Shea O’Neil developed a keen interest in sustainability while spending a year at Pensacola State College in Florida. In a recent phone interview with the Georgia Straight, the SFU Public Square employee recalled how frustrated she became when she couldn’t find anywhere to return her plastic bottles in Pensacola.
“They wouldn’t take them, so I became obsessed with recycling and waste management when I came back to SFU,” O’Neil said. “I studied environmental geography and was super passionate about it, particularly on the waste side.”
O’Neil is now trying to inspire hundreds of young people to embrace a greener future as one of the organizers of ReThink Food. It’s a one-day challenge to secondary-school students to design more sustainable ways of dealing with food in their schools.
“It’s very exciting for students to have the ability to make a lasting impact in their schools,” O’Neil said. “That would be something that I wish I had the chance to do at my high school.”
Another organizer, SFU engineering student Raaj Chatterjee, told the Straight that the goal is to help high-school students bring ideas forward to enhance food sustainability. He said that projects could, for example, include creating community gardens, promoting meatless Mondays, or developing composting systems.
“Some of these things are happening already,” Chatterjee said. “They could develop one of those ideas to make a more expansive, cooler project.”
O’Neil added that students might also have ideas about how to develop communications strategies to promote sustainability. There might be a composting system in a school and there could be opportunities to devise ways to increase students’ participation.
The deadline for registration is Monday (October 26) and it’s open to teams of four to eight students. Participants can also sign up individually and will be placed in a group.
SFU Public Square employee Tessica Truong and recent SFU graduate Amelia Huang are also part of the team putting together the event. A panel of judges will evaluate the projects and offer feedback. Winners will be eligible for funding of up to $1,000.
“We’re going to keep it flexible,” O’Neil said. “We’re hoping that the students include a rough budget of their project, as well, to give them that experience.”
ReThink Food takes place November 5 at Telus World of Science as part of Simon Fraser University’s We the City: 2015 Community Summit.