Vancouver's Greenest City Planner tells all
ND: Your masters’ thesis was a pretty important one and it led to the creation of a very robust sustainability measurement framework for institutions of higher learning to measure their progress. It’s known as the Campus Sustainability Assessment Framework (CSAF). What drew you to the measurement side of things?
LC: When I was doing my undergrad at the University of Victoria I was increasingly frustrated by some of the things that I saw that the institution was doing that were not aligned with my values as a student, you know the ultimate customer that the university is serving. When I started learning about the investment practices and some of the pension funds is when I really got riled up and felt that the university as an institution of higher learning should be demonstrating/practicing/modeling, the values of protecting future generations.
Universities need to be responsible and responsive with resources in ways that protect future generations [and because they weren’t] that kind of inspired me to become more active in making my campus more responsible, more ethical, and more sustainable for the long term. I got into doing some work at UVic and was inspired by some students at Mount Allison University who I think were the first in Canada to really assess where their university was at in a fairly comprehensive way. So I got involved in an informal network of students across Canada who were doing university based sustainability work and activism and realized that a tool to help students encourage their universities to be more responsible and sustainable would be really useful. That was how I arrived at focusing my masters on creating the Campus Sustainability Assessment Framework.
Pulling leaders together
ND: Is it fair to say you are the creator of the CSAF?
LC: I guess so. The way that I approached the creation of if was through a methodology called participatory action research. What that means is getting the people involved in the implementation of your work also involved in the creation of it.
I pulled together the leaders at the time from academia, the administration and the student movements; there was probably a group of ten or fifteen of us from campuses across Canada, to advise me in shaping this framework. The advice I sought was – what kind of tool could we create together that is going to be useful in the work that you are trying to do?
I think that how it’s being implemented and evolved, being led through the Sierra Youth Coalition, over the last ten years has followed that method. Again it goes back to capacity building and providing the tools and resources for people that will help them achieve their objectives. The other thing about it is that it is holding universities to account for their actions and being a bit more open about some of the impacts they have.
A masters from Royal Roads
ND: From there, you worked with a developer for a while, as a part of Victoria’s groundbreaking Dockside Green development. Tell me more about that.
LC: Yeah, so when I was at Royal Roads doing my Masters one of my classmates, when I was quite broke and doing a lot of volunteer work, kindly connected me to a project called the Vancouver Island Technology Park. This ended up being the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified project in Canada. Through that I ended up in a few years of work with a company called Windmill Development Group that led quite a few of the really groundbreaking green building projects in Canada – there was one in Ottawa, a couple in Calgary, and then Dockside Green in Victoria.
It was really interesting work that taught me to be a consultant and operate a business – skills that were really important when we were opening up SSG. And it was just inspiring to work in a sector that I never imagined I would work in and to see what leadership and what kind of potential for powerful change can come when a business is being transformational in a sector that isn’t usually seen as leading the way.
ND: Sounds like it was an important formative experience. So from there, you went on, with a group of people, to create Sustainability Solutions Group, which is a cooperative run sustainability consultancy. What was the impetus behind that?