Students have their say on sustainability

12 August 2008

What do University of Auckland students care most about when it comes to sustainability?

This was put to a group of environmentally-minded students at an open forum held in August by the University's Environmental Programme.

Recycling and a sustainability-related teaching curriculum were at the top of the list, closely followed by energy use. Other issues identified as important were sustainability-related research, community initiatives, biodiversity, energy sources, waste water and transport.

Environmental Coordinator Dr Lesley Stone says moving toward sustainability means addressing multiple issues, so understanding what is most important to students’ helps identify the priorities.

"The forum was also an opportunity for students' to tell us what we can do to engage them. For instance, we have been trialling new rubbish and recycling bins around the student quad and in the Business School complex, so we know we have been directing our efforts in the right direction. We heard about how best to communicate with students to make sure they use the bins properly and how to best encourage them to take responsibility to reduce their waste in the first place. The forum generated exciting ideas about how we can help every individual student to fulfil their environmental responsibilities while on campus," Dr Stone says.

Some of the advice offered to other students by the forum included bringing your own food containers instead of buying them from food outlets; holding on to your waste until you find a recycling bin; and turning off computer screens when you finish in the computer labs. Advice for the University included better regulation of air-conditioning; installing solar panels on all new buildings; displaying energy consumption figures; involving students in planting efforts; involving commercial outlets on campus in the Environment Programme; and integrating sustainability into teaching in all disciplines. The students' were also keen to see printing double-sided introduced university-wide.

"It's great to be able to take on board student feedback, and equally to be able to share with them the significant achievements the University’s environmental programme is making," Dr Stone says.