Steps towards Sustainability

Contributing to a sustainable world

Exploring Sustainability Azim Premji Univ August 2021 1st page

Azim Premji University’s vision is to contribute towards a more just, equitable, humane, and sustainable society. Towards this goal, the University engages in several educational initiatives on sustainability inside and outside the university. 

The University also takes care to ensure that its own systems and processes are aligned with the goal of creating a sustainable world. 

Do you have suggestions on how we can become a greener/​more sustainable campus? Would you like to contribute to making this a greener community?

Write to us at suscom@​apu.​edu.​in

Sustainability is a core value at the heart of Azim Premji University. Being a large University campus hosting around 2500 people everyday, we are conscious of the effect we have on our environment.

Putting sustainability in practice requires a significant commitment to organised and patient action. The Sustainability Committee connects university members and students to conceptualise ideas, and tests and implements them to make the campus sustainable, healthy, and inclusive. 

Some of the teams involved in this work include the Food Committee, the Student Affairs team, and the Infrastructure Management and Facilities team which itself plays a critical role in managing energy, transport, food, landscaping, water, and buildings on campus.

So far, this approach has helped us switch from using disposable utensils to reusable utensils, rely on solar-powered street lighting and water heating, harvest rainwater and build larger rainwater sheds to meet campus water needs, manage food waste by composting or using it as animal feed that returns into the food cycle, reduce waste through segregation, and restore biodiversity on campus. We are now slowly beginning to work on our food systems as well.

Steering a society towards sustainability is a painstaking, time-consuming, and daunting task— but a critical one. We are taking steady steps under every theme to ensure we fulfil the goals to be sustainable.

While a lot of our action is focused within the campus, we try to drive similar changes in the communities around our campus to create positive outcomes. We work with neighbouring communities and support them in creating a greener and cleaner neighbourhood for themselves. Some of our current endeavours include providing support to organic farmers and helping village panchayats with waste segregation and management.

  • Solar panels

    Solar panels

  • Artificial waterbody

    Artificial waterbody under construction at the University

As part of our public education initiatives on sustainability, the University has initiated an annual climate change festival. 

The first edition, Rivers of Life, was held in November 2022, with over ten thousand visitors from local schools and colleges, as well as members of the general public. 

The second edition, Forests of Life, was held in 2023 and the third edition, Mountains of Life, is under process. These multilingual (Kannada-Hindi-English) festivals are a celebration of nature, in its varied forms—rivers, forests, and so on. Through the festival, we seek to engage intensively with children and young adults, joining hands to explore and generate awareness of sustainability issues, using the lens of climate change. 

This is a festival of shared storytelling, guided through the perspectives of young interns from different parts of the country, researchers and reflective practitioners, through films, photo galleries, installations, interactive talks, and folklore. 

The festival emphasises the use of locally sourced materials such as bamboo frames and other sustainable alternatives. We also seek to provide educational resources and materials to raise awareness about sustainable practices, through celebrating such festivals.

To share our learnings and best practices with people, we have formed teams to lead workshops to sensitise people about sustainability.

We have so far conducted 19 workshops (including 5 – 10 day long residential workshops) with external groups to create awareness about sustainability. Each session concludes with participants writing their own Green Pledge with a promise to act towards being more sustainable in their daily lives.

Inspired by the Miyawaki forestation method, a unique way to create an urban forest pioneered by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, we planted 1200 saplings between September and October 2021.

Objectives of tree transplantation:
  • To reduce the impact on terrestrial ecology especially the flora present in our work environment (ROW)
  • To save plant/​tree species by transplanting
  • To protect the environment and prevent soil erosion
  • To maintain ecological balance
  • To make work environment an eco-friendly zone
  • To comply with the University’s sustainable thinking
Preparation and transplantation

During the pre-transplantation meeting, the tree transplanting team is instructed to follow the guidelines:

  • Work with full safety gears
  • Dig around the tree and do not damage the root ball of the tree
  • Plant the tree as soon as possible and dig an adequate hole to accommodate the root ball of the tree.
Summary of tree transplantation

In 2023, we transplanted two coconut (Cocos nucifera) and two Singapore cherry (Muntingia calabura) trees.

In 2022, we transplanted four trees, namely Banyan (Ficus benghalensis), Teak (Tectona grandis), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Rosy Trumpet tree (Tabebuia rosea) to the University. The banyan tree was transported over a distance of 18 kilometres.

We have two tuck shops, 1700 hundred students and 500 staff members at Azim Premji University. Here, we have banned the use of disposable paper cups, plates, and glasses. Disposable dishes have been replaced with steel cups and reusable plastic plates and glasses — thus preventing nearly a million dishes from ending up in the landfill (or worse, getting burnt) every year.

This has been a challenging journey. With the support of student members of the sustainability committee, the University is constantly innovating and finding new ways to deal with the challenges. The most important method, of course, is creating more and more awareness regarding the social and environmental benefits of the initiative and the importance of everyone’s support to make it a success.

