– some examples of how Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland engages its students in its operations
Text: Kati Koikkalainen
Getting students involved in environmental management
The development of our university’s environmental management system (ISO 14001) began in spring 2013 with a staff and student survey about environmental matters. The survey was delivered to all students actively enrolled at LUT, of which 166 responded. The survey findings and development ideas were then refined with the help of the students in three workshops. International students were by far the most active student group. Therefore, it is essential that all materials relating to environmental matters be also made available in English. The outcomes of the survey and the subsequent workshops had a significant impact on the selection of the environmental aspects to be focussed on at LUT. These foci are as follows: 1. energy, 2. waste management and the use of natural resources, 3. the positive impact of teaching and research, and 4. transportation.
Engagement attempts during the academic year
LUT participated in the national energy saving week in autumn 2013. The themed week was intended to increase awareness of the environmental activities conducted at LUT and to share energy saving tips and tricks. It also included a flea market and a work from home day. LUT’s Green Campus team organised a honey tasting event in the university’s most prominent entrance (the honey was made right here on our campus). We used the event to talk about work on the environmental management system, collect development ideas for the Green Campus (cf. the idea tree below), hand out Green Campus badges, and gather ‘likes’ for the Green Campus Facebook page. We collected over 200 development ideas in only a few hours! By far the best way to engage students is through this kind of face-to-face interaction. Even the tiniest of incentives (honey/badge) seemed to work really well. We will be organising something similar this year too.
Image 1. Engagement attempt: the idea tree during energy saving week.
One of the lectures in the Studia Generalia series at the end of 2014 will be primarily directed at new LUT students. The lecture will cover sustainable development, working life competencies, and LUT’s commitment to promoting sustainable development.
Engaging new students
We will pay particular attention to new students during this autumn. Every student awarded a place at LUT is sent a so-called Freshers’ guide. The guide contains information on the Green Campus: details on the thinking behind the Green Campus, its operational model, and information on the green and clean technologies used on the campus. It also outlines our environmental targets and commitments. In addition to this content, we also greet students at the Green Campus stand at the LUT Freshers’ Fair. We use this meet and greet opportunity to try and get students to consider how they can play a part in achieving our common goals. We also give them a wall chart (which has also been given to every member of staff).
Image 2. Green Campus wall chart
For the first time, first-year students’ tutors (Finnish and international staff) will this year be trained in how to bring environmental issues to the fore. This tutor training includes a Green Campus guide book and a guided tour of the Green Campus area. The aim is that the tutors can help familiarise their students with LUT’s Green Campus.
The Green Campus in social media
The Green Campus can be found on Facebook (LUT Green Campus) and Twitter (@LUTgreencampus). We use these channels to reach out to more and more students every year. Our Facebook page currently has approx. 180 likes and we have approx. 300 followers on Twitter. We intend to generate more follows and likes during this autumn’s Freshers’ week and with the campaign organised for energy saving week (October).
Students can also order the GC newsletter. The newsletter is sent out around once a month and contains the hottest news on the campus development and environmental matters at the university. The newsletter is currently only available in Finnish and has approx. 100 subscribers, only a fraction of which are students. We need to increase our marketing efforts in order to encourage more students to get interested in the newsletter.
Student marketing of the Green Campus
Last year was the first time we offered training for the LUT Abi Team (student representative team) and we will definitely be repeating this success. The Abi Team participates in training and educational events and promotes LUT in dozens of upper high schools around Finland every year. Following our Green Campus presentation, the Abi Team published their own blog entry about the Green Campus. The blog highlights the fantastic results that can be achieved when the right information is targeted at the right audience. All of us in the LUT Green Campus team are extremely proud of the Abi Team’s efforts in spreading the word about the Green Campus among upper high school students. We are also delighted that around 10 members of the Abi Team get the chance to learn more about the thinking behind the Green Campus and the operational methods and technologies working on it involves.
Kati Koikkalainen, Environmental Manager / LUT Lappeenranta University of Technology