I Did It: Bringing Sustainability to Our University

I want to share a story of how I, or rather WE, did it!

I study third year of Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development in Olomouc, University of Palacky, Czech Republic and last year my friends and classmates founded a student federacy Udržitelný Palacký = Sustainable Palacky named after our University. Last year, four members of the federacy participated in a worldwide project called, “Let’s Do It: Cleaning Your Surroundings.” This year, not only did I join them, but we now have around 60 working members and over 800 fans on Facebook—it may not seem like it, but it is a big deal, considering that we are a small university town.

The goal of this federacy is to bring sustainability to our university, to make our alma mater a more environmentally-friendly place, as well as a more social and economically effective place for studying. We want to make a change and inspire people to be more environmental and sustainable, and to think about their impact in the world. 

Previously, we had one event of our campaign, a screening of the movie North of the Sun with a Q&A with Soňa Jonášová, founder of the Institute of Circular Economics – and it went beyond well! There were more people than we could fit into the room; the discussion went really well. Soňa was really happy about our project, and there were small refreshments after the screening that disappeared in a minute.

This year we started a new campaign – Think Out of the Bin – that aims to make people think about their waste, where it goes, and how you can change it. We have hosted a series of movie screenings about our trash and waste issues followed by various discussions with interesting guests to show people near the student dorms that what they throw away could be recycled. This was followed by a questionnaire in one of the dorms about recycling and how we can get students to recycle more; cooperation with one of the firms EKO-KOM gets us 100 sets of recycling bags to every student unit so they can recycle. This accomplishment will save dorms money from waste disposal and if all goes well, it will spread to more dorms around campus. There is also the idea of cooperating with other universities and their federacies and we already inspired students from Brno to found one as well!

Right now, we are working on creating a free shop near university dorms where students, especially international students who are moving, can bring in things they no longer use and would throw away because there is no room for them. Later on, those same items may have to be purchased again when they are needed since there was no room for them before. This shop will have everything – books, furniture, cutlery, pans, etc. and we hope it will be successful. Currently, there is voting going on for our project that will hopefully give us a grant; when this story will be published, we will know the result – we hope it will be a good one.

On another note, my friends founded a communal garden outside of the dorms. They changed it from an ugly garden into a beautiful garden where you can plant tomatoes, herbs, etc.  There is also a compost where students can throw away their bio-waste and above all there is a lovely sitting area for us to get together, drink tea with mint that they grew, talk about next plans, and so on. It is called Václavka after the name of the dorms. There is a series of events we have planned before it is too cold to be outside, the last one is drinking a mulled wine we love and listening to our choir sing. Don’t you just love it?!

So this is, as I hope, just the beginning of our story of how we did it! There will be more things coming and more ways to try to inspire people and change our university that we very much love! 

I hope this inspires people around the world or I get some inspiration from people who already do something similar!

-Photo Credit: Udržitelný Palacký and Kateřina Dostálová

-Written by: Udržitelný Palacký and Kateřina Dostálová