Dalhousie University offers Canada’s first ESS (Environment, Sustainability and Society) program, which encourages students to focus their learning on global sustainability issues. Now, the students are becoming the teachers, as a group from the College of Sustainability joined BOYNECLARKE LLP’s green initiative, providing a baseline environmental footprint assessment and recommendations on how to build on the firm’s recent successes in becoming a more sustainable organization.

Students from the College of Sustainability Capstone class worked with BOYNECLAKE LLP, one of Atlantic Canada’s largest law firms, to help create efficiencies, cut waste, and reduce the firm’s environmental impact. One of the firm’s partners, Robert L. Miedema was key in connecting BOYNECLARKE with the Capstone class.

“When we heard about the opportunity to work with the College on a sustainability initiative, we knew it was something we wanted to be involved with. We improved the environmental sustainability of our operations when we relocated to Dartmouth’s Metropolitan Place building in 2010, but the students really helped us refocus on new goals compatible with our vision of being a good corporate citizen in our community.”

In the fourth-year Capstone class, students worked over two semesters in a small, inter-disciplinary team to conduct baseline measurements of BOYNECLARKE’s environmental impact, provide instructions for ongoing data management and tracking, and suggest recommendations, an implementation plan, and future targets.

To do this, the team observed BOYNECLARKE’s office procedures, focusing on energy, employee transportation, paper use, waste diversion and water use, giving BOYNECLARKE a current score in each area. They also conducted an employee survey, to gather information on employees’ environmental habits at home and in the workplace, as well as attitudes towards sustainability initiatives.

This year’s Capstone class was comprised of 31 students from six faculties. BOYNECLARKE worked with a team of five — Matt Andrews, Ally Cunliffe, Kyle Hambly, Lee Hughes and Chelsey Lightfoot, who all combined the ESS curriculum with a second major in subjects such as Environmental Science, Sociology and Community Design.

Chelsey Lightfoot says, “I learned so much while conducting this sustainability assessment—it was great to put the academic subjects we have studied into practice and make industry-specific recommendations to an organization that is really motivated to reduce their environmental footprint.”

The teams were coordinated by Debra Ross, Manager, Outreach and Partnership Development; guided and evaluated by Dalhousie faculty members: Peter Mushkat, Lecturer in Environmental Law in the Environmental Science Program and the College of Sustainability and Sujit Sur, Assistant Professor in the School of Business Administration and the College of Sustainability. Janelle Hrycik, a Doctoral candidate in Oceanography, was the team’s Project Advisor, working closely with them on research methods and analyzing results.

“The ESS Capstone class offers collaborative, engaged learning at its best,” says Debra Ross “with students sharpening their research methods and communication skills and clients offering real-world challenges, feedback and experience.”

To conclude the year, the students presented their findings and recommendations to a group of BOYNECLARKE employees and management. Recommendations ranged from installing programmable thermostats, to offering staff incentives for sustainable transportation.

For each recommendation, they used a block system ranking on a scale of high, medium or low in the categories of cost, feasibility, sustainability, and time required. The team gave BOYNECLARKE short term and long term goals in each of the sustainability categories and then contrasted their current scorecard to what it has the potential to be in 2023.