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SolarButterfly lands on UNB’s Saint John campus

Author: Kathleen McLaughlin

Posted on Jul 24, 2023

Category: UNB Saint John

If you happened to be on the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) Saint John campus earlier this month, it was hard to miss the Tesla Model X pulling a large butterfly-shaped trailer surrounded by solar panels right in front of the Hans W. Klohn Commons.

The SolarButterfly, nicknamed for its solar panel-covered “wings,” is on a mission to demonstrate to the world that solutions to climate change exist and motivate individuals to embrace a sustainable lifestyle.

The volunteers and the SolarButterfly team are on a four-year global tour, covering six continents and 90 countries. The team started in Geneva, Switzerland, last year and will finish in Paris on Dec. 12, 2025, just in time for the 10th anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

“The butterfly itself is made entirely with plastic from the ocean,” said crew member Elke Vanwinsberghe. “We want to show the world that it’s possible to travel in a sustainable way.”

At each stop on the tour, they highlight a local initiative that embraces the values of conservation, sustainability and finding solutions to climate change. The Saint John visit focused on the new environmental engineering program that will be offered starting in the Fall 2023 semester on the Saint John campus.

The bachelor of science in environmental engineering program prepares graduates to find innovative solutions in the face of a future defined by climate change.

“Climate change is a pressing issue that impacts everyone, and it requires collective efforts to be part of the solution. The SolarButterfly journey, which traverses the globe, has a noble objective of raising awareness about climate change and motivating people to take action,” said Idris Gadoura, chair of the department of engineering on the Saint John campus.

“SolarButterfly's visit to UNBSJ coincides with the objectives of our new program in environmental engineering, starting this September, to promote the awareness of the environmental challenges,” added Gadoura.

The visionary for the SolarButterfly concept is Louis Palmer, a Swiss global environmental adventurer and "solar pioneer.” Before this endeavour, he successfully travelled the world in a solar-powered car.

Palmer hopes his efforts will inspire leaders and community members, encouraging them to make sustainable choices that shape a brighter future.

Learn more about the SolarButterfly and follow along its journey across the globe.