Ah yes, the environment. It has granted us with so much to thrive on – natural resources, breathtaking views and enough land mass to manufacture so much chocolate, it would leave you wondering why anyone would ever want to destroy it, right? Well sadly there are evil forces such as powerful orange demagogues that seek to do just that. (Please do not quote me on this, it is merely an alternative fact)
For the purposes of my stretch, I had one simple task for myself; find a way to save the environment. There I was, a kid with no experience in geology, environmental sciences, sustainability or business, trying to make the environment great again. However, if the current political climate in the United States has taught me anything, it is that I should not run for something by pretending to know what I am doing, when in reality, I do not have the slightest clue.
Prior to starting this initiative, I was reading social entrepreneurship books and realized that current businesses have the potential to play a huge role in saving our environment. I learned that corporations such as Nike and Target can implement massive pro-environmental initiatives and policies because they have enough financial and human capital to do so. And likewise, new business ventures are generally eco-friendly; considering they are new to the market and there is a growing customer demand for greener products and services. However, no one talked about environmental initiatives in current small to medium sized businesses, and that, is where my stretch light bulb went off.
I started interviewing local businesses in Edmonton – most notably L’Express, The Bagel Shop, La Pasta, and Beez at the UofA campus, in order to understand where they stood in terms of being environmentally sustainable. That was my first mistake and failure. I felt as though I couldn’t quite connect with those companies due to a lack of business acumen.
This prompted me to start studying more about this topic. And considering it was summer, I thought, why not travel at the same time. I wanted to go to the US but with the Trump Administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, I decided to look east…but like faaaar east. That’s right, China. Although China is still a major polluter, it has been championing green energy consumption for years.
I started studying at Zhejiang University, where I learned about entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship simultaneously. After coming back to Edmonton, I felt ready to talk to those previously mentioned local businesses at the UofA. Since then, I have been working with the Office of Sustainability to consult L’Express on its eco-friendly endeavours. They have been championing two main sustainability initiatives. First, they began phasing in a reusable dish program to reduce take-out packaging. Second, they purchased a tea steeper with a reusable metal filter, to eliminate the need for disposable and non-compostable tea bags.
Over the course of the semester I seek to implement similar initiatives to other businesses on and off campus. And with the help of the Office of Sustainability, I believe this will be possible. I can’t wait to see where this goes! In the mean time, I challenge all of you to look for and support local businesses that are/want to champion environmentally friendly policies and initiatives. If not for me, do it for the chocolates.
Thank you for reading!
Peace, love, & Chocolate y’all ❤
Ryan Seeras (Peter Lougheed College Scholar 2016-2018 Cohort).