While students and staff have adapted amazingly well and quickly to our new learning environments in the midst of the current pandemic, it’s important we don’t drop the ball on some of our other social and environmental initiatives. Since COVID-19 looks to be with us for the long-haul, we need to find ways to incorporate good sustainability practices into our day-to-day lives both at home and in the classroom for right now and the future. The more we can do to embed sustainability practices into our curriculums, the deeper the engagement with our students and the greater the outcomes locally and globally.

Here at UTS we are educating future leaders, instilling a belief that our actions must benefit society. We’re also about finding solutions, sustainability brings many challenges and problems but opportunities as well. And whether it be impact through our research, the way we prepare our students for their future jobs and future careers or the very efficiency of our buildings, the way that we operate ourselves as a university, we embrace sustainability in everything we do.

Attila Brungs

What is sustainability?

When we hear the word ‘sustainability’ we tend to think of reducing carbon emissions, protecting environments, renewable fuel sources, and ways of keeping the delicate ecosystems of our planet in check and balance – all of which are valid. But sustainability can be challenging in reality because it must combine economic, business, environmental, government and social needs, which don’t always align. Fundamentally, sustainability is all about regeneration and maintenance and your approach to it.

The three pillars of sustainability are the environment, society and economy (also known as planet, people and profits). Sustainability affects urban planning, agriculture, not for profits, corporate strategies, health assessment and planning, and many more industries. It requires organisations and people to think responsibly and ethically about their supply chains, whilst balancing profits. But there is also an equally important social and spiritual component that defines our values and ethics when it comes to implementing these lofty principles – in real and effectual ways!

The question is, how can we meet the needs of today without compromising the needs of others tomorrow? How can we diversify, build resilience and be more innovative? How can we create and maintain the conditions under which people and nature can co-exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations?

Here at UTS I really like being around like-minded people, I think they teach me a lot. And the different groups I’ve been a part of, like Brennan Program and Enviro Collective, have really helped me solidify ideas about how to help the environment.

UTS student

On a personal level, that means thinking about what your impact is on the environment? What’s your wastage? Your energy outputs? Carbon outputs? Are they positive or negative? There is a lot to consider.

Thankfully at UTS there are a number of helpful sustainability resources academics can utilise around campus in their teaching and learning – either for themselves or their students.

On-campus resources

  • Green week and other events
  • UTS Green Hero Awards
  • General campus operations and Green Campus tours, eg. the 5 Green Roofs
  • Waraburra Nura is UTS’s native medicinal garden on level 6 of the UTS tower with a selection of valuable Indigenous resources. 
  • UTS Deep Green Biotech Hub (DGBH) brings together researchers, SMEs, industry, start-ups, students and other stakeholders to propel NSW to the forefront of algae-based biotechnology innovation in Australia.
  • Students’ Association Enviro Collective is UTSSA’s main student organisation for environmental activism, causes, and engagement; the student club EcoSoc organises social events such as bush walks and film nights.
  • Bike-friendly facilities: cycling is one of the healthiest and most sustainable transport options. To make it ‘wheely’ easy to bike your way to and from UTS, you can find bike parking across campus, with a number of secure cages available as well as more standard bike racks. Shower facilities can also be found at key locations, to let you freshen up after a sweaty ride. All staff and students can request access to the showers and secure cages at the security office on level 4 of Building 1. 
  • Waste and Recycling initiatives at UTS including water bottle refilling stations and going plastic-free.
  • UTS is home to the first plastic-free food court in Australia in the new Central Building; other sustainability features include the food waste dehydrator machines, automated sun shields, energy efficient lighting, the use of recycled water to flush toilets, and three green roofs providing recreational space and habitat for urban biodiversity. In fact, the food waste gets turned into soil conditioner, goes to a garlic farm to grow garlic, which is then sold back on campus in a great example of the circular economy in practice. Watch video
  • The Institute for Sustainable Futures runs short courses, workshops and seminars across a range of sustainability areas – coming up next is ‘Behavioural Insights 101: Enhancing Sustainability Behaviour Change Programs’ on 30th October and ‘Re-imagining Economies: Implications for the future of Commerce’ on 13th November.

Resources you can access from home

  • Think: Sustainability offers podcasts about practical actions for a better planet.
  • UTS4Climate: UTS signed a climate emergency declaration not to show good will or solidarity, but as a basis for increased action.
  • Short videos about UTS Buildings and initiatives.
  • Green Impact Program is a fun and flexible program designed to empower people who care about sustainability. The program supports UTS staff to join with each other, form teams, and work together to undertake sustainability actions, big and small: Watch video. The 2020 Green Impact toolkit has been developed to help you and your colleagues work together to make small and meaningful changes to improve the sustainability performance of your work areas.
  • UTS administers the national Teaching and Learning Sustainability website. This tool for academic staff, students and members of teaching units helps locate sustainability related courses, subjects and teaching resources on tertiary level sustainability teaching across Australia. It also has some helpful sustainability teaching materials for use in the classroom.
  • Follow UTS Green on Facebook
  • Subscribe to UTS Green News, our monthly e-newsletter with details of what’s happening around campus

Make a positive impact in Biodiversity month

Given that September is Biodiversity month, why not turn over a new Spring leaf with a visit to the native beehive on the Alumni Green terrace on level 8 of the UTS library or find out how to build you own garden with resources from the Waraburra Nura native garden. Given how biodiversity is often described as the ‘web of life’, ‘the variety of living things’ or ‘the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes and ecosystems of which they are a part’ – then what better model could we aspire to as educational practitioners toiling away in our university habitat to make a difference in the lives of future generations.

Image by Anna Palinska from Pixabay

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