Garnet Borch: Stronger communities, deeper belonging

University of Alberta Engineering alumnus shares how he works sustainability into his work, life and community.

Garnet Borch is a University of Alberta alumnus, graduating in 2017 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Borch has taken great leaps to ensure sustainability is integrated into his life post-graduation. He volunteers with the Edmonton permaculture guild, and is assistant director of the Edmonton Resilience Festival. Along with being a talented musician in The Borch Brothers, he is an active member of the community, participating in events such as Green Drinks.

When did you first become interested in sustainability?

That was a long time ago — I grew up homeschooled on a small farm. My mom is a zoologist and is very passionate about the environment. She was also very active in her university days in environmental causes. My dad is also passionate about the environment; he loves nature and hiking. So sustainability has always been a part of my life.

How did attending the University of Alberta allow you to keep up that interest in sustainability?

I’d say Sustain SU is a huge one — a lot of the friends I have now were made through Sustain SU. I also found a lot of meaning in being an executive for the Outdoors Club, through showing people the mountains and getting nature-time. The other thing that the U of A offered which was an exchange program with a small university in Germany — it was a renewable energy school. I went over there for two months along with 13 other students and studied renewable energy, and then found a job in Germany after that.

Wow! Could you tell me more about the work you did in Germany?

It was with a micro-hydro company just outside of Munich. They did small turbines for mostly rural use. They would float in rivers and generate enough power for one to five households, depending on the speed of the river. That was probably the coolest job I ever had.

Now that you’re back in Edmonton, how are you staying involved with sustainability?

Right now I’m volunteering with the Edmonton Resilience Festival. It’s a one-day festival full of workshops, markets with local vendors and conversation cafes. The workshops are a huge part of it. They could involve meditation and yoga, cider-making, bicycle maintenance, indigenous rights or all scales of what it means to create a resilient community and city.

What is the Edmonton Resilience Festival trying to achieve?

The resilience festival is trying to help create a world that we want to live in through local-scale change. As we gain practical skills and local connections, we become less dependent on fragile, global systems and we are better prepared for life in the climate crisis.

What advice would you give to current students who are interested in sustainability, but are not sure what they can do?

For four months I lived in OUR Ecovillage on Vancouver Island, and it seemed like half the people there were actually from Alberta. This broke my heart because there are all these people interested in sustainability, but they couldn’t find the community in Edmonton. Their family and small town friends were all about oil and gas — they couldn’t relate to them and chose to leave.

So my advice would be to not leave Edmonton. There’s a community here for you. A good place to start is Green Drinks; a monthly gathering for people who are interested in sustainability and just want to share their passion. I think that’s a really important part of being involved in sustainability — to not do it alone. You can make all these changes in your individual life, but when you act as a community it multiplies your actions by so much and you feel more supported.

In his day, the Certificate in Sustainability wasn’t yet offered in the Faculty of Engineering. If you are an engineering student or an undergrad in ten other faculties, see how you can integrate sustainability into your studies.

Learn more about the Certificate in Sustainability.



University of Alberta — Sustainability

Meet the students and academics who are discovering solutions to our climate and sustainability challenges. Writing from Edmonton-Amiskwacîwâskahikan, Canada.