A day in the life
The capstone course is really, really amazing. We got to learn not just from professors with different expertise, but from policy makers who are change makers in the community. And we got to be part of the change.
"Green Student of the Year"
Emma Norton isn’t one to sit around waiting for things to happen. Even as a Dal student, she had a reputation for getting stuff done. In 2012, she won “Green Student of the Year” through the Dalhousie Student Union Sustainability Office. “It feels nice to be acknowledged by peers for something like that,” she says.
Emma, originally from Charlottetown, P.E.I., was in the first group of students to take the Environment, Sustainability and Society (ESS) program. “SUST 2001 was the first class where I thought, ‘This is so relevant to what I want to be doing.’”
The model United Nations conference stands out in her memory. The in-class exercise gave students a sense of policy making, which Emma says “is key if you’re involved in sustainability work. So often, environmentalists tell governments, ‘Do this’ and ‘Do that.’ But it’s really important to know how difficult it is to change policies and implement new ones.”
That first-hand experience is one of the ESS program’s objectives: “ESS is such a problems-and-solutions–based program, and the whole college has a mandate to show ‘This is how you can fix things.’ It was so neat to be part of that.”
Emma also participated in an energy audit, the “really great” group project in the second part of the fourth-year capstone course. “People get paid to do what we were doing,” she says, alluding to the value of learning real-world skills while still a student.
In groups, Emma and her classmates worked on a sustainability assessment for a local credit union. “Putting together the final report was so intense but very cool – and they’re still using it.”
Encouraging energy efficiency in N.S.
Now, Emma works at the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) as the energy efficiency coordinator on the Energy Issues Committee. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” she says. “My goal is seeing the Maritimes fossil fuel-free in my lifetime. And the EAC’s goal is to see Nova Scotia fossil fuel-free by 2030. So we’re working on a plan to show how that can happen – it’s really exciting.”
“Since renewables won’t be able to keep up with increasing demand for electricity, decreasing how much we use will help us transition,” Emma explains. She sees other benefits in reducing energy consumption: “Energy poverty is high in Nova Scotia right now – I can help people save money. So efficiency measures are good for so many things other than just reducing carbon emissions.”
“People will say to me, ‘Oh, it’s a compact fluorescent bulb, it’s not using much energy anyway. But I say, ‘Just turn off your lights when you’re not using them. Just turn them off.’”
“We also really have to phase out coal-produced electricity in Nova Scotia. There are so many things you can do, it boggles my mind.”