SMU group measures students’ eco footprint

Survey to be the basis for targeted action on the environment

Victoria Blue and Jennifer Fitzpatrick
Victoria Blue and Jennifer Fitzpatrick are project managers on the “Our Eco Footprint” survey. Photo by Chris Putnam

Studies have measured the ecological impact of the average Canadian and the average Nova Scotian, but what about the average Saint Mary’s University student?

One SMU student society thinks answering that question could be the key to promoting positive environmental change on campus.

Through an anonymous online survey, the Saint Mary’s Enactus group is asking SMU students about their consumption patterns: their travel habits, water usage, electricity usage and disposal practices.

“We’re measuring … what we’re doing good and what we’re doing not so good for the environment, and (seeing) how we can help change that,” says Enactus group member Victoria Blue.

Once the survey closes, the data will be analyzed to give an overall picture of the SMU student body’s ecological footprint. The Enactus team will look for areas where the university population could be doing better and come up with ways to help.

The survey closes on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Blue and fellow third-year student Jen Fitzpatrick are heading up the project.

Plenty of online surveys are available to measure an individual’s ecological footprint, notes Fitzpatrick, but her team saw a chance to go a step further by assembling this data and putting it to use.

Blue and Fitzpatrick won’t know what kinds of follow-up initiatives they’ll introduce until they’ve looked at the survey results, but they’re already brainstorming ideas.

“For example,” says Blue, “if students are not using reusable water bottles, then we may get water bottles donated and hand them out.”

The Enactus team intends to join with faculty and other student groups, such as the Saint Mary’s University Environmental Society, to plan and implement the follow-up projects. It might also look to outside partners if the survey results call for it — for instance, inviting Nova Scotia Power to donate energy-efficient light bulbs if students seem to be under-using them.

Blue says they hope to get 400 responses to the survey, but they have a long way to go. All SMU students are being invited to participate.

If the project goes well, Blue and Fitzpatrick hope to expand it — possibly offering to survey local businesses or challenging other universities to look at their own environmental practices.

SMU students board a bus
Student use of public transit is one of the topics of the survey. Photo by Chris Putnam

The planning process that follows the survey will probably take a few months, but the collective results will be put up for display shortly after it closes.

“I hope we can get a lot of students to think more about how they’re acting towards the environment,” says Fitzpatrick.

The Saint Mary’s Enactus (formerly SIFE) group is part of the worldwide Enactus nonprofit. Its members take on entrepreneurial projects to improve their communities, then showcase their achievements at competitions with other groups.

Past projects of the SMU group have included “GoFish,” a program in which at-risk youth were taught cooking skills, and “TeamPossibles,” which helped local artists with Down syndrome sell their artwork. The society has more than 80 members.




2 thoughts on “SMU group measures students’ eco footprint

  1. This is exactly the kind of intelligent social activism we need to encourage. Great job! Your leadership will certainly inspire others to join the effort and contribute their ideas, enthusiasm and energy to this worthy pursuit … Bravo

  2. A very worthwhile project. It will encourage students to become more aware of greener choices which will enhance life for the earth and its inhabitants. Keep up the great work and hopefully move this beyond SMU!

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