Route to sustainability

Submissions now accepted for sixth annual Grass Routes Festival

The Grass Routes Festival is now accepting submissions for the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) sixth annual sustainability event planned for the week of Mar. 14.

The week-long festival is a yearly initiative organized by the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) and the Sustainability Office that showcases film screenings, workshops, presentations, exhibits, photo contests, lectures and art.

“In every year we’ve had the festival, we think about it in three ways: We think of events in terms of ideas, sort of things like lectures, films, thinking about concepts, workshops, fix a bike, plant a garden, and then art,” says Alana Lajoie-O’Malley, director of the Sustainability Office.

The festival seeks to engage students in discussion about the meaning of sustainability, what a sustainable world might look like, and how we might get there. 

Lajoie-O’Malley also explains that the festival has a different theme every year.

“Last year was the good life and different notions of what a good life means in the context of sustainability. We looked at issues related to colonialism and indigenous rights and how they intersect with sustainability.”

This year’s theme is not yet determined as organizers choose it based on the submissions that are received. 

“It’s an event that was driven by the kinds of things people on campus wanted to see,” Lajoie-O’Malley says.

“We are really hoping that student groups and individuals will bring ideas that relate to current issues and create critical dialogue and discussion on campus,” Kevin Settee, the UWSA’s vice-president of external affairs, says.

“We really want the festival to be student led in a way so that they are free to submit whatever they want as it relates to sustainability.” 

He says that so far they have received interest from a range of U of W student groups such as EcoPIA, UWASC, Biology Student Club, UW Chem Club, UW Photo Club, DivestUW, and the Council for Canadians. 

In past years, the festival has brought discussion about a broad range of issues such as the extractive industries, curbing the exodus of young people from the city, transit, food, and policy. It even had iconic figures such as environmentalist activist David Suzuki speaking on campus.

It’s part of an overall push for sustainability and sustainability education on campus by the University of Winnipeg that began in 2005, when former president and vice-chancellor Lloyd Axworthy established a Campus Sustainability Task Force, which later became the Campus Sustainability Council. 

Comprised of students, faculty and staff, the council committed the university to achieving greenhouse gas reduction targets in tune with the Kyoto protocols and administers the university’ sustainability strategy.

Settee invites students to have a look at information of past events recorded on the festival’s web page grassroutes.ca.

Published in Volume 70, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 28, 2016)

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