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Jason Vassell: Making a difference beyond the classroom

In January, Durham College’s annual Social Justice Week spotlighted pressing social issues, engaging students and faculty in meaningful dialogue. Behind the scenes, the event's...
HomeBusinessGreen entrepreneurship: Durham College student launches eco-friendly dandelion project

Green entrepreneurship: Durham College student launches eco-friendly dandelion project

Warm weather in Canada ushers in blue skies, green grass and sunshine, but they also marks the return of a common homeowners challenge: dandelions.

Brianna Duff, a 20-year-old third-year student at Durham College, was inspired by the widespread disdain for dandelions to start Just Dandy. As vice-president of the college’s Enactus team, a student-led volunteer organization fostering social change through entrepreneurial action, Duff sees dandelions differently.

“For some reason, they’re labelled as weeds, which they are, but they still benefit the ecosystem,” said Duff.

Earlier this year, she launched Just Dandy as a social impact project in collaboration with Enactus Durham College and the FastStart entrepreneurship office. The initiative focuses on promoting sustainable gardening practices and financial stability.

“Often when you make sustainable changes, it benefits you financially as well,” Duff said.

The team advocates for using dandelions as substitutes for everyday items, recognizing their benefits. They are developing a range of dandelion-based products, including coffee, honey, lotion, and ice cream.

“It’s actually quite easy to make products with dandelions,” said Duff. “You just have to clean them and kind of well depends on what you’re making, but usually boil them and then use those in the product.”

Sara Mercer-Pribe, the faculty advisor of Just Dandy, said switching to these sustainable alternatives can be “empowering.”

“Once you see something that’s taking place and you understand there’s a different way to do something than we’ve been conditioned, you can’t unsee it,” said Mercer-Pribe.

Being in the early stages of startup, Just Dandy doesn’t have items for sale yet. They’re building the foundation. Duff said she is applying for grants and holding fundraisers as part of the start-up process.

They participated in Durham College’s Christmas holiday market, where, according to Mercer-Pribe, it was a “big step”. They partnered with another Enacts Project, One People, and sold reusable gift bags while giving away winter gear.

“At our booth at the holiday market, there was a donation bin for students with items that had already been created,” said Mercer-Pribe. “I believe they gave away close to 80 to 100 winter hats and items to students.”

Mercer-Pribe said in February they plan to hold a Valentine’s Day market with sustainable alternative gifts to promote sustainably with sustainable traditional gifts.

While these events are great for the company, Duff said it’s been difficult to find time in everyone’s schedule to organize them.

“As of right now, everyone’s very busy with school, so we’ve had a hard time getting our team together,” said Duff.

Mercer-Pribe acknowledged the difficulty in “turning ideas into action.”

“There’s always a period where you need to sort of sit down and evaluate, you know, what can be done today, what’s realistic, what’s attainable,” said Mercer-Pribe. “But the students are very focused and they’ve already sort of launched the brand. And I think for us now that we’re sort of really into planning mode and creating that content in that network, I think we’re well on our way.”

The team aims to start releasing products within the next two years, with plans to cultivate dandelions at the Durham College Whitby campus greenhouses in collaboration with the horticulture program.

Duff said she’ll also publish monthly educational challenges for students at Durham College to make more of an impact at the school.

A lot of Duff’s plans for Just Dandy are setting up for the future of the business since it’s her last year at DC.

Duff is also focused on succession planning, as it’s her final year at Durham College. She intends to pass Just Dandy on to next year’s Enactus team, rather than graduating the project with her.

For now, the team is preparing their project pitch for the Enactus Regionals competition this March where they aim to secure more funding and win the championship title.