News: Mar 10, 2017
The University of Gothenburg wants to become a European leader in sustainable development – a goal that will be reached together with the students.
Three years ago, the idea of taking the Green Office concept to the University of Gothenburg was born. The Green Office is an international model in which students become actively involved in the environmental and sustainability work by being hired by the University.
‘The student organisations do some great stuff and the University has been involved in sustainability for many years. But there hasn’t been a good bridge in between. This is where the Green Office model comes in handy – it’s mutually beneficial,’ says Moa Persson.
She is the project coordinator for the Green Office and environmental coordinator at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, GMV. The project is included in the University’s action plan for environmental issues and sustainable development. Student participation is one of the three core activities in the action plan, together with research and education.
Last autumn, two persons, Anna Simmons and Tora Wilhelmsson, were hired part time (20 %) to work on the project. They combine full-time studies with their jobs at GMV. Anna is enrolled in the environmental social science programme at the School of Business, Economics and Law, and Tora is pursuing a Master’s in human rights at the Department of Global Studies. Their positions at GMV are for two semesters at a time, and right now they are half-way through. One of the things they have done is change the name of the programme.
‘The green, or environmental, part of sustainability isn’t enough, so instead we call it the Students for Sustainability Office. This is an important difference, since we want to cover the whole concept of sustainability,’ says Simmons.
The University of Gothenburg offers Sweden's widest range of courses in the field of environment and sustainable development, and environmental research is carried out in a large number of subject areas. The University has focused on these issues for many years. According to Simmons and Wilhelmsson, this becomes evident when you talk to other European universities linked to the Green Office.
‘Many of them work with sustainability issues at a completely different level, where they could start from scratch. It’s great to be able to jump straight into an organisation that already has it on its agenda. We are very pleased with the situation and the work carried out here,’ says Simmons.
Their job is to coordinate and develop the participation of students in the University’s sustainability efforts.
‘Many staff members and various groups at the University want to involve the students in the work but don’t know how to find them, and the students want to get involved but don't know who to contact. That’s where we can help,’ says Wilhelmsson.
‘We have also been engaged in the purchasing of products for the University’s restaurants and cafeterias with an aim to put pressure on the suppliers in terms of for example organic products and fair trade,’ says Simmons.
Simmons, Wilhelmsson and Persson stress the importance of the University’s many student associations as contact points between students and GMV.
‘Everything we study and learn should be rooted in a sustainability perspective, that’s the basic idea. The student associations are always pondering over how the courses can be tied to sustainability, and that’s where we can help,’ says Simmons.
‘Getting the students involved in the decision making will make the University more dynamic and will also make it last in the long run,’ says Wilhelmsson.
This article was published in issue 1/2017 of Spionen.
Written by: Peter Sundberg
Photo: Johan Wingborg