Eco-Schools: Greening the Universities

Attended a meeting with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) where the Global Universities for Environmental Sustainability was discussed.

There are three key elements that universities need to focus on — first, education (universities need to adopt or pick up a green economy curriculum); second, establishing a low carbon campus (greening the universities) — for universities to lower their carbon footprint and make them living laboratories; and third, ecosystems management.

Priority areas have also been identified:

1. Climate Change
2. Ecosystems Services (economics of ecosystems, say for example, assigning a value per tree)
3. Disasters (disaster risk reduction)
4. Coordination Issues (mainstreaming and governance)
5. Waste and Chemicals (ewastes)
6. Resource Efficiency
7. Sustainable Lifestyle

There will be a general assembly for tertiary level educators next month, and ‘Greening the Universities’ is one of the topics that will be discussed. Also, we have been doing the rounds for the validation of the finalists for the eco-schools competition we have been organizing since 2009, the Nationwide Search for Sustainable and Eco-friendly Schools.

I am part of the validating group for the Tertiary Level, and so far, we have already visited three — the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU) in La Union, and Ateneo de Manila University and Miriam College in Quezon City. So far, so good. So many interesting projects and environmental programs these schools offer, so I am sure the judges will have a hard-time figuring out which would emerge as the best.

Cocoon Weaving at Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University

What is even tough is that each university has its own field of expertise. DMMMSU, for one, has its natural resources as an advantage, having a large field for a campus which extends up to the mountains where they hold their Greening Program. They have this Cocoon Processing and Weaving Center as part of their research and development initiative, among many others which involve studying which I believe are enzymes, megazymes, and then some sea weed which they convert into better-tasting candies for more people to appreciate, which, based on their research, is anti-cancer.

Ateneo de Manila, on the other hand, has really superb technology-based environmental programs. They have this huge rainwater harvester set-up at the library, and then a water treatment facility in their own campus. They also have an electric jeepney plying around the campus offering free rides to students and visitors. What I thought was very impressive though is their extension program where a group of really brainy people converge and come up with solutions to solve a particular environmental issue at the time. They’re working on fish kills at the moment.

Last, Miriam College. What I like about this school is that environment seems to really be rooted to the core of its every student. If you talk about value formation as far as being green is concerned, I believe Miriam has it. Their approach to teaching environmental programs is very motherly — like how a mother guides her children to ensure they’d eventually lead successful lives. Plus, I love that they teach their students the idea that we are all stewards of God’s creation, and therefore, we must all do our share to protect mother earth.

Will be leaving early Tuesday for Leyte to check Visayas State University. It has previously won, so I am looking forward to see what they have to offer this time.

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