DEREE-The American College of Greece is honored to be hosting distinguished speakers the Mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris and Ms Afshane Bassir-Pour, Director, United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe among a slew of others – who will be taking part in the well-established annual Sustainability Week at DEREE-ACG March 10-12.
Open to all and taking place on the DEREE Campus, Sustainability Week will focus on the theme of Sustainable Cities this year, a topic that will come alive through scientific presentations, workshops, and debates by academics and eco-friendly professionals, as well as through numerous hands-on activities, such as a photo exhibition and competition, the “Junkyard Wars” – a “waste art” event, and Solar Busk – a music performance using solar energy, says Dr Christina Marouli, the head of The American College of Greece’s Center of Excellence for Sustainability, who also teaches courses in DEREE’s Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Environmental Studies Program.
“We are really pleased and honored to have such celebrated environmentally-friendly personalities share their insights with us,” Dr Marouli notes, adding, “Ms Afshane Bassir-Pour, Director, United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe will be the keynote speaker, followed by a host of well-known professionals and academics who will touch on a number of fascinating topics: food, waste, energy, climate change, urban green, sustainable living, arts and sustainability – topics that close the loop. Mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris will also graciously share his insights and experience with us.”
Other distinguished speakers include Katia Lasaridi, of Harokopio University, Christos Giannakopoulos of the National Observatory of Athens, and Eleni Myrivili – Athens Municipal Council member.
Sustainability Week 2015
Among the myriad fascinating topics at Sustainability Week, Renaturing the City – a concept that has received a lot of attention in the European Union of late – and its many aspects will alaso be explored, says Christina Marouli, who in her spare time works as a monitoring expert for environmental projects funded by the European Commission in Greece and Cyprus – the LIFE program.
“The concept is simple. We recognize that cities are problematic in the way that we have organized them,” says Dr Marouli who in her spare time also advises the DEREE Student Organization Together for Sustainability – members of which are also helping organize Sustainability Week.
“For example, one of the major problems in cities is that we have a lot of concrete and too little green, and that means a lot of things such as soil sealing – where the soil doesn’t work the way it should, so we have floods and similar phenomena. It also means that we have greenhouse gases that can’t be absorbed; we also have higher temperatures, because green lowers local temperatures; it means more air population, more health problems as well,” says Dr Marouli.
“So, that’s how the European Union came up with this term, Renaturing the City. It’s about reintroducing green to the city. That means introducing urban gardens, places where you can grow your food, so that you can close the loop more easily in terms of the food chain – one of the most important inputs we need in the cities.
“We need to reintroduce green in the cities in ways that it is sustainable, though, and doesn’t require so much water, but enough to make the city more sustainable and to get this food input that we need. Green roofs are another thing that are part of that,” adds Dr Marouli, who introduced a green-roof course two years ago at DEREE-ACG in the context of a European Union-funded project. The open course was piloted at DEREE and has since become a staple of the academic environmental offerings at DEREE-ACG – open to the local community as well.
Green roofs are also “good for energy, cleaning the air, filtering the water; they have lots of benefits,” Dr Marouli says. Out of the green-roof course, not only have Dr Marouli and her colleagues been inspired to do research on green roofs, but to boot, an important student initiative has been born – Simply Cool – a group that developed with the aim of greening Athens.
“Their motto is One Square Meter Each, and that will make a difference in terms of the urban heat island effect and more sustainable cities,” says Dr Marouli.
Sustainability Week will also explore what other steps can be taken to introduce sustainability in everyday life.
“We can’t cover all the topics under Sustainable Cities this year at Sustainability Week,” explains Dr. Marouli, adding, “We will cover the same theme next year. Given that we are in a city, given that more than half of the earth’s population lives in cities and there’s an increasing urbanization trend, it’s really important to think of how we can make our cities more sustainable from all aspects – environmental, economic, and social.
“In terms of the organization of Sustainability Week, we try and make it cooperative as well. It’s not something that the Center organizes by itself. We involve other faculty from different schools. We also try and involve staff, to do presentations, and students in order to communicate our message,” she says.
