University of Windsor’s Environmental Activists
Environmental activism is a top priority for these three campus community members; Dr. Rita Haase, Jana Jandal Alrifai, and Rajaa Berry.
“I still ride my bicycle when I come on campus. I am completely against plastic and the University of Windsor should ban plastic bottles altogether. I want everyone to work with nature and not against it,” said Haase.
Dr. Rita Haase
A message to the UWindsor community from Dr. Rita Haase
Haase currently teaches the course Women, Power, and Environment and still practices sustainability.
“My thinking was that this campus was poor in biodiversity and beautification was important. There was an abandoned land strip at the California and Askin as houses were demolished there. I was working with the Environment Sustainability Community and so I contacted the university to use that land and create a campus community garden,” said Dr. Rita Haase, a professor in the women’s and gender studies department.
The Campus Community Garden Project was started in January 2010 by Haase, an active member of the Environment Sustainability Community in the Windsor region.
“Everybody should know how to grow their food and understand the true meaning of organic farming. My idea was to bring the university community together like faculty, staff, and students. However, I also wanted to bring the community of Windsor region to come and work with us on our project. We had people of all ethnicities and genders volunteer with us on our project,” said Haase.
Haase planned many events and activities to increase awareness about this project.
“I conducted monthly potluck meetings with the volunteers. We also had individual beds in the garden for whosoever wants to grow their plants. The remaining portion was for everyone to work together,” said Haase.
Haase managed this project for 6-7 years, after which she passed it on to the university to manage. Hasse was CCGP Coordinator from 2010 – 2014
Please watch a short video clip of Rita explaining the history of the garden.
(Credits: University of Windsor)
“This project was my baby but at one point this project was fully dependent on me. It was like a part-time job for which I was not recognized. Hence, I had to give it away. I am not following the project closely now, however; it is somewhere lost and not many students know about it now,” said Haase.
COVID was one of the biggest reasons that affected this project. Haase recalls bringing school classes here to trach gardening and increase awareness. However, not a lot of things happen now.
“The garden needs to be well maintained. I discussed growing herbs and using organic waste from the kitchen as compost. However, the biodiversity of the university is still poor. There are few trees and native plants on campus. In my opinion, somebody should be hired to look after the landscaping on campus and work with students to increase sustainability,” said Haase.
“Campus Community Garden is now handled by the Graduate Student ety (GSS). Jenna (the garden coordinator) is responsible for the day-to-day activities. GSS provides the supplies for the garden and is responsible for any sponsorships. I dedicate some time volunteering at the garden whenever possible,” said Brahmjot Singh, Vice President of Academic Affairs, at GSS.
Jana Jandal Alrifai
“I think a climate organizer is how I look at myself, but environmental activist also works. I have been doing things in the environmental and climate realm for about 4 years now,” said Jana Jandal Alrifai.
Alrifai is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Windsor pursuing Environmental Studies. She is highly involved in multiple things on campus, especially when it comes to bringing about a change in the environment.
“I am currently the environmental rep for the science society, debate club, and the Jull club, I also do some research work. Thanks to the debate club, we debate all sorts of topics economy, philosophy, politics, pop culture, etc. There are times when we can write our own debate motions or cases (what you debate on that day or at competitions) and mine are most likely related to environmental policy,” said Alrifai.
Alrifai is a climate justice organizer passionate about policymaking, sustainability, and urban planning. She is highly active off-campus in working with a larger community of people and bringing a change in the environment through actions.
“I co-founded Fridays for Future Windsor-Essex, a grassroots youth organization focused on raising awareness about the climate crisis and advocating for climate action. I am also the President of the Windsor-Essex Youth Climate Council and have spoken at the City Council to promote the creation of protected bike lanes. I have also worked with Climate Strike Canada to push for climate action,” said Alrifai.
Alrifai contributed to the State of the Youth Report as a part of the Youth Advisory Group, connecting youth and community to national and provincial government policy. Academically, she is involved in Dalhousie University’s Climate Grief Youth Advisory Council and holds various positions at the University of Windsor. She has researched diverse topics and worked at the Bike Kitchen to promote safe cycling and advocate for better infrastructure in Windsor.
Image caption: last year at the city council discussion regarding battery plants
“I think conversations are very important but also building intrigue and drawing connections, we have all experienced some issues because of the climate crisis like the flooding that’s widespread in the area. I also recognize how important it is to build solidarity with other causes, the climate crisis is the meeting point for other injustices,” said Alrifai.
Rajaa Berry is a third-year finance student at the Odette School of Business. She is also an environmentalist, working at different organizations on and off campus.
“I hail from Pakistan, and this is a country that has significantly been affected by climate change such as floods. This personal experience really ignited a sort of unwavering, unwavering responsibility to make some sort of change. I first started off with Ocean Wise, which is an ocean conservation nonprofit organization. I wanted to extend this work that I was doing to my community and to my campus,” said Berry.
Berry is highly involved with environmental actions in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Windsor. She is the founder of the University of Windsor Environmental Policy Association.
“I wanted to provide a mechanism for students to be sustainable and to be equally friendly and to learn the climate literacy that I was learning and so, the University of Windsor Environmental Policy Association was a testament to that. It has been running successfully and it’s all because of the joint efforts of faculty and students,” said Berry.
Berry hasn’t had a smooth ride while working for the University of Windsor Environment Policy. She has struggled to get people to work for this association.
“I think that there should be a level of awareness and at a level of responsiveness throughout the university to be susceptible to these to these organizations or to these clubs that are willing to make such a big difference right,” said Berry.
Berry has been working with different executives on campus to bring more transparency and educate fellow students. She aims to bring a policy change to make this transparency come ahead.
“I think that the lack of transparency in the KPIs and climate finance is a big gap, which I’m hoping to bridge. The University of Windsor can put out some type of impact report that shows, the tangible impact that they’re making, whether that be good or bad, and how we can be better from that,” said Berry.
“University of Windsor has great environmental clubs but lacks awareness. I plan on getting all these initiatives in one place, such as the CAW student center will be a perfect opportunity for students to learn about them,” Berry added.