Campus as a Living Lab

The University of Alberta has a huge geography, with nearly 500 buildings, 40,000 students, and five campuses encompassing farmland, hospitals, heritage sites, forests, arenas, state-of-the-art labs, and more. This is a community that offers a wealth of opportunity for studying real world challenges and implementing cutting-edge solutions.

Campus as a Living Lab research projects use the university’s campus as a testing ground for sustainability solutions. See how these projects connect the classroom to the real world, enabling students to find the solutions and generate the data that we need to build a better world—the work that University of Alberta academics are doing every day.

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Energy Management and Sustainable Operations and the Sustainability Council.

Energy and Climate

Diversity in engineering

Megha Sharma helped form the group Diversity in Engineering. As part of their advocacy work, she took on a URI-funded research project that is reshaping engineering to be more diverse.

Hydrogen fuel cells

In 2019, Elizabeth Gierl completed a URI-funded research project on hydrogen fuel cells, as part of her work leading the U of A EcoCar Team. Elizabeth talks about her experiences and growth from working on the project as a part of Marc Secanell’s Energy Systems Design Laboratory.

Illustration of greenhouse with solar panels
Solar power: Coming to a greenhouse near you

With funding from the Campus Sustainability Grants program, students, faculty and staff from different disciplines are coming together to develop sustainable gardening practices powered by the sun.

Read Story
Two researchers in white lab coats with glass bottles and tubes
Waste to methane

Using fat-rich food waste from HUB Mall, environmental engineering master’s student Bappi Chowdhury may have found a way to dramatically increase the production of biomethane from food waste.

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three smiling women
Carbon footprint of food services

Stephanie Le used data from Dining Services to estimate the carbon and nitrogen footprint of food purchases in the university’s cafeterias and for catering.

Read Report
Vehicle fleet carbon footprint

Mayank Kumar compiled fuel consumption data for the university’s vehicle fleet and studied use patterns to recommend ways to reduce the fleet’s carbon footprint.

Read Report

Waste and Pollution

Air quality on campus

For Sarah Styler’s CHEM 305 class, her students used AirBeam monitors, portable, low-cost instruments for measuring concentrations of fine particulate matter. Students measured PM2.5 levels in locations including university cafeterias.

A discussion of this class pedagogy was published in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.

Read paper
Cover slide of linked powerpoint deck
Reducing food waste

For her AREC 173 community service-learning project, Georgia developed a workshop for Sustainability Awareness Week. Her group showed participants ways to reduce food waste at home through composting, storage, meal planning, and more.

Young man in white lab coat adjusts tap
Reducing water waste in labs

Alex Schoeddert found a new way to reduce water waste in the Campus Saint-Jean chemistry labs. His hand-built water recycling system saves up to 7,200 litres of water a year.

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Food and Equity

Thumnail of recipe
Cooking and culture

For an earlier AREC 173 class, a group conducted a Cooking and Culture workshop, providing students with resources and recipes for eating more sustainably.

Download recipe booklet
Diagram of globe-shaped garden
Indoor, edible gardens

In only three weeks, Hayley Wasylycia built a Growroom, an open-source design for an indoor edible garden, for a showcase in the Students’ Union Building.

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An international lens on food

Juanita Gnanapragasam researched the difficulties international students face in maintaining a healthy, ethnic diet, given their challenges adapting to Alberta’s food landscape. Her report makes recommendations for the University of Alberta.

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Book cover for Out Stories, Our Food
Converse and cook

Juanita Gnanapragasam’s work led her to co-found the group Converse and Cook, which helps students find culturally relevant and nutritious foods. In 2019, they published Our Stories, Our Food a University of Alberta cookbook.

Read about the cookbook

Inspired? Start your own project

Learn how you can build on one of these projects, or develop your own from scratch. The Sustainability Council can help you find the funding, contacts and anything else you need to succeed.

Get Started

Associated Programs

Campus as a Living Lab relies on partnerships with many University of Alberta programs to advance opportunities for students.

Sustainability Scholars

Sustainability Scholars connects graduate students with Edmonton-region organizations to conduct applied sustainability research, including several projects on campus.

Browse Reports

Campus Sustainability Grants fund collaborations between Facilities & Operations, faculty and students up to $50,000.

Funded Projects

Certificate in Sustainability

For their integrative capstone projects, many Certificate in Sustainability students tackle an issue relevant to a sustainable life on campus.

Browse Projects

Project Listing

Browse our comprehensive listing of Campus as a Living Lab projects. Reports and other materials are available for some projects. Reach out to us for more information.
Project Description Year Program

Aquaponics system

Construction of an on-campus aquaponics system (farming of fish and vegetables using fish waste by-products). 

U of A Permaculture Group, a multidisciplinary team of students and faculty advisors.



Sustainable transportation toolkit

Multi-year travel survey of the university population, with accompanying toolkit of policy recommendations and strategies to increase sustainable transportation.

Emily Grisé, School of Urban and Regional Planning



Solar greenhouse laboratory

Establishment of solar greenhouse laboratory for ongoing experimentation in Sustain SU’s Campus Community Garden. 

Carlos Lange, Mechanical Engineering in collaboration with Sustain SU



Pedagogical tools for business

Research case studies on businesses and organizations approaching sustainability challenges for use in the Alberta School of Business MBA.

Joel Gehman, Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Management



North Campus solar potential mapping

Mapping of solar potential to determine the best layout for electricity generation on each North Campus rooftop.

Mustafa Gül, Civil Engineering



Coffee Cup Convenience: The bitter implications of single-use coffee waste on campus.


Kate Baltare, student.



pîtos-mâmitoneyihtamowin (Reimagine) UAlberta


Robin Howse, student.
2020 Certificate
Food Waste Behaviours and Perspectives of Students at the University of Alberta


Farrah So, student.
2020 Certificate
Temporary Housing Waste Management: An International Focus


Josh Stewart, student.
2015 Certificate

Project Listing

Browse our comprehensive listing of Campus as a Living Lab projects. Reports and other materials are available for some projects. Reach out to us for more information.

To start a Campus as a Living Lab project of your own, visit Getting Started.

We can help you access funding and other resources through programs by the Undergraduate Research Initiative, Community Service-Learning, Energy Management and Sustainable Operations, and others.