Sustainability on campus

Sustainability on campus

The ecological crises unfolding around us can feel overwhelming at times. Younger generations starting university can feel eco-anxiety, which is often made worse by a lack of visible action from leaders and institutions. In this myView blog post, Hannah Blumhardt talks about a University-wide sustainability initiative that supports everyone on campus to participate in a simple, daily action that makes a real difference for our planet, and each other.

Kia ora I’m Hannah,

Our University’s Sustainability Office works behind the scenes on systems and processes to make on-campus sustainability effortless. The goal is to make it easy for staff and students to ‘do the right thing’, and to create a space where eco-action is made real and visible in daily university life.

Blake Spurdle’s entry in the 2022 Sustainability Photo Competition.

Championing reuse together

The ongoing initiative to phase-out disposable cups on campus by championing reuse is one example of this approach. I have been lucky to support this initiative through my work with Takeaway Throwaways.  My values around caring for the environment were instilled in me while studying at Te Herenga Waka, so it means a lot to me to play a part in making today’s campus more sustainable—especially in such a collaborative, inclusive, evidence-based way.

Through the development of the Auraki Returnable Cup system, the Sustainability Office has created a free reusable alternative to disposable cups at on-campus cafes. The system is financially accessible for staff and students and uses second-hand mugs that have been donated to the University. It’s a super sustainable system that uses resources that already exist rather than brand new cups.

Princey Joseph’s entry in the 2022 Sustainability Photo Competition.

Reaping the rewards from our collective efforts

Thanks to the existence of Auraki, in 2022, all the University’s on-campus cafes were able to stop giving out disposable coffee cups. As a result, students, staff, and the on-campus cafes, collectively avoided 200,000 imported single-use cups and lids from being created, used and going to landfill! By embracing BYO cups and Auraki, everyone on campus has been part of co-creating an alternative to disposability, based on sharing, cooperation, and reusing of resources.

Auraki Returnable Cups and the cafes’ no disposables stance featured prominently in many of the submissions to the university’s Sustainability Photo Competition. This shows how much of an impact it has had on staff and students.  

Melanie Roundill’s entry in the 2022 Sustainability Photo Competition.

What current students have to say 

“The Auraki mug swap project has been an awesome addition to university life. Not only does it make the students feel heard and able to bring about positive change, but it’s also a trust-based system that embeds a sense of shared responsibility and community endeavour to reduce our collective waste. I’d love to see more projects like these proliferate around the uni and I’m sure I’m not the only one.”

Bridie McCree: Graduate Diploma student in Science in Geography.

“For me, it means a lot to be studying at a campus that is actively phasing out one-use cups. The effect on our waste level and, in turn, the environment, is significant. And, it creates a much better working environment, as having a mug makes me feel more welcomed and comfortable. The Auraki reusable cup system is extremely handy as well – to be able to borrow a cup if you don’t have one (or have just forgotten), and then be able to return it anywhere on campus – it makes the phasing-out of disposables more accessible to people.”

Ashleigh Putt-Fallows: Undergraduate Student in Arts and Global Studies.

Together, the absence of disposable cups on campus, and the presence of the Auraki Returnable Cup system, make a tangible and intangible difference for ecological wellbeing on-campus. Thank you for championing reuse with us, and remembering to return borrowed cups so they can go another round and keep the good vibes (and great coffee!) flowing.

Hannah Blumhardt is Senior Associate at Te Herenga Waka’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, and Policy Spokesperson for Takeaway Throwaways.

Interested in sharing your experience? Read our submission guidelines and get in touch with your story ideas.