In February, Vilnius University (VU) hosted the workshop "Leading climate actions: strategic and practical guidelines", organized by the Climate Change Group of the Institute of Geosciences at the Faculty of Chemistry and Geosciences. Within the framework of the Arqus Research & Innovation (Arqus R&I) project, the workshop was held to discuss the initial roadmap for the VU's green university action plan.
"Environmental issues and sustainability are high on the agendas of European countries. Aware of their responsibility to the country, society and the environment, universities can be active players, contributing to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent, and to the creation of a sustainable society, through their example, their activities, and the ideas they spread", says Dr Justas Kažys, one of the organizers of the workshop.
In search of solutions to meet the current ecological agenda and to contribute to the sustainable development of society and the city, VU has set itself a long-term strategic goal to become a "green university", which is less harmful to the environment through its activities and the initiation of new projects, and which conducts environmentally relevant research and educational activities that foster a "green" attitude in society.
Such complex environmental objectives require stakeholder involvement and close cooperation, which is one of the priorities of the Arqus University Alliance in the areas of research, education and the involvement of the entire university community. As part of the Arqus R&I project, the Alliance partners developed the Toolbox for Open Research Agenda Setting, a toolbox that will contribute to the development of open science principles and encourage the application of stakeholder engagement techniques in Alliance universities by offering specific tools for this purpose.
In order to test one of the proposed stakeholder engagement techniques in practice, the workshop was the first to gather representatives of all relevant VU departments to work together on solutions to address the climate crisis and environmental sustainability, in order to achieve the VU's "greening" goals. Dr Kažys was happy that the workshop enabled the identification and creation of a network of people who are active and committed to the university's "greening" strategy, and that it is planned to continue the established cooperation and communication in order to further work on specific environmental initiatives.
"The workshop provided an overview of the current situation of the VU and the actions planned for the future. The aim was to brainstorm new ideas and clarify existing ones in three distinct action areas – Green education: community and society; Reducing the ecological/carbon footprint: benefits for the environment and the university; Green infrastructure: a vision for a modern university", said the organizer.
The workshop resulted in a White Paper on the VU greening action plan – suggesting actions the university should take to become more sustainable. The document will soon be shared with the entire VU community, whose feedback will be very appreciated.
According to Dr Kažys, the Arqus Toolbox for Open Research Agenda Setting provided a significant impetus for the organisation of the workshop and the outline of the first action plan for the implementation of the green university's objectives. He encouraged the first step in generating an idea for an event and suggested the simple but really effective method of brainstorming in the initial stages of collaboration.
All active members of the VU community who are willing to take concrete action are invited to join the implementation of the green university idea. You can submit your suggestions and questions here.
The Climate Change Group workshop "Climate Action Leadership: strategic and practical guidance" was organized at Vilnius University as part of the Arqus R&I project's Work Package 6: Stakeholder Engagement. For more information on other workshops, click here.
News prepared by Gretė Gerulaitytė, Head of Communications at the Communications and Marketing Department of the Vilnius University.