  • Posters on emphasizing reusablity
  • Poster2 on emphasizing reusablity
  • Poster3 on emphasizing reusablity
  • Sustainability reusable glasses

    Reusable glasses to minimise the use of paper cups

We generate a lot of garden, fruit and vegetable waste everyday. Garden waste comes from grass clippings, leaf litter, and brown waste from pruning of plants. This waste is gathered in the campus’ teak wood forest where it is left to decompose naturally into compost.

The food waste is processed in organic waste composters every 72 hours or sent to a piggery for consumption. This helps to massively reduce the quantum of waste ending up in the landfill.

The campus generates a considerable amount of dry recyclable waste consisting of plastic, paper, carton boxes, metal waste, etc. This waste is sorted and given to a local NGO which helps to support local livelihoods and thereby reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfills.

Most of the campus events are jointly organised by students and members. Sustainability and Inclusion are key elements of all these events. For instance, instead of using flex or other materials for posters and banners, we make use of cloth (for banners) or recycled paper (for posters). Eco Friendly decorative materials are used for any kind of decorations. The use of disposable plastic is avoided for serving drinks and snacks.

Through our Community Engagement Initiative, we are continuously engaging with the local and surrounding communities to improve living conditions. Peri urban areas of Bengaluru, like the one in which the University is located, suffer from a huge problem of waste mismanagement. This causes massive environmental and social issues. 

Through our work with the community, therefore, we aim to improve the waste management system in the Billapura Panchayat where our campus is located. We are working with the Panchayat representatives, self-help groups, and waste collectors to enable implementation of solid waste management practices as outlined in the national and state guidelines. 

This initiative will not only serve to divert a substantial volume of waste away from the dumping sites but also carries the potential to improve the quality of life of people presently engaged in the waste value chain and create fresh avenues for sustainable livelihoods.

Many of our students and staff members rely on disposable menstrual pads, which are predominantly made of non-biodegradable plastic materials.

To address this critical issue, we are embarking on a mission to promote sustainable menstrual practices within our university community. We believe that by collectively adopting eco-friendly alternatives, like menstrual cups, we can significantly reduce the environmental burden caused by plastic waste generated during menstrual cycles.

Our Sustainability Committee is actively planning a series of engaging workshops and awareness campaigns aimed at breaking the taboo surrounding periods and introducing sustainable menstrual options. By doing so, we hope to foster a culture of responsibility and environmental consciousness among our students and staff.

Through these efforts, we aspire to:

  • Reduce sanitary waste

  • Raise awareness

  • Promote sustainable practices

  • Waste management sanitarynapkin bin

    Bin for the disposal of sanitary napkins

  • Waste management incineration unit

    Incineration unit

  • Incineration unit

    Incineration unit

The University features a facility designed to harness natural cooling and lighting, thereby minimising the energy required for air conditioning and artificial lighting.

Know more about our sustainable campus at Azim Premji University, Bhopal here.

The University has taken several measures to promote environment-friendly transportation:

  • We have arranged cabs for different routes instead of running buses with many vacant seats, as per requirement.
  • The shuttle services are timed such that full occupancy is achieved.
  • We have reconfigured the shuttle service routes for optimal fuel and time consumption.
  • We use battery-operated vehicles like electrical cycles, and battery-operated light motor vehicles (LMV) on campus.
  • Students are discouraged from using personal vehicles and are encouraged to walk/​cycle/​use shuttles or public transport.
  • LMV2

    Battery-operated light motor vehicles (LMV)

  • Electric vehicle charging point

    Electric vehicle charging point

  • LMV4

    Battery-operated light motor vehicles (LMV)

  • LMV3

    Battery-operated light motor vehicles (LMV)

  • LMV5

    Battery-operated light motor vehicles (LMV)

  • LMV 1

    Battery-operated light motor vehicles (LMV)

We have planted around 1,300 trees, 43,640 shrubs and 81,625 ground cover plants.

As a residential university, we have substantial water requirements.

The water management initiative on campus has initiated some data-informed short-term and long-term action plans, including

  • Educating the University community about the need for water conservation and prohibiting wasteful use.

  • Using rooftop and run-off capture systems that can capture rainwater through rooftop water collection, and run-off water using sluices and an artificial water body (tank).

  • Treating collected water and recycling used water for different kinds of uses: Type A water for drinking, Type B water for domestic use, and Type C water for flushing and landscaping.

  • Recharging groundwater sources: The University is making an effort to support groundwater recharge initiatives through natural techniques, such as providing greater space for native plants, which create spaces where water can wash into the earth and recharge the groundwater through rain.

Every day, more initiatives are being made in this direction to raise community awareness of the appropriate, sustainable use of water and to lower the water footprint per person.

Here are glimpses from our attempt to take students closer to soil and make them understand the process of growing grains and vegetables. This also enables them to experience sustainable farming on campus, incorporating what they bring from their native places.