Global Green Campus Forum in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Last week, I participated on AASHE’s behalf in the 3rd annual Gyeonggi Green Campus Global Forum, held at Kangnam University in the Gyeonngi province of South Korea. The theme of the international Forum, organized by the Association for the Geyonggi-do Green Campus, was “students are the center of the green campus,” similar to that of AASHE’s upcoming 2012 Student Summit (“engaging the future”).
Given this theme, the Forum predominantly consisted of students from various countries describing their efforts at building a green campus and curriculum. Julian Keniry, Senior Director at the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) gave a compelling keynote speech titled “Ecologically Literate Students Leading the 21st Century.” She provided an overview of the importance of students in higher education sustainability, and identified four key priorities for leaders in this movement: 1) decarbonizes campuses 2) protect ecosystem services 3) educate for sustainability and 4) promote outdoor time. I later presented on the role of students in higher education, drawing upon case studies such as New York University’s student-initiated Bike Share program, Appalachian State University students’ participation in the Solar Decathalon, and student activism and advocacy at Powershift conferences.
From the Philippines to Gabon, to Indonesia, to Germany, the international group of students discussed their accomplishments in making their campus more environmentally sound. For instance, Reyett Puanan, a student of Miriam College in the Philippines, discussed the college’s environmental education workbooks created in partnership with the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines and other agencies, and green building efforts centered on construction that has minimal environmental impact and protects the biodiversity of surrounding areas. (The image below is at the outdoor expo, of students from University of Seoul with vegetables from their campus farm.)
High-ranking city and university officials, including Kangnam University’s president, attended the forum. They gave brief celebratory speeches in the introductory session, followed by a short ceremony in which the torch was passed to the representative of the university that has been selected to host the 2013 green campus forum. The speeches from each of the ministers were interesting as they helped to bring to light the key words and concepts used to explain the importance of greening in South Korea (e.g., low carbon, sea level rise, global warming, jobs, coastal degradation). Their speeches demonstrated to me that although the word “green” is being used, it seems to carry a meaning similar to “sustainability,” which is now used more prominently than “green” in North America. For instance, Mun-su Kim, the Governor of Gyeonggi Province, explained that greening today means “looking back on our lives…; [it] should be a cultural activity.” Jae-an Huh, Chairman of Geyonggi-do Council, commented that it is crucial that we “create a new paradigm where nature and humans can live in harmony.” Overall, their speeches signified that climate change is seen as a real challenge to socio-ecological well-being, and that there are significant opportunities associated with greening.
Similar to city-wide initiatives in the States to engage universities and colleges to reduce their carbon footprint (i.e., participants of the Mayoral Challenge in NYC pledge to reduce their GHG emissions by 30% by 2017), in 2009, 10 universities were selected by the Korean Ministry of Environment and Korea Environment Corporation to become low-carbon green campuses. This came with funding of 1.2 million won for three years. Kangnam University, our host, was among the first to implement the project, and is understood as being an eco-pioneer of Korean universities.
According to Professor Shu-hu Ju at Kangnam University, some of the key reasons for Kangnam trying to become a green campus included national policy initiatives (e.g., GHG & Energy Target Management System; carbon tax); increasing energy costs; the desire to keep tuition fees low; and the increasing operational expenses).
Reducing emissions and cutting total energy consumption is the first priority and central impetus for the greening initiatives. That said, the green campus project is not exclusively focused on energy use or GHG emission reductions. The project is divided into three parts: green management (climate change and energy resources); green human resources development (curriculum development); and leading green lives (community participation).
On the second day, we were given a tour of the green campus, with highlights including the occupancy sensors; geothermal air conditioning and heating system (pictured above); the energy control center; and the recycled water treatment system. The occupancy sensors in the instructional rooms for the thermostat adjust within seconds depending on whether there are people in the room or not, shutting off completely when the room is empty. In the bathrooms, the sensors are movement-based and take about 10 minutes to turn on and off.
The energy control center, designed and run by Honeywell, is the nucleus of energy-related operations on campus. All buildings are monitored and controlled from this center which has staff 24 hours a day. The control center staff is equipped with digital tablets which have the energy dashboard displayed; from the tablet, staff can monitor energy use and CO2 emissions across campus, as well as view and resolve complaints that students report through an online system.
The last part of the tour was the building in which Kangnam’s school for disabled youth is located. The building’s hallways were deliberately built to be wide, with ramps on each end, so as to accommodate anyone using a wheelchair. Further, the students of the school maintain a campus garden of yellow soybean and other plants, pictured here.
It’s always refreshing to remind ourselves that what we’re working on within our country, city, or campus is far from limited in scope. We have potential partners and collaborators all around the world that are driven by the same core purpose: to build an ecologically and socially prosperous world, one campus (and community) at a time.
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