Green University in the Czech Republic

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Green University in the Czech Republic

Carbon neutral University of Graz - their project and approach to climate protection

The main goal of the project "Klimaneutrale Universität Graz" is the reduction of CO2 emissions at the University of Graz and also a vision of carbon neutrality. The head of the project is PhD. student, Christian Kozina, from the Institute of Geography and Regional Science at the University of Graz. It is part of his dissertation project Nachhaltige Klimaneutralität im Dienstleistungssektor – Transdisziplinäre Fallstudie an der Universität Graz“ (Sustainable carbon-neutrality in the service sector - a transdisciplinary case study at the University of Graz). Carbon neutrality is included as a strategic aim in the development plan for the period 2013-2018. The project was published for the public in March 2012 as part of the action "Klimaschutz? Ja, bitte! " (Climate protection? Yes, please!). The university wants to report on climate protection at the Univesity of Graz every year.[1]

The project focuses on different issues with the potential to decrease emissions. The potential for a total reduction of emissions was identified within the areas of electricity, heating and mobility. In terms of heating and electricity, there is not so much effort needed. Both of them are already based on renewable resources. Within the mobility issue, there are many ways of how to reduce CO2 emissions. Public transport and cycling are promoted in order to limit the environmental impact of private vehicles. Other areas covered by the project are nutrition and consumption. There is some possibility for the decrease of emissions within both of them, although a 100% reduction is impossible.

Since March 5th 2012, the website for this project has offered the possibility to calculate one's own ecological footprint and expenditure of CO2 by the „Zero Emission Calculator“. There is also a space for ideas and solutions how to decrease the consumption of CO2 at the university.CO2. Every month the coordination team of the project organizes a meeting where everybody can contribute with their own suggestions[2].

The University of Graz supports initiations for environmental sustainability. Twenty-five projects for climate protection were implemented at the university from 2004 until 2011. The newest one began in 2011 ("Klimaneutrale Universität Graz"). The university has implemented various measures for climate protection. Cafeterias offer the possibility to buy some Fair Trade products, sensor lights were installed in some parts of the buildings, insulation whas been as applied, and solar panels were installed on the roof of some buildings. Many activities were carried out in the field of mobility. Parking places were reduced and specific streets in the campus were closed for cars. A charging station for electric bicycles working from a photovoltaic panel was installed in front of the library. Cycling pathways were created around the campus area and bike rental was opened at the university.[3][4]

The University of Graz received on April 23rd 2 honours at Sustainability Awards 2012.[5] It was awarded in these categories:

  • administration and managemant with mobility strategy („UniMobility 4ALL“)
  • education with educational course „Nachhaltiges Bauen“ (Sustainable build)

The university won a prize in the Administration category for the third time (also in the years 2008 and 2010).[6]

Situation in the Czech Republic and a possible outline of a Green University project

When considering applying the Austrian model of a carbon neutral university to Czech circumstances, one must take into account the situation in our country. Austria has a long history of putting sustainable development issues into practice, whereas the Czech Republic has not met many of the stated priorities yet.[7][8]. While Austria is well-known for its long and positive approach to the sustainable development concept and renewable sources of energy, the Czech Republic is much more dependent on fossil fuels. As far as we are concerned, the issues most related to possible carbon neutrality (heating, electricity) are difficult to change on a short-term basis, our project should therefore be firstly aimed at greening the university by various ´simple´ steps. Possible solutions to addressing problems (or other challenges) will be discussed in the concluding part of this analysis.

Simultaneously, we would like to be the first ´Green University´ in our country and that way set an example for other Czech higher education institutions to follow. Actually, there used to be a Czech project called Zelená univerzita aimed at the same issue, but unfortunately it was never completed and came to a standstill for reasons unknown to us a couple of years ago.[9]

First of all, the actual agenda should be assessed. We will set up a team of active individuals (ideally around 10 people) who will create a plan of long-term activities. In order to gain information from successful cases of foreign ´green universities´, we will contact the University of Lueneburg (Germany), the University of Graz (Austria), and Lund University (Sweden) to provide us with information, advice and tips how to proceed. [10][11][12]

Before we start with a potential campaign, we will investigate our possibilities for obtaining a grant. We shall also discuss with the rector´s office the possibility of support (financial as well as/or official patronage). At the moment there is a good oportunity to get an O2 Think Big grant which would enable us to finance the activities in our project. [13] For further funding we will consider addressing companies conducting business in the field of renewable energy sources. We realize that in this project we will not focus on energy itself, although on the other hand, cooperating with local entrepreneurs may be a very good tool for attracting students of technical studies in the first stage – once the students join the project, there is a chance for them to get a job or training in those companies.

The next - and the most challenging - step would be to attract students to the Green University project and raise awareness about the issue of sustainable development itself. As far as we are concerned, there is not much knowledge among Czech students about the implementation of sustainable development goals. We would thus start our campaign with questionnaires based on questions related to this topic. In order to enhance students´ awareness, we will organize lectures, workshops and field trips with lecturers from cooperating universities. An interactive webpage will be set up for students and teachers to learn more about our goals and read background information. There will also be a carbon footprint calculator for them as well as a box for their ideas and tips how to green their university. Promotion of our project will mainly be done by the website mentioned above, we will also print brochures with basic information. Once a year we will organize a Green Festival at the campus where we plan to address students from all fields of study and inform them about our activities. The Green Festival would comprise various activities, e.g. contests for environmentally-friendly prizes, games, demonstrations of environmentally friendly projects and products.

