James works in campus services as the senior campus services officer. One of his main remits includes looking after sustainability and the environment at AUB.
So, what does sustainability mean to you?
“I think the UN got it just about right when they said: “Development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
This translates to being responsible with energy – generation and usage, food consumption and the way in which it is grown – agriculture, travel, procurement and design. The list of things could be endless.
Design would be one of the biggest ones at AUB. Creatives and makers have a duty to ensure they are creating their work as responsibly as possible, from design, materials used through to reuse or disposal.
Sustainability is considering the environmental implications of everything that you do.
As a university, we are constantly looking for ways to develop and constantly grow and I like that you said – “it’s important that we grow in a sustainable way” – is that an aim in the uni, to grow, but then grow sustainably?
I think sustainability is something everyone needs to be doing, not just us as a university.
It’s been interesting watching so many young people going on strike for climate change. Just as that generation do not know a time without mobile phones or the internet, they do not know a time when environmental issues were not considered. They value the planet and the importance of protecting it and it is certainly something that the younger generations are going to start looking at with more scrutiny, when they’re looking at universities.
I think there is every possibility they will look back at what the AUB has done historically (back to the time when they were on strike) and they’ll be looking at what AUB plans to do in the future. So, it is important that we are constantly moving in the right direction regarding sustainability.
How have we integrated sustainability into the daily life of University at AUB?
AUB is constantly striving to integrate sustainability into the daily life of students and the university on a larger scale. Students work under LED lights, the university has electric cars in its fleet for travelling to and from events, students from the university have gone out and planted trees in the local area, and AUBSU hosts its Green Week every year, hosting events and workshops across campus. The measures that have been put in place are why AUB has been awarded an EcoCampus Gold Award, but more can always be done.
Sustainability is something that needs to be ingrained in students and the universities everyday thought processes. It is embedded into the strategic framework, which shows the university is taking sustainability seriously moving forward.
You mentioned earlier about in the future looking to go for EcoCampus Platinum, are there any other things that AUB have said ‘this is something we would like to do and it’s in the works’?
EAUC (Educational Association of University Centres) declared that there is a climate crisis and they’re asking universities to respond. A couple of universities have pledged to become zero carbon emissions by 2030, well before the 2050 deadline, while other universities have pledged to become zero carbon by the 2050 deadline.
We have an environmental committee that meets regularly, and this is something that will be on the agenda to discuss. It’s an exciting time with momentum gathering and the scale and rate of change needed in society generally at the forefront of discussion. Decisions made now could potentially change the direction all universities go in.
I agree, the more we talk it the more we’re going to know – do you think at AUB we are trying to bring that into the everyday life of students?
Yes! We’re spending a lot of time talking about this essential twelve-year time frame we have to try to restrict the worst effects of climate change.
We have the AUB Human events that are driven by combining art, sustainability and ethics. There are the Sustainability Awards, the Student Union has a Green Officer who is very active within the student community, and Staff Sustainability Ambassadors who met for the second time last week. We’re hoping these measures will start discussions between AUB and its students, and might even go on to be embedded within our courses where appropriate.
In my time at the university, I have seen all manner of environmental-themed projects, whether there’s any prompting to do so, or not. Over time these projects have become more prominent and numerous, demonstrating further that these topics are starting to become the norm.
Art is of course at the core of AUB and its values, and plays a big role in how we discuss environmental and sustainability issues. People do not like sitting and looking at graphs, but art has the ability to portray a powerful message.
David Attenborough is a great example of this. As a filmmaker, he has an ability to get people talking about important issues, because his art resonates with people, and he manages to do it far quicker than any graph or statistic I could show anyone.
I know we have been looking into Fairtrade a lot in the university, can you tell us a bit about what Fairtrade means?
It’s mainly based in agriculture in developing countries and ensures that people working in these places are not taken advantage of, are paid fairly, ensuring they have good working conditions, they are getting the market price and trade justice…to put it simply.
One last thing, if you could pick one thing that everyone can do to help preserve the planet, what would you pick?
I do not think there is a one size fits all approach to this. The best thing everyone can do is to take five minutes to themselves and think about their own lifestyle and what changes they can make. People need to start with changing their own habits instead of being overwhelmed by all the things that they can or should do – one step at a time.
For example, if you keep forgetting to take reusable bags to the supermarket, put something in place so that you remember the next week. When this becomes a permanent behaviour change, think to yourself what can I do next? Changing just one established behaviour pattern will lead to you starting to change more and more. It’s just a nice way for everyone to work out what they can do as individuals and what is realistic for them to do, rather than having someone dictating what you should do.”