Every year in Lister residence, floors compete against each other to see how many residents can get their dorm rooms certified with Green Spaces—and who can get the highest ratings. This year’s race produced surprising results.
The story starts with the sustainability cohort’s residence assistant Ashley D’Souza. Historically, her floor has been among the most engaged and in fact, it looked like ½ Shäffer was cruising to an easy victory once again… When at the eleventh hour, a rival floor leapfrogged to victory! Here’s how Ashley and her nemesis Shubham Soni saw things go down.
Ashley, why were you personally invested in winning the Green Spaces Challenge?
While I love that the challenge promotes education about consumption and sustainability on campus and in residence, it also just really provokes my competitive nature. This was my third year participating in both the Green Spaces and Darkest Tower challenges, and it was really exciting to learn something new every time.
This time around, I created a little competition between my floor, ½ Schäffer, and all the other floors in Lister (the latter participated unaware of the competition). For the first three weeks of the challenge, we held the leading spot, which increased interest and participation on the floor (also making us way more confident about a win). But the final week of the challenge revealed a surprisingly unsatisfactory second place finish!
Shubham, how did you get so many of your fellow residents to mount a last-minute challenge?
It honestly just started with enticing a few residents which sparked enough interest in them to spread around the information to the rest of the floor. It also became a competitive activity when they all found at that they were close in second place, and then it jumped off much harder! All I had to do was keep reminding them over group chats, in person, on a group page, or in person etc., which was pretty simple and not hard to do repeatedly.
In the last week, I had a handful of residents running around the floor trying to get everyone to complete the survey. I think at that point, it wasn’t even the idea of winning the prize anymore, but just simply winning a challenge that they were trailing behind in. Once that started happening, I was almost certain we would win, and can proudly say we did!
Why do each of you think it was important for your floor to get engaged in this sustainability activity?
A: As the RA to the sustainability cohort in Canada’s largest student dormitory, I believe that it is really important for me to provide student engagement regarding environmental issues at home and on campus. Participating in programs like the Green Spaces Challenge creates the possibility for big change.
S: As an RA, I have the ability to shape the community on my floor. I tried to get them to participate because I was able to learn a fair amount of things through the checklist myself. I feel that things like these are small steps to becoming a mature and successful adult, and a global citizen.
What kind of lasting change have either of you seen in your residents?
A: I've noticed those residents who proudly display their green certification stickers are more likely to make use of the composting or recycling bin. Lights in the public spaces get turned off more and water is used sparingly when washing dishes. Whenever you pass by the hallways on the floor and see the sticker, you are reminded […] that you live in a community that is supportive of environmental practices.
S: Already, I’ve seen the bathroom and lounge lights being shut off much more often overnight. I’ve also seen them being more aware about their practices with disposing waste on the floor and with the Zero Waste stations. Over the years, I hope that they add onto these behaviours by simply being mindful of how interconnected our behaviours are with various types of sustainability.
Ashley, what’s next for Lister’s sustainability cohort?
½ Schäffer were obviously disappointed upon discovering that we lost the challenge. However, the floor collectively looked on the bright side and committed to winning Darkest Tower [ed. coming up in March 2017]. We also have a compost bin, and 8 Mackenzie doesn't, so ½ Schäffer wins at being actively green.
This interview was edited for brevity.