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Green Initiatives Thrive at Lebanon’s Holy Spirit University of Kaslik

Students at Holy Spirit University of Kaslik carry more than books to campus—they also bring buckets of food waste.

The “Bring Your Bucket to Campus” project is part of a green initiative that’s aimed at turning the university into the most environmentally friendly campus in Lebanon. The organic waste is fed to chickens raised on the campus. Each time students bring a bucket, they earn points that entitle them to free-range eggs.

Dalida Sneifer, coordinator of Green USEK, explained that such projects motivate students to get into the habit of sorting waste. “It is one of many initiatives aimed at raising awareness about the environment and embedding sustainable behaviour,” she said.

The university, which is known by its French abbreviation, USEK, is located in Kaslik, a built-up suburb of Beirut. But the USEK campus is an island of green overlooking the Mediterranean. Bins for sorting waste are scattered across the campus, as are freshwater fountains, installed to encourage students to use refillable containers instead of plastic bottles.

“Green USEK will keep spreading the message, We should care about mankind and how we are going to thrive on this earth. Each person is responsible for making a change.”

Dalida Sneifer
Coordinator of Green USEK

Signs hanging on trees carry messages about the environment.

“I alone absorb 22 kilos of CO2 in a year,” reads one sign hanging on an olive tree. “All I ask in return is that you let me live.”

“Your survival depends on our existence, so wake up!” reads another.

Fostering ‘Green Actors’

Green USEK was created in 2016 to promote and improve the university’s environmental management, and to engage the community in sustainable development.

“We tackle environmental sustainability on the basis of three fundamentals: respect for human beings, conservation of natural resources, and economic viability,” Sneifer told Al-Fanar Media. “USEK’s priority is to foster a culture of sustainability among students, faculty, and staff, empowering them to be ‘green actors’.”

The initiative has a recycling centre on campus, where volunteer students sort plastic, glass, cardboard, metal and paper before dispatching the materials to recycling plants.

“No waste is wasted,” Sneifer said. “We don’t throw away anything that could be reused. We take all kinds of recyclable items and teach our students how to ‘upcycle’ them …  transforming them into usable products of better quality.”

“This year for instance, Christmas decorations on campus were created at zero cost from materials that we had collected, kept and ‘upcycled’.”

Gallery: A Trek with the Plog and Vlog Team

Green USEK also dedicated free parking space on campus for carpooling. An online platform coordinates routes for students wishing to share rides to the university.

Students are introduced to environmental issues through a mandatory civic engagement course they have to complete to graduate.

“We have a slot in the course to present Green USEK and explain why we should care for the environment,” Sneifer said. “Students have a choice for their mid-term exams—to volunteer with us, present projects on sustainability, or sit a test. Many choose to volunteer and show real interest in environmental issues.”

‘It Starts with Us’

Rafca Moukhaiber, a second-year student in modern languages and translation, got hooked on environmental issues after taking the civic engagement course.

“My project was about ‘plogging’, a new sports concept where you go hiking and you pick up waste and trash on the way,” Moukaiber said.

She has since started her own plogging team and Instagram page, Plog and Vlog.

“Every time we go on a walk, we shoot videos and post them on social media to encourage people to join us,” she said. “Sometimes we have had more than 50 people of all ages joining our plogging hikes.”

“Green USEK was the perfect platform to give back to my community. … We are the youth who will be fostering change. It starts with us and with each person changing their routine for the better.”

Melissa Mechaalani
An agriculture engineering student

The experience was life-changing for Moukaiber. “After I graduate, I want to specialise in environmental studies,” she said. “Spreading awareness about the environment has become my mission.”

Volunteering with Green USEK provided a business opportunity for Margot Wehbe, a third-year student.

“I got the idea of ‘upcycling’ chips and chocolate wrappers which cannot be recycled and would end up in the Dumpsters anyway. I turn them into aprons, pouches and bags, which I sell.”

Wehbe said she was uncertain what to study when she first enrolled. ”But then I discovered my passion for environmental preservation. I plan to master in environmental studies.”

Melissa Mechaalani, an agriculture engineering student, wants to dedicate her career to making agriculture more sustainable.

“Green USEK was the perfect platform to give back to my community,” Mechaalani said. “I want to raise awareness among USEK students because we are the youth who will be fostering change. It starts with us and with each person changing their routine for the better.”

International Recognition

For the fifth consecutive year, USEK was recently ranked by the UI Green Metric World University Ranking as the most sustainable and green university in Lebanon. The ranking, an initiative of Universitas Indonesia, measures the commitment of universities worldwide to providing a sustainable and environmentally friendly campus.

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“Green USEK will keep spreading the message,” Sneifer said. “We should care about mankind and how we are going to thrive on this earth. Each person is responsible for making a change. With small steps and motivation, we can achieve a better environment for society.”

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