Taylor Reidlinger, Jordan MacDonald and Morgan Sage presented the work they have performed over the past eight months with the North Coast Innovation Lab. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Master students in Prince Rupert share their findings for a more sustainable city

Students with Ecotrust Canada’s North Coast Innovation Lab showcase their work at Lester Centre

Master students are graduating from Prince Rupert and sharing their findings on achieving a more sustainable city with the community.

Students taking part in Ecotrust Canada’s North Coast Innovation Lab projects spent the past eight months working with local organizations on a variety of initiatives meant to bolster food sustainability and employment practices.

With their program coming to an end next week, the students took the chance to present their achievements to the community at the Lester Centre on Thursday night.

Attendees gathered in the Lester Centre lobby to hear the presentations. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

Taylor Reidlinger from Royal Roads University worked as a project coordinator in partnership with Coastal Shellfish in the aquaculture sector. Her work focused on restorative ocean farming, namely that involving shellfish and kelp. The goal was to promote food security and environmental stewardship, and highlight the benefit of adding these foods to Prince Rupert’s menu.

“They’re all really sustainable food sources that are underutilized in popular culture and society,” Reidlinger explained. “Shellfish are an extremely low impact protein source. I think food literacy – people knowing how to cook them, make them delicious and use them in a variety of ways – will really allow us to incorporate these more into diets.”

Taylor Reidlinger explains her work in partnership with Coastal Shellfish to develop and promote kelp, shellfish and other invertebrates as alternative food choices. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

READ MORE: Masters students envision a more resilient Prince Rupert

Reidlinger says Prince Rupert is the perfect location to advance these dietary choices. “I’ve been super impressed with the amount of knowledge that’s already held in the community,” she said regarding the town’s relationship with these foods. “Not only through the technical development of aquaculture here, but also the local knowledge. I think that’s held here in Prince Rupert in a unique way compared to any other community that I’ve researched in Canada.”

Morgan Sage, a master student in geography from Queen’s University, also performed her work in the sustainable food sector. Sage worked with the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society at their Rupert Lawn and Garden Centre in order to address what is a lack of locally grown food opportunities in town.

Taking over one of the centre’s greenhouses, Sage grew fresh produce which was then distributed to members of the Nisga’a Society. The program proved to be very popular, routinely overflowing the fridges at the Nisga’a Hall.

Morgan Sage talks about her work growing produce with the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

READ MORE: Growing veggies for Nisga’a members in Prince Rupert

Sage spoke about how the local community was a major help in guiding her work. “When I first came here building connections definitely helped me understand Prince Rupert, and helped me understand what’s going on locally for food – what can and can’t grow here,” Sage said.

“Later on it really changed the way I perceived my own project by having volunteers come down and share information about food and what they cook and food sharing. They were so great because they would share information about their culture and Prince Rupert and living in Prince Rupert.”

Jordan MacDonald from the University of Guelph worked as a project coordinator for the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society. His project’s emphasis was to create “social enterprise”, where businesses work not only to make money, but also to promote positive social purpose in a community.

To do this, Hecate Strait went with the idea of a consignment based store where local artisans could sell their works. Dubbed the Trading Coast Store, the pop-up shop operated on four days during the summer featuring wares from 13 artists.

Jordan MacDonald worked with the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society to operate the Trading Coast pop-up store. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)

READ MORE: “More than just a hello”: Pilot project hoping to better train up-and-coming business owners

MacDonald explained some of the advantages with this style of store. “There was a lot of excitement about being able to offer the products without actually having to be there,” he explained.

“For a lot of individuals it can be really hard for them to take part in flea markets because they have to be there for a long period of time, and they don’t always make the sales that would encourage them to continue being there for so long,” MacDonald said. “Being able to work with us and entrust us with the task of selling it for them was something that they really enjoyed because it freed them up to go do other artistic adventures, and it didn’t tie them down to that place.”

In addition to offering a space for artists to sell their products, the store also emphasized the idea of creating jobs for people to run the space.

Ecotrust will be bringing a third cohort of master students to Prince Rupert in the new year.

Alex Kurial | Journalist
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