© Jussi Jäppinen, Jyväskylän yliopiston kuva-arkisto

The University of Jyväskylä practices what it preaches

The University of Jyväskylä has around 2,500 staff, and at its peak about 15,000 students. Having a shared positive environmental effect demands cooperation and breaking boundaries.

Although the Green Office only formally applies to the staff of the organisation that has been granted the label, the University of Jyväskylä has considered it important that the environmental management system also affects the everyday lives of students. After all, students also contribute to the University's environmental impact. 

"It would be easy to shut ourselves off and say that Green Office is only for the staff, but then the programme would not work. If we limit the operation to staff only, I don’t think we could do this with a clear conscience," says the University’s Environmental Coordinator Veli-Heikki Vänttinen.

For this reason, the University cooperates through the Green Office programme with the Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä, JYY. This cooperation is a driving force that benefits the University itself, the student union, and the students.

"Raising awareness does not happen by doing things on one’s own and trying to send a message to students. The students have to get involved at some level," says Vänttinen.

"It would be easy to shut ourselves off and say that Green Office is only for the staff, but then the programme would not work."

-Veli-Heikki Vänttinen, University of Jyväskylä

So how could the students be made aware of Green Office and of environmental concerns? According to Vänttinen, efforts are made to bring these matters to people’s attention in the teaching areas also, not only in the Student Union cooperation.

"In many of its courses, the University teaches sustainable development and various themes related to the environment. I feel that if a course teaches about, say, waste management, then this should also be taken into account in practice in the teaching areas," Vänttinen says. 

Events spread the word

Over the years, the University has organised many events. Although the University of Jyväskylä holds its own events in connection with the Green Office programme, Vänttinen considers it important for the University to also be part of events that do not involve Green Office.

One such successful event took place in autumn 2016, when the University of Jyväskylä Fair was held for new students, as was a campus picnic. To bring out the environmental aspect as much as possible, the University and the Student Union had a joint stand at the fair. At the campus picnic, for its part, the Green Office ideas were highlighted not only in the environmental friendliness of the food, but also in waste management. 

"At mass events we have no option but to use disposable plates and so on, and this was the first event in which all the disposable tableware and cutlery we bought were made from fully compostable material. So, all we needed at the campus picnic for cleaning up was an organic waste container, since all the waste was biodegradable," Vänttinen says. 

"Waste sorting at major events is difficult. No matter what guidelines you have, the one-container model works best."

From mighty oaks, little acorns grow

Sometimes making a new start and making changes can be difficult. This can also be the case when adopting an environmental programme. But as Vänttinen points out, starting small is no problem.

"Although the starting points of different organisations can vary widely, with Green Office it’s easy to get started with simple things. What’s most important is start somewhere, at some level, and then to notice that considering the environmental aspect is important. For example, the starting point could be reducing the amount of printing, or switching off lights. The programme can take off from there," Vänttinen advises.

Check out more Green Office experiences.

If you’re interested in Green Office, please contact Helka Julkunen, Head of Green Office programme: helka.julkunen@wwf.fi or +358 40 531 0555.

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