The Centre for Urban Environments (CUE) is a proud supporter of the Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MScSM) program at the University of Toronto Mississauga. This program challenges graduate students to transgress traditional disciplinary boundaries and develop the tools needed to build more sustainable cities. Like CUE, the MScSM program encourages students to mobilize their scholarship to build connections with industry, non-profit and government organizations.
To facilitate this high-level transdisciplinary scholarship, CUE is pleased to provide supplemental funding to students whose work in the MScSM program aligns with the centre’s focus on urban environments. This financial support (max $3,000 per project) is intended to assist with the costs associated with research and capstone projects. Eligible expenses include travel costs to research sites, living expenses on-site, analytical costs and field equipment.
Funds are allocated on a competitive basis, with a special focus on those projects that align with the vision, mission and goals of CUE to be a leader in research, training, community engagement and policy related to urban environments. Examples of topics addressed by past winners include: (1) understanding how environments have changed or are changing with urbanization; (2) addressing current challenges and opportunities in urban environments; (3) developing tools and visions for living in sustainable cities; and (4) sustainable resource use, farming and waste management in urban areas. Those interested in applying are encouraged to review the list of previous winners. The deadline for applications will be announced.
Project Title: What are the barriers to reporting on the social pillar of sustainability?
Student(s): Lara Brooks
Supervisor(s): Prof. Soo Min Toh
Project Description: In order to ensure urban environments are sustainable, there must be a way of measuring and reporting on specific metrics such as an organization's greenhouse gas emissions. However, sustainability is multi-faceted and encompasses three pillars of sustainability; environmental, economic, and social. Sustainability reports are increasingly produced by businesses and governments alike, however, many are environmentally heavy, often neglecting the social and governance sections of their report. As noted, to be truly sustainable, actors need to ensure their work is creating a neutral or positive impact across each pillar, and reported on annually to demonstrate how they are achieving this. Despite a clear need for improved reporting on the social and governance pillars of sustainability, there are significant barriers to each.
This research project will look into the barriers to reporting on the social pillar of sustainability. By addressing barriers to reporting, governments, academia and organizations can provide tools and policy to overcome said barriers and help organizations increase their social impact in cities throughout the world.
Project Title: Public sentiment toward day-use fees as a means of addressing conservation concerns in British Columbia (BC) provincial parks
Student(s): Alena Blanes
Supervisor: Prof. Brett Caraway
Project Description: The long-term objective of this research is to provide further insight into the growing discussion of sustainable land use and conservation strategy. Comprised of over 61% of the province's population, the South Coast region receives the most travelers annually and is home to some of BC's most visited provincial parks. It is also the most urbanized region of BC. This research project will use a mixed-methodology approach to uncover opportunities for balancing tourism with conservation in high-traffic provincial parks. First, sentiment analysis of mainstream news coverage and social media will indicate current public perception of BC Parks. Second, the sentiment analysis results will inform the development of an online survey designed to uncover willingness to pay (WTP) and how demographic differences may influence support for parkland conservation. By understanding how increased tourism impacts parks in densely populated areas, this research can help support effective land management that contributes to sustainable communities across Canada.
Project Title: Effectiveness of Scientific, Moral, Metaphoric, and Awe Framing on Environmental Attitudes and its Affective Mechanisms
Student(s): Kuan Su
Supervisor: Prof. Nicola Lacetera
Project Description: The study examines the effect of framing on changing the conservative and liberal’s environmental attitudes. Behavioral change by individuals is a key factor in advancing practices for the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change. Individual attitudes toward these issues may, in turn, lead to behavior that makes our cities and communities more livable and less polluting and polluted.
By using an experimental survey approach, participants will be randomly assigned to control and treatment groups where they will be exposed to climate change messages based on 1) scientific, 2) moral, 3) metaphoric, and 4) awe framing. Overall, the study seeks to answer:
- How effective is each framing on changing the liberal and conservative’s environmental attitudes and beliefs?
- Does exposure to climate change messages encourage altruistic behaviour?
- What are the underlying affective mechanisms that drive perceptual and behavioural changes?
- What are the differences in environmental attitudes between the urban and rural municipal types?
