UGAF trainee Leila Chakroun (student of Université de Lausanne) reports from the World Student Environmental Summit 2013 (WSES) which will take place in Luneburg, 16-20 September. Stay tuned!

Post-WSES 2013 - From UNICA's office, Brussels

The core team made a video to give an inside look at WSES 2013!!

19th September, 9.30 am - From LU

The day was dedicated to our project, the project that we, as students, want to implement in our respective universities. There were different small groups of 4-5 students working together to develop our ideas and potentially decide on the topic of our project. Each group was helped by an organization. We were helped by the international student organisation ENACTUS.

But, there were also other organisations, such as Oikos, Rock your life!, and even RootAbility, the organiser of the World Café in the 3rd UGAF workshop in Lisbon. ( "" )
Adeline Scherantz and I worked on a project for UNIL. We saw many different "green" projects during the summit, and amazingly we noticed that UNIL is already doing a lot to become more sustainable. The only obvious thing missing is a program to educate students on sustainability, not only students in the faculty of Geosciences and Environment.
With the help of CANVAS pattern, we defined the current situation, the potential activities we could suggest, the stakeholders, the necessary resources, the output and the potential impact.
The University of Lausanne already offers optional courses in sciences and sustainability in a program called (Sciences)2. In order to promote sustainability, we should then make some sustainability courses compulsory. Leuphana University has already begun: all beginning students have to complete a teaching unit on sustainability. So, why not in Lausanne?
The Vice-Rector Benoit Frund recently showed a renewed interest for sustainability and defined a new sustainability strategy for UNIL. We think he will be willing to help us in the process.
We will also need the help of the student organisations AEGE, FAE and Unipoly, to define which kind of courses should be compulsory, and to help convince the students from all faculties that sustainability courses should be included in the curriculum.

At the end of the day, the 80 delegates gathered in the lecture hall and each group presented its project. The projects were very interesting and diverse, from recycling coffee cups to a teaching program for high school students.

Adeline and I will definitely keep in touch to deepen our ideas and contact the people in charge to promote them.
We named our project "Education for the future. Sustainability for everybody".

The day ended by a closing ceremony for which a US professor was invited.

18th September, 9.30 am - From LU

This day began by underlining the importance of communication in the field of sustainability. We need to be able to explain with simple words what we are doing. We need to be able to make the jump between what sciences are, and how people understand sciences. We need to be multilingual, meaning that we should understand the terminology of every discipline involved in the interdisciplinary process, and we need to implement sustainability in the education.
In the afternoon, I joined the workshop "World Student Environmental Network" during which we could suggest ideas for future actions. My group proposed creating more regional or local summits about sustainability. The UNICA Network could definitely play a major role in setting up a European Summit, for example. We could motivate students from all the member universities to gather and work on similar questions. A smaller-scale summit could enable students to come up with more concrete ideas, as they focus on specific issues within similar political and economic contexts.
We finished the day with a networking dinner where we were able to speak with "change agents". For example, there were Greenpeace campaigners, organic farmers, professors in sustainability, lawyers in environmental law, etc. The food was entirely vegetarian and the discussions were enlightening!

17th September, 13.30 pm - From LU

The afternoon started with by sharing the ideas we came up with during the World Café.

The answer to the question What is a sustainable university? includes a Green Campus, but also responsibility, interdisciplinary teaching, a link with the surrounding community, participation and, last but not least, action.

This was followed by a panel discussion between Daniel Lang, Marco Rieckmann and Ulli Vilsmaier, two professors of sustainabiltiy at Leuphana University (Lüneburg).
Daniel Lang reminded us to be aware of our roles. This is applicable to individuals, but as well to universities, as they have a determining role in the society and the future of the society.

Ulli Vilsmaier underlined that we need to collaborate to find solutions, within the universities, between universities and with the entire society. She highlighted the fact that we are in great need of interdisciplinary researchers.
Marco Rieckmann admitted that student initiatives are necessary but are not sufficient when tqken alone. He emphasized the importance of coupling a bottom-up approach to a top-down approach. He suggested universities implement an environmental agenda.

We ended the day with more radical ideas: the idea of de-growth, a-growth and transitions towns.

17th September, 9.30 am - From LU

A World Café was organised in several classrooms. The intent was to provide an informal atmosphere for the delegates to meet and discuss sustainability-related questions.

There were dozens of tables with recycled paper tablecloth on which we could write, doodle or even draw. The World café was structured in three questions to which we had to answer together. The first question was: What is sustainability for you? There were a lot of really nice ideas and concepts that came up: we spoke about harmony, coexistence, caring for others and the meaning of our lives.
The second question was What is a sustainable university? We spoke about really concrete actions a university should take, but as well about more global issues like education. Students from Argentina explained their campus agro-ecological farm, in which they are growing organic fruits and vegetables. They are involving the community and teaching people how to grow a vegetable garden. A student from China explained her innovative recycling project "Do it yourself". Along with other students, she is creating beautiful and useful objects, using only campus waste. She even organised a competition to motivate the students to participate.
I initiated a more abstract discussion about the gap between universities and the society. We should reduce the gap between the academic world and reality and create connections between theory and practice. This is especially true for sustainability, as the knowledge about the environmental problems is constantly increasing, but society seems to be having problems taking steps towards fixing these problems. I think a network like UNICA can definitely play a key role in this process! This allows me to introduce the third question which was What is a change agent? We had different ideas about this topic, but we finally ended up saying that WE ARE ALL POTENTIAL CHANGE AGENTS. Often we forget the "Butterfly effect": in other words, how important small-scale projects can initiate global trends. We identified some qualities that we need to cultivate in order to be a change agent: we need to be motivated, hopeful, optimistic,but at the same time, being well-aware of the situation and having a clear vision of the future we want.

16th September, 13.30 am - From Leuphana University (LU)

After a seven-hour journey, I was warmly welcome in Lüneburg station by the staff of the Summit. We rapidly got in touch with a lot of friendly students from all over the world.
We started the conference by gathering in the lecture hall where students from Leuphana University welcomed us and the visiting professors.

I would like to share some of the general thoughts and motivational phrases that I heard on that day:
* "As long as I breathe, I hope"
* "Be realistic at the same time as idealistic"
* "Think systemicly, interdisciplinary and long-term"
We had the chance to listen to Dr. Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Co-President of the Club de Rome, which took the opportunity to underline the seriousness of the situation and the emergency to take rapid actions.

The day ended with a delicious vegetarian dinner, cooked by the WSES staff!

12th September, 11.30 am - From UNICA's office, Brussels

Hello everyone!
As the beginning of the WSES is imminent, I am working hard to be well prepared for the Summit. This year, the WSES will focus on making universities sustainable from a students' perspective.

Together with my classmate from UNIL, Adeline Scherantz, we created this poster that illustrates the food life cycle at UNIL.
Food is a main concern for sustainability because it is both necessary and problematic. We will present our poster at the poster session on the 16th September, but you can preview it beginning now!

Do not hesitate to contact me for more details, at

Extra info:

Video of the WSES 2013

Deepen your knowledge on the link between food and sustainability

Learn more on the WSES 2013

Discover how much UNIL is involved for sustainability

Food Cycle at UNIL.pdf3.21 MB