The University of the Western Cape (UWC) was awarded the national Green Campus of the Year award for 2012 at the inaugural African Green Campus Initiative conference, which was held from 1 to 4 July at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
The African Green Campus Initiative is a strategic response to climate change challenges facing universities, colleges and communities. It is based on the notion that campuses that address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emission and integrate sustainability into their curriculum will better benefit the students and will help create a thriving, moral and civil society.
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) received five awards at the conference:
- Recognition of Student Achievement (by Njabulo Maphumulo);
- Best Institutional Presentation;
- Most Innovative Programme (for using chipped branches and garden trimmings as mulch on campus flower beds);
- Best Designed Outfit Made From Recycled Materials;
- the award for the most Environmentally Proactive South African campus (with the University of Cape Town and the Durban University of Technology taking the runner-up spots).
UWC Contracts Manager and green team leader, Desleen Saffier, expressed her delight and pride in the team’s achievement: “We were overwhelmed by the recognition and awards we received, and we hope we have set a benchmark for other campuses to follow in the coming years. Our students, staff and suppliers have worked very hard to make these achievements possible, and we are thankful for the work they put in and will continue to put in.”
The University of the Western Cape’s sustainability initiatives
UWC is involved in various green campus initiatives. It is home to a 30ha private nature reserve which is rich in fynbos vegetation and located within an international biodiversity hotspot. Students are actively involved in managing the reserve through eradicating alien vegetation and maintaining fire breaks.
UWC’s Recycling Initiative has been a huge success, collecting an average of 70 tons of recyclables each month and creating employment for 120 previously unemployed people to sort the recycling materials. The University is also able to benefit financially from the Recycling Initiative through selling recycled materials to companies – and have estimated that they are able to reduce emissions by 840 tons of CO2 annually.
The University also promotes sustainable mobility – using solar powered golf carts instead of cars for travelling distances across the campus and promotes the use of lift clubs and public transport.
Growing number of green campus initiatives in South Africa
A growing number of academic institutes across South Africa have established green campus initiatives and student groups. Examples include UCT’s Green Campus Initiative, Stellenbosch University’s Eco Maties, Rhodes University RU Green Node, and the BlueBuck Network which is a youth-driven, non-profit organisation that aims to connect youth in southern Africa who are interested in protecting the environment and stimulating sustainability.