April 23, 2018

Students mount sustainability offence for Last Defence Lounge

Research tackles six operational areas to advance restaurant’s sustainability practices
Student Gabby Mackinnon and her group in SUST401 present their findings to the Graduate Students' Association and Last Defence Lounge. Thank you to all the stakeholders involved in the SUST401 Research Methods course.

Student Gabby Mackinnon and her group in SUST401 present their findings.

Michelle Crossland, University of Calgary

The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), which runs the Last Defence Lounge (LDL), wants to increase sustainability across their operations to ensure the popular restaurant makes a positive social and environmental impact on campus. This semester, students in a course called SUST401 examined a number of industry practices at the LDL in Mac Hall and offered recommendations to make the restaurant more sustainable. 

The GSA and LDL engaged with students from the Sustainability Research Methods course who worked in groups to tackle six operational areas: food sourcing and costs; consumer demands; food waste and composting; operations and labour; purchasing and supplies; and beer sourcing and alternatives.

“I think it was a crazy-good opportunity. It’s a great class,” says Gabby Mackinnon, a first-year student in the Certificate in Sustainability Studies program. “I was really surprised we got to talk to the LDL servers and managers. That’s what made my group work harder. We knew this wasn’t just for marks; it was going to be taken away and used at the LDL.”

Joshua Wong, another SUST401 student, and his group explored consumer demand and how the LDL could improve customer satisfaction with factors such as the menu, pricing and the restaurant’s sustainability initiatives. “Research has found that people have a more positive attitude toward the establishment if they’re talking about sustainability goals that are in the future, rather than the present or the past,” says Wong, a third-year economics student. His group recommended that, as well as mentioning living wages for staff on the menu, LDL could consider listing some longer-term sustainability objectives. 

“This project offered students experiential learning by carrying out real-life applied research, a key program learning outcome of the Sustainability Certificate,” says Sarah Skett, co-instructor of the class and postdoctoral research fellow in Sustainability Studies. “By working with key stakeholders from the GSA and LDL they gained an understanding of work in real-world sustainability challenges and real-life application.”

Students presented their findings to the LDL and GSA in class on March 8 and were thrilled to hear that many of their recommendations were going to be considered or implemented at the LDL.

“Being involved in the Sustainability 401 class has been a fantastic experience,” says Chris Schneider, LDL’s general manager. “The ideas and presentations the class worked so hard on not only made us realize how important it is to be socially responsible, but also allows us to continually adapt to an ever-changing world.”

About the Certificate in Sustainability Studies

The Certificate in Sustainability Studies is the first program of its kind offered at UCalgary and among the first embedded certificate models for education in sustainability in Canada. By earning this certificate, you will graduate with the knowledge and skills to become a sustainability leader in your career and community. Your experience will come from hands-on opportunities for understanding and defining solutions to real-world problems, locally, nationally and internationally. Courses are designed to equip you with the knowledge and research skills for applied problem-solving and expose you to different disciplinary and interdisciplinary problems and modes of thinking in both theory and practice.