Proposed solutions for Czech universities

In the last section of our study we would like to propose some solutions which could be implemented at Czech universities. Cooperation with NGOs and municipalities can facilitate student initiatives.

Firstly, we would like to educate students and staff members in the field of sustainable development. We are planning to offer courses at the university which will be open for all faculties. An excursion to environmentally sustainable projects will be offered to the most active students. Every year we will arrange an essay competition focused on this topic.

Apart from an educational program, we plan to start several activities at the university. We have identified huge potential with regard to the mobility issue where many different steps could be applied. Students and staff members can significantly reduce their ecological footprint by riding their bike on the way to university and around the entire town. Therefore, we should encourage them to do that and also improve the conditions for such activity.

We will start with different campaigns explaining the positives of cycling, which we will identify not just in terms of environmental, but also health issues. Students riding their bike on the way to school will be awarded with T-shirts raising awareness about our campaigns. In the near future, we are also planning to establish some competitions, e.g. for the total number of kilometres ridden by members of different faculties.

Conditions for cycling around Czech towns and cities are not very well developed. We are planning to establish cooperation with municipal governments to improve this situation. Bike stands installed around the buildings of the university, together with facilities for service would be very helpful for cyclists. At some universities, where students have to travel between different faculties, a bike rental system should be developed together with bicycle paths connecting faculties and libraries.

In addition to bike mobility, we are also planning to promote public transport, since there is not the possibility for everybody to travel just by bike, especially during the winter months. Public transport significantly reduces emissions and environmental impacts in comparison with private vehicles.

Apart from the mobility question, a green university should also deal with other issues, such as waste management, procurement, food consumption, heating or electricity. As we have already mentioned, heating and electricity matters appear to be quite difficult for the starting phase of the project. In the beginning, we will start with campaigns for electricity savings because they can be easily achieved by a change in students´ behaviour. That´s why we are planning to attach posters next to light switches.

Recycling of materials is another very important tool in reducing the ecological footprint. It´s important so separate different kinds of waste at Czech universities, such as paper, plastics, aluminium and other metals, glass, Tetra paks, batteries or organic waste. Waste minimisation and reuse of waste are even more important steps that come before recycling. We would like to convince students and staff members to change their behaviour in alignment with these concepts. For example, we are planning to start a campaign promoting tap water instead of bottled water.

The introduction of green procurement at Czech universities seems to be a difficult and time-demanding task. Students should try to convince their universities, canteens and cafeterias to choose environmentally friendly products, together with local and Fair Trade commodities. Libraries and staff members should use recycled paper and print on both sides, which is sometimes not happening these days.

Generally, there are many possibilities how to decrease the ecological footprint of Czech universities and their members. Lot of inspiration can be found among the projects of foreign universities. We hope that our effort will raise the environmental awareness of our students and staff members, which will also affect their behaviour in everyday life.

References

  1. KOZINA, Ch.,Die Universität Graz wird klimaneutral,WHAT'S UP ZUR ENERGIEWENDEKONFERENZ JUNI 2012 [online] [cit. 16. Juni 2012] URL: < http://gruene-akademie.at/publikationen/whats-up-zur-energiewendekonferenz-juni-2012/die-universitaet-graz-wird-klimaneutral >
  2. KOZINA, Ch., Climate Neutral University of Graz,[online] [cit. 11.9.2012] URL: < http://vcsewiki.czp.cuni.cz/wiki/File:Climate_Neutral_University_of_Graz.ppt >
  3. Klimaneutrale Universität Graz,[online] URL: <http://www.uni-graz.at/klimaneutral>
  4. Uni Graz will Energieverbrauch reduzieren[online] [cit. 06.03.2012] URL: < http://steiermark.orf.at/news/stories/2523735/ >
  5. Nachhaltige Univesitäten - Sustainability Award am 23. April 2012 zum 3. Mal verliehen[online] [cit. 27.06.2012 ] URL: < http://www.lebensministerium.at/umwelt/nachhaltigkeit/bildung_nachhaltige_entwicklung/nachhaltigeunis.html >
  6. Uni Graz mit dem „Nachhaltigkeits-Oscar“ Sustainability Award 2012 ausgezeichnet,UNI.NEWS 166 [online][ 27.4.2012 ] URL: < http://www.uni-graz.at/bdrwww/bdrwww_uninews/bdrwww_uninews2012/bdrwww_uninews2012_166.htm#166_4 >
  7. Stav místní Agendy 21 ve dvanácti evropských zemích URL: < http://www.cenia.cz/web/www/web-pub2.nsf/$pid/MZPMSFHW5QFD/$FILE/stav_ma21_ve12ti_zemich_evropy.pdf >
  8. The strategic framework for sustainable development in the Czech Republic URL: < http://www.mzp.cz/C125750E003B698B/en/czech_republic_strategy_sd/$FILE/KM-SFSD_CR_EN-20100317.pdf >
  9. [9] ACSA URL: < http://www.acsa.cz/zuni/ >
  10. The Lüneburg Sustainable University Project in international comparison: An assessment against North American peers URL: < http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1630633&show=html >
  11. Sustainable university URL: < http://www.uni-graz.at/en/university/interdisciplinary-affairs/sustainable-university/ >
  12. Hållbart Universitet - Lund Students for Sustainability is the environmental student organization of Lund University URL: < http://www.hallbartuni.se/?lang=en >
  13. Nadace O2 - Think Big - Pravidla URL: < http://www.o2thinkbig.cz/pravidla/ >