  • When driving a car, the more people in it the more efficient it becomes. 
  • Make your business travel count and consider whether you can deliver a presentation remotely or think about conference travel sustainably. 

Q: What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from this project?
A: Change is hard and it requires both passion and perseverance. Begin with small steps and make sure to involve all of your fellow community members and partners. By coming together, we can show what is possible to right the future.

Eberlein is co-chair of the Transportation Working Group that will develop proposals in this area (e.g. York business travel policy), in the context of York’s new sustainability framework. He is also looking forward to sharing his comprehensive slide deck and report on how York can reduce carbon emissions from commuting and business travel when it is officially released.

Learn more about Eberlein’s work as a curricular champion to support the UN SDGs and his work to engage students in reducing York’s carbon footprint. 

Watch the video here:

Join discussion on nuclear energy’s role in a net-zero future

Late afternoon scene with view on riverbank with nuclear reactor Doel, Port of Antwerp, Belgium

As part of the Globe and Mail‘s East-West Energy Series of events, Professor Mark Winfield of York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) will present a talk titled “New Nuclear: Where does it fit in a net-zero nation?” on Friday, Oct. 20 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to all, and can be attended either virtually or in person at the Globe and Mail Centre at 351 King St. E. in Toronto.

Mark Winfield
Mark Winfield

As urgency around climate action continues to build, Canada and other nations are becoming more attuned to the role of nuclear energy in curbing emissions. The push is on to transition away from coal and fossil fuels, while at the same time meet rising demand for energy in the era of electrification. Provinces such as Ontario are investing in new nuclear development and interest is growing in small modular reactors for industry and to shift remote communities off diesel.

Join the Globe and Mail and Winfield for a discussion on nuclear energy in view of net-zero emissions goals, electrification and the shift away from fossil fuels.

Winfield is a professor and the co-chair of the EUC’s Sustainable Energy Initiative and co-ordinator of the Joint Master of Environmental Studies/Juris Doctor program offered in conjunction with Osgoode Hall Law School. He has published articles, book chapters and reports on a wide range of climate change, environment, and energy law and policy topics. Winfield has acted as an advisor to the environmental commissioner of Ontario and federal commissioner for environment and development. He is a member of the Conseil d’administration (board of directors) of Transitions energetique Quebec, a Crown corporation established in 2017 to implement a low-carbon energy transition strategy for Quebec.

For more information about the event series and to register, visit Event registration will close at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20.