Welcome to the third post for the Sustainable Humans of Guelph series!
Meet Wendy Li, a fourth year in the Landscape Architecture program; who is insanely passionate about sustainability communities and design!
Wendy is someone you always want to be your friend, because you KNOW she is going to do something incredible and be inspirational to everyone around her. I had the pleasure of meeting Wendy through our exchange to Lund University in Sweden and I am honestly so glad we went to the same place for exchange (Thanks CIP!). Her passion for unique building designs and European style architecture made every trip a fun learning one too! She even used her LA skills to identify a tree species while walking along a street in Warsaw, Poland. She is truly incredible and a really interesting person to know. She has a unique take on sustainability and an overall super kind personality. She also is a coordinator for this year’s Sustainability Week, so she is prime example of a sustainable human of Guelph!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy and her ideas around sustainability as well as her involvement with Sustainability Week. The following questions and answers are her responses!
What is your sustainability pet peeve?
“Running taps, plastic bags, Ontario’s recycling system (I went on exchange in the beautiful Lund, Sweden last year this time, and they differentiate between the coloured glass they recycle!!!) and the mentality that what we do on a local level doesn’t have an impact to change the status quo. And of course, it takes more research and energy to change your lifestyle or routine, but I promise you it feels amazing when you take the initiative to live by your values. Small steps can include making conscious decisions as a consumer. And though I don’t have a perfect system, one small change that I’ve made this year is that I’ve stopped plastic bagging my fruits and veggies (Honestly! it can be small changes like that which makes all the difference). Also always looking for suggestions of package free food options, and if you have any I would love to hear them!”
What is one sustainability initiative you would like to see at Guelph?
“More education about composting, and the Guelph Urban Organic Farm at the University of Guelph ( just because personally I don’t know that much about these topics and would love to learn more)! There are also so many cool initiatives going on in the city of Guelph at the local level I wish there were more of a connect between the education we learn in classrooms and application. More partnerships between the university and local stores or organizations as a learning tool is definitely something I would love to see. “
What are you involved with on campus?
“Currently, I am one of the co-planners of Sustainability Week 2018! Super excited about unveiling the week to showcase all the hard work everyone has put in. It’s very encouraging to see such talented individuals who are passionate about various efforts to better our planet. In addition to that I am the publicist of the Landscape Architecture Student Society, and also a part of the Dragon Boat Club at the university. “
Can you talk a bit about your role in Sustainability Week? What do you hope people take out of your events?
“My role in S-Week as a co-planner zones in on Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is Sustainable Cities and Communities. I really hope to bring light to some components of what a sustainable city looks like through a Pecha Kucha talk and a Donuts and Doodle design charrette to showcase how individuals can contribute and play a part in their communities. Projects such as urban farming, community design, walk-ability in our streets or sustainable transportation, are all important pieces of the urban fabric puzzle which come together to shape our everyday lives. Though everyone says that good design should be 99% invisible, I really do believe that everyone should be involved in how our cities are built. It’s an interdisciplinary task which involves multiple stakeholders, and ultimately the community only gets better when everyone is involved. Overall I hope everyone can get new insight or learn something new through the activities we have worked very hard to plan.”
What is an issue you are super passionate about?
“One issue I am passionate about is permaculture as a design philosophy. More specifically permaculture designs applied in orchards! I recently wrote my thesis about this topic and now I can’t look at almonds the same. I’m being serious. I think as a whole, our society has become more and more disconnected from the way food is produced, and a lot of the times we forget to think about the process behind the food on our tables. It’s problematic, and lets look at almonds for example. Almonds are grown on trees, and these nut trees go through intensive growth in the arrangement of mono-culture. Mono-culture especially in orchards which are embedded in the landscape for 10 plus years strips the land of the same nutrients and prevents biodiversity. Mono culture is usually a result of requiring an up in yield as a response to consumer demands, and since almonds are such a poster nut you can see why this is a concern. Almonds are a very water intensive crop, and need to be sustained in the events of droughts. California produces 80% of the worlds supply of almonds, and when you put the two together, nothing makes sense. In addition to this, there’s also the issue of pollinators. Because mono-culture is so intensive in the growth of one species, there is no habitat for bees for a good portion of the year, and did you know that bees have to be transported all they way from Florida in the back of trucks to pollinate these almond orchards? All in all, there’s a better way of designing for these food systems which is where permaculture comes into play. It mimics nature in creating as close to a closed loop system as possible, where landscapes can become self-sustaining in thinking beyond organic farming which still needs external input such as fertilizer! There is still a lot of research which needs to be done in this field and there aren’t too many precedents of commercial permaculture orchards. However I think this is an important topic in bringing us one step closer to sustainable food production!”
What would be your dream future career after graduating?
“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to answer this question, it hits way too close to home (I’m graduating this year, but also what is adulting?). I really love Landscape Architecture, it’s afforded me a way to see the world in which I never thought I would. Ever since being in this program, the way people interact with nature and landscapes have zoned in on a sharp focus, and it also has enough variety in terms of projects to keep me constantly learning. It’s such a far reaching field which has impact on how people live their lives, and I’m positive that my career path will stay close to this field. This is wishful thinking, but a company I would love to be involved in is Sidewalk Labs, which is an Alphabet company helping cities re imagine traditional ways of development to overcome a lot of major challenges.Traditional methods in city building are outdated in the face of climate change among other factors, and designing for resiliency should become more of primary concern now more than ever, which is what Sidewalk Labs is trying to address. Technology and innovation as a whole really fascinate me, but on the flip side, I think a dream job of mine has also been to just work in an alpaca farm, so I have some polarizing aspirations!”
If you are also interested in learning more about how cities can be designed to be more sustainable or you also share a passion for Swedish recycling systems or permaculture, make sure you go attend Wendy’s events on March 20th or check them out online! FB:Guelphsweek or Instagram: @guelphsustainabilityweek