It's about everybody. We should all be invested. We should all want to change, and we can all be drivers of change in even the smallest ways.
From a "small study group" in the Botany Department at its inception in 2007, the Green Campus Initiative (GCI) is now one of the biggest student societies on campus, with around 600 members, says its chairperson, Guy Cunliffe.
GCI's core focus is on boosting student awareness that climate change is not just a 'big' problem for 'big' players to worry about, says Cunliffe, who is a master's student at UCT's Energy Research Centre. It has a significant impact on daily lives, and GCI is trying to instil a culture of "just thinking a little bit more about your carbon footprint, or how much water you use in a day, how much electricity, and what the challenges are for us as a society and as a university", says Cunliffe.
Much of their awareness drive in 2014 was centred around events such as a tree-planting day with local organisation GreenPop, and naming August Sustainability Month, during which each UCT residence is challenged to come up with a programme to demonstrate how they perceive sustainability.
The GCI are spreading the sustainable-living mantra beyond UCT's campuses, too, by working with local NGOs: "Project 90 by 2030 has the ambition of reducing carbon emissions by 90% by 2030 – which is very ambitious, obviously. They do a lot of education programmes with schools around Cape Town, particularly in the townships, and we often send volunteers to go and work with them."
While on-campus initiatives such as the colour-coded bins for easy recycling are among their more visible projects, the GCI is also in constant conversation with university management as part of the Environmental Management Working Group, and works closely with the Properties & Services Department, who fund most of the GCI's activities.
The challenge is getting their message to students and staff to stick, once the excitement of events such as Green Week has died down, says Cunliffe. And that message is: "It's about everybody. We should all be invested. We should all want to change, and we can all be drivers of change in even the smallest ways – like getting recycling right. That, for me, is kind of the crux of what we're trying to do."
Story by Yusuf Omar. Photos by Michael Hammond.
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