Students showcase bright ideas for more environmentally friendly businesses

Students of the Special Events Management program presenting their ideas on sustainable business practices. Photo credit: Taylor Gilbert

Just before the world went into lockdown, the students of the Special Events Management program at Durham College hosted a sustainability trade show at the Whitby campus to showcase innovative ideas for helping businesses become more environmentally friendly.

Kelly Ing is the professor of Sustainable Business Practices and director of the event.

Kelly Ing preparing to handout grades for her students hard work on their projects at the Sustainability Trade Show.
Kelly Ing preparing to handout grades for her students work on their projects at the Sustainability Trade Show. Photo credit: Taylor Gilbert

She said students were tasked with designing an innovative product where they saw a gap in the marketplace or where they could improve on another product, they want to make ‘green’.

The students presented a wide array of products varying from floral arrangements made of biodegradable paper intended for weddings and corporate events, to a self-sustaining hydroponics system with the ability to grow microgreens and other herbs all year round.

“Even doing small changes is going to amount to large outcomes,” said student Tawnya Dillabough, while discussing her group’s presentation titled Forever Floral Décor.

From left to right: Emily Mccue, Vanessa Juras, Tawnya Dillabough, Amanda Nagy.
(From left) Emily McCue, Vanessa Juras, Tawnya Dillabough, Amanda Nagy. Photo credit: Taylor Gilbert

“A lot of décor that goes into weddings, events planning, it all ends up in the landfill,” she said. “So, we wanted to prevent some of that from happening and then find not only a way to keep it out of the landfill but a way to reuse it.”

Dillabough’s products included flower arrangements, invitations, and business cards – all with seeds placed inside of them.

“At the end of an event all the guests or the people who are arranging the event can actually take those items home and plant them,” she said. “So, not only are we preventing the waste but we’re actually turning them in to something new.”

The students accounted for many different circumstances in which we find our world.

They addressed the need for more recyclable products in the corporate world and even eliminated the use of a wasteful product entirely by the introduction of an app that could do the same job as a printed copy of an itinerary.

“Events, they take up a lot of paper. You’re constantly printing agendas, registrations, and all that,” said student Jessica MacQueen, while describing her group’s contribution to the show. “We wanted to create an app that would eliminate all the paper.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the pulp and paper industry accounts for more than 40 per cent of all industrial wood traded globally.

Deforestation is also a key contributor to global warming, so the reduction of paper products in the corporate world is a priority.

Ing described one product, the self-sustaining hydroponics system, as a potential item for someone in the food and beverage industry to use to grow their own products, reduce waste, and eliminate harmful pesticides.

Student Megan Simmons said the intricate system would be targeted at catering companies and restaurants.

The system was built using recycled pop bottles as flowerpots. The idea is to hang the pots vertically from a windowsill and allow water to drain from the top down using small tubes.

Self-sustaining hydroponics system made with recycled pop bottles.
Self-sustaining hydroponics system made with recycled pop bottles. Photo credit: Taylor Gilbert

The water, which begins in a bucket at the bottom of the window, is pumped up through the tube periodically to the top, only to then drain down through the plants and back into the bucket. The plants will soak up the nutrients as needed.

Ing described the method she uses to teach her students to implement sustainable business practices.

“We try and think first, in our own personal lives, how we could be more sustainable and green,” she said. “We look at our own practices first and then we transfer it to planning a meeting and event and try and do the best that we can.”

While this event was only an assignment, the students hope their ideas will eventually find their way into the corporate world.