We are fortunate in South Africa to have a national constitution that promotes environmental sustainability and gives everyone an equal right to a healthy and safe environment. The university’s mission statement echoes this commitment within the context of the teaching and research roles of the institution.
UCT is responding to the need to underpin development with environmental sustainability in a number of real ways, from research to recycling, and from raising awareness to retrofitting.
UCT was one of the original signatories of the Talloires Declaration in 1990 and recommitted to that declaration in 2001. In the same year, the Environmental Management Working Group (EMWG) was formed. The function of this group was to guide Properties and Services in its operations on campus with regards to energy saving, grounds and gardens management, etc.
In 2008 a document called the Green Campus Policy Framework was formally adopted by Council and Senate. This document is a framework for responsible resource use and environmental sustainability at the university. As a direct result of this document, a Green Campus Action Plan was created in 2009.
In 2012 the university became a signatory to the ISCN-GULF Sustainable Campus Charter. (The International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) is a global forum dedicated to sustainability best practices.)
Another major factor driving environmental sustainability at the university are the following student-driven movements:
The GCI, a student-led body which is also open to staff members, was formed in 2008. Modelled on the Harvard University GCI, it now has over 2 200 members, which is more than any other student body at the university.
The GCI has a presence on the EMWG, and aims to bring about lasting change and to make UCT a more environmentally-friendly institution. It promotes behavioural change and social cohesion; it raises relevant issues; and it has driven, and continues to drive, a number of initiatives on campus, such as:
the Jammie Bike bicycle rental scheme.
The GCI holds an annual Green Week, which is a major awareness-raising event that culminates in the annual GCI Awards ceremony.