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.

Featured Projects

This program is a partnership between Energy Management and Sustainable Operations and the Sustainability Council.
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.

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.

Read Story
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.

Read Report
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

Sustainability Scholars

Sustainability Scholars connects graduate students with Edmonton-region organizations to conduct applied sustainability research. Many projects have been sponsored by Facilities and Operations as Campus as a Living Lab research.
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
Sustainability Scholars

For more projects covering landscaping, purchasing, buildings and more, browse all Campus as a Living Lab projects conducted as part of Sustainability Scholars.


Campus Sustainability Grants

Campus Sustainability Grants can fund collaborations between Facilities & Operations, faculty and students for projects worth up to $50,000.
Project Description Year

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


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

Or, check out some more!

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.

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
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
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.

Read story
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.

Read story

Certificate in Sustainability

The integrative capstone project gives Certificate in Sustainability students the opportunity to apply their knowledge outside of the classroom. Many students choose to address sustainabilty issues relevant to their life on campus.
Project Description View

Kate Baltare

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


Robin Howse

pîtos-mâmitoneyihtamowin (Reimagine) UAlberta


Farrah So

Food Waste Behaviours and Perspectives of Students at the University of Alberta


Josh Stewart

Temporary Housing Waste Management: An International Focus


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.