Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 5 -- Swansea University and Caswell Bay, Part 1

Welcome to Wales! Where the words are made up and the weather doesn’t matter!

Part One of Two

After arriving in Wales last night, we woke up this morning with the sea air in our lungs and the anticipation of a new day clinging to our minds. Today is the day we would finally get a look at sustainability from the perspective of a university that seemed far different from our own. What we learned, however, was that although we may seem worlds apart, there are many similarities between UNI and Swansea University, and there are many things 
that we can take from them to improve our own campus.

On our way to Swansea University, we had the privilege to walk through Singleton Park, where the flora surrounded us and captured my attention wherever I looked. This park, full of plants, animals, insects, and a world of hidden life was the perfect prequel to day of thinking and learning about the subjects of sustainability and biodiversity.

Once we arrived on campus, we met our gracious and helpful hosts for the day: Heidi, Anna, and Ambreen.

Anna started the workshop by asking us and a few Swansea students about what we thought sustainability meant, and then provided us with a couple of definitions that she had found online. One of these defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. From there, we began to discuss the differences between our two universities in terms of issues concerning sustainability. This is what the group of us came up with:

Swansea University
Students prefer to take the easy way out and there is a lack of awareness/interest
Laziness – e.g. students tend to drive even when they are only traveling a short distance
There is not much public recycling
Lack of publicity
Lack of information – e.g. what can be recycled vs. what can’t
Many buildings in Swansea are grade-listed and therefore cannot be insulated. This increases the amount of energy needed to heat the buildings.
Little alternative energy usage

Labs use a lot of electricity and water

However, we were also able to compare and contrast some of the things that the campuses did well with respect 
to living and functioning sustainably.

Swansea University
Textbook sales within the student body
Collecting unwanted items during the time of student move-out to give to those who need it
Students are not allowed to park on campus which is a good incentive to walk, bike, or take the bus
Solar-powered cars
Sustainability week/month
Student audit training
Recycling bins provided in each dorm room

Switches on outlets to reduce unnecessary energy consumption
The Panther Plot student garden

Energy audits for dorms

Steam tunnels underground

After we were locked into the subject and focused on sustainable efforts, we were able to get a better look into Swansea University and the country of Wales. The sustainability team at the university was set up approximately two years and has grown considerably since it started. The basis of their work lies within the Swansea University Sustainability Strategy. This strategy is quite complex, but to simplify it for us, they broke it apart. There are 5 main principles that make it up: Knowledge and Skills, Low Carbon, Green Corridor, Sustainable Decision Making, and Well Being. From there, emerged three key themes: 1) Estates and Operations 2) Learning, Teaching, and Research and 3) Leadership, Empowerment, and Partnerships. It was further broken down into the areas of an Environmental Management System, dedicated to researching the issues and focusing on the most important one, a Carbon Management Plan, where possible projects are discussed, and a Biodiversity Action Plan. Furthermore, Anna made it clear that the number one building block to a sustainable university is staff and student engagement. That is where we were given a chance to brainstorm issues and engagement concerning our two institutions. 

The first group, given the topic of increasing recycling, came up with a unique and exciting way to motivate the campus population to recycle their waste.

The second group worked with the topic of reducing energy consumption and expanded upon the idea of Sustainability competitions across campus.

My group received the issue of transportation and were able to come up with three different options based on the structure of the university and the nature of the situation.

Finally, the last group presented their response to the overconsumption of water.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two of our Swansea University and Caswell Bay adventure!