Previous Winners (2019-2020)
Project Title: CSR in Urban SMEs: Exploring Canadian Business Network Best Practices for Facilitating Corporate Social Responsibility Adoption in Small to Medium Enterprises.
Student(s): Ryan Nash
Supervisor: Prof. Soo Min Toh
Project Description: Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) pose considerable social and environmental impacts to society. Approximately 90 per cent of the Canadian workforce is employed by SMEs, but they often have tighter budgets, lack innovative capacities and do not have the resources required to explore initiatives beyond their internal operations. Thus, SMEs struggle to invest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability initiatives. This paper will explore the current network structures and dynamics used by Canadian socio-environmental business networks in large urban population centres, to expand the understanding of best practices for sustainability within business networks. This research will analyze approximately 15 small business networks across Canada through standardized open-ended interviews. Research will be shared with socio-environmental business networks to inform them on the potential of intentional network structures designed for promoting sustainability adoption in SMEs.
Project Title: ‘Buying into sustainable menstruation’: investigating the impacts of information interventions on demand for the menstrual cup amongst young women.
Student(s): Gillian Davison
Supervisor: Prof. Laura Derksen
Project Description: This project seeks to understand whether providing information about the benefits of using the menstrual cup causally impacts women’s demand for this product. It involves a survey followed by a randomized controlled trial (RCT), which is commonly used by behavioral economists to determine demand for a product (willingness-to-pay). The survey is intended to help explain the behavioral outcomes of the experiment, while the RCT will be used to measure the effectiveness of information interventions by examining cause-effect relationships. The two interventions for this research are education on cost-savings the menstrual cup can provide, and education on the environmental benefits of the menstrual cup. The effects of these interventions will be compared to the resultant economic value women associate with the menstrual cup compared to an alternative. Consequently, understanding whether providing education about sustainable menstrual hygiene management options affects the consumer demand for this product will help advance knowledge about how to best address this important waste issue on a larger scale.
Project Title: Understanding the Role the Canadian Airline Sector Plays in Sustainable Development
Student(s): Michael Perryman
Supervisor: Prof. Laurel Besco
Project Description: Airports have evolved into major business enterprises with spatial impacts and functional implications that extend deep into urbanized environments. This sector generally has not tended to be at the forefront of the sustainability issues but will be a vital actor in realizing the full potential of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For this project a literature review will be conducted to understand motivations and barriers for the airline sector’s implementation of environmental management policies and Corporate Social Responsibility reports, as well as the sustainability impacts of airlines. This will be followed by phone interviews. The project will engage with the breadth of the Canadian airline sector in order to understand how they perceive their role in achieving the SDGs; and identify challenges and successes within the sector in terms of adopting the SDGs or sustainability as a guiding framework for action.
Project Title: Influences Having Children has on People’s Attitudes toward Environmental Issues
Student(s): Takuya Harada
Supervisor: Prof. Brett Caraway
Project Description: This project explores how having children influences people’s attitudes toward environmental issues. A survey will be conducted in which participants will be asked to indicate the importance of an environmental factor in making decisions under several scenarios. The responses will be classified based on respondents’ parenting status. A specific population will be targeted by controlling for residential location, education level and age. Residential location will be controlled as extreme weather events and regional environmental policies may influence people’s views. Amazon Mechanical Turk (Mturk) will be used to collect responses. The target population will be people living in California as 70 per cent of Mturk users are based in the United States and California is the most populous state.
Project Title: On thin ice: vulnerability and resilience of ontario’s urban ice fishing communities
Student(s): Kamil Musielak
Supervisor: Prof. Monika Havelka
Project Description: Ontario’s ice fishing communities must be evaluated contextually to assess their vulnerability and resilience to the effects of climate change and to determine what role urbanization plays therein. As such, this research takes a unique perspective to study the state of sustainability of ice fishing in Ontario at the nexus of human dimensions of climate change, urban environments, and recreational fisheries.
