Stellenbosch University works hard to change systems and processes on campus to more sustainable energy sources and reduce the impact on the environment. Environmental sustainablity principles guide new buildings, refurbishing and renovation projects, and planning new spaces for research, teaching, and interaction. But the best intentions, regulations and principles in the world will have no impact if we do not change our behaviour, says Nadeem Gafieldien, Director Property Services at Facilities Management.
“Students and staff may not always have the environment as top of mind in their daily engagement on campus. However, we must always be aware that where there are people, they will affect the local ecosystem in one way or another," says Nadeem.
The efficient and safe operations of all buildings and spaces depends on the interactions of people in accordance with the design intent of that space Detail sustainability initiatives are incorporated in the design of buildings and spaces, which when operated correctly will facilitate optimisation of the buildings's environmental performance which will during its lifecycle will yield benefits to not only the occupants, but to the community by reducing the strain on the environment.
As part of FM's Environmental Sustainability team, Christine Groenewald is the driving force behind engaging our student and staff communities in projects that raise awareness around sustainability on campus. Her engagement sessions range from planting trees on identified spaces to involving students and staff in recycling projects.
Groenewald gave us ten ways to incorporate a bit of green-mindedness into our daily interaction with the built environment at our various campuses. Here is her food for thought:
1. Coffee, that morning must-have, how do your drink it? In a disposable cup perhaps? Why not consider buying yourself a reusable cup (the Matie Shop has a few on special from time-to-time!). It might require of you to wash it every time, but soon there will even be a solution for this on campus, so watch this space. And while we on this topic, instead of buying yet another plastic bottle of water, consider buying yourself a nice reusable bottle as well.
2. Buy second-hand. The one thing that SU have a lot of is students and every year they come and they go. And every year the first-years buy new desks and the final years sell of throw away old desks. Consider reselling your furniture (there are some second-hand shops around or use Facebook marketplace). Instead of buying a brand-new desk, look around for some good quality second hand ones – it costs less and with a fresh coat of paint, anything can look good again. The same goes for your old books, kettle, toaster, other furniture and even your clothes.
3. Consider a minimalist lifestyle. While on the topic of getting rid of things, around the world people are becoming more minimalistic in their way of life. Less is more, is not just a saying. Why crowd your life with books you are never going to read (again) or clothes you never wear? You will be amazed how little you really need and you will feel a lot lighter and brighter too.
4. Go digital. If there is one thing we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, is that we do not need printed books, notebooks and even posters any more. We were almost forced into a world where digital is the new norm. Think before your print a document or your bank statement. Make notes on your mobile or computer and where you are able to submit a project or dissertationdigitally, do so. Reduced printing saves a lot of trees, water, energy and harmful ink.
5. Walk or cycle to work or class. If you are fortunate to stay close to campus, consider walking or cycling there. You might have to wake up a little bit earlier, but there might be some sustainable worms to catch along the way – less carbon emissions, less fuel, saving money, getting fit and who knows, a healthier and happier you! For people travelling by car prevent single use occupants per car. Be part of a lift club.
6. Keep the lights off. Rather open the blinds and let natural light show you the way. Opening the window for fresh air where possible and mechanically allowed, is much better than being stuck in a closed office with air-conditioning. Just let nature in! Heating of warm water is the second biggest consumer of electricity on campus. That is why FM replaced geysers with energy efficient heat pumps. So, showering for less time saves water and electricity.
7. Recycle. Like re-using that coffee cup, should you buy a take-out, make sure you recycle. On campus there are three very visible recycling waste bins where you can recycle almost everything – paper, plastic, and nowadays also e-waste. Look out for the big yellow bins on campus where you can recycle all your old chargers, leads, batteries and even mobile phones.
8. Do not waste food. Food waste is one of SU's biggest problems and every day lots of food is sent to the rubbish heap. Think before you dish up that extra spoonful of rice. Rather come for a second helping than to leave food on your plate. If you are not a big fruit eater, buy them loose instead of a whole pack of bananas that will go off easily.
9. Keep your eyes open. If you detect a water leak at your student house or residence building, please report it immediately to FM's service desk at (021) 808 4666 or email@example.com
10. Be green. Get involved in SU's sustainability projects. Contact your Green Ambassador in your residence or student community and make a difference for your campus, the town of Stellenbosch and the world.
"We saw with the drought and the response to COVID that we can overcome all sorts of challenges by collaborating. We noticed that we were able to make decisions to the benefit of all. This is how we should deal with all future challenges because siloed, self-interest decision making is no longer an option. Let us all do our part and support SU's environmental sustainability goals and projects to make our campus greener, says Gafieldien.
He says the Environmental Sustainable teamis currently rolling out a series of projects and engagements on campus that form part of SU's overall environmental sustainability strategy towards becoming a sustainable university. In using their division as a living laboratory, SU's Facilities Management has since 2015 been putting systems and processes in place to start paving the way for the University to become a smart campus where data-led decision-making will result in contributing solving problems and providing sustainable solutions for the future.