Focused on the future

The Sustainability Office offers a range of roles for students in delivering campus programs.

CassieSustainability is a key pillar of Mohawk College’s strategic plan and that comes to life in the Sustainability Office, which offers internships, co-ops, employment and volunteer opportunities for students.

The Sustainability Office is able to hire students for its programs through the Sustainability Initiatives Fund (SIF), a partnership between Mohawk College and the Mohawk Students’ Association.

Each year, several hundred students participate in sustainability programs at Mohawk College.

“Many of our programs and services have an engagement, outreach and peer-to-peer component to them, so students are very important to our team,” says Manager Allison Maxted.

They often come from environmental or technology programs, but also come from business, journalism, graphic design and marketing, says Maxted.

“Sometimes students want experience in their field but sometimes they are driven by their personal interests.”

Programs include an e-waste collection program, a bike loan program, free bike repairs and tune-ups, a secure bike cage, a community garden, a local food farm stand on campus, pollinator gardens and a bee apiary that is managed by a beekeeper.

“Most of our programs come from student ideas. We have an idea bank campaign annually and ask students to submit their ideas. The Sustainability Office and a committee that includes three College representatives and three from the MSA decides which programs to choose and how to spend the fund.”

The farm stand sells the food it buys from a local-food wholesaler to Mohawk students and staff at cost. Sales include Bounty Bags, which feature a recipe and all the ingredients for $20.

The Sustainability Office also manages an orientation program, offering reusable water bottles and a filling station, move-in and move-out donation boxes for any items that could go to charities or recycling, and lots of information so that students understand what sustainability means at Mohawk College.

“We try to make a big splash so it’s really visible.”

During the pandemic, the Sustainability Office also managed a mask recycling program that diverted 260,000 masks from the landfill.

The volunteer Green Team, which launched in September, is an opportunity for students to collect hours towards their Co-Curricular Record. Those who contribute five hours get a Green Team designation, along with a sustainability kit that includes reusable mugs, cutlery and dryer balls.

A key function of the Green Team, which has about 30 volunteers registered for this semester, is pop-up teaching at the centralized waste station in the Fennell campus cafeteria to help students understand how to sort properly.

Volunteers also do community cleanups and host workshops, such as a recent one that showed students how to have a wasteless winter break, says Cassi Brennan, Green Team Junior Coordinator.

She is in her final semester of Environmental Technology, working 15 hours a week for the Sustainability Office.

“Sometimes it’s a challenge to balance my studies and work, but because it’s sustainability I love it. I never dread going to work. I’m very happy and grateful to be in this role. I get to work with people who are super passionate about sustainability.”

EvaEva Dannys managed the community garden last summer after graduating from the Environmental Technician program in April 2022.

Her greatest challenge was getting all the garden plots ready after two years of reduced maintenance during the pandemic.

“The weeds definitely took over and the plants spread. It took a few weeks before we could turn over the gardens to get stuff growing.”

The garden is 51 plots measuring eight feet by four feet. The garden is free to use and simply requires registration in the early spring. Dannys, who now works as a quality control analyst for Collective Arts brewery, also provided advice and guidance about how to plant, grow and harvest vegetables and herbs.

Members have access to gardening tools and to a seed bank of donated seeds.

“You can pick and plant what you want. Everything you could need is on site.”

Last summer, students, faculty, staff and neighbours grew fruits and vegetables in the community garden. A kids’ summer camp at Mohawk College and outpatient rehabilitation patients from St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton across the street also managed plots.

“There is something so satisfying about growing your own food,” says Dannys. “There are a lot of life lessons in gardening and a community garden brings together people with lots of experience and those who have never had a garden. A community garden is so amazing in that way because people can learn from each other.” Mohawk College logo