Project Title: Sustainability strategic plan development: TD gardens, Boston
Student(s): Allegra Bethlenfalvy, Jonah Kahansky, Ryan Nash, Mackenzie Paluck
Supervisors: Profs. Shashi Kant and Ashish Pujari
Project Description: The objective of this project was to design a comprehensive sustainability strategy with TD Garden that not only decreases the venue’s impact on surrounding urban environments, but that also increases fan awareness of key sustainability issues. To create a strategy that can be emulated by other stadiums around North America and continue to progress sustainability thought within the sports and event management industries. The method included benchmarking assessments from other stadiums, acquisition of primary data from TD Gardens, an on-site audit to assess geographic and venue space constraints/opportunities, and on-site observations of current fan engagement and communication strategies before, during, and after the events in the stadium.
Previous Winners (2018-2019)
Project Title: Waste Diversion at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Student(s): Samantha Dilorio, Tom Chen and Pualina Szlachta
Supervisor: Prof. Shashi Kant
Project Description: Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta is not just a pinnacle of sporting excellence. It is also leading the way in sustainable infrastructure and operations. In 2018-2019, students from the MScSM program were tasked with creating a strategy for integrating sustainability into the procurement and waste diversion operations of the stadium. Through interviews with stadium staff and industry experts, observations made through site visits, and pre- and post-consumer waste auditing, students were able to formulate a two-and-a-half year sustainability strategy for the stadium. Some of their recommendations included changes and improvements to procurement policy, optimizing waste streams, incorporating sustainability into employee training and education and integrating the stadium’s success in sustainability with fan engagement. These recommendations were compiled in a publicly available report and presented to stadium management.
Project Title: Social Norms as Nudges to Reduce Single-Occupant Vehicle Commuting
Student(s): Christopher Ford
Supervisor: Prof. Shashi Kant
Project Description: Travellers into the city are often greeted by signs encouraging carpooling and public transit. The hope is that these signs will move commuters away from inefficient, single-occupancy vehicle commuting (SOVs) towards more sustainable modes of transportation. But how effective are these signs, and are some strategies more effective than others? This 2018 project aimed to understand the effect of different messaging strategies through the application of behavioural economics principles. Through a survey of over one-thousand respondents, Christopher Ford evaluated the effectiveness of different messages in facilitating shifts in transportation behaviour among respondents. Ford concluded that the effectiveness of different messaging strategies is dependent, in part, on the goals of the communication. This project lays the foundation for future observational and longitudinal studies on the subject.
Project Title: Diving into Sustainability: Challenges, barriers and opportunities for sustainability in the scuba diving industry
Student(s): Spencer Karabelas-Pittman
Supervisor: Prof. Monika Havelka
Project Description: As the environmental impacts of tourism become clearer, questions of sustainability management in high tourist areas are becoming more important. This 2018 project aimed to understand the sustainability practices currently in place for scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands through interviews with scuba operation owners, scuba dive operators and naturalist guides in the area. Combined with data from the Galapagos Tourism Observatory’s Online Statistics Webtool, Karabelas-Pittman highlighted the extent to which scuba industry operators are at the front-lines of government attempts to regulate marine conservation and industry sustainability in areas with fast population growth and increasing pressures from ecotourism. It is operators who are often most responsible for the enforcement of government regulations and ensuring certification from different NGOs, all while attempting to satisfy and placate tourists’ expectations. These findings have significant implications for how sustainability management practices are developed in high tourist areas around the world.
Project Title: Transformative Education, the Environment and Sustainability in the Galapagos Islands
Student(s): Xinru Yap (Ru Yap)
Supervisor: Prof. Barbara Murck
Project Description: How are island regions leveraging sustainability education initiatives to balance the needs of economic growth, environmental preservation and societal development? This is the question that Xinru Yap’s 2018 project sought to answer. The study combined first-hand observations made during visits to educational institutions and NGOs in San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Quito, with interviews with representatives of these institutions. From the information gathered, the following recommendations for sustainability education initiatives were proposed: (1) curricula should emphasize issues relating to the local community; (2) classes should cultivate a sense of critical and solution-oriented thinking; (3) participants should be instilled with a sense of connectivity; (4) students need to be empowered to take action and live according to their values; and (5) field work and community projects should be used to connect the classroom to the community. These findings serve as a useful guide to educational initiatives in the Galapagos Islands and beyond.