AASHE Student Diary Series: The Norway Edition
This installment of the AASHE Sustainability Student Diary series features the University of Oslo's (Norway) Maryam Faghih Imani, who attended the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference this summer. In this blog, originally published in the university's sustainability blog, Grønt UiO beta, Imani details her experience as a Nordic Sustainable Campus Network delegate at the conference. We hope to see questions and feedback in the comments area! Submit diary entries of your own for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UC Davis hosted the annual California Higher Education Sustainability Conference on [June 18-22]. While other Norwegian delegates on this tour decided to attend the International Sustainable Campus Network Symposium, I packed and went to Davis where the temperature was almost 40° Celsius. I met the rest of Nordic Sustainable Campus Network Delegates from Sweden at the conference and we had some exciting days together.
UC Davis is highly profiled as a sustainable university in California. They have received four sustainability awards last year, reduced their waste up to 60 percent, [are] designated a gold-level "Bicycle Friendly University," awarded Platinum LEED, and a lot more recognition and activities that make visiting their website and the university truly worthy.
I had two main questions on my mind when I was on my way to the conference:
- What sustainability approach do universities in California have which make them different from our universities?
- How do students contribute in sustainability affairs?
With these questions in mind, I have attended three to four days of conference including preliminary sessions, parallel sessions of panels and presentations, a campus tour, visiting community projects, even visiting a sustainability art exhibition, sustainability awards ceremony and a picnic at the park where we enjoyed meals from the farmers market. I have tried not to miss a chance to open a conversation with other participants from universities all over California and some beyond. This led to many insightful conversations.
In a nutshell my answers to the above questions are:
1) Sustainability teams in Californian universities – and maybe American universities in general – are doing a great job at branding their university as sustainable. They do that by implementing high standard such as LEED, STARS, etc., which requires a lot of hard work and careful planning.
In addition to that, they have built a good bridge between universities and communities for sustainability projects. One of the examples was West Village, a Zero Net Energy Community. All the buildings are energy-efficient, using solar panels and have water conservation system. By offering such accommodation alternatives, the non-sustainable housing market has started to become less attractive. Currently there is a great demand for staying at the West Village housing due to sustainability features [that] save the environment as well as individual’s pocket.
What amazed me was how universities on their own initiatives take responsibility for reducing their impacts and contribute to create a sustainable society. One contrast between these universities and some of the Nordic universities – which I have studied the sustainability affairs of – is that the universities in California have not waited for the government to come up with a set of criteria, law and regulation for sustainability in universities.
In Nordic universities on the other hand, it is common to hear in some of meetings, seminars and workshops that they long for government to request particular actions from them, introduce regulations and of course allocate specific budgets to work on sustainability. In another word, voluntary approach for sustainability has not mainstreamed among Nordic higher education institutes yet.
2) Students’ involvement is definitely one of the main driving forces and essence of Californian universities sustainability projects’ success. The majority of sustainability awards which Californian universities have received have been due to students’ projects and achievement. I say no more but suggest you to have a look at the UC Santa Barbara project for reducing [the] use of plastic, which has succeed in creating a plastic free campus, and to watch the video for promoting energy efficiency at the California Polytechnic State University campus. May it be inspirational for our students at UiO and other Nordic universities.
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