‘Imagine the progress that would be made if all disciplines worked together to tackle the environmental issue.’ This is the dream of Jasmine Jacob of the University of Pretoria’s Greenline Society, an all-student society working towards a more sustainable future.
The society is open to all students from all disciplines who share a passion for the environment. Since its conception at the beginning of 2015, the society has elicited great interest and, with minimal campaigning, already has 165 members. It was founded by three dynamic, passionate undergraduate students from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Geography, Jasmine Jacob, Brian Nkala and Courtney Gehle. While they have big dreams for the society, the focus this year has been on creating awareness among students across all faculties at the University of Pretoria (UP) in order to grow the multi-disciplinary aspect of the society.
At an institutional level, UP has already rolled out several initiatives, which identifies it as a leader among South African universities in terms of environmental sustainability. Gehle recognised, however, that UP is lagging behind when it comes to student involvement.
As part of its 2025 vision, UP hopes to become completely self-sustainable. Small but significant steps have been taken: the catering companies on campus are all involved in composting, more indigenous plants are being planted on campuses and the grounds are watered predominantly at night. A noteworthy fact that few people know is that UP recycles all its waste; by June this year it had already surpassed its entire recycling mass for 2014.
It is important for students to be made aware of this type of information, but this does not always happen. The Greenline Society is not only a platform for students from all disciplines to get involved, it is also an important link between the institution and the student body and is helping UP to realise its 2025 vision.
The society recently submitted a proposal to the Student Representative Council and the Department of Student Affairs to replace all the light bulbs in their offices with environmentally friendly alternatives. The proposal was accepted and Ms Jacob hopes that this is the first step towards fitting all buildings on UP campuses with energy efficient lighting.
Although the society’s fundamental focus this year was on building a solid foundation to ensure its longevity, this did not stop it from making waves of change on the ground. Their work is being noticed and the Greenline Society is fast becoming the go-to place for students who want to become more responsible and environmentally aware citizens. TuksRes recently approached them with their goal to go green in 2016. It has shown its commitment by changing its long-standing logo from red to green. Partnerships such as this will enable bigger strides to be made and wider circles to be reached.
The society recently represented UP at the annual Green Campus Conference at the University of the Western Cape. This year’s conference theme was ‘Back to the basis of greening: Re-creating the future’. The conference provides the opportunity for university students to come together and share what they are doing, to network and to learn from each other.
The society also organised a Green Week this year in partnership with the United Nations Association of South Africa (Pretoria). The week focussed on raising awareness among students and offered interesting discussion sessions on sustainability with guest speakers from the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and South Africa’s leading recycling company, Petco. The week comprised a youth education element with a visit to Sunnyside Primary School that included a tree planting session and a talk by Sean Hide, founder of Grow a Tree, about why trees are so important to ensure a healthy society. Stalls on campus provided information about the society, as well as easy ways to become a more environmentally conscious, more responsible individual.
In just eight months, the Greenline Society has played an essential role at the University and in the broader South African society. If it continues on this course, Ms Jacob’s dream of progress could well be realised sooner than anyone imagined.
*Ms Jacobs is in her third year BSc (Environmental Sciences), Mr Nkala, also a BSc (Environmental Sciences) student, is in his second year and Ms Gehle is in her second year BSc (Geography) (Focus area: Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability).