Azim Premji University’s vision is to contribute towards a more just, equitable, humane and sustainable society.
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, will be held in 2023. These multi-lingual (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 emphasizes 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.
At Azim Premji University, we have banned the use of disposable paper cups, plates, glasses. We have two tuck shops, 1700 hundred students and 500 staff members in the University.
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.
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.
Between April and June 2023, the kitchens generated about 7500 kilograms of waste in the form of fruit and vegetable peels, in addition to food dish drop and bain marie waste. We process this waste in Organic Waste composters every 72 hours, and also send some of it to a piggery for consumption.
This helps to massively reduce the quantum of waste ending up in the landfill.
With nearly 500 members, 1700 students and several visitors, our campus community generates dry waste consisting of plastic, paper, carton boxes, metal waste, etc. We are working with a local NGO to deal with this waste in a way that is useful to the community and reducing how much waste ends up in landfills.
Most of the events organized on campus are organised jointly 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.
Through our Community Engagement Initiative, we are continuously engaging with the local and surrounding communities to improve living conditions. Peri Urban areas of Bangalore, like the one in which the University is located, suffer from a huge problem of waste mis-management. 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.
In order to share our learnings and best practices with our neighbourhood, 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.
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 test and implement 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.
The major themes of the Sustainability Committee’s work are:
Sustainable food systems
Landscape and biodiversity
Procurement, products and purchases
Architecture and building design
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-taking, and daunting task — but a critical one. We are taking steady steps under every theme to ensure we fulfil the goals we need to be sustainable.
While a lot of our action is focussed 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.
As a residential university, we have substantial water requirements.
The water management initiative on the campus has started 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 ground water recharge initiatives through natural techniques, such as providing greater space for native plants there and nearby, areas 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.
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 Plastic Waste
Promote Sustainable Practices
The University features a facility designed to harness natural cooling and lighting, thereby minimizing the energy required for air conditioning and artificial lighting.
We at Azim Premji University plan and implement 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.
Our University has a nature-friendly campus:
We have planted around 1,300 trees, 43,640 shrubs and 81,625 ground cover plants.
We have achieved the same through
- External Landscaping
- Indoor Plants
- Horticulture Manure (Manure and Pesticides)
- Preparing Plant Beds
- Nursery Management