Sustainability within EUniWell: A multidimensional cornerstone of well-being
Sustainability as a cornerstone of the EUniWell mission
Well-being is a complex construct that takes shape through the interplay of different dimensions. In addition to physical well-being and well-being in social structures, the balance between people and their environment is also one of those central dimensions. Sustainability is therefore of essential importance to the EUniWell mission, which links to the Council of the European Union’sinvitation for member states to advance the ‘Economy of Well-being’. This ‘Economy of Well-being’ describes a virtuous circle between the areas of society, science and the environment, which leads to well-being, stability and economic prosperity mutually reinforcing each other.
Within EUniWell and its partner universities, there is consequently a consensus that a meaningful and sustainable change in culture through a holistic and system-thinking approach is much needed to ensure the well-being of staff and students as well as the people and planet beyond our universities. Since true progress always starts with oneself, in the following we introduce some initiatives at our eight partner universities that deal with sustainability and actively promote it on their respective campuses.
Sustainable practises within the EUniWell universities
- Birmingham: At the University of Birmingham there are a number of ways for staff and students to get involved in university sustainability activities. For example, staff members and students can become Sustainability Ambassadors who network with others wanting to develop and embed sustainability across the university community. Furthermore, the initiative Birmingham In Action brings together many of the university’s charitable projects and, since October 2019, all university staff are entitled to one volunteering day per year where they can get involved locally. This is part of the University’s wider commitment to both the professional development of its staff and its civic responsibilities to the city and region.
- Cologne: Another strong student initiative at one of our partner universities is the Green Office Initiative Cologne. This student organisation aims to establish a sustainability office anchored in the structure of the University of Cologne and is based on the Green Office model, an international initiative promoting the establishment of sustainability-centred organisations at universities. The Green Office Initiative Cologne promotes the integration of sustainability into university operations and the establishment of the topic in teaching and research. It also supports communication between the university and the city. In addition, all existing sustainability efforts by students and the university are made transparent. The University of Cologne is also an official Fairtrade University, increasingly uses recycled paper and has switched to green electricity at the start of 2022.
- Florence: The University of Florence also has a Green Office, which is working to make the campus more sustainable. The Green Office (GO) - Sustainability Desk at the University of Florence is in charge of collecting data, monitoring projects and coordinating executive aspects in the various fields of sustainability, such as energy production, waste management, urban mobility and others. Their engagement involves research, training and active citizenship in order to bring sustainability from theory to practice and to encourage the adoption of good practices. One of the GO's missions is to draw up the University's sustainability plan and sustainability report.
- Leiden: Similar to Cologne and Florence, the students of Leiden University have their own well-established Green Office. The members of the Leiden University Green Office (LUGO) are working hard to make their university more sustainable. They are the hub in Leiden where students and staff members cooperate to further the university’s green commitment. The LUGO has two main objectives: On the one hand, they work to structurally integrate sustainability into Leiden University’s education, research, and facilities, on the other hand they foster a culture of sustainability in the community of staff and students at their campus by hosting events on these topics and realising projects like their LUGO Podcast “It’s not Easy Being Green”.
- Linnaeus: Linnaeus University has a lot to offer with regard to sustainability.Two of their interdisciplinary “Knowledge Environments” tackle the topic directly: firstly, the Green Sustainable Development Environment, which is concerned with societal challenges in the area of climate and environmental issues, and secondly the Sustainable Health Environment, which focuses on demographic changes, empowerment of citizens, changing disease patterns, support for traumatic events as well as organisational coordination to promote the health and well-being for people of all ages. Furthermore, Linnaeus University is officially an environmentally certified university, which is proud of having as little environmental impact as possible.
- Murcia: Our newest EUniWell member, the University of Murcia, started a project back in 2007 called the Sustainable Campus (Campus Sostenible). The project aims to improve the university's energy balance and environmental management. In addition, it works to improve the quality of the environment, taking into account waste management, water and air, but also traffic planning. Since 2009, the project has its own Sustainability Square on campus, which serves for environmental education and provides space for workshops and courses. The project actively involves students in its numerous events and activities.
- Nantes: In 2021, Nantes Université moved from the Top 5 to the Top 3 of French higher education institutions most committed to social and economic impact issues according to an international ranking (The University Impact Rankings). Their priorities in making Nantes Université a sustainable university are firstly, to develop a responsible and well-thought-out approach that has a positive impact on the environment and secondly, to actively participate in transitions through education, research and innovation.
- Semmelweis: A rather new initiative began just last year at Semmelweis University, where a student initiative has set itself the goal of promoting sustainability. The Semmelweis Students’ Union launched a Green University program plan in 2021 and vowed to commit to environmental protection. The primary goal of the project is to further develop environmental education. It aims to draw the attention of all students and staff at Semmelweis University to their responsibility for the environment, both individually and as a community. Of course, there are further plans and goals to realise in 2022! For example, all student administration is planned to be digitised from February onward, which will drastically reduce paper usage.
At EUniWell, we welcome all of our partner universities' established sustainability efforts, but beyond that we also support new projects which pursue environmental goals directly through EUniWell. For instance, the EUniWell Summer School 2021 dealt with the topic of "well-being tourism" with a special focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the future, EUniWell will continue to support projects and ideas that address well-being in all its dimensions and on all different levels, from inner-personal well-being, to well-being on the planetary scale!
In the framework of our FestiWell 2021, EUniWell held a panel discussion on the topic “Dimensions of Well-Being”, hosted by EUniWell Chief Development Officer, Prof. Dr. Beatrix Busse. The panel discussion also addressed the question of the role of higher education institutions in the interplay between sustainability and well-being, emphasising the important role of actively promoting knowledge and understanding of the issue at the universities. Our second FestiWell from 2-13 May 2022, titled “Towards global sustainable well-being”, will focus entirely on sustainability in the context of well-being.
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