(Published - 31 January 2020)
In a world facing climate change, energy shortages, habitat destruction and other environmental issues, it’s become increasingly important for universities to serve as role models for greening and sustainability. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better role model than the University of the Western Cape.
Here are just five ways UWC is making Africa greener…
|1: Green Leadership: The University has thrice been crowned Africa’s Greenest Campus, and is the only South African University to be named among the top 200 universities in the world in the recent Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, measuring higher education’s commitment and contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. UWC has also been a longstanding signatory of the Talloires Declaration, an official worldwide statement by over 400 universities in 56 countries committing to environmental sustainability in education and research.|
|2: A Green Volunteer Army: UWC’s Green Campus Initiative chapter consists of over 500 student volunteers who actively participate in various campus clean-ups, create residence vegetable and indigenous gardens at residences, participate in formal green talks and debates, and host green campus conferences and green/dark religious services (to raise awareness about saving electricity), among other things. And at UWC, even the feral cats play their part. They’re provided a safe environment and decent care - and in return, they provide a natural means of pest control. Everybody wins! Except the pests, of course.|
|3: Better Batteries: Renewable energy resources such as wind, water or solar solutions have shown that clean energy generation is a viable alternative to traditional power solutions. But the ability to produce power when the sun shines or the wind blows is only part of the solution. We also need better forms of energy storage, so we can store power efficiently for use at the appropriate time - especially in South Africa, where load shedding has become a way of life. We need better batteries - and UWC’s Energy Storage Innovation Lab (ESIL) produces batteries with the best possible performance.|
|4: Sustainable Waste Management: With the leadership of SARChi Chair Prof Catherina Schenck, UWC has committed itself to the recently-launched Green Good Deeds programme - which promotes sustainable waste management practices (such as recycling) - and to galvanising society at large to adopt responsible and sustainable waste prevention and management strategies (and to develop business models to support a secondary resources economy). The University is also leading efforts to deal with the direct consequences of waste. Professor Leslie Petrik of UWC’s Department of Chemistry is leading research to prove that fly ash, the residue from burning coal at power stations, can provide a cost-effective alternative to cement.|
|5: Revolutionary Green Communications: Data must fall, as the saying goes - especially in rural South Africa where infrastructure is scarce and mobile networks can be prohibitively expensive. The award-winningZenzeleni Networks - a joint project between a multi-disciplinary team at UWC, the Zenzeleni not-for-profit company and rural community cooperatives in the remote Eastern Cape - enables connectivity through low-cost WiFi networks in rural areas. The network currently provides wireless broadband to two communities of about 8,000 people each and a growing collection of small businesses, and is mostly powered by solar panels, trickle chargers and 12v deep cycle batteries!|