Ecoversity: Letter to the Editors

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Dear Editors,

Issue 86.9 of On Dit included a thought-provoking opinion piece about Ecoversity — “ecoversity, more like ecotoryism.

The article raised some interesting points about what the University is and isn’t doing in response to the challenges that climate change presents, but also demonstrated that there isn’t enough communication about how University of Adelaide students can get involved in sustainability action, or the positive impact that the Ecoversity program is having on campus.

For the uninitiated, the University’s Campus Sustainability Plan dedicates $14 million over four years to a range of measures that help address carbon reduction, recycling and reuse, and other environmental issues on campus.

The sustainability engagement component of the Plan — the Ecoversity program — incorporates events, campaigns, and opportunities for students and staff to improve their knowledge about local and global issues; develop skills and capabilities that will help make them more employable; and cultivate positive behaviours.

Ecoversity is not part of the University’s marketing arm but an engagement program run out of the Infrastructure Branch, putting it at the action end of where some of the most impactful sustainability activity is being taken. The program supports investment in renewable energy; optimisation of our buildings to ensure efficient heating and cooling; management of waste separation initiatives; and infrastructure improvements such as water refill stations, cycling end-of-trip facilities and student gardens.

The Ecoversity program is largely informed by what students tell us they want to focus on.

The War on Waste and China’s recycling restrictions have put the spotlight clearly on waste and we have responded to public interest and momentum because it’s the best way to leverage it for the largest possible impact. Action that we’ve taken over the past 18 months to improve the University’s landfill diversion rate has included updating all bin signage across three campuses to make it easier for people to recycle; installing three public place compost bins; creating an Emergency Mug Wall and giving away hundreds of Keep Cups to reduce disposable coffee cup waste; hosting three stationery Reuse Events; creating a Waste Education App to help teach correct recycling practices; and communicating various messages across a range of channels, including social media.

Banning plastic straws has become very topical in Australia and as part of the national Plastic Free July campaign, Ecoversity tapped into the zeitgeist and encouraged students to refuse straws, and our on-campus retailers to reconsider their packaging decisions. It also aligned the University with recent action taken by the Adelaide City Council to ban plastic straws at CBD events from January 2019.

We know that the University Council respond to what students want, evidenced by the University’s Fair Trade accreditation which was led by the Fair Trade Collective student group during 2011/2012 with support from the Office of Sustainability — and we encourage students to band together and figure out how we can collaborate for the most positive and sustainable outcome.

The Ecoversity program is not looking to solve climate change single-handedly. What it does is educate students and encourage them to practice environmentally responsible behaviours; increase their knowledge and professional skills through internships and grants for unique sustainability experiences; and support the actions of like-minded student clubs such as the Fair Trade Collective and Adelaide Sustainability Association.

We don’t base everything we do on the number of Facebook likes we receive and rely on students signing up to receive many of our communications, so we are grateful to have a new avenue in On Dit, with which to promote our program.

We invite students and staff to get in contact with us about all-things-sustainability related through ecoversity@adelaide.edu.au and encourage healthy and informed debate about what we are doing and how we can improve our facilities and the Ecoversity offering.

To read more, head to our website for information about the Campus Sustainability Plan, resources, and case study videos showing some of the sustainability achievements that we are the most proud of: adelaide.edu.au/ecoversity.

Cheers,

Phil Schliebs (Engagement Project Officer)

Written by

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at onditmag@gmail.com

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