All DEREE schools were invited to participate with presentations and ideas, a photo competition has been set up this year once again for the whole ACG community, including PIERCE high school students, while the event also attracts a host of people from off campus, such as professionals.
“We also attract high schools,” says Dr Marouli. “For example, representatives of a high school from Ano Liosia came last year, who fell in love with the campus.”
Sustainability Week was first launched in 2012, and has featured varying themes: 2012 – a mix of environmental issues; 2013: the theme was the green economy and green jobs, and the third, last year, featured the environment, technology and health.
When asked to describe her ideal city, Dr. Marouli says it “has happy people, first of all – people that live in harmony with each other, live in an environment that promotes their health and well-being in general – psychological as well. Such a city has green, a certain time and space management that doesn’t make it anxiety-producing to go from your house to your work, and has economic activity and opportunities – but such that work for and reflect a deep understanding of our dependence on a healthy environment.”
Marouli visualizes her utopian city as one that “gets its inputs as much as possible from nearby areas, and where waste is a resource to be reused. When waste comes out of your household ‘production line,’ you should realize that it is something that can be used by someone else. This is the basis of the circular economy.”
Dr. Marouli also believes in social justice and viable, economic opportunities for all. “I think we need to change our way of thinking and culture, and understand that we are all connected. If I am to be well, everybody should be well too. That’s my ideal city. Where everyone cares for each other and other species as well,” Dr Marouli concludes.
Certificates will be given to all those who attend three lecture sessions and a workshop during Sustainability Week 2015.
Contact Info for Sustainability Week 2015: ACG -Center of Excellence for Sustainability,
Room 621, ext. 1219, e-mail: [email protected],
For more information on Sustainability Week, click here
About the Center of Excellence for Sustainability at The American College of Greece
Unique in its scope and ambition, the Center of Excellence for Sustainability (CES) at The American College of Greece began in 2011 with the aim of becoming a beacon of sustainability in the lives of all those at The American College of Greece and the wider community, educating and helping students launch useful environmental projects, and to make the campus a living laboratory for sustainability.
The Centre also aims at helping all those interested in sustainability apply smart habits off campus, making a difference to our planet.
See the living lab on campus: at numerous recycling bins throughout, green roofs on the John S. Bailey Library roof, on the seventh floor of DEREE’s main building, on the roof of the Art Center, as well as at the garden and two composting bins that are located near the swimming pool, while several recycling points will soon be introduced in the DEREE building. A host of other initiatives also support sustainability – such as water saving devices at the Swimming Pool and the Residences, and the heat exchange pumps at the Swimming pool.
“The Center tries to connect education with operations, and also aims at developing projects in the educational process where students see the relevance of knowledge in daily life, for example, student projects that will be beneficial to ACG,” says the Centre’s Founder and Director Dr Christina Marouli.
The American College of Greece, a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, has committed to becoming a “green” campus and to model a sustainable community; to make its activities – education and operations – ecologically sound, socially just and economically viable, working to minimize its impact on the environment, so that healthy natural ecosystems are maintained for future generations as well.
“In 2014, the Green Campus Committee, which involves faculty, staff and students, developed the sustainability policy, the commitment statement, of ACG, says Dr Marouli, adding, “ACG adopted the Sustainability Policy Statement, detailing the College’s commitment to becoming a sustainable college and learning community.
She adds that “Now, we are trying to see how we can promote it further.
The commitment statement is inclusive; It addresses the environmental aspects that relate to the university’s operations – such as energy, water, waste, purchasing, forest management, transportation, green-house gas emissions, grounds and buildings – but also community relations, education and research, governance and health. So, this is a comprehensive statement,” says Dr Marouli.
“Sustainability at The American College of Greece is taken very seriously, but it can also be lots of fun!” says Dr Marouli inviting all those interested to come to Sustainability Week and find out more.
Read about DEREE’s BSc (Hons) in Environmental Studies
Learn more about ACG Sustainable Practices