UniMAP Sustainable Campus is a community of staff and students who have the collective aim of improving the effectiveness of energy usage, sustaining resources and increasing the quality of the environment by implementing projects and programs that contribute to a healthy and conducive lifestyle. There are currently more than ten teams working on various aspects of the campus environment. Each team is managed by a leader, usually an academician, and is supported by team members who comprise of staff and students alike. Teams work independently of one another, and they report their progress to the Vice Chancellor’s Sustainable Campus office approximately once a month. From time to time, they get together to work on bigger projects that involve their respective teams’ specialties and interests.
Environmental issues such as global warming, deforestation, species loss, and untreated toxic wastes are now the attention of the world. It is evident that our world's natural resources are rapidly depleting, often in the name of development. In 1983, the United Nations Secretary-General invited Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland to chair a World Commission on Environment and Development. The Brundtland Report, published in 1987, was among the first to focus on global sustainability. It addressed governments, businesses and, above all, people whose welfare should be the key element for environmental and development policies. The concept of sustainability can be seen as an attempt to create awareness of the disturbing relations between human society and the natural environment, focusing on institutional, economic, ecological and social aspects.
Thus the concept of 'sustainable development' was launched. In essence, it looked into social and economic advances to assure human beings a healthy and productive life, but one that did not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Following this, in 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro. This conference became the largest environmental conference, with the participation of 30,000 people including more than 100 heads of countries. It hoped to respond to pressing global environmental problems and to agree on major treaties on biodiversity, climate change and forest management. The outcomes of this conference covered many aspects of sustainable development, including work on biological diversity, climate change, and forest management, among others. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21 were born.
The latest United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20 has 283 outcomes, and the importance of sustainable education is highlighted as follows;
“We underscore the importance of supporting educational institutions, especially higher educational institutions in developing countries, to carry out research and innovation for sustainable development, including in the field of education, to develop quality and innovative programs, including entrepreneurship and business skills training, professional, technical and vocational training and lifelong learning, geared to bridging skills gaps for advancing national sustainable development objectives.” Thus, the agenda of sustainability in higher education has been formally introduced, and must now be implemented.
Although the aspiration to become a ‘green nature campus’ was thought of way back in 2002 when UniMAP (then KUKUM) was first established, the idea was formally discussed by UniMAP’s Council of Professors in 2011.
The implementation of ‘sustainable green campus’ started with a workshop in June 2102. The aim of the workshop was to identify ‘core members’ who were deeply committed to sustainability issues. A more narrow definition of sustainability to be implemented in UniMAP was adopted. For UniMAP, the definition of a sustainable green campus is “A higher education community that continuously improves energy efficiency, conserves resources, and enhances environmental quality through the creation of healthy living and learning environments.”
To achieve this, a strong commitment by the University higher management was imperative. Following a model from Cornel University, nine teams were established during the workshop - each with specific game plans on how to transform uniMAP to be a sustainable green campus. The nine teams comprise Energy, Transportation, Land & Water, Waste, People, Food, Procurement, Building, and Climate teams. The teams are led by an academic and composed of members of staff from numerous schools and departments within the University. In the months following the establishment of the nine teams, more members of staff came forth to suggest and implement new teams that look into different aspects of green campus operations. The diversity of complexity of each team to coordinate itself into completing its mission of making UniMAP a sustainable is apparent. While each team is considered the expert of the discipline in terms of academics, it should also understand the nature of the University’s operations in order to achieve its goals.
The idea to make UniMAP (at that time KUKUM) a ‘nature campus’ was mooted in 2002 during the very first discussion of the construction of University’s main campus in Pauh Putra. It was envisaged that a site, which is in harmony with nature, was to be built. Indeed, ‘nature campus’, encompassing all known sustainability notions, is a philosophy that forms the basis of UniMAP’s development and operation, no matter the location – whether in Pauh Putra, Sungai Chuchuh, Kangar, Jejawi, Kulim, Kuala Lumpur, or at other localities. The Pauh Putra campus – which is UniMAP’s biggest university grounds – is dubbed ‘Nature Campus’ in the hope that its sustainable green essentials are emulated not just by all UniMAP campus sites, but also by the community-at-large.
Today, some 12 years down the road, although much is yet to be completed, much has already been accomplished. I look forward to more green sustainable initiatives in the months- and years-to-come, that will propel UniMAP to the forefront of this very important endeavour.
Datuk Professor Dr Kamarudin Hussin, Vice Chancellor, UniMAP
In a time when the world is embroiled in various environmental calamities, it is only expected that universities assume leadership in the provision of guidance in matters relating to the calamities. UniMAP is no exception. Although the road to making the University a fully sustainable green campus has been riddled with time, cost, and expertise challenges, more than ten teams – all operating voluntarily – are hard at work looking into a range of environmentally-related concerns affecting the campus. Needless to say, the results thus far have been very encouraging. The general mindset of the campus population is slowly but surely changing for the better. All aspects are now looked at with critical ‘green’ eyes, and environmentally-centred solutions are the norm in the discussions that take place on campus grounds.
The road ahead might still be long and foreboding, but the ‘green and sustainable’ seeds have been duly planted, and the fruits will insyaa Allah be harvested in the near and far future.
UniMAP Sustainable Campus Team