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Climate Action


February 27, 2020
6:00 PM - 8:30 PM


Sidewalk Labs Toronto
Kicking off the event season for this year, DesignMeets went big and took on the subject of climate action. We put together a panel of speakers to look at the role that the design community needs to play here, in rising to the challenge and making a change. Speakers representing a broad spectrum of opinions and points of view provided different perspectives around the subject. Where are we now? What needs to be done? How can we make the right choices and make the right things happen? And how can we inspire others to do the same?

As influencers of social behaviour, designers routinely face broad challenges. Some go “macro,” believing solutions lie on the large scale, tackling societal issues, such as the built environment, public transit and city infrastructure, and improving general health and wellbeing.

Others favour the “micro” route, where there’s reward in the smaller things. An opportunity to create change at the local level, in the community grassroots. Changes like these are more likely to have an impact on people’s buying and living habits. Choices that change consumer behaviour and can have a positive effect on the supply chain.

Speaker panel, from left to right: Dr. Shashi Kant, Jon Dogterom, Jennifer Harmer, Victoria Haldane, Tina Soldovieri, Paul Dowsett, Hélène St. Jacques

Speaker Highlights

Jon Dogterom is the SVP of Venture Services at MaRS Discovery District, where he leads the programming and advisory support to grow Canada’s leading innovative companies in Health, Cleantech, Fintech and Enterprise. He believes in design innovation and the growth of change, and how it’s driving our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. So, design change will be key to our progress in building the infrastructure systems of the future and how they operate. Watch Jon's Presentation >

Paul Dowsett, the founder and principal architect at Sustainable believes designers should use materials more responsibly, so that we don’t increase GHG emissions. Today, construction and its over-reliance on cement is responsible for massive amounts of carbon emissions. This is something that absolutely has to change. The solution he’s working on is adaptive re-use and deep green projects, carbon sequestration (removal from the atmosphere) and challenging the industry to bring carbon to zero in this decade. Watch Paul's Presentation >

Weather patterns are changing. Another speaker, Jennifer Harmer, is an energy consultant specializing in high-performance building design at RWDI, focused on low-energy mechanical system design projects for buildings, to help them achieve ambitious sustainability goals like LEED, Passive House and net-zero carbon.

Changes in weather patterns in Toronto over the last 30 years have meant that Toronto is getting warmer. Harmer says we have moved down one climate zone – from Zone 6 to Zone 5 – and will go down one more in about 20 years if we stay on our current trajectory. This process of change has implications on building design from an energy point of view, particularly that flexibility is embedded into systems involving heating and cooling. Watch Jennifer's Presentation >

Panellist Victoria Haldane is working on her PhD at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto. Her work centres on applying health services research with design thinking, with the aim of creating more person-centred health systems that are environmentally sustainable. As health care delivery is also a major contributor of GHG emissions, the focus is on the design of eHealth systems. The challenge now is to transform these systems through a sustainability lens, so that they are efficient, sustainable and capable of delivering people-centred quality care. Watch Victoria's Presentation >

Hélène St. Jacques is a leading researcher in sustainability and resilience. Her work includes the renewal of local and healthy food systems, solid waste diversion and food waste reduction, water conservation, energy conservation and renewable energy. With a background in market research and public opinion, Hélène was involved in the launch of the Blue Boxes helping to shape public awareness around recycling. Later, she moved on to the issue of food waste and the need to transform its processing from a “cradle to grave” linear model – throwing out what’s left over – to a “cradle to cradle” circular system that translates into zero waste. Watch Hélène's Presentation >

Panellist Tina Soldovieri is an environmental educator and activist. Thinking about what she could do to contribute to finding a solution around climate change, she came up with the idea of doing something in her own neighbourhood. The result was Roncy Reduces (Roncy), a grassroots initiative launched in January 2019. The idea is to engage local businesses and residents to reduce single-use plastics and packaging by practising waste reduction together. Watch Tina's Presentation >

Dr. Shashi Kant is the founding director of the groundbreaking Master of Science in Sustainability Management Program at the University of Toronto Mississauga. His unique approach to global sustainability integrates the concepts of love and sustainability within one all-inclusive whole. It combines science and respecting, integrating and balancing different values and perspectives of human and natural systems. “So, true love and sustainability are intertwined,” he says. Watch Dr. Shashi Kant's Presentation >

We Can Fix This

As races go, humans are pretty adaptable. We can still fix this, but our time is running out. As designers, we have a role to play but we have to act. And we have to start doing it now.

In a live datavis collection activity at DM, we asked people to fill in the blanks for this statement: "I work in _(professional sector)_ and today I _(mode of transport)_ to _(place)_ because _(reason)_. In a second datavis, we asked people to plot their feelings towards Climate Change on a scale mapped to the Quadrant of Emotions (from Power of Full Engagement). The idea being that Full Engagement and action is possible only when our energy is present in the high (physical) energy + positive (emotional) energy quadrant in the top right "Performance Zone".